A tin tabernacle is a type of prefabricated ecclesiastical building made from corrugated galvanised iron. They were developed in the mid 19th century initially in Great Britain. Corrugated iron was first used for roofing in London in 1829 by Henry Robinson Palmer and the patent sold to Richard Walker who advertised "portable buildings for export" in 1832. The technology for producing the corrugated sheets improved and to prevent corrosion the sheets were galvanised with a coating of zinc, a process developed by Stanislas Sorel in Paris in the 1830s. After 1850, many types of prefabricated buildings were produced, including churches, chapels and mission halls.
The Industrial Revolution was a time of great population expansion and movement. Towns and cities expanded as the workforce moved into the new industrial areas resulting in the building of more than 4,000 churches during the mid 19th century and an upsurge of nonconformism led to a demand for even more buildings. The Church of England, influenced by Pugin, the Cambridge Camden Society and John Ruskin, was initially sceptical about corrugated iron buildings. However, manufacturers found other markets, notably in the colonies of the British Empire where 19 such churches were erected in Melbourne, Australia alone by 1851. A 65 feet by 40 feet church built entirely of cast and wrought iron clad in corrugated iron was built in Jamaica at a cost of £1,000. William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, wrote a pamphlet in 1890 decrying the construction of corrugated iron buildings "that were spreading like a pestilence over the country."
Churches, chapels and mission halls were built in new industrial areas, pit villages, near railway works and in more isolated rural and coastal locations. Landowners or employers frequently donated plots of land and sometimes donated the cost of the building, although many were funded by public subscription. The 3rd Marquess of Bute provided the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be erected in Oban in 1886. It was lavishly decorated and furnished and lasted for 50 years until it was replaced.
Early tin churches were easily erected, but at an average cost of between £2 and £4 per sitting, were expensive. St Mark's Church in Birkenhead, built in 1867 cost more than £2,000 for 500 seats. Prices decreased to nearer £1 per sitting towards the end of the century. David Rowell & Co's 1901 catalogue advertised a church to seat 400 persons, delivered to the nearest railway station and erected on the purchaser's foundation, at a cost of £360. Isaac Dixon's 1896 catalogue mentioned the company had supplied nearly 150 churches over the previous ten years and the price had dropped from 35 shillings to 20 shillings (£1.75 to £1) per sitting plus the cost of foundations, heating and lighting which could add another £70 for a church to seat 200.
Several tin tabernacles survive as places of worship; some have listed building status and some have been converted to other uses. Some redundant chapels have been moved to museums for preservation. St Chad's Mission Church was moved from near Telford to the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust's Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire, while St Saviour's Church from Westhouses in Derbyshire may be seen at the Midland Railway Centre's Swanwick Junction site.
Several firms, such as David Rowell & Co., Humphrey's and Frederick Braby in London, Isaac Dixon and Co and Francis Morton in Liverpool, E T Bellhouse in Manchester and A & J Main & Co of Glasgow manufactured a range of iron buildings that included houses, village halls, sports pavilions, warehouses, hospital wards, chapels and churches. Many of their products were exported to Canada, Africa, and to California and Australia during the gold rushes. Other manufacturers of corrugated iron churches in Glasgow included Braby & Company and R. R. Speirs who supplied 75 churches between 1908 and 1914. Corrugated iron buildings were exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Isaac Dixon's 1874 catalogue was aimed at the landed gentry, railway proprietors and shippers while Francis Morton's company had a dedicated church building department and its 1879 catalogue reported nearly 70 churches, chapels and school houses built in the United Kingdom.
