Pictured during it’s construction in 1905, is St Joseph’s Church, at the junction of Glasgow Road and Mayberry Place. Incredible to think this photo is almost 110 years old.
In the foreground lay building materials and although the stonework is in place, the building itself was still roofless when this photo was taken. The RC church was to replace the aging St Joseph’s School Chapel nearby. When the first Catholic priest arrived in Blantyre in 1877 (the first I may add since 1567), services were being held in houses adapted to suit mass at Dixon’s Rows.
The Church would have been a welcome addition to Blantyre’s people and I think is one of Blantyre’s most beautiful buildings.
When father Hackett was appointed priest in 1888 and the old school chapel, he would never have guessed he would be priest in Blantyre for 33 years. It was himself that set in motion the construction of the present church pictured. Due to the rapid rise in Catholic population, the original church proved inadequate to serve the congregation. When he showed plans to his congregation of this church, many within the impoverished Catholic community , thought the building was far too grand a project for Blantyre and positioned for a temporary building. Father Hackett though, declared that it was to “this real thing or nothing at all” and opposition to his project fell away.
In 1889, an extra 81 feet of ground adjacent to the west of the existing school chapel was bought. In 1898 the Archibishop of Glasgow gave the go ahead and work began on the fine Gothic style church , which measures 43.59m long, 19.07m wide and 18.46m high. It can accommodate 1,000 people. Messrs Pugin and Pugin of London designed the church at an approximate cost of £10,000, a considerable sum at that time. S Joseph’s was opened officially on 10th June 1905, the opening sermon being preached by Rev John A Maquire, Archbishop of Glasgow. Father Hackett served Blantyre until his death on 5th March 1921. Affectionately known at the time as “The Doc”, he was buried in Dalbeth Cemetery. At a cost of £1,500, his parishioners installed a new High Altar in St Josephs as a fitting memorial to the man who made it all possible. The altar is there today.