Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rodley, Gloucestershire


Survivor

Between the 1850s and 1920s, when there was still a growing demand for church buildings but often a limited budget for construction, scores of corrugated iron churches were put up in England and in the farthest outposts of the empire. These buildings were supplied in prefabricated form by commercial companies, some of whom, including Boulton and Paul of Norwich and William Cooper Ltd of London, grew successful in the church market.

It was straightforward for an impoverished parish, or one needing temporary accommodation before a more permanent stone church was built, to find a design in a catalogue and order it up, pricing being based on the size of the congregation (£4 per person seated was not uncommon). The trappings of church architecture – pointed Gothic-style windows, little bell turrets – were included in the price, although plain, shed-like designs, presumably still cheaper, were sometimes chosen for mission halls or chapels.

Few could have expected these buildings to last very long. But this is one of the survivors, down a lane on the western side of the River Severn in Gloucestershire. Tucked away on a quiet corner, its entrance front shaded by encroaching trees, it looks every bit the part, the iron walls set off by the white carpentry of the porch, the single bell still hanging above the doorway. And although many of these buildings were built on a simple rectangular plan, this one even has a polygonal apse at the east end. It small and scattered parish must have been proud of it. They probably still are.

10 comments:

Thud said...

I made my first communion in a converted nissan hut that remained from a P.O.W. camp in Huyton outside Liverpool...it did the job.

martin said...

After we all flew the coop,my parents moved to Welsh Newton Common,on top of a fair sized hill,two or three miles outside Monmouth. A scattering of houses,a voluntarily staffed general shop,and at the end of the lane,and almost exact replica of your photograph. It only held services every other Sunday. I went to one once. Extraordinary experience.

Peter Ashley said...

I've just gone very misty eyed at this. Wonderful. And how odd that just before reading it I had noted that Boulton & Paul made aircraft too.

Thud said...

Peter,I have always had a soft spot for the flying death trap...the Defiant.

CarolineLD said...

Lovely; I visited a very similar one in Littlebury Green, Essex. Green seems to have been the standard colour for these?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thud and Martin: Great to read these reminiscences of tin-church and Nissen hut worship.

Peter and Thud: I didn't know about the Defiant, which seems to have been a rather interesting aircraft, if, sadly, too prone to be shot down.

Caroline: Yes, there are quite a few of these churches scattered around, and many of them are green. However, I recently passed one in Button Oak, Shropshire, that was a choclatey brown (could take no photograph but hope to return) and there are quite a few ones in cream and other pale colours. A long while back I posted a good newly painted white and red one in Defford, Worcestershire.

ChrisP said...

There is something about these corrugated iron chapels that gets people going - see http://www.corrugated-iron-club.info/ironess1.html.

Jonathan said...

The one I know best is at White Grit, just off the Shrewsbury to Bishop's Castle road.

Philip Wilkinson said...

One of these days I'll have to do a corrugated iron crawl through Button Oak and then on to White Grit.

TIW said...

There's one of these (painted beige) in Leytonstone, behind the launderette on Cann Hall Road. I've always thought it doesn't seem to fit its 'footprint', very well. Now I'm wondering if it was moved from the POW transit camp on nearby Wanstead flats to its present location, which might actually be a bomb site. Hmm.