Churches and chapels
Examples in England
|St John's Church||Adlington, Cheshire
||St John's Church was built in 1892 and continues in active use as an Anglican mission church to St Peter's Church, Prestbury.|
|Mission Church||Alhampton, Somerset
||The church was built in 1892 at a cost of £250; it seats 55 people. It continues in active use as a mission church to St Mary Magdalene, Ditcheat.|
|Free Church Mission Hall||Ashtead, Surrey
||Ashtead's first Baptist church was opened in 1895 and appears in that year's Ordnance Survey map as a mission hall. A new church superseded it in 1924, but the building survives and is used by the Epsom and Ewell Conservative Association.|
|St Felix Chapel||Babingley, Norfolk
||St Felix Chapel is a thatched, cruciform tin tabernacle. It was erected in 1880 and was at one time an Anglican parish church. It was made redundant by the Church of England and is used by the British Orthodox Church.|
|Oldfield Park Methodist Church||Bath, Somerset||Built in about 1892, Oldfield Park Methodist Church closed in 2009.|
|Church of the Ascension||Bedmond, Hertfordshire
||The Church of the Ascension was built in 1880 at a cost of £80. A copper-coated steeple was added in 2005. It continues as an active church in the parish of St Lawrence, Abbots Langley, and has Grade II listed status.|
|St Barnabas' Church||Blackwater, Isle of Wight||Now redundant, St Barnabas' Church has been used for a retail business.|
|Blennerhasset Evangelical Mission||Blennerhasset, Cumbria
||As of September 2007, weekly services were held on Sundays and prayer meetings and bible study on Wednesdays.|
|St Matthew's Church||Boultham, Lincoln
||St Matthew's was created as a chapel of ease to St Helen's, Boultham, in 1912, to serve workers in local factories. It was extended in 1924, but has since closed, and been damaged by fire.|
|Shaftesbury Hall||Bowes Park, London
||The hall was built in the middle of the 19th century as a chapel for railway workers next to Bowes Park railway station. As of 2011 the hall is owned by the Samaritans. Plans have been submitted for the development of the site, but are opposed by local residents.|
|All Saints Church||Brokerswood, Wiltshire
||All Saints Church was originally built in Southwick to replace an iron church that had been destroyed by fire in 1897. In 1905 it was moved to Brokerswood. It was restored in the 1990s and remains in active use. The church was listed at Grade II in January 2014.|
|St Mary's Church||Burgh Parva,
Melton Constable, Norfolk
|St Mary's was built in 1903 in the churchyard of an abandoned medieval church to serve as the parish church of Melton Constable. It continues in active use, its benefice being united with those of three other local churches.|
|Former Railway Mission||Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
||A Railway Mission by Bury St Edmunds railway station was opened for railway workers who raised money to build it in 1900. The chapel was supplied by Boulton and Paul from Norwich and with furniture and fittings cost £317 7s 7d it is now used as a Seventh-day Adventist Church.|
|St Mary's Church||Cadgwith, Cornwall
||St Mary's Church is situated on a footpath in the valley between the car park and the village centre. It was built as a mission church for the village fishermen. It is now a chapel of ease to St Rumon, the parish church of Ruan Minor, and a service is held monthly.|
|Old St Columbia's Church||Catisfield, Fareham, Hampshire
||The original St Columbia's Church was built in 1891 as a mission church to Holy Trinity, Fareham. It continued in active use until 1993 when it became redundant. It was then used as a youth club before it was demolished in the 1990s. The photograph shows the building in 1991.|
|St Saviour's Church||Chiddingstone Causeway, Kent
||This was built in about 1875 to serve the village. When a large stone-built church, St Luke's, was erected next to it, the building became surplus to requirements and was moved further along the road to serve as the village hall—a function it has had since about 1902.|
|Chilworth Mission Church||Chilworth, Surrey
||This tin tabernacle was erected in the centre of Chilworth in 1896. It was linked with the parish church of Shalford, although it was in the parish of St Martha's. When St Thomas's Church opened the iron building became the village hall.|
|St Hugh's||Cockernhoe, Hertfordshire
||St Hugh’s, in the parish of St Francis, Luton with St Hugh, Cockernhoe, was erected as a temporary structure in 1904. One side has been replaced and pews from St Francis installed. The church hosts a carol service, a service on Easter Sunday and the local primary school use it for a monthly service.|
