Tin church becomes listed building

RATTLING ominously in the August gales the little tin church of Bailbrook Mission has finally won recognition high on its hill above the mellow stone masterpieces of Bath.

The Victorian building, bolted together from sheets of corrugated iron a century ago this year, has been officially designated a Grade II listed building by the Department of National Heritage. Once threatened with demolition as a rusting slum, it now shares the same architectural status as its neighbouring Georgian cottages in Bailbrook Lane.

Graham Boys, 48, a veteran of alternative theatre, who bought the building as his home 15 years ago, paying its last vicar pounds 1,500 cash, is delighted. 'Everything looks a lot brighter,' he said yesterday. 'Provided the weather doesn't take it away no one else will now.'

Michael Trevallion, an architect who specialises in restoration and has been helping Mr Boys keep 'Our Lady of Crinkly Tins' upright, said: 'The listing describes it as an exceptionally elaborate example of a tabernacle. There's one in Cheltenham, also listed Grade II, but it's not as complex as this one. I understand there's also one in Cardiff Bay. After all this time these survivors of Victorian mail order architecture are rare.'

Bailbrook Mission, with its 30ft lantern tower, lancet windows with intersecting tracery and hand-coloured glass, was built in 1892 to pacify the unruly social habits of workers in the local Robertson jam orchards.

Mr Boys said his main concern was to raise pounds 25,000 to restore the building's corrugated iron cladding and give it a better grip on the ground. British Steel is offering cost-price sheeting when restoration work gets under way and Mr Boys has applied to the Ecology Building Society, Keighley, Yorkshire, for a mortgage.

'Basically the building isn't fixed down with anything,' Mr Trevallion said. 'Graham thought some of the roof might disappear in the summer gales and worried about putting ropes over the top to hold it down. Fortunately they held.'

Mr Boys added: 'Now it's been listed, the site's worth pounds 50,000 and I'm only looking for half that. Time's running out a bit. August was very noisy here which doesn't bode well for this autumn. I've read that there's going to be unstable winds coming up every day now. That's just not good news for me.'

(Photograph omitted)

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