Anglican priest's summerhouse is now up for Shed of the Year

Father Shed! Tiny 6ft by 6ft kit summer house bought for £100 for charity 22 years ago is now up for Shed of the Year after Anglican priest extends it for lockdown masses

  • Father Len Black, from Inverness, has made it to the last round of competition with The Oratory Of St Joseph  
  • This year’s competition has been the fiercest yet with a record-breaking 331 entrants vying for shed glory
  • Entrants were whittled down to just 22 finalists shortlisted across categories including Budget and Workshop
  • Lockdown category introduced last year to reflect the number of sheds built as a project during the pandemic

An Anglican priest who has been holding services every day from his summerhouse is among the finalists for the 15th annual Shed of the Year competition.

Father Len Black, from Inverness, has made it to the last round of the contest with The Oratory Of St Joseph from where he streamed Mass over lockdown – attracting viewers from Essex to Australia. 

It started life as a 6ft by 6ft summer house about 22 years ago when he bought it in kit form in a charity auction for around £100 when he was an Anglican priest. 

Speaking about his unusual sanctuary, which has been entered into the Lockdown category, he said: ‘It stood at the bottom of the Rectory garden (when I was an Anglican priest) and I used it as a quiet retreat.

‘When I became a Catholic priest in 2011 the shed moved with us. As we had no permanent church, I enhanced the interior of the shed to make it suitable for saying daily mass on weekdays. 

‘It soon proved too small for our needs so I extended it… the only extra cost being two panes of glass for the extra side windows. 

‘My father was a cabinet maker and I have inherited many of his skills, so all the work was done by myself using materials I already had.’  

Father Len Black, from Inverness, has made it to the last round of the contest with The Oratory Of St Joseph from where he streamed Mass over lockdown – attracting viewers from Essex to Australia 

It started life as a 6ft by 6ft summer house about 22 years ago when he bought it in kit form in a charity auction for around £100 when he was an Anglican priest

Father Black said he enhanced the interior of the shed to make it suitable for daily Mass on weekdays as he had no permanent church

This year’s competition has been the fiercest yet with a record-breaking 331 UK entrants vying for shed glory – more than double the entries seen in the 2020 competition.

Entrants were whittled down to just 22 finalists shortlisted across the categories of Budget, Cabin and Summerhouse, Pub and Entertainment, Unexpected and Unique, Workshop and Studio as well as Nature’s Haven.

The Lockdown category was only introduced last year to reflect the number of people building sheds as a project during the pandemic. 

The Oratory of Saint Joseph, entered into the competition by Father Black, has been a work in progress for many years. 

Speaking about its development, he said:  ‘I had a number of small statues of Saints and a large statue of Our Lady St Mary which took up residence in the Oratory.

‘With the help of a good friend in Edinburgh I was able to find a splendid circular brass tabernacle, six brass candles and a crucifix, large statues of St Joseph, the Sacred Heart, the Infant of Prague and various other ecclesiastical items to adorn the chapel. 

‘I was also given gifts of a splendid Orthodox Icon of the Scottish Saints and another of Our Lady of Walsingham. 


The Oratory of Saint Joseph has been a work in progress for many years with Father Lack’s wife Ruth, who is a textile artist specialising in Celtic design, helping to create the artworks that now adorn the new space 

How a priest made an amazing mini-church 

Father Len Black, from Inverness, has made it to the last round of the contest with The Oratory Of St Joseph

The Oratory of Saint Joseph has been a work in progress for many years.

Father Lack’s wife Ruth, who is a textile artist specialising in Celtic design, designed and made three stained glass windows, now inside the entrance.

The three-part altarpiece, the Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Angels, is a copy of a work be the Italian painter from Florence, Agnolo Gaddi, who produced most of his works between 1369 and 1396.

The 28 images on the top rows of the roof in the sanctuary depict the Life of St Francis are copies of the Giotto frescoes in the Upper Basilica of St Francis in Assisi painted between 1297 and 1300.

The roof of the nave is covered in copies of church art and there are alsoreplicas of the mosaics from Monreale Cathedral in Sicily built between 1170 and 1189. 

The rood screen is a photograph Father Lack took of the Ninian Comper screen in St Cyprian’s, Clarence Gate, London, built in 1903.

‘As the Ordinariate began to grow, I added a pavilion – a raised platform with a roof – between the shed and the garden pond to give an outside sheltered seating area.

‘As numbers continued to grow I added clip on sides to give protection from the weather. Two years ago I decided to improve this by extending the already extended summer house. 

‘Again, costs were minimal, and now it is 14 feet long – 8 feet longer than when it started.’

Father Lack’s wife Ruth, who is a textile artist specialising in Celtic design, helped create the artworks that now adorn the new space including three stained glass windows. 

But the priest is facing fierce competition with other entrants being a businesswoman who launched a bra-fitting boutique from her garden and a former navy veteran who built a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-inspired shed. 

Specialist bra-fitter Joanna van Blommestein said: ‘I’m a fully trained bra fitter and decided to launch my own business from home – or shed – and I now work here full time.’

She added: ‘Ladies can come here to have a peaceful and private bra fitting experience… there is no queueing, no stress and it is a quirky experience.’

Finalists Nicholas Pointing, from the Isle of Wight, who built a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-inspired ‘inventor’s workshop’ because he wanted a space to construct a replica of the film’s car for his wife.

He said: ‘The workshop has become a collection of newspaper cuttings and memorabilia all things Chitty.’

Also among the entrants is Mark Campbell who built a two-storey fairytale castle inspired shed for his granddaughter in the garden of his home in Derbyshire.

