Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Hall Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST6 4BB


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Statutory Address:
Hall Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST6 4BB

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

City of Stoke-on-Trent (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Roman Catholic church, built in 1925-27 and designed by J S Brocklesby, with interior decoration by Gordon Forsyth, principal of the Burslem School of Art, and his daughter, the artist Moira Forsyth.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph in Burslem, constructed in 1925-27 and designed by J S Brocklesby with interior decoration by Gordon Forsyth, principal of the Burslem School of Art, and his daughter, the artist Moira Forsyth, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural Interest: a highly-accomplished and exuberant Italianate Romanesque design that is richly textured and by a noted architect; *Artistic interest: its prodigious and lavish internal scheme of artwork, mosaic and stained glass, by artists of national repute, demonstrates a very high degree of artistic quality and craftsmanship; * Intactness: the church remains largely unaltered since completion; * Furnishings: it is enriched with furnishings acquired from abroad, including the Stations of the Cross from Oberammergau, Germany, the pulpit from Italy, the della Robbia-style panel, probably from the workshop of Benedetto Buglioni, as well as a wealth of statuary.


In the years following the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 new Roman Catholic centres of worship began to appear. A mission including Burslem, Smallthorne, and Wolstanton was established from Cobridge in 1895. At first Mass was said at the Hill Top Pottery in Liverpool Road (now Westport Road) to the north of the present church, but in 1896 land was acquired in Hall Street and a two-storey school-cum-church was built in 1897-8 (the church on the upper floor). The presbytery followed in 1902-3. Fundraising for a new church on an adjoining site began in the early 1920s, and the present Church of St Joseph was constructed in 1925-27. It was designed by the noted Arts and Crafts architect John Sydney Brocklesby who was also responsible for the Church of the Sacred Heart (Grade II) in Tunstall. The contractors were Messrs Booth & Son of Banbury. St Joseph’s was featured in The Builder in October 1926.

Encouraged by the parish priest, Father William Browne, the decoration and stained glass work was, as at Tunstall, carried out by young people of the parish under the guidance of Gordon Forsyth, principal of the Burslem School of Art and former art director at Minton Hollins, to his designs. Forsyth also designed the painted ceiling panels. While Gordon Forsyth was working on the stained glass for St. Joseph's, his daughter Moira was starting to produce artwork for the church. The ceiling painting 'Christ in Glory' in the sanctuary was produced by Moira Forsyth on panels in her London studio, circa 1935-37 (restored 1992). Work on embellishing the church continued for some ten years, including fittings acquired abroad by Fr Browne. Consecration took place in June 1937.

The church was listed at Grade II in 1993; various repairs were carried out in the early C21.


Roman Catholic church, constructed in 1925-27 and designed by J S Brocklesby, with interior decoration designed by Gordon Forsyth, principal of the Burslem School of Art, and his daughter, the artist Moira Forsyth.

MATERIALS: it is constructed from red and purple coloured bricks, laid in Flemish bond, with dressings of brick and stone, under clay pantile roofs; the roof to the apsidal east end has plain tiles and the transept roofs are hipped. The interior has a wealth of decorative materials, including marble, painting and coloured glass.

PLAN: the church is oriented with its ritual east end facing approximately south. All orientations given here refer to ritual compass directions. The building is cruciform in plan, with a nave and side aisles, a chancel with apsidal end, and towers to the north-west and south-west. There are projecting side chapels at the east ends of the aisles flanking the sanctuary and both have apses to their eastern sides. The baptistery is situated in the ground floor of the campanile, an organ gallery above a narthex at the west end, and the sacristy is to the south-east.

EXTERIOR: the church is early Italianate or Lombardic in style, ornamented with decorative brick and tile work, displaying a variety of techniques. The high west end is gabled and is ornamented with blank arcading and is tiered in the gable itself. It has a wide-arched central doorway with stone capitals and columns below the springing of the arch. It is flanked by small niches. Above is a herringbone frieze, arcading, and three tall, round-headed lancets with stone columns and capitals. The campanile to the right has four stages of diminishing height and is enriched with arcading. It has paired round-arched lancets to the first and third stages, lancets to the second stage, a colonnaded upper stage and a hipped roof. The tower to the north-west has round-headed lancets, a Calvary cross of raised brickwork with a gabled weatherhood, and a conical roof over an open arcade. There are low aisles with round-headed windows with tiled arches above, and scalloped tiles forming a fretted parapet. The high nave is divided into three bays by stepped buttresses which rise above the eaves and are topped with a pyramidal cap. The bays have a blind arcade housing smaller, round-arched clerestory windows, arcading and a dentilled eaves cornice. The side chapels and sacristy are similarly styled, with round-arched windows and arcading. There are six round-arched windows with tiled heads to the chancel and arcading below a moulded eaves cornice. The rectangular sacristy projects in front of the chancel.

INTERIOR: the interior of the church is Byzantine in inspiration. The nave consists of three bays, each in turn subdivided into three by monolithic columns with scalloped capitals. Brick pilasters rise between each of the main bays up to a deep coved cornice, at the base of which tie beams span the church, creating an interesting two-tier effect. The roof timbers are pine, with a deep, coffered, flat ceiling. The tie beams and the flat ceiling panels are painted in primary colours in medieval-style patterns and depict the coats of arms of the Pope and the Bishop of Birmingham to designs by Gordon Forsyth. The sanctuary is dominated by the hemispherical ceiling painting of 1935-37 by Moira Forsyth of ‘Christ in Glory’ against a gold background. The walls are clad in coloured marbles and mosaic, while the marble reredos is richly decorated with pink and green marble columns and inset panels of pink marble and mosaics. The Lady Chapel at the east end of the north aisle has a marble-clad east wall which frames a ceramic panel of the Madonna del Sedia, possibly from the workshop of Benedetto Buglioni. Halfway along the north aisle is an apse containing a wooden painted pieta on a marble stand, and there is a second side chapel, dedicated to St Joseph, at the east end of the south aisle. The baptistery to the ground floor of the campanile has a hexagonal stone font on a compound pier, ornate gilded gates, stained glass windows and a painted compartmental ceiling. Other fittings include a marble pulpit inlaid with mosaic tiles from Italy and painted wooden Stations of the Cross from Oberammergau in Germany. The stained glass, designed by Forsyth, depicts saints and biblical scenes.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the front of the church are low flanking walls of brick and a flight of steps, and to the east is a pedestrian gate in a short wall.

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the presbytery of 1903 and the modern metal gates on the west side of the church are not of special architectural or historic interest and are not included in the listing.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Dennison, C , The Forsyths at St Joseph's Church, Burslem, (2008)
Scarisbrick, JJ, History of the Diocese of Birmingham 1850-2000, (2008), 166
Spencer, C, Wilson, G, Elbow Room The Story of John Sydney Brocklesby Arts and Crafts Architect, (1984)
Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain & Ireland 1851-1951, accessed 17 February 2016 from
St Joseph's Church, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, accessed 3 December 2015 from
The City of Stoke-on-Trent: Roman Catholicism, A History of the County of Stafford, vol 8, Victoria County History 1963, accessed 2 December 2015 from
The Architectural History Practice Limited: Churches in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham: An Architectural and Historical Review Prepared for English Heritage and the Archdiocese of Birmingham (2015)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 14 Jan 2001
Reference: IOE01/01442/34
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Brian Peach. Source Historic England Archive
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