The church was designed by Edward Welby Pugin (son of Augustus Welby Pugin) and built between 1873 - 1876 to replace a chapel in the grounds which now forms part of St Joseph's High School.
The church dates from 1821 and was built using money from the million pound fund set up by the government to mark the victory at the Battle of Waterloo. The church was designed by King George III's architect Thomas Hardwick, owing much to the influence of Robert and John Adam, and is based on the Inigo Jones' design for St Paul's , Covent Garden, which Hardwick had previously restored.
The church is an important landmark in the town of Workington featuring Hardwick's trademark classical style Greek portico facing onto one of the main roads into the town. The tower was added in 1846 replacing a wooden structure destroyed by a gale. The interior of the church has been re-ordered several times. The present interior was designed in 1931 by Sir John Ninian Comper, the renowned Scottish, Anglo-Catholic, ecclesiastical architect who specialised in the use of colour and the subtle integration of Classical and Gothic elements. He is credited with the re-introduction of the 'English altar'.
The new design repositioned the sanctuary to the west end and includes a gilded baldacchino over the altar, which is supported by four gilded columns. The west window behind the sanctuary is typical of Comper's design and decorative style. It must be seen in combination with the crucifix and classical Arabesque to represent Christ's crucifixion, resurrection and in his ascendant glory. The lower part of the window can only be seen when kneeling at the altar and depicts the Four Evangelists. The ornate font at the east end continues the Greek theme displayed in the opening words of St John's Gospel above the altar and in the front porch.