John E. Vigar MA, FSA Scot., FRSA

Superior Seats

Nothing demonstrates the social history of England as well as the changes that have taken place in our parish churches over the last 1500 years. Alterations that did not purely represent gear changes in religious belief or ritual; they ably demonstrate the class structures to be found in the secular world.

This lecture looks at the story of church seating through the centuries from the solid stone benches that made the `weak go to the wall` to the monumental private pews that still dominate some church interiors.

Seating in churches is a much more varied subject then one might suspect. The medieval clergy originally had stalls and sedilia in the chancels of our churches, whilst the laity only occasionally had elaborate benches – the type of seat we associate with churches today – the bench or pew – only really dates from the nineteenth century. In this fascinating and ground breaking lecture we discover the periods when you couldn’t attend church without paying for your seat; when box pews went with your house; and how the clues are there to help us understand the most private aspect of  public worship.

Suggested Reading

Temples worthy of His presence by Christopher Webster (2003)

A Church as it should be by Christopher Webster (2000)

The Victorian Church by Chris Brooks (1995)

Pews, Benches and Chairs by Trevor Cooper (2011)

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