Our History

[Background note: Christianity was first established in Scotland at nearby Whithorn with the arrival of St. Ninian in 397AD. Following the Reformation of 1560, and the subsequent penal laws of 1690, Catholic worship and Churches were out-lawed until Emancipation took place in 1829.]

When he departed from Stranraer in 1855 he left to his successor a purpose-built church and house which had been opened in 1853, thanks to fund-raising which had taken place largely in Ireland. The first record of the provision of music was that of the gift of a harmonium in 1871 and the church was also redecorated the following year.

Extensive changes were made to the building in 1924 when Mr Thomas McAvoy, a local councillor and dairy engineer, financed the addition of a new sanctuary and bell-tower to St. Joseph’s in memory of his wife. The sanctuary was added on the east end of what had been a box-like structure previously and access from the church was made with a large archway cut in the original wall. The most imposing feature of the new sanctuary was the circular antique-glass window above the raised altar depicting the crucifixion. This was the work of Stalens of Antwerp and was one of only two windows he made, the other being in Antwerp Cathedral.

In 1961 the internal porch, with the choir-loft above it, was removed from the west end of the church and a new exterior vestibule and entrance created. At the same time the confessional boxes – which a few years earlier had replaced the original curtained niches – and baptismal font were removed from their place in the north-west corner of the church, the new font being moved into the sanctuary area and the new confessional unit became a part of the added porch. The disappearance of the loft meant that other arrangements had to be made for music.

Over the years other smaller changes had taken place but perhaps the most significant was that brought about by the Second Vatican Council. Following it, the decision was made to create a new altar within the sanctuary, one from which mass would be celebrated with the priest facing the congregation. This was carried out and at the same time the presentation niche above the former altar was taken away.

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