THE iconic Birkenhead Priory – Merseyside’s oldest building – has re-opened following a major refurbishment.

The project cost around £735,000 which was spent on work including repairing pinnacles on the Grade Two-listed St Mary’s tower, lime-rendering exposed bare brickwork and repairs to cast-iron and wrought-iron window frames and tracery.

Part of the stone work that had become unstable has been replaced and other parts have been repaired.

Drainage problems in the Cloister have been solved by relaying parts of the pathways and installing a drain and pump. The car park has been cleared in order to keep vehicles off the site.

The remainder of the cash was used for departmental charges, survey and feasibility costs and archaeological investigations.

Facelift proposals were recommended in a conservation management plan shared by Wirral Council with the Diocese of Chester.

A bid for Heritage Lottery funding was made in relation to improved visitor facilities at the priory’s West Range and improved interpretation measures across the site.

Sections of the building were closed for some weeks while work was carried out but there was no extended closure of the entire site.

Founded in 1150 the Benedictine monastery in the oldest building on Merseyside. Its remains are a grade 1 listed building and a scheduled ancient monument.

In 1318, monks from the priory were granted ferry rights by Edward II.

The chapter house is consecrated as an Anglican church and is still used for services.

St Mary’s tower is dedicated as a memorial to the 99 men lost in the 1939 disaster aboard the Cammell Laird’s-built submarine HMS Thetis.

The rest of the church – the first in Birkenhead – was demolished in the 1970s.

The churchyard contains the burial vault of the Laird family and includes the remains of John Laird (1805-74) Birkenhead’s first MP and co-founder of the adjacent Cammell Laird shipbuilding company.

Also involved in the restoration project were Ainsley Gorman Architects and Paragon Construction Group.

Colin Simpson, curator of Wirral museums said: “Work on The Priory has gone brilliantly well. The contract has been well-managed.”

Cllr Chris Meaden, Wirral cabinet member for culture, tourism and leisure, said: “The Priory is a vitally important part of Wirral’s heritage and culture.

“St Mary’s Tower is an iconic reminder of Birkenhead’s parish church, so having this site restored, looking great and accessible to all has been a big priority.”