The Church Of The Ascension, Bedmond
The Church of the Ascension is affectionately known locally as the ‘Tin Church’ because of its corrugated-iron shell. It is a much-loved Grade II listed building and almost unique as it is one of only two such churches that boast a spire and a bell. It is probably the only working Tin Church left in the Diocese.
It was thought to have been surplus to requirements and was bought for £80 by Mrs Solly of Serge Hill House, wife of the then Squire of Bedmond, and presented to the Village ‘so that the spiritual lives of those residing in Bedmond shall go forward with increased vigour.’
In the Parish Magazine of 1880, the Vicar wrote: ‘The new Church of the Ascension, Bedmond, to cater for the spiritual lives of the people in that part of the ancient parish of Abbots Langley, has just been built at a cost of £80.’
Completed in 1880, and dedicated on 9th May of that year, it is one of the first examples of pre-fabricated buildings that were produced to send to the Colonies for ‘instant’ churches.
The late 1800s saw an enormous growth in church and chapel building and the so-called "tin tabernacles" grew in number across the British Empire. 'Tin Churches’ or – their other names – ‘Iron Churches’ or even ‘Iron Rooms’ were produced in quantity as the Victorian population expanded and the people were evangelised within their new housing estates.
The tabernacles were an early form of pre-fabrication. Because these churches were produced in almost a kit form and were small and easily built, they were also comparatively cheap and were seen as the forerunner of a more permanent church building on the site.
As more local funds became available and ‘proper’ churches built, the tin churches were taken down and were often reused elsewhere. More often than not, it was the non-conformists who were the main customers and Wales still has many examples in a variety of forms, most – sadly – now in a neglected or abandoned state. Over time, many have succumbed to the British weather which has caused them to rust away.
In England, there are but a few examples which still exist, and it could be argued with conviction that the Church of the Ascension is one of the best examples still in use.
The orientation of the church is almost in the traditional way, with the altar table more or less facing east.
From its beginnings, Bedmond church fell under the custodianship of the Diocese of St Albans, and specifically the Parish of Abbots Langley, but Anglican services ceased in 1974 and the church was taken over by an independent evangelical group who removed the pews to make the space more suitable for their style of worship. It was effectively gutted prior to refitting (the original pew line is still visible on the nave walls) but never fully achieved the new potential which they had seen for it. Then, after some years of neglect, it was sold back to the Diocese and reopened for worship once more in 1983 and services are held every Sunday morning.
It has a simple wooden interior with chairs, replaced in the late 1980s, seating around 60 people. By the mid-1990s it was obvious that it would make life much easier if extra facilities were added, so a corner of the Church was turned into a kitchen area and an outside storeroom converted to a toilet.
In 2005, much work was carried out to enhance its role in the parish. Major work began on repairing and repainting the outside of the Church and during this time the steeple was found to be in a bad state of repair. The Parochial Church Council of Abbots Langley, which oversees the maintenance of the church, agreed that JF Day (Builders) should construct a new steeple and cover it with copper. This was duly done and fitted in July 2005 – at a cost considerably more than the original cost of the building! There is a bell in the steeple which is still rung for services.
The outside walls are entirely clad in corrugated iron sheeting, now with many layers of paint. The roof had its corrugated iron replaced with profiled coated sheet steel. The base of the bell turret and small steeple clasps the south west corner and there is a west porch and a north-east vestry. Inside, all is lined with pine boarding – floors, walls and ceilings.
Biblical quotations line the tops of the walls. The windows have wood frames, and most are glazed in obscured glass but the east window has stained glass depicting the Ascension. This is a memorial window donated in memory of Frank Davis, who was a Warden of the Church for 27 years. The window was designed and executed by Mr Pilgrim Wetton of Crawley, Sussex at a cost of £100 late in 1953 and dedicated in 1954.
The Church has many furnishings which are donations such as altar cloths, wooden flower stands and the lectern which was donated in 1998. There is also a memorial plaque dedicated to those who died in the two World Wars. A Service of Remembrance is held every year at 3.00 pm on Remembrance Sunday.
A service of Holy Communion is held every Sunday at 11.15 am as well as on the major festivals of Christmas (including Midnight Mass) and Easter. On Ascension Day, usually a Thursday in May, the whole parish is invited to a service of Holy Communion to celebrate the Church’s Patronal Festival.
The Church provides an ideal setting for marking special life events. It is available for weddings following consultation with the Vicar and an application for an Archbishop’s Licence. Baptisms and Funerals are conducted at the request of regular members of the congregation, or local or past villagers.
A busy coffee morning is held in the Church on the 1st Wednesday of each month from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon when regular members of the congregation, local people and visitors can be seen sitting in fellowship in the Church. Local schoolchildren assist with refreshments and there are stalls, Bric-a Brac, books and plants. There are also occasional charity fundraising activities.
The Church is well supported by local residents. An annual Harvest Supper, Church Fete and occasional flower festivals are held within the Church.
Our Quinquennial report from December 2017, shows that the Church remains in very good order. We have just established a “Friends of the Tin Church” Group and there is much enthusiasm amongst the community to raise the profile of this unique and beautiful Church. The aim is to open the Church more by holding events for the community and to welcome visitors. We have a steady stream of Visitors, and we welcome 75 – 100 pilgrims on Easter Monday, on their way to St Albans Cathedral.
There is a regular outdoor working party maintaining the area around the Church to encourage wildlife of all types
We do not have a burial ground. We manage our churchyard in accordance with the principles of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Living Churchyard Scheme. (Please visit the Bedmond Churchyard page for further details).
The Tin Church is also a member of Churches Together in Abbots Langley, along with the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church (St Saviour's) and another Anglican Church (St Paul's, Langleybury). We work well together, including worshipping together, especially at Festival times, and we organise various social events together.
Bedmond Church is represented on the Bedmond Village Task Force along with Bedmond Academy, Parish Councillors and Villagers. The Task Force arranges an annual programme of community events in the village throughout the year for which the Church hosts the Keep Bedmond Beautiful and Carols around the Tree events.
The Church is well established within the community. Bedmond itself was the birthplace of Nicholas Breakspeare, the only English Pope, Adrian IV, (1154 – 1159). His birthplace at Breakspear Farm is marked by a plaque on the road going out of the village towards Abbots Langley.
Tin Tabernacles: Corrugated Iron Mission Halls, Churches & Chapels of Britain by Ian Smith
The Church Times (13th October 2017): Tin Tabernacles
Facilities and accessibility
We have a portable ramp for those needing step free access.
There is a toilet at the back of the building which can be accessed when the church is open.
T loops are available in all services - please ask a welcomer for help with this.