Friday, October 22, 2021

Cambridge Hall, Kilburn: A cathedral among tin tabernacles

From the London Historic Buildings Trust website:

The Tin Tabernacle (Cambridge Hall) is a Grade II listed building within the South Kilburn Conservation Area and is currently on the Heritage at Risk Register.

It was built in 1863 as the St James’s Episcopalian church and though stylistically very different, it was constructed around the same time as its grand Italianate brick villa neighbours. The Hall is built of corrugated iron, which has been galvanised with tin to prevent rust, cladding a timber and iron frame. This type of prefabricated structure was developed in the 1820’s and by the latter half of the 19th century became a relatively common building type, particularly utilised by the non-conformist church movement.

It is understood that the Tin Tabernacle was in active church use until the late 19th century. In the early 20th century it was used for theatre shows and possibly as an early cinema and by the first World War it was known as the Lord Lloyd of Dolobran Memorial Hall. During the Second World War it was used as an Air Raid Precautions store, before being taken on by the Sea Cadets in 1949 and renamed the Training Ship Bicester. 

During the 1950’s the interior of the Hall was converted into a replica Ton-class Minesweeper vessel, utilising the north and south aisles to create a series of naval rooms; a galley (kitchen) chapel, rope room, museum and armoury, with a first-floor gallery above.  At the rear (east end of the ship), three further rooms were created; a Bosun’s, store a Ward Room and a parade ground exit, with additional first floor rooms. A Bofors anti-aircraft gun and Oerlikon light anti-aircraft cannon, were also installed.

The Sea Cadets continue to look after the Hall, though they are no longer able to hold their activities there. 

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