Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

St Joseph's Church Pontefract

As today is the Solemnity of St Joseph I thought I would write something about the Catholic church in my home town of Pontefract, which is dedicated to him.

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Pontefract

St Joseph's Church Pontefract from the south east

Photograph supplied by and Copyright of Bill Henderson.

As the church is close to my old home it was a building that I saw virtually every day, although, being an Anglican in those days, I think I was twenty three before I ever set foot in it.

It was built in 1806 to serve the long standing local recusant community, and architecturally resembles a nonconformist chapel rather than a church. At the east end and underneath the church, which is on the first floor is the presbytery. The structure is brick built, but is now covered with rendering. Inside the church is rather plain, with vaguely Neo-Classical details. I never saw it before its post-Vatican II reordering, but from pictures I have seen it had acquired some mock- gothic furnishings which have now gone.

As a local historian I became interested in local recusant history and used the typescript history kept at the church and compiled by the last of that tradition, Edward Woodcock. Since I used it that has apparently been lost, but I hope a copy does survive - there may, perhaps, be a copy in the diocesan archives. The photocopy I obtained for the local library has, I understand, been destroyed in an excess of zeal for copyright. It contained some fascinating oral tradition about Catholicism in the area in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as material about the Jesuit mission in the town. The parish has a continuous history from the reign of King James II, when it was very active, and was run by the Jesuits until 1890.

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