A long trawl through Wikipedia and a variety of other sites mentioned therein threw up some interesting information on this enormous religious site in Mill Hill, London. I am afraid I must admit that I have practically lifted the information wholesale with little more than tense alteration of the text to reflect the fact that the original information, whilst accurate is now rather out of date time-wise. Being a none religious kind of person, a word the like of "Diocese" for example sounds like a horrible scabrous, purulent condition a dyslexic might contract, and obviously such Churchianty-speak doesn't mean a terrific lot to a heathen like me, but I didn't want to get any facts wrong in case I p*ss someone off from Big G  Inc. and get excommunicated for my sins, so please read the following with that fact in mind!

The seminary of Saint Joseph at Mill Hill in London was...

"A society of priests and laymen whose object was to labour for the conversion of heathens in foreign countries. It owed its origin to Cardinal Vaughan (died 1903) who, when still but a priest, founded in 1866 St. Joseph's Missionary College in a villa near Mill Hill, about ten miles north of London. It was the purpose of this college to train missionaries to propagate the Gospel among un-evangelized (sic) races beyond Europe, especially the negroes of Africa and the United States of America. On 1st. March, 1871, the college was transferred to a larger building erected for the purpose at Mill Hill, and in 1884 St. Peter's School was founded at Freshfield near Liverpool, to serve as a preparatory school to the college at Mill Hill. There were two other branch colleges: St. Joseph's Missiehuis, at Rozendaal, Holland, erected in 1890; and St. Josef's Missionshaus, at Brixen, Tyrol, erected in 1891. St. Joseph's Society, Mill Hill, was under the direction of the superior general, Very Rev. Francis Henry, and comprised about 200 priests and 10 lay brothers. About 170 of these priests were engaged as missionaries, the others as teachers in the above named colleges. The following missions were under the care of the Society: the Telugu Mission in the Archdiocese of Madras in British India, since 1875; the Prefecture Apostolic of Labuan and North Borneo, since 1881; the Maori Mission in the Diocese of Auckland, New Zealand, since 1886; the Prefecture Apostolic of Kafiristan and Kashmir in the northern part of India, since 1887; the Vicariate Apostolic of the Upper Nile or Uganda in British East Africa, since 1894; a few stations in the Belgian Congo, since 1903; and in the Diocese of Jaro, in the Philippine Islands, since 1906, there were about thirty priests of the society. The rules and constitutions of the society received the final definite approval of the Holy See, 25th. April, 1908."

Of the founder, Herbert Alfred Vaughan, Wikipedia has this to say...

Herbert Alfred Vaughan  LEFT  (18321903) was an English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Westminster from 1892 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1893. He was the founder in 1866 of St Joseph's Foreign Missionary College, known as Mill Hill Missionaries. He also founded the Catholic Truth Society. In 1871 Vaughan led a group of priests to the United States to form a mission society whose purpose was to administer to freedmen. In 1893 the society reorganized (sic) to form the US-based St. Joseph Society of the Sacred Heart, known as the Josephite Fathers. Vaughan also founded St. Bede's College, Manchester. As Archbishop of Westminster, he led the capital campaign and construction of Westminster Cathedral. It was Vaughan's most cherished ambition to see an adequate Westminster Cathedral. He worked untiringly to secure subscriptions for a capital campaign, with the result that the foundation stone for the cathedral was laid in 1895. When Vaughan died in 1903 at the age of 71, the building was so far complete that a Requiem Mass was said there. His body was interred at the cemetery of St. Joseph's College, the headquarters of the Mill Hill Missionaries in North London but it was later moved to the Cathedral  RIGHT .

In addition to the missionary fathers a society of female missionaries known as The Sisters of Saint Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions was also created at the same time though whether or not they worked from the same seminary  is rather unclear.

