Chaplain’s Blog Stardate 11/11/2022

To Pew or not to Pew that is the question.

I am sure that the thorny issue of pews comes up in many many churches for one reason or another and St Andrew’s Redruth is no different – with widely differing views on the subject.  Some folk would like to see the church remain full of pews as befits a Victorian building where others would like to remove all of them  to make the space more flexible. 

It was interesting to turn this photo up from 1945 of the interior when only 18 pews and  a lot of chairs which have long since gone.

The great pew debate will differ from church to church because of individual historic significance, how loud the voices are of those passionate about such things and the vision of the Church Wardens and committee members. 

The debate raises some questions about the vision of each church about their purpose and how they see how their building will serve future generations.

This image from before the Church was extended in 1930 shows a mixture of chairs and pews.  Chairs at the back, at the front and down the central aisle; cramming the folk in! 

The argument that the pews are traditional does not quite stack up, unlike chairs, which chosen carefully, can be stacked out of the way! 

Whether those pews are of historic importance is quite another matter. 


And there is always the vexed question of how long does something need to happen to make it tradition?  In terms of liturgical practise probably three times, but with pews….. who knows?

A Couple of Images Showing How St Andrews was Extended in the 1930s.

So St Andrews was extended, the old pews were all pushed forwards and gradually they replaced the chairs so the place was full of pews which at the time catered for the needs of the many folk in the town for whom Sunday worship was a central facet of their lives.  

These days a typical Sunday congregation is 30-40 souls who dot themselves around the pews. There are times when the pews are full however, but these are few. For example, very large funerals, Remembrance with all the uniformed organisations (not since covid) and School nativity / carol services. The biggest regular services are Christmas Eve with the Children (about 170-180) and Christmas Midnight Mass (130ish). So those large numbers need to be catered for occasionally and stacking chairs are not cheap!  

There is also the nostalgia factor; you know the sort of thing, “yes I know I do not attend services except for funerals, but I do remember that my Granny raised money for that pew and liked to sit there so you can’t get rid of that one!” And…. one must not forget the wondrous tangle of hoops, hurdles and red tape that is the ‘faculty’ which trumps even health and safety and lack of money. “yes we know you need a gate to stop children falling down the granite stairs but it must be a properly designed Victorian looking gate with appropriate hinges and cost ten times as much as the cheap option.”   If that is not enough to put people off moving pews out, I don’t know what is!


So why would anyone want to remove pews, either in part or in total? 

I have heard the following:

Chairs are more comfortable and easier to move to make a flexible space for multiple activities more suited to the 21st century from Messy Church to Liturgical dance and from Arts Festivals to community groups such as Toddlers and theatre groups. Cafe style church and other ‘new expressions’, discussion groups and training events are all much better unrestricted by serried ranks of heavy pews. 

Attempting to make the best use of the pews for the annual arts festival, which draws in the local community. This is a celebration of creativity rather than a market and children from local schools display work as well as taking part in workshops through the week. 

The font is at the back so space is needed for baptism parties to take part properly


removing some pews at the front gave room for creative space in family services… 

Inspired by a local artist…. not a regular church goer. 

The jubilee corgi overlooks a discussion group with empty pews taking up the foreground space. 

The St Andrew’s ladies singing group Dhiworth an Gollon (From the Heart)  providing background music to the Yskinna  Aeriel Dancers working with Local Children…. making the best use of the space available… 

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