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Interested in a pew?

A lot has been written about the St Mary’s Church restoration project and it is hoped that the detailed plans to be submitted to the church authorities in Exeter will be approved by the end of the year and will allow the works to go-ahead.

The current pews were installed around about 1868 when St Mary’s Church was last reordered. Times have changed since the Victorians wanted to fill the church interior with pews so that they could fit in as many people at Sunday services as possible. Now a much more flexible arrangement is preferred.

A major part of the works will be replacing the failing floor with a beautiful natural stone finish. The pews will have to be removed to do this and it provides a golden opportunity to replace the restrictive and uncomfortable seating with comfortable chairs appropriate to their surroundings. Chairs can be changed around to suit different events and activities and will give the interior of the church much greater flexibility, not just for worship but for all the arts events and other community events and activities that the church will be used for.

It appears that money was short when it came to the pew installation in Victorian times and as a result low quality material was used and little attention was paid to detail. The existing pews have little historical significance with the exception of the two corporation pews which will be retained.

The introduction of flexible seating arrangement will open up the church building for a much greater range of community events such performing arts, exhibitions, public meetings, social gatherings, workshops, public and private functions as well as continuing to retain its spiritual purpose but in a more flexible approach.

“The church, in bringing forward this change, has undertaken two public consultation events,” John Birch, Chair of the Totnes Heritage Trust said.

“And we have been greatly heartened by the support shown.”

When the pews are removed they will need to find new homes.

“If anyone is interested in acquiring a pew, please send an email to me at " Mr Birch said.

"The trust will keep you in touch with developments and will let you know if and when the pews will be offered for sale.”

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