BOURNEMOUTH’S Sacred Heart Catholic Church has officially reopened following its £270,000 restoration.

Church officials and a number of civic dignitaries, including Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, attended a ceremony at the church on Sunday afternoon.

It is the first time in almost a century that the church on Richmond Hill has been given a thorough cleaning and restoration inside and out.

The project was largely financed by the parishioners themselves, after Father Bruce Barnes established the ShineAppeal in summer 2011.

Father Barnes explained: “For some extraordinary reason we had no grants and I think it’s a great shame that many of the charities which we thought we could access were unable to give us a grant.”

Some money was secured from Catholic societies such as the Jesuits and Sisters of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God. However, Father Barnes said the rest came from benefactors and “out of the pockets of members of the congregation.”

He said that he could not believe that all the work was finally complete after two years of raising the money, and now the stations for the cross, pillars and walls are clean again.

He added that he was thankful to everyone that had helped with the restoration in some way, including the Rev Ian Terry, the rector of Bournemouth town centre parish.

During the work this summer, the restoration team discovered a small window – an oculus – in the ceiling of St Joseph’s Chapel.

It had been covered over during the blackout in the Second World War.

Father Barnes said: “We’ve uncovered that now, so we’ve got an extra bit of light coming in that we never knew about.”

Sacred Heart was also where Tolkein worshipped while writing The Lord of the Rings, while Tony Hancock gave his first ever comedy performance in the church hall.