Our Lady and St. Joseph's Church, Hanwell

Travelling westwards along the Uxbridge Road through Hanwell, it is difficult to miss this church, which is on the southern side of the road just before the health club.

There has been a Catholic church on this site since about 1864, but the first building looked radically different to the present creation. It was a far more traditional Victorian building, being a low stone church with a timbered roof, of considerable charm.

However, in 1963 it was demolished and a new church built over the next four years by Reynolds and Scott. It had been envisaged that the completion year would have been 1965, but due to various delays in building this was not to be. The sculpture was by A.K. Brobowski and the stained glass windows by Goddard and Gibbs. The building is not without its critics. Architectual expert Nicholas Pevsner wrote of it thus 'purple brick with aluminium-clad roof, and a horrible jagged outline of concrete dormers'.

Inside, the dominating feature was a seventeen-foot pine cross with a seven-foot figure of Christ. It had been carved in northern Italy and was a gift from the patients and staff of St.   Bernard's Hospital. There were other internal features, which were gifts. The tabernacle and altar, unusual in design because the priest faces the congregation, were donated from St. Joseph's Catholic School in Hanwell. The font was from the Knights of St. Columbia.

A reminder of the older building was retained, for three of its stained glass windows were set into the sacristy walls. One of these was in memory of Hanwell men killed in the First World War.

The church was blessed by Bishop Patrick Case in May 1967 shortly after it was completed. Six hundred people attended the blessing but it was December 1972 before it was officially consecrated. The bishop said to the congregation after the blessing "Now you can make use of this lovely church, but the only trouble, as I see it, is that it will not be big enough. We are always building new churches, and they always seem to turn out too small". This was not the first time a service had been held here – mass had been celebrated the previous Easter when the church was in an unfinished condition.

The church cost £125,000. Much of this sum, £74,000, was raised by the parishioners between 1963-1967 by fetes, bazaars, whist drives and bingo sessions. Several years were to pass before the building's costs were fully met.

The Rev. Patrick Murphy pioneered the building but he retired shortly before his vision was achieved. Rather, it was his successor, the Rev. Peter Allen, who was the first priest in charge. Allen was said by the Rev. Mortimer to be 'the Moses of Hanwell' and praised his work as priest in his first six months at the church.

We would like to thank Dr Jonathan Oates, borough archivist and local history librarian, for the use of his information