On an imposing site overlooking the river and across to the Castle, and amidst green fields, the foundation stone of St Joseph’s Catholic Church was laid by the Archbishop of Liverpool on the feast day of St Joseph on the 6 May 1900.
A mission had been established in the years before with a chapel established in the school in 1896. The Church was built, and was in large made possible by the generous bequest of land and money of Miss Coulston of Dalton Square.
In a cavity under the stone was placed a bottle containing a short history of the mission, the latest issue of the Tablet magazine, some holy medals and a small statue of St Joseph. It was a rainy day and proceedings were cut short, but a blessing was prayed and the litany of saints sung.
The following year in July 1901, the Church was formally opened. At the opening Mass, the preacher spoke of his hope that St Joseph’s would be ‘a beacon of truth on the outskirts of Lancaster’ and a ‘harbour of peace for many a storm-tossed soul’. The Church was designed by Pugin & Pugin, of London, in the perpendicular Gothic style and is noted for its exquisite tracery, hand-crafted reredos with its details of St Joseph’s life, its beautiful frescos of the sacrifice of Isaac and the offering of Melchizedek, its side altars dedicated to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart, and its magnificent octagonal bapistry.
The parish became the centre of a thriving community with a number of organisations established: the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Womens Guild, the Catholic Women and Mothers Group, the Senior and Junior Youth Groups, the 35th Lancaster Cub Scouts, the 6th Lancaster Brownies Group, the Life Group, the Catholic Mens Group, the Knights of St Columba, the Lourdes Helpers Group, the Choir, the Folk Choir, and five teams of Altar Servers, and Friday Group (which had links with the work of CAFOD), and the Autumn Group which, as far as can be made out, was very popular with 160 members who used to come together to play dominoes, whist, and wild card games!