The story of St Joseph’s is one of struggle and hardship and of the triumph of faith over things material. It was the dream of Father Wulstan Richards, OSB who came to Greenhill in 1875. It was designed by Peter Paul Pugin, took two years to build, cost £10,000, and was opened on 25th November 1888.
The total length of the church is 146 feet and the height to the apex of the roof is 60 feet. The chancel is divided from the nave by a stone arch rising to a height of 43 feet and on the jambs of the arches are niches with the figures of St Patrick and St Benedict. Music-playing angels are carved into the spandrels of the arches and, far above, an arch-braced roof supported on long wall-posts. There is a five-sided chancel, with stained glass by Harding, over the High Altar.
The Church was not fully complete at the time of its opening. Fr. Bede Cox was successful in obtaining Lord Petre’s Woburn Organ for the Church and Fr. Volckxsom made a successful begging tour of the continent and was given the gift of Stations of the Cross from Antwerp. The altar rails were erected by Fr Wulstan Richards with money received from his Silver Jubilee. A new High Altar completed in 1907 and new pulpit the work of Bolton’s of Cheltenham. Outside the Cathedral entrance a War Memorial in the form of a Celtic Cross stands 18 feet high. It was unveiled in 1919. In May 1923 Our Lady’s Grotto at the end of the church was permanently erected.
The Cathedral Today
Bishop Daniel Mullins was the first Bishop of the reconstructed diocese. In December 2000, on the Diocesan Feast of the dedication of the Cathedral Church of St. Joseph, Bishop Mark Jabalé O.S.B, formerly Abbot of the Abbey of St. Michael and All Angels, Belmont was ordained as co-adjutor Bishop. He succeeded Bishop Mullins in 2001.
The Cathedral is a Grade 2 listed building. It was erected over a hundred years ago and needs continual repair and maintenance. A complete overhaul was undertaken several years ago which involved a new roof, complete repointing, sealing of all the walls against damp penetration, renewal of all troughing, down pipes and guttering. In addition alterations to the crypt, toilets and various demolition and strengthening processes were undertaken. The elevation of the Church to Cathedral status was also associated with several alterations. The Sanctuary was extended forward. The High Altar was removed as were the Choir stalls and altar rails and there were careful alterations to the chancel.
The Cathedral now stands as an outstanding symbol of the Catholic Faith in Wales’ second city. Inevitably, a building of this size and significance requires continuing maintenance and from time to time major refurbishment. Even routine repairs can be expensive. Despite Heritage Fund monies and fund raising activities there remains a significant debt, and much work remains to be done.