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The social life of Pews: Clement Walcot’s distress, William Horner’s ambition

The social life of Pews: Clement Walcot’s distress, William Horner’s ambition
The social life of Pews: Clement Walcot’s distress, William Horner’s ambition
Churches and occasionally their fittings have been presented at VAG in the light of carpentry techniques and their connections with vernacular architecture. In this paper we would like to explore the relationship between church pews and the vernacular houses of the majority of the parishioners. Nowadays in England we have a tendency to think of ecclesiastical design as being substantially different to secular, principally because of the separate spiritual and corporeal functions of the buildings, but was this difference visible to the post-Reformation congregation?

We will be looking at how church furniture may have constrained or made sense not only of the parishioners’ religious world but also that of their social, vernacular existence. In particular we will examine the introduction of box and bench pews and the increasing use of gallery pew space in the long 18th century. Both types of pews were allocated to particular houses, and rented by the inhabiting families. Thus, they reflected the status of the family through their built environment. The positioning of pews, usually arranged in a spatial hierarchy of honour and sometimes of gender, invariably represented a social map of the parish, mirroring the social differences between the polite and vernacular worlds. Population movement, housing improvements and social aspiration lead to local disputes and “pew rage”, often resulting in new galleries being commissioned and old pews being reallocated.

Box pews could be viewed as being a home extension with fittings which reflected the domestic sphere and its architectural traditions, a concept that seems to extend to other parts of the church also. Using case studies primarily from Hampshire we examine the construction of pews, their private and/or public qualities and the ways in which church architecture (dormer windows, gallery space, staircases etc.) was altered to accommodate the reception of lengthy sermons and the frequent reorganisations of seating. The domestication of the pews can be contrasted to the theatrical elements of the service which both promoted and resulted in these changes to furnishings.
Pew, Gallery, social hierarchy, furniture, church, Gender, parishioner, eighteenth century, seventeenth century, nineteenth century, Seating, box pew
Copeland, Penny
8a2a05ec-70d2-4a28-b4bb-997aa105846f
Jones, Jude
50fec74a-afd3-4e7f-af01-a8ce8566ee80
Copeland, Penny
8a2a05ec-70d2-4a28-b4bb-997aa105846f
Jones, Jude
50fec74a-afd3-4e7f-af01-a8ce8566ee80

Copeland, Penny and Jones, Jude (2018) The social life of Pews: Clement Walcot’s distress, William Horner’s ambition . 06 - 07 Jan 2018.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

Churches and occasionally their fittings have been presented at VAG in the light of carpentry techniques and their connections with vernacular architecture. In this paper we would like to explore the relationship between church pews and the vernacular houses of the majority of the parishioners. Nowadays in England we have a tendency to think of ecclesiastical design as being substantially different to secular, principally because of the separate spiritual and corporeal functions of the buildings, but was this difference visible to the post-Reformation congregation?

We will be looking at how church furniture may have constrained or made sense not only of the parishioners’ religious world but also that of their social, vernacular existence. In particular we will examine the introduction of box and bench pews and the increasing use of gallery pew space in the long 18th century. Both types of pews were allocated to particular houses, and rented by the inhabiting families. Thus, they reflected the status of the family through their built environment. The positioning of pews, usually arranged in a spatial hierarchy of honour and sometimes of gender, invariably represented a social map of the parish, mirroring the social differences between the polite and vernacular worlds. Population movement, housing improvements and social aspiration lead to local disputes and “pew rage”, often resulting in new galleries being commissioned and old pews being reallocated.

Box pews could be viewed as being a home extension with fittings which reflected the domestic sphere and its architectural traditions, a concept that seems to extend to other parts of the church also. Using case studies primarily from Hampshire we examine the construction of pews, their private and/or public qualities and the ways in which church architecture (dormer windows, gallery space, staircases etc.) was altered to accommodate the reception of lengthy sermons and the frequent reorganisations of seating. The domestication of the pews can be contrasted to the theatrical elements of the service which both promoted and resulted in these changes to furnishings.

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More information

Published date: 6 January 2018
Venue - Dates: Vernacular Architecture Group: Winter Conference, 2018-01-06 - 2018-01-07
Keywords: Pew, Gallery, social hierarchy, furniture, church, Gender, parishioner, eighteenth century, seventeenth century, nineteenth century, Seating, box pew

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 417152
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/417152
PURE UUID: 09872789-cd17-4d74-844b-4ae54dcce45b

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 22 Jan 2018 17:30
Last modified: 22 Jan 2018 17:30

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Contributors

Author: Penny Copeland
Author: Jude Jones

University divisions

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