Restoring the significance of the ‘Dome of Home’

Built in 1933 and nick-named the ‘Dome of Home’ during World War II, the architecturally stunning Roman Catholic Church of Ss Peter, Paul and St Philomena in New Brighton, overlooks Liverpool Bay in the Wirral.

For so many Allied servicemen and seamen, the iconic basilica-like church marked their safe return after another treacherous passage through the Atlantic to bring home and protect vital war-time supplies for Britain from America during World War II. And now, a grant from Allchurches Trust, is helping restore this much-loved local landmark that has long been a place of welcome and refuge.

The Institute of Christ the King (a young, international order based in Florence, Italy) cares for the church at the invitation of the Bishop and plans are underway to complete the restoration of its majestic dome, drum and main Sanctuary to reverse effects of extensive water damage over many years.

A successful National Lottery Heritage grant kick-started funding for the restoration project in August 2018 and Allchurches’ recent grant of £12,000 means that over half the match-funding support needed to trigger the lottery funding and begin this work in 2020 has now been secured.

Allchurches Trust grants officer, Paul Playford, said: “This project is a true celebration of this significant heritage gem, but also of the rich history of this local community and the church’s continuing and growing role within that.

“It’s wonderful how this project is bringing together local people of all ages to share their reminiscences, collective experiences and personal stories, with the aim of preserving them for future generations and improving their own and the community’s wellbeing. We’re delighted to be able to support such an ambitious and innovative project.”

As important as the architectural restoration and the reinvigorated provision for worship, are the church’s plans to breathe new life into the Wirral community. A range of new services and cultural activities to support community life and reconnect isolated, lonely and housebound people with their heritage are already underway.

An inspirational dementia-friendly project is recording reflections and personal heritage associated with the church and its history, from local artists and photographers, poets, schoolchildren, members of the congregation and the local community.

Project manager of the ‘Reflections Book’, Anne Archer, added: “We are collecting family photographs of events that have happened through the church’s history, reflections and memories, local artwork and writing, and we are making people stop and ponder. It’s really exciting.”

Teams of volunteers are planning a varied activity programme for the whole community, a new ‘Friends’ group is fundraising and the local community is increasingly becoming involved.

Canon Montjean, Rector of the church, commented: “We’ve planned our heritage activities to welcome new people, stimulate nostalgic memories and reconnect isolated and lonely people to each other and to their heritage; all while we maintain and grow the church’s primary function of being an oasis of traditional worship and Gregorian chant, accessible to everyone and open all day, every day.”

The ‘Dome of Home’ is well on its way to once more being a striking and significant symbol of safety, home, and reconnecting with community.

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