We are very much endebted to Frances Lee and Eileen Carty, two faithful parishioners, for the enormous amount of work they put into the research and presentation of the material in this History section, which was originally printed as a booklet to mark the parish's centenary in 2000.
 

CHAPTER 1: THE MISSION

From pre-Roman times until the end of the 17th century the Wirral Peninsula has been made up of many small villages and hamlets. Even in 1801 the town of Birkenhead consisted of only 110 people, an ancient priory, a ferry house and a number of cottages and houses. The population of Birkenhead was then dramatically boosted by the sea trade in and out of the port of Liverpool and subsequently Birkenhead became a domestic suburb of the city.
 
In the beginning :
 
The parish of St. Joseph’s was located on the edge of the ancient hamlet of Tranmere on what was previously heathland divided into individual crofts.
 
Parochial Boundaries were established in November 1918
 
From a point where the G. C. Railway crosses Woodchurch Road - along the railway to Storeton Station, - North East to Storeton (exclusive), - then road by Little Storeton (inclusive) and North West End of Quarries to Storeton Road. Along Storeton Road to Birkenhead Parliamentary Boundary to Borough Road, along Borough Road and Mount Road to Allcot Avenue, Roxburgh Avenue, - across Victoria Park to Rosedale Road, (both sides), - Downham Road, - Old Chester Road, - Queen street, - Holt Hill, - Elm Grove, - Wilmer Road, - Balls Road, - Christchurch Road, - Rose Mount, - Ingestre Road, - footpath from Talbot Road to and along Woodchurch Road to starting point.
 
Parish population :
1900 - 1,000
1951 - 3,500
1983 - 5,000
1998 - 3,500
 
The Diocese of Shrewsbury was created in 1851 under the auspices of Bishop James Brown. At that time there were only 30 priests in the whole of this newly formed diocese.
 
In 1898 it was decided to found a much needed new mission on the new housing development known as ‘Devonshire Park Estate’. The task was given to Father George Carton then chaplain to the FCJ nuns at Holt Hill Convent, living at 43 Chesnut Grove.
 
The Mission was opened on 25th September 1898 and on this first day Father Carton called a meeting of gentlemen of the congregation who were to help him get the mission established (Unfortunately no record of who attended this meeting can be found). During the early days of the mission Mass was offered in the private chapel at the home of Mr. Joseph Bell Topham who lived at ‘Heathley’ Woodchurch Road, Oxton (the site on which St.Joseph’s Primary School now stands). By the following month October, Evening Service with Benediction was being held on Sunday afternoons in Holt Hill Convent Chapel. By January 1899 Mass was being said during the week at ‘Heathley’ whilst some Baptisms were being conducted in the convent chapel at Holt Hill. During this period Father Carton was living at 56 North Road. At Easter of this same year ‘all’ the houses of the members of the congregation were blessed.
 
Before naming, the church site was known as 'the Devonshire Park Church'. The land site valued at £569.15s.0d. was purchased by Mr. Joseph Bell Topham who then donated the land to the Parish Mission for the building of a church and presbytery.
 
According to the available documentation much correspondence was exchanged over the planning application to build a Catholic church on the site. Several local objections had been raised, in the event the tact and diplomacy of the then Bishop, (Bishop Samuel Allen) prevailed where legal argument apparently failed and planning permission was eventually granted. The architects selected to build the church were Edmund Kirby of Liverpool, the building work was given to local builder Mr. Peter Rothwell.
 
The Foundation Stone of the new church ( at a cost £99. 8s 1d) was blessed and laid on 19th March 1899 on the land donated by Mr. Topham.



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