Sunday 25 April 2021

Burnham-on-Sea's tin tabernacle

Photograph of a small, corrugated iron building painted light grey with white windows and trim. It is rectangular, with three rectangular windows and a small porch to the left with a door facing the viewer. The roof, bowed downwards in the middle, has a little steeple with a cross on top. The building has a lawn and path in front of it, with a white gate and hedge in the foreground; next to the gate is a sign saying 'Parish of St Andrew's, Edithmead Church' with a notice for service times. Behind, trees and fields are visible.

Edithmead Church, just outside Burnham-on-Sea, is a small, slightly wonky-roofed building of a special kind: a 'tin tabernacle'. These fascinating buildings are made not of tin but of corrugated iron on wooden frames. They were bought by Victorian congregations from catalogues, delivered in flat-pack form, and usually intended to be temporary. However, Edithmead's celebrated its centenary in 2019! 

In fact, its story is even longer than that since it was an Adult School in nearby East Brent before moving to its current location for a new, and long, life as a church. A resident of East Brent recalled, much later, how the Adult School was used for tea parties, Bible readings, and a Sunday service. 'Then one day there came a shock, a big lorry came with two horses and several men, and took our beloved Adult School away to Edithmead.' That unusual origin explains the rectangular windows: many tin tabernacles had suitably gothic arched windows, some even with instant 'stained glass' supplied as a ready-made film.

The Church is actually a chapel of ease to St Andrew's Church in Burnham-on-Sea - a much older and more solid building. It even has a London connection: a little group of angels who were originally part of an altarpiece in Westminster Abbey. The interior of Edithmead Church is plain and simple by contrast. 

A photograph showing a closer view of the building in the previous photograph.

Unusually, this post is about a building I haven't yet visited myself (although I will before too long, pandemic permitting): thank you to Shaun Derry for the lovely photographs.  

Tin tabernacles I have photographed in person include the smart, green church in Littlebury Green, Essex; the mission church in Shrubland Road, Hackney; a chapel-turned-battleship in Kilburn; and the mission hall in Ganllwyd.

Saturday 17 April 2021

Street signs

Photograph of part of a Victorian brick wall with a sign reading 'EDWARD STREET S.E.8' in the centre. The metal sign is rusted and damaged at the edges; the writing is in black on dirty white, with the postcode in red. Above it is a window. Below is the top of a bricked-up arched window. To the left are three arched windows, now bricked up, and part of a white sign with blue text, for a food and wine shop.

London has an impressive diversity of street signs, as I was reminded today when this example on Deptford High Street caught my eye (much to the bemusement of a passing cyclist!). It's a little tattered and rusted around the edges, and dirty all over, but still boldly proclaims 'EDWARD ST. S.E.8'. That makes three more full stops than are found on the modern sign.

Detail of the central section of the previous photograph, showing the 'DEPTFORD S.E.8' sign.

There are so many other variations to be found on the city streets. Below are just a few from my collection. However, if you would like to see many more signs, and learn a lot more about them, then there is now a dedicated book by Alistair Hall, London Street Signs: A visual history of London's street nameplates. I would strongly recommend it: there is so much wide-ranging information, from the development of the London postal district to the creation of alphabets; from official regulations to the materials and manufacture of signs. And of course, lots and lots of photographs.

Photograph of a street sign in front of a wire fence. The modern sign is white, with black text saying 'BRAITHWAITE STREET E1 formerly Wheler Street, LONDON BOROUGH OF TOWER HAMLETS'

Photograph of a sign mounted on a concrete alleyway roof, white with faded lettering saying 'City of Westminster' in a gothic-type typeface, 'BROAD COURT' in thick, narrow typeface, and 'W.C.' in faded italic type.

Photograph of a pale stone wall with carved decoration. A modern street sign with a City of London crest says 'ST. MARGARET'S CLOSE EC2'. Below, painted directly onto the wall, are the words 'CHURCH COURT' in fading black paint.

Photograph of the corner of a brick building. On one wall are two signs, both saying LOMAN STREET SE1'. The upper sign is older and smaller; it says 'Borough of Southwark' at the top, abbreviates 'street' to 'St' and writes 'SE1' as 'S.E.1'. The lower sign is a modern one. On the other wall is a tall, narrow arched window divided into many small panes.

Photograph of a section of brick wall. In the left half of the picture is a fancy cream tablet with leaf and flower decoration, cracked and with 'SCLATER STREET' barely legible; it is surrounded by a red brick frame. To the right, in the lower part of the image, are two smaller rectangular signs. The upper one says 'SCLATER ST. E.1.'; the lower one, smaller and a little battered, is in Bengali script.

A photograph of a brick wall with a black, metal drainpipe and large bracket on the right-hand edge. There are two signs, similar in age and style. The upper one has a cracked white background and says 'BOROUGH OF HOLBORN' in red, 'THORNHAUGH STREET' in black, and 'W.C.1' in red italics. The lower one has black text reading 'LEADING TO WOBURN SQUARE'