The St Helen’s Pews

One of the questions the staff working at the recently opened St Helen’s church get asked most frequently is about the names on the beautiful box pews. The pews themselves came from the lovely Somerset village of Wiveliscombe. The Church there, St Andrew’s, needed more space to allow the church to function, and therefore kindly offered the pews to Beamish. St Andrew’s kept 8 rows, and the remainder were removed and brought the 274 miles North to be installed at Beamish.

Georgian box pews tell a fascinating story of social hierarchy within a church congregation, as well as demonstrating how a church would raise funds via subscription. Congregation members would pay to rent the numbered pews, which were then reserved (and in some cases locked) for their use. At the rear were often ‘free’ pews, for use by anyone unable to afford the cost of a private pew. The gallery would also be ‘free’ benches. Sometimes the names of those renting the pews were painted on, such as in the images below, from Skelton Old Church.

The painted names at Skelton Old Church - if you look carefully you can see the ones that have been painted over!

The painted names at Skelton Old Church – if you look carefully you can see the ones that have been painted over!

Numbers on Pews at Skelton Old Church.

Numbers on Pews at Skelton Old Church.

Thanks to research by Sylvia Fairbrass, a local historian looking into the records associated with Eston Church, we have a copy of the 1824 pew list.

The list of those who rented pews at St Helen's in 1824, and the cost of their subscriptions.

The list of those who rented pews at St Helen’s in 1824, and the cost of their subscriptions.

This list details who rented the pews, and combine with the Wiveliscombe pews to tell a story common to Georgian churches at both ends of the country.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

3 responses to “The St Helen’s Pews

  1. Ray Butler

    Very interesting , information which makes the Box Pews more interesting and well done to Sylvia for researching the Eston Church names . Can we have some info on the Hearse House when it is completed there must be an interesting story there.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s