St Joseph’s Orphanage

St Joseph's Orphanage, PrestonDown Theatre Street in Preston (near the Post Office) is the former St Joseph’s Orphanage or Mount Street Hospital as it became know.

Blog Preston has a request from reader Martin Rue to find out more about it. So, after much searching on the web and drawing blanks, we set off to the Harris Museum and Preston’s Community History Library. Mysteriously, very little is known about St Joseph’s but here is what we did find out.

It was started in 1872 (according to Hewitson’s ‘A History of Preston) as an orphanage for Roman Catholic girls after an endowment from Mrs Maria Holland who later died in 1878.

Hewistson writes in his 1883 tombe, ‘A History of Preston':

At the southern end of Theatre-street there is a charitable institution called St. Joseph’s Orphanage. It was built and partially endowed by a local Catholic lady – the lake Mrs. Maria Holland – in 1872. The Orphanage is solely for Roman Catholic orphan girls; and they are instructed and generally looked after by nuns. Mr.R.W.Hughes, formerly of Preston, was the architect of the building. Since its opening there have been extensions, the cost of which has been defrayed by Catholics. There are, at present, about 50 orphans here.

Hewitson then goes on to describe the St Joseph’s Institute which was built onto the orphanage in 1877.

On the eastern side of, and immediately adjoining, the Orphanage, there is “St Joseph’s Institute for the Sick Poor.” This building, which has its front in Mount-street, was erected out of funds bequeathed for the purpose by Mrs. Holland – the lady who erected the Orphanage; and it was opened in 1877. It is for Roman Catholics; is maintained by voluntary contributions; and is attended; gratuitously, by local medical gentlemen. There is accommodation at this Institute for about 25 patients.

The only other article in the community archives is a clipping from the Lancashire Evening Post on 3rd September 1987 about the Hospital puzzling over what to do about a painting of Maria Holland that is in the Hospital as they don’t know who donated it. There’s a few further bits of history about the St Joseph’s complex:

  • Mount Street Hospital received its first operating theatre in 1910
  • In World War 1 it housed wounded British and Belgian soliders
  • A new wing was added to the Hospital in 1933
  • In World War 2 it was used to care for Dutch and Belgian sailors
  • Another new wing was opened in 1958 by Princess Marina the Duchess of Kent
  • The nuns who ran the orphanage were originally Dutch and called the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy

The article references a Sister Winefride, who was retired and living next to the hospital in retirement. Whether she’s still there who knows, but it would be interesting to speak to her about St Joseph’s.

Maria Holland is an interesting character, as the founder of St Joseph’s, she must of had a lot of wealth. Her obituary is in the Preston Guardian, dated 2nd February 1878.

DEATH OF A CHARITABLE LADY – HANDSOME LOCAL BEQUETHS

In our obituary to-day we announce the death of Mrs. Maria Holland, of Bushell-place, at the age of 72. The deceased lady had suffered for some time past from the natural ailments of advanced age, and succumbed to her illness yesterday week. She was a lady possessed of considerable means, and was noted for great liberality, especially among the Roman Catholic community of the town, of which she was a member. She built and largely endowed St Joseph’s Orphanage, in connection with which she has recently caused to be erected a hospital for the sick and dying….

…The bulk of her fortunate, however, is bestowed upon the St Joseph’s Institution, for a permanent endowment.

Inside the St Joseph’s complex, which is due to be turned into luxury apartments, has had some urban photography exploration done. You can view what it’s like inside.

Image credit to Tony Worrall.

So there’s plenty to find out, what happened in St Joseph’s? Who worked there? What stories? If you’ve got anything that you know about the place, please post a comment below or email [email protected]

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