Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tin Tabarnacles in Kent

What is a tin tabernacle?

A tin tabernacle, also sometimes known as a tin chapel, was a "temporary" building constructed from corrugated iron built during the late Victorian era and used for religious worship.

The late Victorian period was a time of religious missionary zeal and the Anglican church sought to spread the word particularly in rural areas such as Kent. Farm labourers and seasonal hop pickers would often find themselves living many miles walk from the nearest parish church.

To overcome this problem, tin tabernacles were built in the countryside as satellites of the parish churches. The minister would travel out to the tin tabernacle to deliver the Sunday sermon to the farm labourers and their families.

Although the tin tabernacles were only intended to be temporary structures in lieu of a more permanent building some can still be found in Kent well over one hundred years later.

The example pictured above was originally constructed in 1897 and located in Cuxton (near Rochester) but was dismantled and moved to the Museum of Kent Life in Sandling (near Maidstone) in 2000 where it is open to the public.

The tin tabernacles were usually very spartan inside as can be seen above.

I came across the St Mary's Church Room in Sole Street by accident during a recent walk. As far as I can tell from looking at old Ordnance Survey maps it dates back to around 1880. Sole Street is a small rural village a few miles from Gravesend which grew up around the railway station which opened in 1861.

Unusually for a tin tabernacle this one has a stained glass window.

Lastly another one I came across by accident on a walk around Halstead. This is not technically at tin tabernacle as it is made from wood but interesting all the same! It is located in Otford Lane and was known as the Mission Church.

At the time the church was constructed in 1891 most of Otford Lane lay in neighbouring Shoreham parish. Until that time the labourers and fruit pickers working on the farms and orchards there faced a walk of two or three miles to their proper parish church.

Eventually in 1938 Otford Lane was brought completely into Halstead parish. The Mission Church remained in use until 1985.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day

A poppy placed alongside a sailor's name... one of the 18500 commemorated on the Royal Navy memorial in Chatham.

My Big Walk - Day 4 - Arpinge to Dover Castle

I'm finally getting a chance to write a post about the fourth and final day of my ChYps charity walk from Northfleet to Dover Castle back in August.

Unfortunately my PC has been out of action for some time but I've finally got the old girl back up and running again.

Following on from my day 3 post, I left the guest house at Arpinge early after a hearty full English breakfast freshly cooked by Mary the landlady. The guest house is located only a short distance off the North Downs Way (NDW) so I was soon back on track.

This final section of the NDW closely follows the coastline giving great views over the English Channel - on a clear day the coast of France is clearly visible about twenty or so miles away.

During the Second World War the coastal area of Kent was particularly heavily defended and many of the fortifications are still in place like this pill box above slowly being reclaimed by nature in a field near the guest house.

My first major landmark of the day was Cheriton Hill which overlooks the Channel Tunnel rail complex. The site covers a huge area and the scale of the operation is impressive. For readers not based in the UK, this is where cars and freight vehicles are loaded onto rail waggons for transit via the Channel Tunnel to France.

The NDW undulates over a number of steep hills like Castle Hill above - quite hard going when you have already walked nearly sixty miles over the previous few days.

The Normans built a castle on top of the hill shortly after the Conquest in around 1100. The information board shows an artist's impression of how it would have looked at the time.

I was a bit surprised when I came across these fine ladies but fortunately they were friendly!

The view from inside another Second World War pillbox overlooking Folkestone. The weather was good the day I passed by but I would not fancy spending a night on duty there in mid Winter.

A welcome sight as by this stage my feet were finished. I had blisters on top of blisters and every step was an effort. The last day was definitely proving to be the hardest.

The views made up for the pain and I was also spurred on by the knowledge that I wasn't far from the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel le Ferne where I could get a restorative cup of tea and bite to eat.

The memorial was opened by the Queen Mother on the 9th July 1993 as a permanent tribute to the almost 3000 aircrew who served during the battle. The centre piece is a statue of a pilot looking out over the English Channel.

Full scale replicas of a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire are on display outside the cafe.

As I went in to get my tea I overheard a member of staff very patiently and politely explaining to some American tourists that the Battle of Britain was in 1940 and the Second World War had actually started in 1939 and not 1941....

I would have liked to have spent more time looking around but had to press on as my wife and son were meeting me at Dover Castle and I didn't fancy walking home again...

Just outside Capel le Ferne is a concrete sound mirror which was erected in the late 1930's. Before the introduction of radar, sounds mirrors were used as a crude early warning system to detect enemy aircraft. The sound of the aircraft's engines were amplified by the shape of the mirror.

Unfortunately the system did not prove very successful.

When the mirrors were first conceived aircraft were slow biplanes which could be detected in sufficient time for fighter aircraft to be scrambled or AA batteries alerted.

However, by the Second World War fast monoplane fighters like the Bf 109 could only be detected with a few minutes notice. Luckily radar was developed and introduced otherwise the outcome of the Battle of Britain may have been different.

My first view of Dover Western Docks in the distance. Only a few more hills to go...

The NDW descends from Shakespeare Cliff down into Dover then passes under the A20 and through the grounds of the Western Heights, fortifications built to defend us from our Gallic friends.


Finally journey's end in sight and one last hill to climb.

The castle was hosting a Roman re-enactment event so it was packed out when I finally arrived on Bank Holiday Monday.

My wife and son were waiting for me. He had apparently been charging around like a lunatic for a couple of hours which probably explains why he looks redder than me in the photo.

He had also managed to acquire an authentic Roman looking spear for good measure with which to terrorise the cats when he got home.

I was pleased to have completed the walk.

In the most part it was a very enjoyable experience and with the help and encouragement of family, friends and business colleagues we managed to raise over £ 800 for the work of ChYps children's hospice.

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