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Parish History

This building, designed by J. K. Cole, opened it's doors on Thursday 13th January 1887 at 11am.  Taking one year to build (1886-1887) it was originally built, not as a Roman Catholic Church, but as a Methodist church.


It was used by the Bible Christian Methodists from the day it opened until July 1970, where they secured new premises and opened a new Church at the top of Burrage Road, SE18, where it still stands today.

On the departure of the Bible Christian Methodists, the building was offered to the Diocese.  It was purchased by Canon Ronald Pepper, the Parish Priest of St Peter's Catholic Church, Woolwich, for £10,000.  The keys and property were handed over on 3rd August 1970.

On 11th October 1970, the first Holy Mass was offered in St Joseph's Hall.  Mass continued to be said in the Hall, as the Church needed extensive repairs and renovations.  These renovations took 2 years to finish, completing in 1972.

In 1971, St Peter's Catholic Church was also undergoing renovations.  As St Joseph's was still part of St Peter's Parish, St Peter's donated their Testa, or sounding board, which was originally above the pulpit, to St Joseph's.  It was placed above the Altar at St Joseph's and remained there for over 25 years.

On the 4th October 1972, St Joseph's Catholic Church was officially opened by His Grace, Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy, who offered Holy Mass in the evening.  The Mayor of Woolwich and a number of previous Methodist congregation attended.

On the 1st September 1976, St Joseph's Catholic Church became a Parish in its own right.  The first Priest was Fr Michael Clifton, who was inducted on the 22nd September 1976.  The  Parish was visited by His Grace, Archbishop Michael Bowen, on 3rd November 1977.


In 1979 Fr Clifton left the Parish.  Fr Michael Chapman took over and was inducted on 4th October 1979.


In 1981 a new presbytery - 135 Herbert Road - was acquired.  It was badly in need of repair. 

In 1981 Fr Michael Chapman was transferred to St Theodore's Catholic Church in Cranbrook, Kent, and the Parish was taken over by Fr John Madden.  Fr Madden was inducted on 27th May 1981 and stayed for seven years, when he was transferred to Beckenham.  On his departure, Fr Whoolely became the Parish Priest.


Between 1988 and 1998 the Lectern and Altar rails which had been brought from St Peter's were removed and replaced by the current modern wooden Lectern.  The centre double doors at the back of the Church were created to avoid difficulties with Funerals, Weddings and Processions generally.  The whole Church was carpeted and the bench arrangement changed from a centre block with two sides blocks and two sides aisles, to the present two sides aisles and one middle aisle.  Because of the different bench length the middle aisle is slightly off centre.

In 1998, after 10 years with the Parish, Fr Whooley left and Fr James (Jim) Kirby took over.

During 2005 and 2006 a fundraising campaign was started.  Money was saved and a new kitchen was fitted in the church hall.  A disabled toilet was also installed to conform with new legislation.  This is continuing with the redecoration of the Hall and eventually the Church.

By January 2007 the small hall was painted, a new floor laid and new furniture purchased.  A Parish web site was created.













Further major works were carried out in the following years, which included replacing the carpeted flooring with the wood floor.  New lighting and a new heating system were installed along with repainting the church interior.  The Testa above the altar was also removed.  During the renovations of the altar, to our surprise, hidden behind a board on which the large crucifix was placed, a stained glass window was discovered.  It was removed, allowing more light to flood the altar.  

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The estimate for the whole project was around £125,000. The parish arranged a loan from four Southwark Archdiocesan parishes.  It was agreed that the loan was to

be repaid over 10 years.


The parish set up a building fund and had various bequests.  Fr Jim's wish was realised and the loan was fully repaid before he retired.

Fr Jim Kirby left the Parish in December 2017, after nearly 20 years of service.  Fr Sebanesarathan Sebamalai took over the Parish and was inducted on 7th May 2018. 

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