The History of Alma de Cuba, Liverpool

Today, Alma de Cuba is best loved as one of Liverpool’s most dazzling bars and restaurants.

Situated in the heart of Liverpool’s nightlife scene, Alma’s historic foundations are truly fascinating.

One of the city’s most treasured hidden gems, Alma formerly stood as a grand place of worship, St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.

In fact, the opulent Grade II listed building was recognised as the oldest Catholic Church in Liverpool up until it closed its doors.

The Foundations of Alma de Cuba

Alma de Cuba Liverpool History

Built in 1788 by Rev A.B. MacDonald, St Peter’s served as a Catholic place of worship up until 1976.

The church opened on the 7th September 1788. Its opening was reported in the ‘Liverpool Advertiser’ on the 11th September.

Upon its opening, The newspaper reported:

“On Sunday last, a new Roman Catholic Chapel in Seel St. was opened with high Mass: and a sermon by the Rev. Mr McDonald.”

During this time in Liverpool, the surrounding area of Alma was a far-cry from the bustling Seel Street we know today.

Alma de Cuba Liverpool history

Though hard to imagine, the area surrounding St Peter’s was in fact grassy and rural offering scenic greenery.

The architecture of the church followed a simplistic structure with basic brickwork and few unique features.

However, as you can still see today, the church was enlarged and fitted with beautiful features including glistening stained glass windows.

On 29th July 1814, Rev Archibald MacDonald passed away. On the founder of the chapel’s Founder’s Monument the following words were inscribed:

“In the vaults of this chapel are deposited the remains of the Rev. Archibald MacDonald, who departed this life on the 29 July 1814, aged 78 years.

The founder of this chapel, and for a period of 26 years its liberal, intelligent and revered pastor, to whose memory the Catholics of Liverpool erect this monument – R.I.P.”

The “first Catholic School” was founded in 1817 though it has been suggested that the school had moved from a smaller school opposite the church.

Alma de Cuba Liverpool history

Significant Changes to the Building

In 1818, the church was significantly enlarged.  This included the addition of the porch and the gallery.

In 1864, The Lady Chapel was built. The striking space was built in memory of Fr Benedict Bonney, O.S.B. The Lady Chapel was later renovated for £100 in 1908.

The Lady Altar was built in 1898 in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Fr Anderson’s entering the Order of St. Benedict.

In 1903, Alma’s exquisite stained glass windows were installed for the cost of £330.

St Peter’s Catholic Church: The Blitz

During the Blitz of 1940-1941, St Peter’s was notably damaged. A letter from the 22nd December 1940 by Fr Louis D’Andria read:

‘To the Guild Room – doors blown in, big balk of timber across the entrance, stairs covered with sticky chemicals and heaps of rubbish…To sacristy where sacristans were carrying on as usual despite a hole in the sacristy roof, and other damage. In the church Frs. Bruno and Chad were in the gallery examining a hole in the roof on the street side of the organ. Two more holes in the Lady Chapel, and a big stone in the sanctuary which had come through the skylight.’

In a letter from May 1941, D’Andria noted further damage, causing the church to close until further notice. D’Andria wrote:

‘the church was too wrecked a condition for Mass after the first air raids of the first week of May.’

Areas surrounding St Peter’s Church were destroyed in 1941 during the 8 fateful nights of the 1941 Liverpool Blitz.

Starting on the 1st May, the devastation in Liverpool saw 1,750 people in Liverpool killed and 75,000 people made homeless.

The Later Years of St Peter’s

Alma de Cuba Liverpool history
Eileen and Cliff Butler’s wedding day (1974)

Following 1976, the striking building went on to serve Liverpool’s local Polish community.

It was fittingly renamed Our Lady of Czestochowa, earning the affectionate nickname ‘the Polish Church’.

After falling into a period of disuse and closing its doors in 1978, the church was deconsecrated in 1993.

And in 1996, Mother Teresa made her final visit to Liverpool, including a visit to St Peter’s.

The inspirational Nobel Peace Prize winner led nuns from the Seel Street community in prayers and meditation.

Mother Teresa’s plans for her visit also including addressing the public at a service at St Peter’s Church.

The Creation of Alma de Cuba Liverpool

After years of dereliction, the iconic building was purchased by developers.  Originally, there were plans to turn the building into offices.

However, in 2005 the church doors opened to the public once again and locals stepped inside the city’s new Alma de Cuba restaurant and bar.

The former church was sympathetically converted and restored by talented architects. And some of the most beautiful features can still be admired today.

These original features include the king post roof, upstairs galleries, stunning altar and stained glass windows.

What to Expect at Alma de Cuba

Today, Alma de Cuba is undoubtedly one of Liverpool’s most vivid and vibrant social venues.

Offering a luxurious dining experience as well as an atmospheric bar, the unique venue is known as the ‘Soul of Cuba’.

Alma de Cuba Liverpool History

Alma de Cuba achieves a creative fusion of Cuban, Hispanic and Latin American influences, creating a carnival feel and playing host to fantastic events.

Alma de Cuba, Liverpool

The striking original features of the church are blended with tasteful decor including sparkling chandeliers and decorative candles.

Visitors to Alma can enjoy everything from the bar’s famous petal showers to the soulful sounds of Sunday Service Gospel Brunch.

At Signature Living, we proudly purchased Alma de Cuba earlier in 2017, introducing Samba Afternoon Tea and Voodoo on Saturdays.

Alma de Cuba Liverpool History

Embracing the history and character that fill the walls of the former church, we already have plenty of future plans to enhance this spectacular space.

Plans released to the press earlier in the year included the idea to create a stylish speakeasy bar within the building’s crypt.

Radiating with its truly unique history, this is a prime spot to absorb the stories of the city.

So, If you’ll be staying with us at Signature Living or paying a visit to Liverpool, make sure you stop by Alma de Cuba.

Serving delicious food and renowned for crafting eclectic cocktails, Alma is the perfect venue whether it’s day or night.

You can also book a booth at Alma de Cuba online to secure the best seats in the congregation!

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