Tin Tabernacles

Don't know why, but I've always liked quirky things, and when I moved to my present house in Paganhill, Stroud, the church round the corner stood out as unusual. Since I photographed it, the paint has worn a bit thin, and the congregation has got older; I hope it continues but who knows.

Digging a little into the local history reveals

"Kelly's Directory of 1923 has two entries for Paganhill, one under Cainscross, and one under Whiteshill. Under Cainscross, it records that 'Pakenhill' is three quarters of a mile north-east, in comparison with Westrip, which is 1 mile north-west (of Cainscross). The entry for Whiteshill says "Whiteshill, with the hamlets of Bread Street and Ruscombe, and part of Pakenhill, was formed into an ecclesiastical parish, Feb 2, 1844, from the parishes of Standish and Stroud... [and in] 1894 it was constituted a civil parish ... Pakenhill (or Pagan Hill) is a hamlet half a mile south, partly in this, but principally in the parish of Stroud". Neither entry records a church, so it is assumed the Church of the Holy Spirit was founded after the entries were compiled. Its first known appearance on Old Maps is in 1924, when it is noted simply as a Mission Church. Interestingly, the appearance of the sides on the photograph makes it look like it began life as a "tin tabernacle", to which a brick front was added, possibly at a later date."

Gloucestershire Places of Worship

Wikipedia as usual, gives some good information on this sort of building..

"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.[1] 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."

Tin Tabernacles

Then I came across this rather lovely catalogue from Willam Cooper, the Steam Works, Old Kent Road, London, a supplier of horticultural equipment, and various corrugated iron structures, including Tin tabernacles.

You can see scans of the relevant pages here

There are more pages from the catalogue here, showing some of the horticultural things he supplied.

Looking at the other pages, theres a sketch map of the location of the Steam Works, reproduced below with an exploded detail



Now the fun really starts. Theres a fantastic source of old Ordnance Survey maps on line, here, via the National Library of Scotland of all places. These cover, among others, Six inch maps of England and Wales 1842-1952, for free!!

Its shown some things I found really interesting...

Firstly, the 1916 map shows William Cooper forgot about the gas works, between the factory and the Grand Surrey Canal .. the canal is another fascinating subject too.. or is that just me.... Canal shown in Blue, William Coopers factory site in Red.

From British History, the Gas Works

Close by the canal bridge, at a short distance westward of the Asylum Road, are the works belonging to the South Metropolitan Gas Company, whose operations extend over thirteen square miles, from the New Kent Road southwards as far as Croydon parish, taking in considerable portions of Newington, St. George the Martyr, a small part of Bermondsey, nearly all Camberwell, a large portion of Lambeth, and all Streatham. The company has altogether about 170 miles of main-pipes; it consumes annually about 84,000 tons of coal, and supplies about 800,000,000 feet of gas in a year. The number of retorts is about 500, and the seven gas-holders are capable of storing nearly 4,000,000 feet of gas; while the greatest quantity made in a day somewhat exceeds that amount. This gas company was founded in 1833, for the supply of cannel gas, and incorporated in 1842, with an authorised capital of £200,000. In 1853 the south side of the Thames was divided into districts, which arrangements were sanctioned by Parliament in the Metropolis Gas Act, 1860.

The company first supplied gas in 1834; and after four years' trial it was convincingly proved that to supply cannel gas made from the common coal was a financial mistake, and therefore cannel gas was abandoned in 1838. In consequence of the gradual extension of these works, the district church of Christ Church, Camberwell, which was built in 1838, on the north side of the Old Kent Road, has been demolished, and a new church built on the opposite side of the road. The new edifice, a brick building of Gothic architecture, was erected in 1868.

From Historic England

Gasholder No. 13 at the former gasworks, Old Kent Road, built in 1879-81 by the engineer Sir George Livesey, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic Interest:

The world’s largest gasholder when built, it was a pioneering structure and important achievement in civil engineering, inspiring the development of helical or geodesic structures

Structural Interest:

Built to a radical new concept that treated the guide-frame as a cylindrical lattice shell for the first time, the gasholder had to be built up tier-by-tier since it relied on the complete circle for integrity

Technical Interest:

Every aspect was at the forefront of technology; the wrought-iron standards were exceptionally thin, the bell used mild-steel for the first time, and the tank was the deepest then constructed and one of the deepest ever built

Architectural Interest:

The guide frame marked an important moment in gasholder design because it departed from the use of all applied decoration, and instead relied on the purity of the structural form


the only example of this form of gasholder on the National Heritage List, Livesey’s No.13 served as the basis for several types, and proved a highly influential prototype widely copied across the country

Historic Association:

One of the highest achievements of Sir George Livesey, the outstanding gas industry engineer of his generation who spent his life at these gasworks, carrying out innovations which helped ensure gas became common place across the country

Group Value:

with the Grade II-listed former Livesey Museum (erected by Livesey as Camberwell’s first public library) and Livesey statue, and the locally-listed No.10 and No.12 Gasholders which together with No.13 well-illustrate the development of gasholder design.

The site originally formed part of the gasworks of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, which was founded in 1829. It built the new works adjoining the Grand Surrey Canal. The works were completed by 1833. Thomas Livesey (1807–1871) was appointed Chief Officer in 1839. The company prospered under his lead and he brought about reforms such as a workmen’s sick fund, superannuation fund and paid holiday. A plan of 1838 shows the gasworks on a narrow strip of land extending eastwards from Old Kent Road and broadly following the curvature of the canal. At this time it included four small gasholders, a retort house, offices and associated buildings. Small extensions were made in 1843 and barges were acquired to bring in coal. In 1848 Thomas’s son, George (1834 -1908), joined the company and helped to reconstruct the gasworks, which became the most efficient in London. He had been brought up on Canal Grove, a street next to the gasworks (his childhood home is still extant). George’s younger brother Frank (1844-1899) also worked as an engineer for the company.

1896 Map

This map shows the "Greenhouse Works" off Devonshire Grove, which fits in with the 1893 catalogue, with the "Glass Warehouse" off Devonshire Grove. But where were the "Moulding Mills" off Sylvan Grove? That appears to be residential houseing? And the address, 747 to 755 Old Kent Road appears to be a terrace of houses. Were these offices?

This photo seems to tie in with the Devonsire Road map of 1893 with the little terrace in the distance

This is more puzzling, as the map shows houses....

The 1916 map shows a printing works off Sylvan grove, possible the rustic departnement didnt last very long?

1953 sees the end of William Coopers warehouse, now occupied by a potted meat factory!

1967 and Pickle factory now occupies the site, with Light Engineering and printing woks occupying the remaining site

The Site as it is today, 2017 with the same area marked in red as the previous maps. All trace of the early buildings have gone, only the listed grade 2 gas holder remains...