After the Reformation Catholic worship in Pickering was carried on in secret and under penalty of death. Fr Nicholas Postgate, Priest of the Moors, travelled the area taking work as a gardener and bringing the sacraments to Catholic families. He spent time in Pickering. His portable altar stone, taken from his clothing on the morning of his martyrdom in York in 1679, hangs at the front of the altar in St Joseph’s.
Fr Edward Bryan, from Australia and a convert from Anglicanism, came to Pickering in 1901 and began to minister to a very small Catholic population. Within his first year, he founded St Joseph’s School, or St Joseph’s Acadamy as he called it. By 1904, the parish of St Joseph’s was established and St Joseph’s Church was completed in 1911. Fr Bryan’s truly wonderful achievement was inspired by Fr Postgate’s example of courage and faith.
It was not until 1934 that Fr Bryan, by that time deaf and in poor health, retired. He died in 1937. Over the years, eight further priests have served at St Joseph’s. Today the parish plays a key role in the town of Pickering in local ecumenical activity and in the Diocese of Middlesbrough.
The parish celebrated its centenary in 2004 with a number of events, including a concert for St Joseph’s Day, a Centenary Mass with Confirmation and a Flower Festival. The centenary of the completion of the church building in 2011 was marked by its consecration, with Bishop Terry coming to perform the rituals. We do not know why St Joseph’s Church was not consecrated for the first one hundred years of its life, but we are happy to say that it is now! A local blacksmith made the four consecration crosses.
Photos below are a wooden carving of Fr Postgate, with his cross, staff and heavy cloak, ready to cross the moors; an advertisement in a very early edition of the Catholic newspaper, and Fr Bryan standing in front of St Joseph’s in the 1930’s.