THE Forest’s last standing ‘tin tabernacle’ is being torn down this week after community efforts to find new ownership were unsuccessful.

Locals had attempted to save the Bilson Mission in Cinderford from demolition after it closed for worship in 2017.

But, with the buildings in a state of disrepair, the decision was taken by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) to tear it down after new owners could not be found.

The demolition works began on Monday (February 6).

Since the closure in 2017, the mission’s congregation has relocated to Hannover Court where it has grown “significantly”, the PCC says.

The mission was established in the 1880s as one of many tin tabernacles built in the UK as an affordable solution for expanding communities during the Victorian era.

It started life as a gospel service for travellers in Trafalgar Wood around 1880.

The building was then transferred to a site near the Upper Bilson Inn in 1891, and at the end of the century it was moved to its final site.

In August last year, a history project was established by the University of Gloucestershire, led by Dr Jason Griffiths who heads up the local Reading the Forest project, to gather memories of the Bilson Mission through the years from people in the community.

A spokesperson for the PCC said: “The go-ahead for the buildings to come down was reluctantly given after extensive efforts to find a suitable solution for repair or rebuilding failed.

“Following an accident due to rotten floorboards in 2016, a 2017 building survey noted the whole building was in poor condition with extensive decay and that the existing structure was no longer safe, due to lack of foundations and rotten timbers under the cladding.

“Many options were explored to save the building, and then further possibilities were explored with Cinderford Town Council, The Forest of Dean Buildings Preservation Trust and Men’s Shed, but, despite lots of positive conversations, it was not possible to find a group to take on the buildings.”

The Archdeacon of Gloucester, the Ven Hilary Dawson said: “There was a strong tradition of Christian worship in Bilson Mission, but the needs of the congregation were no longer met by this physical space. A service of commemoration and celebration of the years of faithful Christian worship that took place at the Mission was held in 2018.

“Bilson Mission’s worshipping community now meets at Hannover Court and has grown significantly.”

The site will now revert to Forestry England ownership, as the buildings were erected on Forestry Commission land.