ST JOSEPH'S . . . . IN THE BEGINNING

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In October 1870, Father Henry J Lamon (see "St. Joseph's Clergy") was appointed head of the new mission that would soon become the Parish of St. Joseph, Wigan, and it was due to the untiring zeal and great energy of the new Rector that rapid progress was made.

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The first service  was held on 22nd January, 1871, in a small chapel that formerly belonged to the Primitive Methodist Body, in Caroline Street, but in a very short time the building was found to be too small for the increasing numbers of Catholics living in the surrounding Wallgate area.

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Consequently, with the permission of the Right Reverend Doctor O'Reilly, Bishop of Liverpool, Father Lamon purchased some adjoining land to the chapel, at a cost of 500. The old Methodist chapel was then pulled down, and on the site was erected the first church of St. Joseph, which opened in April 1872. This new church was built to accommodate between 500 and 600 worshippers at a cost of 3,000 - a considerable sum at the time.

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At a further cost of 5,000, through the support of his faithful parishioners, by 1874, Father Lamon had built the schools at St. Joseph's, which soon had an average attendance of over 800 scholars!

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However, it soon became evident that the new church was totally inadequate for the requirements of the district, and steps were taken without delay for the erection of a more extensive building.

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NOTE: During his time at St. Joseph's, there was frequent correspondence between Father Lamon and the Bishop of Liverpool, regarding the possible acquisition of land around Caroline Street. Indeed, some of Father Lamon's letters to the Bishop, which are kept in the Archdiocesan Archives, suggest that the first Rector of St. Joseph's was most shrewd and business-like when dealing in such matters. (Click here to view one of Father Lamon's letters to the Bishop)

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In due course, more land adjacent to the church was purchased, and the old premises were removed to make room for the building of a second new church!

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The design of the new St. Joseph's Church, the one that so many came to know and love, was entrusted to Mr. Goldie, of the firm of Messrs. Goldie and Child, of Kensington, London, and the contract, which amounted to about 6,000, to Mr. J. Wilson, of Wigan, with Mr. Weatherby acting as clerk of works. In 1877, the foundation stone was laid and blessed by the Right Rev. Dr. O'Reilly, and, together, with the adjoining Presbytery for the accommodation of three priests, the church was completed in 1878 and opened on Sunday, 30th June of that year.

 
The following is an extract from an article in the Wigan Observer, 5th July 1878:
 

"The new church was opened on Sunday last under the most auspicious circumstances. The weather was remarkably fine throughout the whole day, and from windows of houses in Wallgate and Caroline-street and the adjoining streets there was a profuse display of flags and banners, giving the district quite a holiday aspect. Large crowds congregated outside the church in the hope of obtaining a glimpse of the two Roman Catholic bishops, who were announced to take part in the services; and although admission was only to be gained by tickets for which large prices were paid the church was filled both in the morning and the evening.

 

In the morning the Right Rev. Dr. O'Reilly, Bishop of Liverpool, was the celebrant; the Rev. Father O'Reilly, of Ashton, the assistant priest; the Revs. Fathers Goethals, St. Patrick's, Liverpool, and O'Donnelly, Wigan, assistant deacons; the Rev. Father Banks, St. Patrick's, Wigan, deacon of mass; the Rev. Father Kearney, Wigan, sub-deacon of mass; the Rev. Father Spencer, of Ainsdale, master of ceremonies. The Right Rev. Dr. Vaughan, Bishop of Salford, preached from the words found in Luke, 15 chap. : "At that time the publicans and sinners drew near unto him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them."

 

His LORDSHIP began by saying  that He who had loved us with his whole heart called upon us in common justice to love Him in return with our whole heart. Man's life on earth, he said, was empty, restless, a craving hunger and thirst, and a constant seeking after an object upon which he might fix the whole of his affections. Man's heart had nothing within it to satisfy itself. What was the object of their lives? Those who were tradesmen had they not set before themselves an object for which they worked, spent their days, and set their hearts upon? Or take the dreams of the man of science or philosophy, see how he spent his time, see upon what his heart was fixed, see the hours and days and nights he toiled in seeking to attain something upon which he had fixed his heart, vainly imagining that by attaining the desire of his heart, he would fill up the sum of his human happiness; but he would find at the close of his days, as at the commencement of his career, that his heart was still restless, and hungering and thirsting after something which he could not acquire. There was nothing on earth that could satisfy us . . ."