The Iron Church
The Iron Church, by Rita Swift
Very little is known or written about the Iron Church or Temporary Church in Dunstable although at the time it was a prominent, unpopular building. The following information has been gathered from copies of the old Dunstable Gazette.
When the Priory Church was being restored, the architect George Somers Clarke advised the Rev. Frederick Hose and churchwardens that the roof and walls of the church were unsafe and church services should no longer be continued there. From 1869 services were held in a building known as the Iron Church, formally used as a drill shed by a company of volunteers in London. With a low ceiling, a little higher than the head of the officiating minister, and iron walls the building was too hot in summer and too cold in winter. On winter evenings with the gas full on the atmosphere was stifling and the premises were not popular with either clergymen or congregation.
In fact a few churchgoers threatened to abstain from entering it. The tempestuous weather had sadly tried the old drill-shed and previously a few pounds of mortar had fallen from the roof. Water and thawing snow had penetrated every crevice dampening cushions and making the place more uncomfortable. Many of the congregation complained of serious ailments caused by sitting in draughts, on damp cushions and being too hot or cold. Some members were proposing to hear the lesson but to leave before the sermon, which could be quite lengthy.
After the Priory Church was reopened officially on 21 March 1873 for church services, it was decided to sell the old temporary church. The local youths took their own revenge by throwing stones at the building. Several were brought up before the mayor and let off with a caution but threatened with the birch should they do it again.
Two unsuccessful attempts were made to sell the building by private contract. So finally instructions were given to Mr. W. H. Derbyshire, Auctioneer to sell first the fittings comprising of Pulpit, Pews, Altar Rails, Marble Slabs, Paving Squares, Stoves and Pipes and other effects in suitable lots then the building itself.
Finally an advertisement appeared announcing that on 24 September 1873 the large and substantial Iron Building standing on the Church Green at the back of the Infant School and recently used as the Temporary Church would be offered for sale.
The building is 100 feet long and 33 feet wide. Seating for 600 people. The walls and roof are close boarded inside and it is well adapted for a church, chapel, school, drill shed or for any purpose where extensive warehouse room is required. The pulpit and pews have been already sold and removed.