The Catholic Parish of
St Joseph, Barnoldswick and St Patrick, Earby

St Patrick's Church History



In the early 1920s there were around 200 Catholics living in Earby but no church,  people had the choice of attending Sunday Mass in one of the local halls, (licensed for dancing at other times) or walking or cycling to the Catholic chapel at Broughton Hall.Confessions and religious instruction for children and would-be converts were held in private homes.


The Plan


By 1925 parishioners were united in their wish to have their own church – that was to be named after the patron saint of the parish, St Patrick.It was estimated that a new church would cost around £2,500 and with most Catholics in the town being working class with little money to spare it was obvious that they had to involve the local community if they were to have any chance of achieving their dream. So it was, that at Easter 1925, the Rt. Rev. Joseph Robert, Bishop of Leeds, adding his support to a public appeal, “St Patrick's Bricks”.


Under the appeal, 50,000 “bricks” went on sale at one shilling each– every parishioner urged to buy at least one themselves as well as persuading friends and neighbours to contribute. Bricks were issued in sheets –with a hod of bricks (10 bricks) – costing 10s; half a hod (10 half bricks) –costing 5s ;and a quarter hod (10 bricketts) – costing 2s and 6d.  


The Outcome


The appeal was a great success and the foundation stone for the new church was laid on 9th April 1928 by the Bishop and officially opened for worship in October of that year.


Architect Charles Simpson, who had drawn up the plans for the rock-faced sandstone building with its stone coped gables and Welsh slate roof was among the congregation.


First Civic Service


The first civic service at the Northolme church took place on 6th June 1953 and was one of a number of religious services across the country celebrating the coronation of the new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. A parade led by the local constabulary and Earby Brass Band, Coun. John O'Toole, chairman of Earby UDC and other official dignitaries marched to St Patrick's for a divine service.   Fr O'Grady,priest-in-charge at the time, celebrated Mass and during his sermon, he told the congregation what a true example of family life the new Queen was and how great her sacrifice by dedicating her life for the good of all her people.Special booklets had been printed out to ensure that all the non-Catholics in the congregation could follow the Order of the Mass and a special blessing calling on God's blessing on the Queen was read out in line with instructions from the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. 


Golden Anniversary


A celebration mass, to mark the church's 50th anniversary took place in October 1978. Led by parish priest, Fr C Roddy, guests included one of his predecessors, Fr P. Roche, as well as some long-standing members of the congregation who had been involved in the original fund-raising appeal. 

Mr and Mrs Henry Tempest, of Broughton Hall, also attended as did representatives fromother churches in the town.


After the Mass a reception was held at the Linden Road Centre.  Miss Sarah Gleeson, the oldest member of the church was invited to make the first cut on a celebration cake made especially for the event.


Present Day


For much of its history, St Patrick's Church was associated withal Saints' Chapel, Broughton, but in 2012 Bishop Arthur Roche outlined plans to reduce the existing three parishes in the Skipton and West Craven area to two. Under the changes, which were adopted after consultation, St Patrick’s Church was formally linked with St Joseph's Church to become one parish with one parish priest, initially Fr Simon Winn and in 2015, Canon Kevin Firth The future vision is that there will be a real alliance between the two congregations which will further enhance the vision of those pioneers back in 1925.

Please take a look at the copy of the St Patrick's Brick Appeal leaflet.     

Archive photograph of May Queen c 1953

St Joseph's Church History

In The Beginning

Back in 1845, it was the custom for the Catholics from Barnoldswick and Earby to attend Mass in the chapel at Broughton Hall. Lack of transport meant this was far from an easy journey. As a result of this in 1884 a ‘Sunday Coach Club’ was formed. Members saved money on a weekly basis until there were sufficient funds in the pot to meet the fifteen shillings costs for transport. A coach pulled by two horses was duly hired to take them to Mass at Broughton.

Previously, in 1883 the now well established Catholic community in West Craven had made history, when the Rev. Joseph Johnson officiated at the burial of the recently deceased Mrs Elizabeth Connell in the graveyard at St Mary-le-Ghyll Church, the first burial performed there by a Catholic priest since the Reformation.

The arrival of Fr Michal, the newly appointed chaplain at, Broughton Hall, brought further changes as he established a Catholic church in Barnoldswick, using an old Methodist chapel at the top of Walmsgate.

