JANUARY 14TH – 25TH 2011.
14. St. George’s Church – West End Lane, Esher, Surrey.
15. Edithmead Mission Church – Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset.
16. Evershot Village Hall — Evershot, Dorset.
17. Bilson Mission Church – Cinderford, Gloucestershire.
18. St. Andrew’s Church – Button Oak, Shropshire.
19. St. Augustine’s Church – Draycott In The Clay, Staffordshire.
20. Seventh Day Adventists Church – Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.
21. St. Peter’s Church – Littlebury Green, Essex.
23. All Saints Church – Brokerswood, Wiltshire.
24. Church Of The Ascension – Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire.
25. Kilburn Tin Tabernacle – Cambridge Avenue, Kilburn, London.
Rusting somewhere down a single-track lane, nestled hermit-like deep in a wood, slumped sadly between Edwardian terraces, are anonymous corrugated iron buildings known as ‘Tin Tabernacles’. A hundred years since these secretive places should have decayed out of existence, why, and how are Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou staging the most original tour in many a year?
Between 1860 and the early 20th century the rapid increase in iron, coal and lead mining resulted in vast numbers of people moving to remote corners of the land. These sudden new communities found themselves without the requisite amenities. Meanwhile, the sun was ablaze throughout The British Empire seeking to ‘convert, advance and civilise’ the colonies. Therefore, dispensaries, hospitals, schools and missionary churches were required not just in the far corners of the British Isles, but all over the World.
At home, The Anglican Church was loosing its grip on the worshipping public due to the spread of non-conformist movements such as Methodism and Wesleyanism. Their medieval churches, built upon medieval geography, often left them out of the reach of the communities they’d hoped to serve. And, if the people couldn’t get to the church, the new movements would capitalize by bringing the church to the people.
Therefore, the demand for cheap, transportable, quickly erectable temporary structures was immense. Step forward the recently invented (1828) ‘Corrugation and Galvanization of Iron’ by British engineer Henry Robinson Palmer. The material’s increased strength and stability meant that around a timber frame, buildings of any size from a garden shed to a cathedral could be ordered from a catalogue, prefabricated, flat-packed and shipped anywhere in the world.
Dubbed ‘Tin Tabernacles’ by the mocking ecclesiastical establishment the term has outlived most of the buildings themselves. The majority in the UK were designed to last only as long as the local supply of ore, or until a permanent chapel could be built. The surviving few exist on borrowed time. Those that have are mainly still in religious use, often evangelical and private missions continuing the tin tabernacles’ non-conformist tradition, although the vast majority stand derelict, perched precariously between structural condemnation and demolition.
Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the duo will perform eleven spectacular concerts at some of the rare remaining tin tabernacles. This unique undertaking is the result of many months planning by the pair and sees them continue their tirelessly original approach to touring, having successfully arranged and completed a tour of village halls to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut album in February 2010.
These concerts will once again see people gathering beneath the corrugated iron sheets, and hopefully inspire new usage for these historically notable gathering places, and help towards providing them with a future as colourful as their past.
(sources: ‘Tin Tabernacles and Other Buildings’ by Alasdair Ogilvie, ‘Down The Deep Lanes’ by Peter Beacham)