The History of St. Joseph's Church
During the year of 1868 a piece of land was purchased in East Street by a very generous man named John Hawksford, for the princely sum of £350, and upon this land was built the old St. Joseph's school.
This John Hawksford was also instrumental in the purcahsing of the land on which S.S. Mary and John's was built some 18 years earlier; he also beacome the first Catholic Mayor of Wolverhampton.
The school was opened on November 2nd 1868 and was put in the charge of the Sisters of Mercy but, alas, they soon ran into financial difficulties with the result that it became a charge on S.S. Mary & John's parish. Almost immediately the school had to be enlarged to meet the demands of a growing population and the demands of Her Majesty's Inspectors. The only way out was yet another mortgage and this time time for £700. With this an upper classroom was built. In a very short time, happily for the parish finances, the school and its debts was taken over by Bishop Ullathorne, the first Archbishop of Birmingham, and became a diocesan charge.
It was about this time, July 13th 1873 in fact, that a son was born to the 8th Earl of Denbigh and he was to ebcome the first Parish Priest of St. Joseph's.
This happy event took place on September 8th, 1903 when Bishop Isley opened the New Mission in Walsall Street and Monsignor Basil Fielding, the third son of Rudolph, Earl of Denbigh, began his ministry with a Catholic population of 803.
The New Mission of St. Joseph's was a temporary iron building seating 400. The area of the parish - Horsley Fields / Walsall Street area was known to be the poorest part of Wolverhampton at the time.
St. Joseph's School moved to Steelhouse Lane in September 1914; this was to become the place in which Sunday Mass was celebrated for a time when there was a major fire in the old St. Joseph's. The date of the fire is unclear, except that it took place when Fr. Cahill was the Parish Priest, therefore between 1926 - 1929; he was succeeded as Parish Priest by Fr. Killeen.
In 1930, Fr. Killeen began work building a new presbytery (Priest House) in Hickman Avenue; in 1934, Archbishop Williams laid the foundation stone for the New Holy Rosary School in Hickman Avenue, built to provide space for 250 children.
For a while Mass was celebrated each Sunday both in Walsall Street and Hickman Avenue, as well as Confessions and Benediction at both, until about 1938 or 1939, when Walsall St was abandoned.
The parish continued, centred on the Holy Rosary (the present school hall serving also as the church). It was always a poor parish; it was served through the forties and fifties by a sucession of priests, many of whom are noted for their devoted care of the people of the Parish.
In 1963, Fr. Michael Connelly became the Parish Priest; he was keen to set about the building of a new and permanent church, a task which he set about with great vigour.
The foundation stone of the new St. Joseph's Church was laid in 1966, about a mile to the east of Holy Rosary church and school along the Willenhall Road, on a plot of land known affectionately (but not officially) as "The Island". Alongside the church was built a presbytery and meeting room (which later became the Parish Social Club). A goal of £60,000 was set to pay for the new buildings. On Decemebr 4th 1967 the new Church of St. Joseph was solemnly blessed by His Grace the Most Reverend George Patrick Dwyer, Archbishop of Birmingham. At last a dream came true for the loyal and committed people of the parish.
Fr. Connelly moved in 1974, and was succeeded briefly by Fr. Philip O'Reilly, then by Fr. Devon Bell.
Then in 1979, Fr. James McGloin became the Parish Priest, reminaing until his retirement in 2002. He served the parish with great devotion throughout his time and continues to be fondly remembered by those who benefitted from his ministry. During his time as Parish Priest, on May 17th 1984, the church was consecrated by Arcbishop Maurice Couve de Murville.
The Parish has since been served by Fr. Stephen Goodman, Fr. James Mealey, Fr. Michael Bortnik and Fr. Dawid Piskorz. All of these priests have served faithfully in the parish and have all left their mark on the people they have minsiterd to.
Since July 2012 the Parish has been served by Fr. Craig Fullard.
A more in-depth history can be obtained from Fr. Craig.
& East Park.