After extensive decorating and refurbishments, the Tin Tabernacle will be officially open for business on 30th May 2014.  It has taken some time, but we are having a launch evening with drinks and nibbles, some music and combining it with a fund-raising auction in aid of The Hythe Festival 2014.



January 2012 – John and Kay Keesing buy the tin church.

We bought the tin church, with the intention of building a small mezanine as an office for John, for his business as a Financial Advisor.  Alongside this, we are refurbishing the whole of the church with the intention of keeping the   ground floor for community use.  Once all plans are passed and funds allow, we hope to develop an exhibition space for local artists, as well as offering the hall for hire to local groups as reasonable rates.


17th September 2010 – St Michael’s and All Angels Tin Tabernacle is listed.


1939 – ‘A Time Remembered’ by Richard Walker

‘The little church still stands in isolation on its triangle of littered grass, bypassed on all sides by Hythe’s traffic.  At one time its corrugated iron roof and sides were coloured in various hues of green, and grime cast dark fingers over its plain windows.  The railings were bent and curved, and the path overgrown with weeds. It still stands in the middle of its little island, now a dirty white, a legacy of Victorian parsimony.

In 1939 I was a choirboy here…. The Tin Church, as it was known, was homely and warm, with deep-red pine pews, red carpeted floor, and a vestry with tall cupboards and hissing radiators….’

This quote comes from the memories of Richard Walker (Gomer Press 1987).  Thankfully, now it is not litter strewn, and now it is no longer dirty white, but we will try our utmost to maintain the warmth (in atmosphere if not always in the flesh) of this wonderful building.

19th September 1893 – St Michael’s built by the local population from ‘flat pack’

Erected on a triangular site at the junction of Stade Street and Portland Road and adjacent to the Town Bridge, it cannot escape the notice of the passer-by. Lovingly referred to as the ‘tin tabernacle’ (or ‘Tin Tab’) because of its timber frame and corrugated iron construction, it is one of the few survivors of ‘temporary’ or prefabricated buildings erected at the end of the Victorian era.

At this time Hythe was developing fast; many hundreds of houses were built on the sea side of the Royal Military Canal – Victoria Road, Albert Road, Ormonde Road, Park Road – to which working class families were attracted to move because of their modest cost (most of them were let on weekly tenancies rather than purchases). The Church saw a need to provide services for this influx and, for a time, ‘mission type’ services were held in the school. The vicar cherished his idea of building a place of worship for those who were unable to attend St Leonard’s, and this was made possible by two generous gifts: an offer to pay for the building by a former vicar, the Reverend F.T. Scott, and the provision of a site liberally presented by the Watts family.

In 1893 matters moved swiftly. An appeal for funds to furnish the church met with generous response. The ‘iron’ church, as it was referred to in those days, was ordered and erected within months. Described as a “pretty building”, it was intended to seat about 280 people. A Mr Andrews promised an altar to be made from oak grown on his own land, and this is still in use. However, the original wooden pews have been replaced by more comfortable chairs, the gas lighting has been replaced by electricity; gone also are the coke stove and the nice two-manual organ (now in St Peter’s Church, Canterbury). We also now have a carpeted floor!

The opening of the church took place on Tuesday 19 September 1893 when the Archdeacon of Maidstone dedicated it to St Michael and All Angels. Since then it has been lovingly used and was restored for its centenary, celebrated in 1993 with special services, a flower festival, tea parties, etc. Throughout its 106-year history, regular Sunday and weekday services, as well as Sunday School classes for children, have provided opportunity for thousands of worshippers who would not find it possible to get to St Leonard’s. St Michael’s is also in regular use as a venue for secular events such as talks and meetings; indeed it is almost a second ‘church hall’ within the parish. The building, though not pretentious, always surprises visitors by its homely yet dignified interior. It stands witness to the generosity of many people, the faith of those who use it, and, to those who pass by, that the Church is alive and relevant to the community of Hythe.

Tin tabernacles were a cheap alternative to churches, built by the Victorians to cope with swelling congregations at home and abroad. The churches were ordered as flat-packs; companies all over the country were able to provide the kit. (See www.tintabernacles.co.uk for more information.)

“Tin tabernacle” is the common name for church and related buildings made of corrugated iron, formerly built in Great Britain and elsewhere. Sometimes known also as “iron churches”, many designs were available in kit form, and could be highly decorated.

These buildings were often established as mission halls or temporary shelter for new congregations. Very often, if a congregation prospered and was able to build an edifice of brick, stone, or some other material, the tin tabernacle would be destroyed, removed, or converted to some other purpose. Rusting makes the maintenance of tin tabernacles difficult.

Relatively few tin tabernacles survive as places of worship today, and some that do have been made listed buildings. One of the biggest surviving iron churches is the Bulgarian St Stephen Church in Istanbul, Turkey.