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University helping to remember the ‘Tin Chapel at the Edge of Town’

A University of Gloucestershire project plans to tell the story of one of the last remaining buildings of its kind in the Forest of Dean, after receiving funding from Historic England.

Bilson Mission Church – a tin tabernacle, or house of worship – has been at the heart of the Bilson neighbourhood in Cinderford for more than 130 years.

Using archival research and voices of the local community, the University’s ‘The Tin Chapel at the Edge of Town’ project will record recollections of the services, baptisms and weddings there, the Sunday school, and the important part the building has played in local people’s lives.

Dr Jason Griffiths, co-director of Voices from the Forest from the University’s School of Creative Industries, said: “The history of Bilson Mission is fascinating. We are really looking forward to hearing from local people who were part of the congregation or used the school room there.”

The Bilson project received the green light when Historic England announced its national list of Everyday Heritage awards. The grants focus on heritage that links people to overlooked historic places, and are especially geared towards recognising and celebrating working class histories.

The Bilson project is one of only 57 grants from the scheme awarded nationally.

Bilson Mission Church
Bilson Mission Church, a tin tabernacle, or house of worship, in the Forest of Dean

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “Heritage should be for everyone. I am delighted that we are able to provide funding for this project through our Everyday Heritage Grants, which will help to bring our collective and shared history back to life.

“These grants will enable people to tell their own stories, in their own way, and connect with others in their communities through a shared understanding of their local heritage.”

Cinderford Town Council is supporting the project with a grant towards the production of a booklet about the building and the people it served.

Project co-director, Dr Roger Deeks, said: “The history of Bilson Mission is part of the story of Cinderford. Tin chapels were a quick and affordable solution for the Church of England as it ministered to the rapidly expanding population of Cinderford.”

Vicar of Cinderford with Littledean, Mike Barnsley, said: “This is wonderful news. The history of Bilson Mission and its impact in the community for over a hundred years is truly inspirational and it is to be celebrated that this is going to be researched and recorded for the benefit of generations to come.”

Kicking off this autumn, the project will record people’s recollections and share them online via the Voices from the Forest website, and in the Spring an exhibition and event will be held in the town celebrating the unique story of the Bilson Mission.

If you have recollections of Bilson Mission you would like to share, or would like to get involved in the project, you can meet the project team at the Heritage Open Day event in September, or give them a call: Jason 07788 654023, Roger 07708 858274.