Man on a Mission

Oh be joyful! At last some good news, as we’re blown – in what seems like a daily deluge – towards the season of peace and goodwill!!

The tin tabernacle – a corrugated iron former Victorian chapel in Bailbrook Lane – one with a Grade 11 listing and one that came flat-packed more than a century ago – has been saved from falling to pieces.

Theo and Fay

A young man and his partner have bought the historic structure. The new owners are Theodore Raithby and his partner Fay, and he sent me this email to explain what has happened.

“Since Graham (Boys) moved out a number of years ago now, unfortunately, ‘urban explorers’ had been breaking into the property, often uploading the videos to youtube. My dad Paul – along with some locals – had been keeping an eye on the Tin Church and boarding up windows and gaps to prevent this from happening further. 

The ‘tin tabernacle’ in Bailbrook Lane.

When we heard that Graham (Boys) was planning to sell the Tin Church I put in an offer which I was lucky enough to have accepted. After a few hiccups with solicitors, I’m pleased to say the sale has finally been completed.

I grew up on the Gloucester Road, just where it meets Bailbrook. Went to primary school in Swainswick and the majority of my family and friends live around this area so the location is perfect for me. I’m currently working in Bristol as a Site Manager within the construction industry.

My Plans for the Tin Church.

In 1972 the Tin Church got approval for change of use from a Chapel to studio space. Then in 1992 approval to also become a private residence.

Together with my partner Fay, we plan to restore the Tin Church into a loving home. Improving the thermal efficiency of the building as much as planning will allow. 

Graham eventually moved into care – leaving his amazing studio home ‘frozen’ in time.

In 1972 Graham had planned to renovate the Tin Church and had several architectural drawings made.

Luckily for us, these drawings still exist, which I have been drafting onto AutoCAD and will provide an excellent starting point. 

Of course, the renovation is subject to obtaining planning approval and listed building consent. 

For the next few months, my partner and I are sorting through, organising & cleaning the contents of the Tin Church.

For example breaking down old mattresses into different piles for recycling, wiping down books and making sure any original features remain safe. While also working on the drawings and documentation required to submit for planning etc. 

We understand this isn’t going to be a quick journey, and l’m sure it will have its fair share of ups and downs, but we’re in it for the long run. And like many of the local residents I’ve already spoken to, we’re equally as excited to see the property being restored and become part of the community again.

We will plan to open up the building at a few stages of the project to allow the local community to see inside and see how things are progressing.

At some point, a little further down the line, I would love to restart some form of Bailbrook Fete which I remember going to fondly as a child.”

Thanks for that Theo and we will all be rooting for you when it comes to applying for planning permission.

Here’s a bit more of the history of these flat-pack churches.

Developed in Britain in the 1800s, tin tabernacles were simple, inexpensive, and could be ordered by catalogue and built from a kit. The example in Bath was formerly called the Bailbrook Mission, erected in 1892 for the workers of the local jam orchard.

Later, it was used as a private residence, lovingly nicknamed “Our Lady of Crinkly Tins.” Graham Boys bought the building as his home back in 1977 and paid its last vicar £1,500 cash. It became a listed building in 1992, as one of the few remaining tin tabernacles in Britain today

Historic England also have a web section on this church which states:

“Bailbrook Mission Church was opened on 4 July 1892 for workers in the local Robertson jam orchards. It has a timber frame covered in corrugated iron.

It is a very elaborate example of a “tin tabernacle”. These were usually very plain and cheap and found in working-class or poor rural areas. This church was bought from a catalogue and was the most expensive one in it.”

A few years ago l featured the building on I am very pleased to say the question l posed at the end of this short video has been answered in a very positive way.