Consultation on Pews & Chairs

The PCC commissioned its Inspecting Architect to produce a report on the condition of the pews and some options available. This report offers a number of options


As part of our Mission Action Plan for 2015-20 the Church Council has been giving some consideration to the use of the church worship space. One of the questions that has emerged has been whether the current fixed pews are suitable furniture for the next stage of the life of St Mary’s.

A number of factors have to be considered:

  • The status of St Mary’s as a Grade 1 Listed Building
  • The mission of the parish
  • The condition of the existing pews and the floor

A Grade 1 Listed Building

St Mary’s Georgian design places a high degree of importance on geometry and symmetry. Although this is imbalanced by the present location of the pulpit and the organ (neither of which are in their original places), nevertheless wooden pews give a pleasing symmetry to the main nave that enhance this sense of balance. There are many Georgian churches with chairs, but any replacement would require careful thought and choice. Flexibility can easily lead to untidiness.

The Mission of the Parish

St Mary’s is not a museum but a living community worshipping in a space that has in the past been adapted for the needs of that community. Two factors present challenge in our current space: first, the building’s fixed pews limit the amount of liturgical flexibility (e.g. it’s hard to process around the building, there’s little scope for informal worship gatherings in smaller groups) or social space (eg. coffee time); second, the pews restrict the sort of usage the building could be put to out of the times it is not needed for worship (e.g. drama, community events, social gatherings).

The Condition of the Existing Pews and Floor

The current pews are not contemporary with the building and, as our Architect reports in his recent condition survey, are in need of refurbishment and repair. They could also be strengthened to become potentially able to be lifted and moved. Furthermore, any change to the existing pews would require work to be done to the floor of the church, which should be done at the same time.


The PCC commissioned its Inspecting Architect to produce a report on the condition of the pews and some options available. This report offers a number of options:

OPTION A: Retain, Repair & Refurbish Existing Pews Alongside the necessary repairs, this could include sanding, refinishing and the introduction of some suitable cushioning to create more comfortable sitting (although this could not be back cushioning because of the modest seat depth of our pews). It is difficult to estimate the cost, but our architect has indicated that potentially it could cost in the region of £29,000.

OPTION B: Replace All the Pews and Replace with Stacking Chairs A lightweight chair is recommended to provide ease of moving and stacking. Options available (see the display) are both wooden and metal framed. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The cost of such replacement would, depending on the chair chosen, be between £33,000 (wooden chairs) and £49,000 (metal chairs).

OPTION C: Retain, Repair & Refurbish Nave Pews and Replace Side Aisles with Chairs This option could offer the possibility of greater flexible, social space in the church while retaining the essential symmetry of the body of the nave. Cushioning would again be available for the remaining pews. An estimated cost of such a project would be between £27,000 (wooden chairs) and £30,500 (metal chairs).

None of these costs include floor refurbishment and repair costs. The full report can be found in the display at the side of the church.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) Perspective

The current PCC has given these options some thought and, on balance, tends towards the options that see the retention of the nave pews (Options A & C). It sees significant problems with Option B, both practical and aesthetic, which means that it does not wish to recommend that to the wider church at the moment.

However, the PCC does want to ensure that the wider church has the opportunity to confirm or challenge this view. As a result, we have agreed to consult the church on all three options, asking for views and comments, as we make decisions in the coming months about the way ahead.

Any option beyond the simplest version of Option A is likely to require a full Faculty process to be followed, giving individuals a chance to comment or object to any proposals when they finally come forward. The PCC anticipates that the work arising from this decision will be done alongside the redecoration of the church, at some point in 2019.

The questionaire can be downloaded here: Pews Chairs Consultation

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