Hackney’s tin tabernacle is for sale. To be in with a prayer, just pop £3m in the collection pouch

"Tin tabernacle" Shrubland Road Hackney London © ∂å

THIS LISTED rarity from Hackney’s non-conformist past has gone on sale at £3 million, although one agent is offering it with a half-million-pound discount.

Built for Presbyterians in 1858, with a timber frame covered by corrugated iron, the roughly painted building is now home to a tiny number of members of the Sight of Eternal Life Church, an evangelical sect and registered charity believed to have bought the freehold in 1971.

Four years later the church was given a Grade II listing. Architectural historians have lately speculated that it may be the oldest surviving “tin tabernacle” in England. They may not be aware that the corrugated-iron roof was replaced, tragically, with asbestos. Disposal of this lethal material would be costly.

Corrugated-iron church Hackney London Feb 2012 © ∂å
The “tin tabernacle” in Shrubland Road

The church and the large hall at its rear stand on a block in Shrubland Road of 600 sq m (visualise it as a square, 24.5m x 24.5m). Estate agents describe the hall as an “ideal development opportunity (subject to planning consent)”. Apart from Gothic-style windows and a 15m spire, the church has few period features.

Hackneyites will be hoping  or perhaps even praying that the church does not suffer the kind of nocturnal fire that often destroys attractive buildings on valuable sites.

Hamish Scott 060212

* The Sight of Eternal Life Church is at 76 Shrubland Road, London E8 4NH. A charming psycho-geographical essay on it can be read here. A superbly researched article can be found in Corrugated iron: building on the frontier, by Adam Mornement and Simon Holloway (Frances Lincoln, London, 2007).

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. A link in no way expresses support for any site.


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5 thoughts on “Hackney’s tin tabernacle is for sale. To be in with a prayer, just pop £3m in the collection pouch

  1. This was known as the Tin Chapel due to its corrugated roof. A lot of kids went to a Sunday School there in the 1940s. Remember Mr Dent and the Misses Dent and the Rev. Noad? Happy days.

  2. My parents, John and Ethel James (née Noakes) were married in this church in 1938. Dad had been a member, of what was at that time, a Congregational Church, attending first as a teenager, as did his sister, Kathleen Butt (née James), also a member of the church.

    The church, widely known as “Shrub”, was very active. Dad ran a scout group in the premises and there was an active Bible study group — which is where my parents met, Dad inviting “Nurse Ethel” (from Mildmay Mission Hospital) to attend Bible study with him.

    I recall singing choruses at the Sunday School during the war — and getting one wrong. “Wide Wide as the ocean… is my sailor’s (Saviour’s) love” is how it sounded to me. I was too young to understand the word “Saviour”.

    Friends my parents made then lasted a lifetime (each was nearly 96 when they died) despite moves from London to Bognor Regis. I am glad that “Shrub” has a protection order on it. Its walls resound to many memories.

    A charming bit of folk history. Thank you. — Ed.

  3. Thanks for the link. I love this church… along with the writer above I hope it will live on.

  4. I think this church is beautiful and has clearly been preserved by the Lord for many years and will go on for many more. I pray no harm comes to it and that it is bought by amazing Christians who will restore it and love it for ever more. Its beauty and its future will be soley for the glory of God.

  5. Another one bites the dust! Looks like a planner’s nightmare. Some two-bit cowboy will pick this up and burn it down.

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