Fears for unique iron church as it goes on sale

The Tin Tabernacle in Dalston, to be auctioned on June 8

The Tin Tabernacle in Dalston is to be auctioned on June 8. Pic: Joanna Turner

A 158-year-old Dalston church made of corrugated iron is to be sold via online auction after previous attempts to sell failed due to a high asking price.

The “Tin Tabernacle” as it is known is located on Shrubland Road and is said to be the oldest example of its kind still standing in Britain. The move to auction it has raised fears amongst historians and residents over the fate of the Grade II-listed building.

The church, which has been home to the Sight of Eternal Life congregation since 1971, originally went on sale at £3m, but has now been listed on auction site Lot11, with a guide price of under £2m. The auction will take place on June 8.

The Sight of Eternal Life Church Pic: Joanna Turner

The Sight of Eternal Life Church. Pic: Joanna Turner

The Tin Tabernacle, which standing alone looks like it would be more at home in the USA’s deep south, was built for Presbyterians in 1858. The church and others like it were prefabricated buildings constructed of corrugated iron covering a timber frame.

The roof of the church was replaced with asbestos in 1975, which will be costly to repair or dispose of, something which potential buyers may factor in when deciding what will happen to the church.

Nick Perry, a spokesperson for the Hackney Society, told EastLondonLines: “It’s current use will be considered in any planning application and community uses are safeguarded in policy to an extent, but against that will be the costly repair and need to preserve the built heritage.

“One thing’s for certain, someone paying the guide price or more will be paying a significant premium in excess of it’s current use value – and one they’ll presumably do their best to recover through change of use.”.

Kevin Coughter, chief executive of Lot11, is more optimistic about the tabernacle’s future. He said: “I wouldn’t imagine it would be developed into flats given the sensitivity of the building.

“I think this is the most unique thing we have ever sold. Personally, I would like to see it remain as it has been, or used for the community.”

The church was built in 1858 and many Dalston residents have fond memories Pic: Joanna Turner

The church was built in 1858 and many Dalston residents have fond memories. Pic: Joanna Turner

Some residents went online to share their memories of the church. Commenting on Lovingdalston, John L James said: “My parents, John and Ethel James (née Noakes) were married in this church in 1938.

“Friends my parents made then lasted a lifetime (each was nearly 96 when they died) despite moves from London to Bognor Regis. I am glad that [the] ‘Shrub’ has a protection order on it. Its walls resound to many memories.”

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