Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Shepperdine, Gloucestershire

Ready for service

Perhaps if the vegetation had been a bit less lush and a bit more wintry, and the road had been somewhat less bendy, I’d have seen the corner of the tiny corrugated iron church at Shepperdine behind its hedge, but as it was, I completely the missed the track that leads to to it. So I had to stop, check the map, and retrace my steps. Having found the right place, I followed the track and turned left through what was little more than a hole in the hedge, there it was – and, to make things better still, the sun came out, throwing the corrugations of its dark walls into shadow and highlighting the green paint on the bargeboards, down pipes, and window frames.

I have a liking for ‘tin tabernacles’, those little churches made of corrugated iron that were put up, mostly before World War I, usually from flat packs. A parish on a tight budget would get hold of a catalogue from a company such as Boulton & Paul of Norwich, find the design they wanted, and check the dimensions and the number of seats it would accommodate. Then they’d order it up, carriage paid to the nearest railway station, and organise a local carrier to bring the components to the site. Once they had prepared a suitable solid base, the framework could be erected and the walls and roof fitted in short order.

This kind of building was ideal for urban communities that were expanding fast. This was not the case here. Shepperdine is quite remote, near the River Severn in the region of Oldbury, and the community is one of farms and scattered houses, and before 1914 was well away from the nearest church. So in that year, an agreement was made to buy an existing church, which was moved here by a group of local men. The little building is said to have come from somewhere in Wales, and the locals transported it to Shepperdine, presumably in sections, and reassembled it here.

Only a small church was needed, and this one has a plain design design (some others have pointed, Gothic style windows and even small bellcotes or spires). Here the main decorative elements are the curvy bargeboards and the trio of roof finials.† There’s a single tiny bell, hanging free above the small upper window, a light above the door, and that’s about all. But it was enough, and it looks as if it still is. The church remains in use, and a hand-painted name board on the side of the porch announces its dedication and the name of the vicar. It’s one of the few tin churches still regularly used for services.

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* I’ve posted about another plain but colourful corrugated iron church here, and a more ornate one here, and one with a tower here.

† These and the tiled roof may be later additions. Most tin churches had iron roofs.

1 comment:

Brian Harris said...

There's a much loved, well maintained and regularly used "tin tabernacle" at Newton-by-the-Sea, Northumberland (