The aluminium industry celebrated the centenary of the use of the material in building last year, based on the completion of the aluminium-clad dome of San Gioacchino in Rome in 1897, with the slogan '1897-1997 - 100 years of durability.'
Research by Hoogovens has now revealed an even earlier example of aluminium in building, and much closer to home: at St Edmund's, the parish church of Fenny Bentley, a picturesque village just north of Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
The sixteenth-century church is famous for a monument which commemorates Thomas Beresford, his wife, 16 sons and five daughters. The ceiling of the family chapel, in the north-west corner, is made up of decorated aluminium panels with wooden bosses (carved by members of the rector's wood-carving class), one of which shows the date of 1895. This is accepted by local people as the date the ceiling was installed.
The price of aluminium was reduced dramatically at about this time, due to the introduction of the electrolytic process, and for the first time it was available in commercial quantities. The new ceiling was painted with pictures of angels as well as figures to commemorate the end of the War of the Roses.
'The aluminium ceiling has not shown any real sign of ageing and as far as I am aware has required no maintenenace since it was installed 103 years ago,' the Rev Christopher Harrison, the present vicar, said. 'There seems to be no doubt about the date the ceiling was built. It is fascinating to think that Fenny Bentley church figures so early in the use of aluminium in building, and even pre-dates the completion of San Gioacchino in Rome.'
Unfortunately Fenny Bentley church, like so many around the country, has been subject to break-ins and burglaries in recent years and is locked for much of the time. For those wishing to pay a visit, the keys are available from the local post office.