|St Andrew's Mission Church||Crabtree, Burscough, Lancashire
||St Andrew's Mission Church continues in active use as a mission church in the parish of Burscough.|
|St Barbara's Church||Deepcut Barracks, Surrey
||St Barbara's Church was built at the barracks in 1901 dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. It is now dedicated to St Barbara and remains in use by the barracks and local community. A Grade II listed building, it is "a good and relatively ambitious example" of a tin tabernacle, possibly a Humphrey's of Croydon design. There are several stained glass windows of various dates.|
|Edge End Methodist Church||Edge End, Gloucestershire
||Located in a hamlet in the Forest of Dean Edge End Methodist Church is a tin tabernacle in its natural habitat.|
|Glyn Hall (Mary Edwards Spiritualist Chapel)||Ewell, Surrey
||This was originally registered for use by Open Brethren until their permanent building, Staneway Chapel, was opened in 1955. In September 2003 it became an independent Spiritualist church, Epsom & Ewell Spiritualist Chapel, which was later renamed in honour of its founder.|
|St Saviour's Church||Faversham, Kent
||St Saviour's Church was built in 1885 as a mission church for the parish church. It has a cruciform plan, bellcote and spire and was elaborately decorated. It is a Grade II listed building.|
|Main Street Community Church||Frodsham, Cheshire
||St Dunstan's Church cost £600 and opened with 230 seats in 1872 as a chapel of ease to the parish church. It was licenced as the parish church for two years from 1880 while St Laurence's Church was refurbished and retained as a mission church after that. After some years of disuse the building was taken over by the present evangelical congregation in the 1980s. The structure was moved on rollers ten feet to the left and refurbished in 1995 and acquired its current name in 2007.|
|Golden Green Mission Church||Golden Green, Kent
||This green-painted building has a chancel and nave under a single-pitched roof. It was erected in about 1914 to serve a tiny hamlet near Hadlow in the Kentish Weald. An extension was added later in complementary style. The chapel was listed at Grade II in 1990.|
|Urswick URC||Great Urswick, Cumbria
||In active use as a United Reformed Church.|
|Seventh Day Baptist Church||Greet, Birmingham
||The Seventh Day Baptist Church is in active use.|
|Evangelical Church||Haggerston, Hackney, London
||Haggerston's iron church was built in 1868. Originally clad in corrugated iron, it has been re-clad in asbestos sheeting. It is described as "An early, rare and complete example of a temporary iron Mission Church", and is listed at Grade II.|
|Halse Mission Church||Halse, Northamptonshire
||Built in the late 19th century as a community room for railway workers, Halse Mission Church was bought by the Earl of Ellesmere and moved to its present site. It opened for worship in 1900 and continues in use as a mission church in the parish of St Peter with St James, Brackley.|
|St Philip's Church||Hassall Green, Cheshire
||St Philip's Church originated in 1883 as St Mary's Church, Alsager, and was moved to its present site at Hassall Green in 1895. It continues in use as an Anglican church in the benefice of Sandbach Heath with Wheelock.|
|Hazeleigh Church||Hazeleigh, Essex||The iron church was erected in the late 19th century by the Rector, the Rev. William Stuart, M.A., because the original parish church had become dilapidated and was far from the centre of the village. Both churches were demolished in the 20th century and Hazeleigh now forms part of the parish of Woodham Mortimer.|
|St Peter's Church||High Salvington, West Sussex
||The vicar of St Symphorian's Church at Durrington paid for this tin tabernacle to be erected in High Salvington in 1928. It was part of that church's parish between 1951 and 2010—since when it has been linked to All Saints Church at Findon Valley—and is Worthing's only iron church.|
|Good Shepherd Mission||Hurlston Green, Scarisbrick, Lancashire
||The Good Shepherd Mission was built in 1907, having been delivered via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It continues to be an active mission church in the parish of St Mark, Scarisbrick.|
|St Michael and All Angels' Church||Hythe, Kent
||St Michael and All Angels' Church is a Grade II listed building built in 1893. It is a pre-fabricated structure supplied by Humphrey's of Croydon. Its exterior walls and roof are made of corrugated iron on a steel frame. The interior is boarded throughout and the church has wooden window frames.|
|Kilburn tin tabernacle||Kilburn, London
||This was built in 1862, and used for worship until the 1920s, when it was used by sea cadets. In 2010 there was a campaign to repair and restore it.|
