New Brighton and ‘The Dome of Home’
By Ralph Marsh & Anne Archer
New Brighton on the Wirral is a very modern invention. Until the 1830s it was more or less an uninhabited sandy waste, part of the manor of Liscard. The idea of ‘New Brighton’ was the brainchild of two Liverpudlians William Rowson and James Atherton. They purchased 170 acres from John Penketh, Lord of Liscard manor, with a view to developing a high-class seaside resort in 1832. One contemporary observer described New Brighton as the ‘Elysium of English Watering Places’!
At a similar time the cause of Roman Catholicism was also undergoing development with the Catholic Emancipation Bill of 1829 and the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in 1850 which encouraged the spread of Catholic parishes. The ‘architectural gem’ of Ss Peter, Paul and Philomena, so well-known and loved, had its beginnings from St Alban’s parish, Liscard, itself begun in 1841.
In 1879 a mission was set up in New Brighton by Canon Frith which led to the building of the first church of Ss Peter and Paul in Hope Street in 1881. This proved to be too small and it was the advent of Fr. Mullins in 1909, who, like Atherton and Rowson, had a vision of a grand building to accommodate the growing number of residents and visitors to the resort. The great New Brighton Tower, rising some 621ft above sea level, had been started 1897 and was larger than Tower at Blackpool. Fr. Mullins’ vision was finally realised when in 1935 the Church of SS Peter, Paul and Philomena, built in the Renaissance style, was opened as the largest church in the diocese. The huge dome spans some 86feet.
Now that New Brighton is experiencing regeneration, it is fitting that the Church of SS Peter, Paul and Philomena should also begin a new chapter under the auspices of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The Dome of Home (fondly named as a seafarer’s welcome sight when returning to their loved ones around The Mersey) dominates the skyline of New Brighton.
Canon Philip Moor, Vicar General of Shrewsbury Diocese and priest in charge of the parish of Holy Apostles and Martyrs where The Shrine lies said, “Bishop Davies established this church in 2012 to be a shrine not only for the Diocese but for the whole of the North West.” Canon Amaury Montjean, Rector of the Shrine added, “People have started to come here on pilgrimage. Our first coach load came from Birmingham and we have had a number of enquiries for hotel and Bed & Breakfast Accommodation.”
All are welcome at The Dome of Home which is open daily from 7.30am until 8.30pm for devotions or just quiet contemplation. Follow the progress and events of The Shrine at their new website at www.domeofhome.org .