Monday, June 18, 2012

Singleton, West Sussex

Timber and tin

Chris Partridge, of the excellent Ornamental Passions blog, has sent me some photographs of a building recently erected at the Weald and Downland Museum, seven miles north of Chichester, and has given me permission to share them with my readers. Many of you will know that the Weald and Downland is an open-air museum that specializes in preserving buildings by re-erecting them on their site, so that visitors can enjoy them and learn about their history. Most of their buildings come from southeastern England and many are timber-framed structures, including houses from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.

Their latest addition is a very different kind of timber-framed building, a corrugated-iron church from the Hampshire parish of Wonston, near Winchcester, which was first built in 1909 and last used in 1996. Buildings like this were bought as “flat packs” by parishes who needed an inexpensive church, often as temporary building before they could raise the funds for a more elaborate building. Many, like this one, lasted far longer than their original users might have imagined.

Resplendent in its new green paint, the church of St Margaret, Wonston is now looking as good as it must have done when new in 1909. Its design is quite simple – there is no spire as there was on some corrugated-iron churches, and the windows are rectangular – although their individual lights do have a pointed upper section. But at one end, the building does look more ecclesiastical, with a corrugated iron bellcote and a small quatrefoil window.

Churches like this were designed to be quick and easy to put up, whether by parishioners in England or builders in the far corners of the British empire, where prefabricated corrugated iron churches were often sent. Once the team from the Weald and Downland Museum had constructed the base, the timber frame took two people a week to erect. No doubt the original builders put the church up at a similar speed, impressing the parishioners as much as the newly restored building impresses visitors to the museum.

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I’ve posted about “tin churches” before. There’s an example from Gloucestershire here and another from Worcestershire here.


The Vintage Knitter said...

I'm pleased to read that this delightful church has been saved. There's a beautiful simplicity to corrugated iron buildings, especially churches. I find it sad whenever I see such a building neglected and always think that with a bit of tweaking here and there, it would make an ideal house.

Philip Wilkinson said...

VK: Thank you. I quite agree. Corrugated iron buildings can get cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but if you get the insulation right, they can make good houses. There are a few corrugated iron houses around – I think there's one at Amberley, for example.

Jon Dudley said...

Tin Tabernacles we used to call them...and I went to an ever-so-slightly modified one in Barcombe for a birthday bash recently. Lovely things, you can imagine them arriving IKEA style at the rail head to be dragged to the site by horses to be erected in a rather less exuberant 'seven brides' manner by the locals. I believe 'yer man' has also featured the wonderful thatched railway carriage in Slindon. For your followers who don't know, The Weald and Downland museum is fabulous and in a glorious setting..well worth a visit (or two).

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jon: Yes the Weald and Downland is an outstanding place, well worth a trip. It's time I went there again.

John (JTH) said...

What is it about “tin churches” that engages us so much? I don’t know but your post made pop out to visit the two remaining examples (out of three that I can remember) within half a mile of my house. In Victoria Street, Basingstoke on the west side is the most original condition example, now in the care of the Spiritualist Church, almost opposite, on the east side is All Saints Church Hall which is now clad in plastic weatherboards, on the original timber frame. Both are show on the 1910 OS map of the area but the church hall has been move from its original site, this hall was All Saints Church until the existing building by Temple Moore was completed in 1914, when it was demoted.

bazza said...

Our family often stays at the Cotswold Water Park Hotel near there. Next time I will be sure to visit Weald & Downland.
(I just spent four days in Edinburgh where the architecture is the opposite end if the spectrum to this - not English though!)
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

John: Corrugated iron churches have a lot of things going for them - their simplicity, colour, the charming way that traditional ecclesiastical features like spires and pointed windows are translated into a different medium, the way in which these buildings transport us back to another era. I find them continuously fascinating.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Edinburgh is a great city. One could devote an entire blog to its history and architecture - no doubt more than one blog is doing just this!