|Knowle Mission Room||Knowle, Shropshire
||This is an Anglican mission hall within the Tenbury Team Ministry.|
|not known||Linwood, Lincolnshire
||No details known, but clearly derelict and at risk|
|St Saviour's Church||Liss Forest, Hampshire
||This Anglican church was in the joint parish of Liss and Liss Forest. It closed in 2012 and is threatened with demolition and replacement with houses.|
|St Peter's Church||Lower Withington, Cheshire
||St Peter's Church was built in 1891 as a chapel of ease to St John, Chelford. The benefice of the churches has been united. It is still in active use.|
|St John the Baptist Church||Maesbury, Shropshire
||St John the Baptist Church is an active church in the village of Maesbury.|
|St Mary's Church||Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumberland
||St Mary's Church was built as a mission room in the later part of the 19th century, and continues in active use as a church and a meeting room in the parish of Embleton.|
|Congregational Chapel||Old Heath, Colchester, Essex
||The Congregational Chapel was built in 1869 as an outreach mission for Lion Walk Congregational Church. It was enlarged in 1888, and 1898. It continues in use as a Congregational chapel.|
|St Michael's Church||Peasmarsh, Surrey
||Occasional services are held in this tin tabernacle in the hamlet of Peasmarsh, part of Shalford parish.|
|Christchurch||Pointon, Bourne, Lincolnshire
||Christchurch in Pinfold Lane is an Anglican mission church, erected in 1893 to support the work of St Andrew's Parish Church at Sempringham. It continues in use as an active church and, as the parish church lacks electricity, Christchurch is the focus during the darker days of the year.|
|Heath Church||Reigate, Surrey
||The first service at Heath Church was held in 1907, and the church continues in use in the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Reigate.|
|St Gabriel's Church||Rough Common, Kent
||This was built in 1890 as an Anglican mission room in the parish of Harbledown. It was renamed in the 1940s and gained the status of a full church. The wood-panelled interior features a stained glass window retrieved from a former church in Ramsgate which was damaged by World War II bombing. Two services are held monthly.|
||Originally a chapel in the village of Cuxton, Kent, Cuxton Chapel was moved to the museum Kent Life in 2000.|
|St Mary's Church Room||Sole Street, Cobham, Kent
||St Mary's Church Room continues in use as part of the parish of St Mary Magdalene, Cobham.|
|Great Moulton Chapel,
Museum of East Anglian Life
||Great Moulton Chapel was a non-denominational chapel with ties with other chapels, including Surrey Chapel. It was built in the 1890s by the Norwich firm of Boulton and Paul at a cost of £105 18s 0d. The chapel closed in 1990 and was moved the 30 miles (48 km) from Great Moulton to the Museum of East Anglian Life.|
|St Paul's Church||Strines, Marple, Greater Manchester
||St Paul's is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southeast of Marple, Greater Manchester in the parish of All Saints, Marple. It was built in 1880 by the owners of Strines (Calico) Print Works. The church continues in active use, and in November 2011 was designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building.|
|St Saviour's Church,
Midland Railway Centre
|Swanwick Junction, Derbyshire
||St Saviour's Church, originally located at Westhouses, Nottinghamshire, was dismantled and rebuilt at Swanwick Junction by the Midland Railway Trust. The church was consecrated in 1898, became redundant in the 1990s and was acquired for the museum site.|
|Thorlby Chapel||Thorlby, North Yorkshire
|All Saints Church||Thrupp, Gloucestershire
||The church was established in 1889, dedicated to All Saints and part of the parish of Holy Trinity, Stroud. It closed in 1968, some of its fittings were moved to Holy Trinity, and there were plans for it to be dismantled and stored. The photograph shows the building in 2002.|
|St Andrew's Church||Tonbridge, Kent
||Previously known as Hadlow Stair Mission, Fish Hall Mission and Fish Hall Church, this grew out of an Anglican mission held at Fish Hall, a mansion in north Tonbridge. A disused tin tabernacle was purchased in Brighton, transported to Tonbridge and re-erected on a plot of land gifted by A.E. Peters of Fish Hall.|
|St Antony of Padua Roman Catholic Church||Trafford Park Village, Greater Manchester
||Three tin tabernacles were built in Trafford Park Village: a Methodist chapel in 1901, the Anglican St Cuthbert's Church in 1902, and the Roman Catholic St Antony of Padua in 1904. Much of the village was demolished by the early 1980s leaving the church with no resident population. Its parish of St Antony of Padua became an industrial chaplaincy. The church closed in 2009 but the building was retained for use by the Centre for Church and Industry.|
