A PROJECT researchning the history and stories of Cinderford’s ‘Tin Tabernacle’ has unearthed what might be its most unusual link – a 120-year-old bar of soap.
A chance conversation led researchers to a 1948 newspaper article about the tablet of soap which had been given by “Mrs William Butler of Seven Stars Road, Cinderford to her step-daughter “Mrs Annie Hawkins” 57 years previously.
Mrs Butler intended the soap – which bears the likeness of three-times 19th century Prime Minister William Gladstone – to be used to wash her step-daughter’s baby but she did not have a little one and so kept it.
Jason Griffiths, one of the team reseaching the Bilson Mission, said: “Mrs Butler was a mainstay of the old Bilson Mission, and it was through the project that the Voices from the Forest team met Mrs Butler’s granddaughter Joy Jayne who had lived adjacent to the Mission and worshipped there.
“Seventy five years later Joy said she knew of the whereabouts of the fabled tablet of soap that had been kept by the family. Robert had given it to Raymond his son, and he had passed it to Dawn his daughter, who currently looks after the tablet of soap.
“The team were delighted to finally see the soap and discover that it was in perfect condition and still held an impression of the figure of none other than 19th century Prime Minister William Gladstone.”
Next Saturday (July 15) this and other stories will be told in an event being held at community arts centre The Wesley in Cinderford to celebrate and tell the story of the Mission.
For the past year University of Gloucestershire’s Voices from the Forest team has been leading ‘The Tin Chapel at the Edge of Town’ project working with members of Bilson’s former congregation - as well as those who attended its Sunday school - to trace the history of the mission, its people, and its place in the story of Cinderford.
“It’s been fascinating finding out about the origins of the mission, including tracing the building’s relocations not once but twice within just a few years,” says project co-director Dr Roger Deeks.
“The nature of the building meant moving it was relatively easy”.
Earlier this year the project released a series of ‘digital story’ short films co-produced with the local community, recalling memories of the Mission and those who ran it.
Dr Griffiths, who is the project’s co-director said: “These stories provide an amazing insight into the important role the mission and its Sunday school played in the lives of so many local people”.
The films will be screened as part of the event at The Wesley which runs from 10.30am until 4.30pm.