Tin church rededicated on a mission to preserve

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Even in its heyday, the little Victorian mission hut made of corrugated iron sheets nailed on to a cheap wooden frame was hardly an architectural gem.

But the church, which cost pounds 70 to build in 1891 and which served the scattered rural community of Bringsty Common, Herefordshire, for nearly a century, has now taken its place among some of Britain's most precious buildings.

The 12-metre long prefab, supplied out of a catalogue by J.C.Humphreys Iron Yards and Works of Ludgate Station, London, has been rebuilt at the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Bromsgrove, Worcs, nearly 40 miles from its original site, and was re- dedicated this week.

The Right Rev John Oliver, the Bishop of Hereford, in whose diocese the church used to stand, officially handed over the building to the Right Rev Philip Goodrich, the Bishop of Worcester.

A 100-strong congregation was made up of former parishioners, who had saved the church by devotedly caring for it since it closed eight years ago, local church-goers, contractors who carried out the rebuilding work and museum officials including its president, the author Lucinda Lambton.

The Bishop of Hereford said: "It is one of the humbler structures in this museum and it may not be made of stone, but what does that matter? It is a piece of history preserved."

Dr Simon Penn, the museum's curator, said: "The whole thing was a total time warp with its font, lectern, altar and all its other fittings intact, and was still very much a living, breathing, church. It represents an historic moment in architectural design - the introduction of corrugated iron as a new, durable building material. It is a perfect example of buildings which were once numerous all over the world but which are now becoming very rare."