|Twitton Mission Church||Twitton, Otford, Kent
||This village west of Otford was served by an iron mission room from 1900 until 1982. It was extended in 1950 and rededicated as the Church of the Good Shepherd.|
|St Paul's Mission Church||Warren Row, Berkshire
||St Paul's Mission Church was bought as a kit in 1894 for just over £100. It continues in active use as a mission church in the parish of Wargrave.|
|Westergate Mission Hall||Westergate, West Sussex
||Apparently built in about October 1905 as a mission room for the parish church at Aldingbourne, this building later had various social functions (such as a Scout hut) until planning permission was granted in 2007 for its conversion into a house.|
|Church of St Francis||Westhope,
Canon Pyon, Herefordshire
|Church of St Francis continues in use as an Anglican mission church in the parish of St Lawrence, Canon Pyon.|
|Winterslow Baptist Church||Winterslow, Wiltshire
||Winterslow Baptist Church remains in active use as a Baptist church.|
|Church Hall at Braemar Avenue Baptist Church||Wood Green, London
||The church hall was built some time in the period 1904-1914. It is in need of repair and apparently disused. The church is in use, and a grade II listed building, and the church hall is listed by virtue of being within the curtilage of the listed building.|
|Woodmancote Mission Church||Woodmancote, West Sussex
||The hamlet of Woodmancote in Westbourne parish is served by this "modest chapelry"—a rare prefabricated green-painted tin tabernacle with an entrance porch. It was erected in 1892 and licensed in 1928.|
Examples in Scotland
|Dalswinton Mission or Barony Church||Dalswinton, Dumfries and Galloway
||Dalswinton Mission was built in 1881 and stained glass windows were added in 1950 and 1975. The walls and roof are clad with red painted corrugated iron sheets. It has Gothic windows, a bellcote and spire. The building remains in active use.|
|St Fillan's Church||Killin, Stirling
||Built in 1876 by the Marquess of Breadalbane for members of his shooting party, St Fillan's Church was extended in the early 20th century. It continues in active use in the Scottish Episcopal Church. It has been listed as Grade C(S).|
|Italian Chapel||Lamb Holm, Orkney
||The Italian Chapel on the uninhabited island of Lamb Holm is a tin chapel made from corrugated iron from two Nissen huts by Italian prisoners of war during World War II.|
|Tin Church, Isle of Seil||Ellenabeich, Seil, Argyll and Bute
||A tin church built in the early 1900s for the Free Church of Scotland on Seil was used until the 1950s. It fell into disrepair but was renovated for residential and business use.|
|Syre Church||Syre, Strathnaver
||The corrugated iron church at Syre was built by Frederick Braby & Company of Glasgow in 1891.|
Examples in Wales
|Abenbury Church||Abenbury, Wrexham
||Now disused, Abenbury Church stands in an isolated position close to Plas Issa Farm on the Cefn Park estate.|
|Good Shepherd||Drury, Flintshire
||Mission Church of St. Matthew's, Buckley.|
|St Andrews Mission Church||Minera, Wrexham
||At The Wern, Minera. Now derelict.|
|St Anne's Church||New Hedges, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
||St Anne's Church was built in 1928, and continues in active use in the Tenby Benefice.|
|St David's Church||Pensarn, Abergele, Conwy
||St David’s Church was built in 1880, its replacement opened in 2011. It was built as a temporary structure to meet the needs of English residents who had moved to the area. It was intended as a temporary building but was used for 130 years.|
|Methodist Chapel||Rhosnesni, Wrexham
||The Methodist Chapel at Rhosnesni remains in active use.|
|Calvary Evangelical Church||Rhymney, Caerphilly
||Calvary Evangelical Church continues in use as an evangelical church.|
Examples in Ireland
|St Peter's Church||Laragh, Castleblayney, Monaghan, Ireland
||St Peter's Church was built in 1891 for mill workers but is disused (deconsecrated 1962) and in a poor state of repair. Built in a wooded glen for the Church of Ireland in the Swiss Gothic style, it has a three stage spire.|
|Rearcross Church||Rearcross, Tipperary, Ireland
||Originally built in Northumbria for a Wesleyan congregation and moved to Rearcross in 1887. It is in use as a Catholic church and was renovated around the year 2000.|
|The Wesleyan church in Adelaide, South Australia has been renovated[when?]. It was shipped to Darwin, Northern Territory in 1897 and subsequently moved to its current location.|
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