Saint James the Apostle Church – Temple Normanton, England - Atlas Obscura

Saint James the Apostle Church

Temple Normanton, England

A unique 1980s designed church sits uncomfortably in its traditional Victorian churchyard. 


England has thousands of traditional stone and brick built churches, hundreds of modern concrete and glass churches and still quite a few surviving 19th century corrugated iron churches (known as tin tabernacles). However, there seems to be only one church in England that is in the form of a half cylinder made out of orange glass and reinforced plastic.

The St James the Apostle Church at Temple Normanton, in  North East Derbyshire, is actually the fourth church to be built on the site. The first was a small Saxon/Norman church, with links to the martial monastic order of the Knights Templar (and, after the Templars’ excommunication, the Knights Hospitaller). This was replaced in the 19th century by a large Victorian edifice.

This Victorian building was badly damaged by mining subsidence caused by the nearby Grassmoor Colliery and it was replaced in the 1920s with a temporary wooden structure. By 1986 the weather, in particular, the very high winds on the ridge where the church sits, had taken its toll and the wooden church was replaced by this unusual structure, intended to stand up to the local conditions.

Although it has been described (quite unfairly) as a “half buried baked bean can”, the design gives the building an appearance which is quite evocative of the 1980s, representing a sort of late 20th-century version of the “tin tabernacles.” Apart from the large noticeboard near the gate, a simple tubular steel cross in the graveyard is the only obvious indication that this is actually a church.

On the side of the stone foundations is a plaque indicating that the building was supported by a major landfill operating company under the “landfill communities scheme,” which allows landfill operators to divert a proportion of the landfill taxes they are required to collect to community projects near to their landfill sites. This probably relates to the very attractive and newly refurbished interior.

Know Before You Go

The church offers two services per week and is used for other local activities including fundraising events, social events, council meetings, public meetings, and even yoga. Travelers are advised to check with the church first before visiting. 

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November 12, 2018

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