St Joseph's College, Upholland

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St Joseph's College, Upholland

Coordinates: 53°33′12″N 2°43′56″W / 53.5534°N 2.7322°W / 53.5534; -2.7322

St Joseph's College, Upholland is a Former Roman Catholic seminary, situated at Walthew Park, Upholland, Lancashire, England. The foundation of the large building was laid in April 1880 and college was opened in 1883. The buildings have recently been deconsecrated.


St Joseph's College was founded in 1880 by Bishop Bernard O'Reilly to be the Seminary serving the North West of England. The college was formally opened in 1883 and was situated in Walthew Park, Upholland, the geographic centre of the Diocese of Liverpool.

The first Junior Seminary of the Diocese was founded at St Edward's College in 1842 as a Catholic 'classical and commercial school' under the direction of the secular clergy and was established in Domingo House, a mansion in Everton. Its President for the next forty years was to be Monsignor Provost John Henry Fisher. When the Junior Seminarians moved to St Joseph's the school was taken over by the Christian Brothers (who also ran St John Rigby College in nearby Orrell) and continues to this day and now serves as the Liverpool Cathedral Choir School. In recognition of the heritage owed to St Edward's College one of the two chapels at Upholland was consecrated as the St Edward the Confessor Chapel.

Along with Ushaw College, the other main seminary in the north of England, candidates for the priesthood studied and were ordained at the college. Up until the second Vatican Council boys as young as 11 years of age entered the Junior Seminary before progressing to the senior Seminary at 18. In 1972 following the changes of Vatican 2 the two junior seminaries of St Joseph's and Ushaw, along with the junior seminary of St. Michael's based at Underley Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale, merged at Upholland, and in 1975, with declining numbers of men from Ireland offering themselves for the (now) Archdiocese of Liverpool the Senior seminary moved to Ushaw. In the 1980s St Joseph's offered boarding school education for boys considering a vocation up until 1987. From then until 1991, the building housed a small group of students who were still interested in a vocation to the priesthood, but rather than being schooled within the premises, they attended St. John Rigby College, Orrell.

Following the end of the seminary training and boarding education, St Joseph's became home to the Upholland Northern Institute (UNI) and was used as a retreat and conference centre for the Archdiocese under the leadership of Msgr John Devine.

The election of Archbishop Patrick Kelly saw the controversial decision to close St Joseph's altogether and the property was sold to Anglo International who instructed AEW Architects for the conversion of the Grade 2 listed RC Seminary to 92 apartments, with 220 new build enabling units. The major controversies of the decision were the ongoing financial viability of St Joseph's (it had just started to make a small surplus under Devine's management) and the sale and disposal of the art and artefacts in the college, much of which had been donated by various parishes and people of the Archdiocese who were not offered their donations back.

Gradwell Collection

This collection, entrusted to Liverpool Hope University on the closure of St. Joseph’s College at Upholland, contains material covering the following subjects: theology, philosophy, church, secular and local history, ecclesiastical history, art, architecture, sociology, education and works of general reference. It also includes recusant works and early printed works. Donations and subscriptions aside, the book collection has not been added to since 1975, however, the journal and periodical collection which is mainly theological, has been kept up to date. The collection is particularly strong in Catholic studies with standard works of Catholic reference and extensive runs of Catholic periodicals and journals of use to all levels of research.

Notable alumni
  • John Battle MP (Lab) (b. 1951), Labour MP for Leeds West
  • Alexander Jones (d. 1970), considered one of the world's leading biblical scholars. He lectured extensively and authored innumerable articles and several books based on the Scriptures. Formerly a senior lecturer in divinity at Christ's College, Liverpool, he had followed his time at Upholland with studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and at the Biblical Institute, also in Rome, as well as L'École Biblique in Jerusalem.
  • Fr. John-Paul Sanderson OCSO (b.1967) Cistercian monk and priest.
  • Anthony Kenny Distinguished British Philosopher and Master of Balliol College Oxford. Nephew of Alexander Jones.
  • Michael Kenna (b. 1953), Artists and photographer
  • Paddy McAloon (b. 1957), singer with Prefab Sprout
  • Michael Joseph Pennington (b. 1971), AKA "Johnny Vegas", TV personality, actor, comedian
  • Bishop John Rawsthorne (b. 1936), Bishop of Hallam
  • George Carman QC (1929-2001), distinguished defence counsel in many of the most celebrated criminal and libel trials of the last quarter of the 20th century.
  • John Storey (b. 1963)- Presenter - Radio City - Liverpool
  • Alan Jones (b.1967) AKA "Alfie Joey", comedian, presenter of BBC Newcastle's Breakfast show.

paul wroblewski, television drama director (b.1963)