The chapel, known as the “Old Ship”, was rented for 4/6 a week and Mass was said for the first time on Passion Sunday 1897. The Bishop of Leeds then went on to officiate at the first confirmations in December of the following year.

Mass was initially celebrated once a month, then alternate Sundays and finally every Sunday, by which time the need for larger accommodation led to the purchase of the Old National School at Butts, the top rooms being converted as a place of worship and the lower ones used as the priest’s residence. In 1904, Fr Thomas Byles, who sadly died eight years later on the “Titanic”, was appointed curate in charge at Barnoldswick.

In 1906 he oversaw the purchase of a plot of land where the present church and community centre now stand. The following year, a tin church that could seat 200 was erected. The land cost £656 and the early tin church further £300.

Fr Theodore Van Woerkem, a Dutch priest, was appointed first resident parish priest of St Joseph’s Church in 1907, his responsibilities extending to the Catholics of Earby, Kelbrook, Salterforth, Marton and Gisburn. But, as Barnoldswick grew in prosperity and size, it soon became obvious that the area covered by the parish would have to be reduced, with Earby and Kelbrook eventually switched to the stewardship of Broughton from 1925 onwards.  The old tin church was pulled down in 1927 and the foundation stone for a new stone built church, costing £7,000, was laid by the Rt. Rev. Joseph Cowgill in September 1928. Bishop Cowgill returned in June 1929 to officiate at the official opening and consecration.

The Church

The new church was much admired with its magnificent steep-pitched roof and lofty nave. The Stations of the Cross, painted in copper, are copies of those in Antwerp Cathedral.  The clock and turret bell were installed in 1932 – the clock and dials being totally hand made by local craftsman Mr John Pickles - while in1936, the Jurgens family of Holland donated the high altar and reredos in carved oak, in memory of their late son William. The original wooden altar was then moved to the adjacent Sacred Heart chapel on the right. A similar sized altar on the left of was dedicated to Our Lady. Two plaques mark the contribution Fr Van Woerkem made: a man of means, he designed the church and commissioned its construction, his ambition to create a “Church of Dignity” leading his efforts.  He was also the driving force behind plans to build a new school linked to the parish – St Joseph’s - initially built on the adjacent plot, (now the community centre) and later being redeveloped in its present site on West Close Road.

Golden Jubilee

St Joseph’s marked its 50th anniversary with a refurbishment– the marble altar brought forward to the centre, and the original altar rails re-sited in the archways at the side of the altar.  The dwarf wall was also removed and the three steps extended across the face of the sanctuary in response to changes introduced by Vatican 2 that reminded parishioners that nothing should come between them and God.  The anniversary changes also saw two new marble lecterns erected and the re-siting of the Baptismal font, pupils from St Joseph’s School contributing towards the cost of the latter. A reception area was created by erecting a Narthex screen in American red oak. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt. Rev. William Wheeler dedicated the church and altar with a concelebrated Pontifical Mass jointly led by parish priest, Fr Peter Bolger, and attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Pendle.

In Recent Times

The silver jubilee of Fr Michael Krychiwskyj saw further changes at the church, not least the creation of a smart new entrance at the back of the church. This not only improved access for the less able, but also provided a very attractive entrance that mirrored the beautiful craftsmanship of the work inside.

A new mezzanine floor was created above the new entrance to house the organ and a dedicated space for the choir, who gain access via an ornate spiral staircase. The Narthex screen, installed earlier, was dismantled and put into storage, so that it can be used again if needed. Changes made over the years have done much to enhance an already beautiful church that parishioners are proud to call their own.

The parish itself has also seen changes since the merger of St Joseph’s Church and St Patrick’s Church into one parish with Canon Kevin Firth as parish priest – a relatively new relationship, but based on historical roots, and one which the congregations at both churches look forward to developing even further in the future.

Please take a look at the archive snap-shots below.

St Joseph's Church Presbytery

22 Gisburn Road, Barnoldswick, BB18 5HA

Tel: 01282 812204

St Patrick's Church

Salterforth Road, Earby, BB18 7QS

Tel: 01282 812204

Diocese of Leeds    62 Headingley Lane, Leeds, LS6 2BX