St Joseph’s Seminary

 

Brief History of St Joseph’s Seminary
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 the other main seminary in the north of England, Ushaw 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 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. St Joseph’s continued to offer boarding school education for boys considering a vocation until 1987.

Following the end of the seminary training and boarding education St Joseph’s became home to the Northern Institute 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.

My visit to St Joseph’s Seminary – Visited with Venustas

Please note: I do not break in to any building to gain access. I use an access point that already exists or I leave, I am not a vandal.

After an unsuccessful visit a few weeks earlier, Venustas and I just could not resist the pull of St Joe’s and had to try again. So, an early start was arranged and before we knew it we were back!

Now this place is notorious for the ‘on the ball’ security and even more for the high pitched killer alarm. Trust me when I say that when that thing goes off all you want to do is curl up in a ball with your hands over your ears whimpering for your mummy. It sure is an assault on your eardrums. This place has been classed as a “suicide-explore” due to the fact that going here you know you have a high chance of being caught at some point.

So that said, the main goal of this trip other than getting the photos we needed was to not set off the motion sensor alarm or get caught by security.

We were in just as the light was starting to flood in through the windows which was great timing as St Joe’s really needs light to help show its real beauty. So after a 5 minute break to catch our breath we headed off into the maze of hallways and rooms checking for sensors as we went and started snapping photos of this amazing location.

Please note, You can click on any image for a larger view.

Here are a few photos of some of the hallways. This place is full of hallways of all shapes and sizes.

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Now, one of the first rooms we stumbled across that we had seen in other reports was the ‘Red Room’. This room was a chapel for the serving staff.

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After taking a few snaps in the Red Room we moved on walking down even more hallways and checking out dozens of small rooms that looked like dorm rooms. Each room looked identical with a small fire and some type of storage for clothing and belongings.

Then we found the ‘Squirrel Room’ aptly named as there is a dried out squirrel on the window sill. By the looks of it i would say that it was a male!

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Now, just after the last photo above was taken we realised that we were locked in the room! We had heard the door shut behind us but thought nothing of it as doors have handles on right? Wrong! this one did not.

Instantly we both thought … Oh Shit!

As we were on the 2nd floor and the window not being one that can open the door was our only exit so we quickly realised unless we can get this door open we will either have to damage the door panel to get out or do the unthinkable and call security! Neither of which we wanted to do.

We looked where the handle should have been and could see the small square metal bar that goes into the handle. It had been pushed through and almost of out the other side. We started to look for something that we could grip it with but crumbly plaster and peeling paint was of no help! Then, Venustas pulled out two £1 coins and with his what i call a Gorilla grip used them on the bar like a pair of tweezers. As he twisted the bar I pulled on the hanger attached to the door and to our joy we were free! Thank goodness the latch was not rusted! Oh and Venustas’s gorilla grip.

So after a few moments of laughter and joking about what had just happened we move on through this monster of a location.

We knew the main areas that we wanted to see but trying to find them soon became apparent that luck would play a huge part in if we were successful. Today lady luck seemed to be on our side when we stumbled across the library which has the spiral staircase.

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So after a few snaps of the stairs up we went. This room was my favourite from the day, it was quiet, out of the way and it held a nice calm feeling to it which was the perfect place to take a break and plan out our next route to explore.

It was obviously part of the library below as you will see there are shelves on both sides of the room that would have been full of books. Also, there is a ladder to help you get the books you need and a study table. This table I named the ‘guestbook’ as previous explorers have added their name to it. I am now proud to say that ours are also part of the guestbook.

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So after walking down a few more corridors and checking even more rooms lady luck struck again. Out of nowhere the dorm room appeared.

I have always loved the look of this room from the day I looked at it on someone’s report. It is nowhere near as in good condition as it use to be from older reports but this place still has a beauty to it. The names of the people who used this dorm are still on the cubicle fronts.

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So after grabbing a few shots we decided it was time to move on if we wanted to cover as much as possible before we had to go. After walking around for a while we came across this staircase that connected on to a room with a crazy checkerboard ceiling which I have been told by a former pupil was the lower line chapel.

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Just to the right of the stairs was the study hall.

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Next up we found what we thought must be classed as a small chapel but we might be wrong. This room was small but really nice in decor.

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Now with us finding the small chapel we knew we had to be close to the holy grail that is the main Chapel. The main chapel was our end goal as we knew that when we enter that area there is a high chance that we would set of one of the remote sensors and all hell would break loose on our eardrums. We decided that we were happy with the amount we had seen and said lets go. So after about 10 minutes of looking for the chapel entry we found it, held our breath and stepped in ……. wait for the attack of sound ….. any minute now …. NOTHING! Not a peep.

Well that was a surprise, so we started snapping away before security arrived. We said to each other get the shots we need before we get escorted off. So off to work we went, snapping shots from all angles and we even found the bell tower.

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Now to our utter surprise of no alarm also came the surprise of no security presence arriving we were in total amazement. With all shots taken that we wanted from this area we left and headed off to a less obvious area to weigh up our next move.

We knew we were happy with what we had seen so far but decided to walk a few more corridors before leaving this amazing place. We even walked the cellars that were used for storage and from the evidence we found brewing their own wine and spirits!

After that we decided it was time to go. The day had gone better than we could have hoped for, we had not set off the motion sensor alarm and no security had collared us. We made it to our exit point packed up our gear and headed out. A few moments later Venustas wanted to get some external shots and we knew that security is right at the point where we wanted to take the photo. We both agreed and said sod it, we walked right out into plain sight of security and the CCTV and got the shots we needed then turned round and walked down the path. 30 seconds later security arrived in his car. We got the usual speech and then went merrily on our way after an amazing 5 hours inside exploring.

Crazy getting ourselves caught right? Probably, but the external definitely finished the day off.

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More images available on flickr
The images above are just a small selection of the images I have edited. I will be adding lots more photos of St Joseph’s Seminary on my Flickr page which can be found here.

Final thoughts
St Joseph’s is by far the best explore I have been on and I feel it will take some beating without leaving the UK for places such as France & Belgium. Don’t get me wrong there are some great locations within the UK but St Joseph’s had so much to offer and the sheer size of this place can keep you coming back time and again and each time you would definitely see something new. So I don’t think I should say farewell to St Joes but see you soon!

If you would like to purchase a print of any of the above photos or any photos on this website you can contact me via the email form on my contact page for more information.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Duggan

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