Monumental in scale, the well-loved landmark church of SS Peter & Paul and St Philomena, raised high on the Wirral skyline, was built in 1935 by Father Thomas Mullins when New Brighton was a popular beach resort. A little-altered Roman Catholic church, situated on a steep hill, 170 feet above sea level, it retains all its original features. During World War II, the distinctive pale green dome could be spotted afar on the Merseyside skyline, and this helped sailors know they were close to Liverpool as they returned from the Battle of The Atlantic (hence its nickname ‘The Dome of Home’).
Innovative of its time, in its early use of reinforced concrete in construction, the church was designed by architect E Bower Norris, taking inspiration from The Estrela in Lisbon: the cruciform basilica with a nave three bays deep and a domed crossing, pedimented façade, twin bell towers, enormous dome and coloured marble all find echoes in New Brighton. In bringing the Baroque to New Brighton, Norris relied on the use of reinforced concrete. The vaults of the roof, tall circular drum, the dome, and the finial with its cross are all formed in ferro-concrete, and the whole structure is supported on concrete columns, independently and in advance of the surrounding brickwork.
The interior is grand and spacious, the nave measuring 40 feet long and 50 feet high to the barrel vault. Decoration concentrated on an elaborate high altar, reredos and two main side chapels, all various types of marble including Carrara, alabaster, and lapis lazuli. The church has several historic items including statues of the Madonna and Child on the Lady altar and St Anthony of Padua which date from late 17th/early 18th century respectively.
When the building opened, there was seating for 1,000 worshippers, making it the largest church in Shrewsbury Diocese.
In 2003, the building was listed Grade II, but escalating costs led to closure as a parish church in 2008. In 2012, the Diocese of Shrewsbury invited the Institute of Christ the King (ICKSP) to care for the church and bring the leaking building back to life.
In recognition of the building’s architectural and historic importance and through hard work, generosity and high spirit, the church has undergone a four-phased programme of restoration. The restoration of roofs, dome, drum, and main sanctuary, was completed in 2021, followed by a transforming redecoration and lighting design to replace inappropriate modern lights. Knowing that lighting in a church of 1935 would have had hanging chandeliers/electroliers suitable in scale and simple in design, the church has installed six, craftsmen-made, wrought iron chandeliers, gilded with two tiers of LEDs.
Today, Dome of Home is a beautiful place of worship and a living, lasting, legacy for the New Brighton community. Without the help of significant funding streams from National Lottery, AllChurches Trust and National Churches Trust, together with numerous and generous individual donations, this transformation would never have been possible.
Each phase has been accompanied by a varied programme of activities to welcome the community in this unique local heritage: from guide book and tours, to films and audio tours, organ recitals and heritage talks, to memory projects (https://www.facebook.com/groups/newbrightonmemoryproject/ and ) and Reformation studies. Details of all weekly events can be found on their website (https://icksp.org.uk/newbrighton/).
To watch the film describing the amazing restoration story (which was broadcasted on Liverpool TV) that includes an interview with the architect himself, simply use the QR code or copy the link below. Alternatively, visitors are always welcome to come and admire the church in person at (7 Atherton Street, New Brighton, CH45 9LT).
The church is open daily to visitors providing peace and sanctuary for all visitors, 8am-8pm.