He said: ‘I have absolutely no experience in building – especially with wood.

Not even when I was at school. My son reminded me that my father always wanted to build a treehouse for me but could never find the time.

Also I wanted to do the same for my sons but same again.’ 

The competition will now see the 22 finalists go head-to-head across the categories.

Influencer Danielle Zarb-Cousin created a chic 70s-inspired Creme de Menthe bar in her parent’s garden after going through a break-up. 

This year’s competition has been the fiercest yet with a record-breaking 331 UK entrants – in the Studio and Workshop category, Isle of Wight resident Nicholas Pointing built a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang-inspired shed as he needed a space to build a replica of the film’s iconic car for his wife

One of this year’s entries is by Sobie Lee, from Sevenoaks in Kent, who has built a ‘Hair & Wig Shed’ styled on a salon to run her business from

Alongside eternal shed glory, the overall winner will also receive £1,000, a plaque and £100 of Cuprinol products. Pictured: Martin Gabbutt’s shed in Blackburn, Lancashire

And, in the Nature’s Haven category, Herefordshire archeologist Rebecca Roseff built a medieval-inspired shelter – called Batbarn – to support rare horseshoe bat colonies for their summer roosts.

A winner from each will be decided by public vote before a panel of shed experts decide which overall winner will be awarded the crown.

Alongside eternal shed glory, the overall winner will also receive £1,000, a plaque and £100 of Cuprinol products.

Head judge and founder of the competition Andrew Wilcox said: ‘The past year has been an incredibly challenging time for all of us and, now more than ever, we’re aware of how important the humble shed can be.

Entrants were whittled down to just 22 finalists shortlisted across the categories. Pictured: Martin Anderson’s remote shed in Strathpeffer, Scotland

The overall Shed Of The Year winner will also receive £1,000, a plaque and £100 of Cuprinol products. Pictured: Les Rowe’s shed in Wallasey, Merseyside

Influencer Danielle Zarb-Cousin created a chic 70s-inspired Creme de Menthe bar in her parent’s garden in Thorpe Bay, Essex, after going through a break-up

In the Nature’s Haven category, Herefordshire archeologist Rebecca Roseff built a medieval-inspired shelter – called Batbarn – to support rare horseshoe bat colonies for their summer roosts

Paul Richardson’s The Pentagon in Malvern, Worcestershire, is among the finalists for the 15th annual Cuprinol Shed of the Year 2021 competition

Diane Goring’s Away With The Fairies shed in Newport, Isle of Wight, has been entered into the Unexpected and Unique category for Cuprinol Shed of the Year

The competition will now see the 22 finalists go head-to-head across the categories. Pictured: The Snug in Greater Manchester created by Alex Reynolds

In the Unexpected and Unique category, Gary Pound (pictured with his grandaughter Madsion) created an entire arcade in his shed in Witham, Essex

Adam and Jill Pennington among the finalists for the 15th annual Cuprinol Shed of the Year 2021 competition with their creation in North Shields, Tyne and Wear

‘Sheds are not just unloved, brown structures at the bottom of the garden that house tools and household junk, they are vital spaces where you can go to relax, work on a project or burn off some steam.

‘The high-calibre entries this year really prove why we set up the competition in the first place – to highlight the valuable role sheds can play in our lives, in our businesses and the positive impact they have on our wellbeing.’

Kirsty Woodbine, Marketing Manager for Cuprinol, added: ‘We are overwhelmed by the amount and quality of entries we’ve received this year.

Entrants were whittled down to just 22 finalists shortlisted across the categories. Pictured: Kieran Bentham’s shed in Otley, West Yorkshire

In the Budget cateogry of this year’s competition is Paul Yamashita with his minimalistic shed in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

In the Cabin and Summerhouse category, specialist bra-fitter Joanna van Blommestein built a lingerie boutique Bra Boss in Faversham, Kent

Adam Krzempek’s shed creation in Folkestone, Kent, has also been entered into this year’s competition under the Budget category

‘The sheds were of such a high standard that narrowing them down to just 22 was an incredibly difficult task. 

‘The level of innovation, imagination and creativity we’ve seen has been incredible, as has the number of people using their sheds as dedicated spaces to help others in their community.

‘This year’s contest has been truly life affirming.’

This year’s competition has been the fiercest yet with a record-breaking 331 UK entrants vying for shed glory. Pictured: Michael Vermiglio’s shed in Kirkby, near Liverpool

Mark Campbell has entered his garden creation in Winterwood in Wingerworth, Derbyshire, into the Shed Of The Year competition

There have been more than double the entries seen in the 2020 competition including John Williams’ shed which is called Bungy’s Backyard Bar in Plymouth, Devon

This year’s competition has been the fiercest yet with a record-breaking 331 UK entrants vying for shed glory. Pictured: Rosemary and David Hoult’s The Hideaway in Ploxgreen, Shropshire

Ally Scott’s The Peculiar Pear shed in Southampton, Hampshire, has been entered into the Workshop and Studio categoryfor this year’s competition

Last year’s shed-building superstar Daniel Holloway walked away with the coveted title of Cuprinol Shed of the Year 2020 after wowing judges with his nature-inspired refuge Bedouin Tree-Shed, built around two tree trunks in his back garden.

Ashley Bates took home the competition’s first ever Special Commendation in 2020, after setting up The Shed School to help educate children while lockdown closed classrooms.

Public voting for the 15th annual competition opens on Wednesday, June 2 and will close on Monday, July 12.

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