THE GUARDIAN 🔵 Cornish ‘tin tabernacle’ church linked to 1907 sea rescue given listed status – Shango Media
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THE GUARDIAN 🔵 Cornish ‘tin tabernacle’ church linked to 1907 sea rescue given listed status

A tiny church speedily built from corrugated iron more than a century ago and synonymous with one of the UK’s most famous sea rescues has been given protected status.

Historic England has declared that St Mary’s in the Cornish fishing village of Cadgwith is important both for its architectural worth and its link to the rescue of 456 passengers and crew from the Suevic in 1907, after the ocean liner ran aground on rocks off nearby Lizard Point.

Built at the end of the 19th century, the church is regarded as a fine example of a “tin tabernacle”, a prefabricated corrugated-iron building developed a few decades earlier as a low-cost way to establish a place of worship.

Many were built during the rise of non-conformism, which was strong in Cornwall. Few of these buildings survive, having been designed for temporary use until permanent structures could be built.

The church, which is set into the hillside to the north of Cadgwith cove, is also synonymous with sea rescues. Its first vicar, the Rev Henry Vyvyan, was awarded a silver medal by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) for the part he played in the Suevic rescue as a crew member of the Cadgwith lifeboat, Minnie Moon.

The rescue holds the record for the largest number of people saved in a single RNLI operation.

Historic England, which has given the grade-II listing, described the church as “modest”, but added that it was one of the few tin tabernacles that remained in use. In 2022, when the two-person crew of a Cadgwith fishing boat, Crig-A-Tana, were saved by an RNLI lifeboat after the trawler capsized and sank, a service of thanksgiving was held at the church.

An interior image of St Mary’s Church in Cadgwith shows it white ceiling and blue pews

Another piece of maritime history has been given grade-II listing, the grave monument to James Gall, a crew member of the SS Forfarshire, a steamer that drifted on to the rocks of Farne Islands, off the north-east coast of England in 1838.

Grace Darling, 22, and her father, William, a lighthouse keeper, rowed out and rescued the stranded survivors of the wreck, including Gall. Grace became a national hero and remains one of the RNLI’s most beloved figures.

Gall, who was a fireman on the ship, died in 1888. An evening of song was held at Barrow town hall in Cumbria to raise funds for the erection of a memorial to him – to evoke the memory of Darling.

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The listing says: “It is an unusual example of a bespoke grave monument in the form of a 10ft (3-metre) tall lighthouse.”

Historic England has also produced an new interactive map of landmarks such as boathouses, collection boxes, monuments, and memorials connected with the RNLI to mark its anniversary.

The two organisations are asking the public to add their photos, memories and information of the RNLI through its Historic England Missing Pieces Project.

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