"Of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis, founded in 1883 by Cardinal Vaughan and Mother Mary Francis Ingham, to co-operate in the work of the Mill Hill Fathers. The cardinal's idea was that the sisters should stand in the same relation to the fathers of the society as the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to the Lazarist Fathers. They undertook any work, at home or abroad, indicated for them by the superior general or the bishop of the diocese. There were no lay sisters. The novitiate was at Patricraft, (sic) Manchester, where the sisters also had homes for boys and girls and a nursery, with about 200 children under 40 sisters. In addition to their establishments at Mill Hill and Manchester, the congregation had a branch house at Blackburn with boarding-schools for boys and girls of the middle class and an orphanage for children of the poorer class, with 10 sisters in charge of 70 to 80 children; at Blackburn the sisters taught in 3 elementary schools. They had branches also at Freshfield (Liverpool), at Waterford and Cork in Ireland, and at Rozendaal in Holland. In Borneo there were 17 sisters at various mission stations. The total number of professed sisters in the congregation was 120."

The seminary was eventually closed in 2006, boarded up and on site security provided. Early in 2011 we heard mention of it through the grapevine and it looked and sounded so appealing that we decided we should attempt to gain entry to explore the site. Sadly however Tracy's initial recce visit in the May, undertaken whilst I was working at Wembley, met with failure when the security woman at the gate informed her that the BBC were in residence filming what turned out to be "Call The Midwife"  LEFT  starring Jessica Raine, Miranda Hart, Cliff Parisi, Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris and Judy Parfitt, a drama about church funded midwifery during the post war austerity of the 1950s. The publicity photograph seen here  RIGHT  shows members of the cast standing on the steps outside part of the building.

It was doubly annoying for Tracy that the security person on site - a woman for a change - said that had the place been empty at that point she would happily have shown her around! Such is life. Circumstances did not permit another visit for some significant time and then suddenly the building popped up on the urbex radar around December 2012 with a series of visits by other explorers yielding a positive cornucopia of lovely photographs. We resolved to make a serious attempt at the earliest possible opportunity so in February 2013 we rocked up on site at the crack of dawn - which was not actually quite as bad as it sounds as it was actually about 7.30 AM!


Below you can view the best of the photographs which we took in this amazing building.

If you wish to view any of these pictures in a much larger size then just click on the thumbnail of your choice and it will open a full size picture in a secondary window...



We approached the rear of the college through the woods to gain access but from the corner of the building we could see the main entrance and the bell tower of the church in the distance.

Most of this part of the site would appear to have been dormitory wings with teaching rooms on the ground floor.


All seminaries have at least one chapel or church. Saint Josephs is no exception.


Although it was still quite dark outside it was possible to get a photo in the church by using a tripod and a humungously long exposure!

Sadly the polished floor is showing signs of decay now - just two years ago it was so reflective it looked like a pool of black water.

A different perspective...


I assume the alter would have stood here beneath the enormous crucifix?

The light coming in through these stained glass windows throws beautiful colours everywhere.

The art of stained glass...



Above the knave is a viewing platform accessed by stairs behind the church but the stairs were very dangerous...

...so we went up to another much smaller viewing archway on the opposite side instead.

A hymn book left lying on the floor.


I find this dark painted brickwork together with the stained hard wood doors very appealing.

A study in light and shade...


Someone - presumably security - has been growing brassicas in this courtyard!

You can't beat a bit of gratuitous stair porn!

A first floor corridor.

A view across the roof tops.

...and another.


Quite why this room had  a key in the lock is unclear. Was it a prop store or the like when the building was used to film, "Call The Midwife"?

I had no idea that the Roman Catholic Church was quite so enlightened but I suppose even priests are human and have needs like everybody else!

London arising from its slumbers.


Back on the ground floor again - we had grown bored with the repetition on the upper floors quite quickly!

The architecture is very aesthetically appealing.

Quite what this niche was for is not clear.

The church entrance is behind us.

Corner wangle!

Shortly before we called it a day we decided to take one more look at the church to see what difference the morning light made.

Back at the alter end of the church once more.


A study in stained glass...


This room has the feel of a refectory or possibly a general purpose function room.


Outside once more.


Moving around towards the front of the building now to get some exterior shots when the possibility of meeting security is no longer an issue.

The church and the bell tower.


Been there, seen it, done it- TJ strikes a pose!

I am certain this staircase has featured in the drama.


Time to go - but not without one last wide angle shot of the building's imposing facade.

Some kind of grotto in the woods - how peculiar!
We hope you enjoyed our tour of

Saint Joseph's - thanks for looking...