IT IS the work of but ten minutes, and some physical effort, to transform the nave of St John the Baptist’s, Littlehempston, into a cinema, zumba class, or dance hall.
Thanks to the brainwave of a former Rector, the Revd Nicholas Pearkes, the pews are on lockable castors, easily rolled away when space is needed, then back into place for worship.”
It was a real team effort,” Mr Pearkes said this week. “The whole village was behind it, and it has done wonders for the community.”
With no village hall, Littlehempston, in Devon, is short of venues for community gatherings. In 2010, with a congregation of 12 and funds dwindling, there were also concerns about the future of the church. Mr Pearkes’s solution was to enable the community to hold events in the nave.
The pews on wheels — a task undertaken by a former shipwright — came after other works of ingenuity by Mr Pearkes, who in his spare time works on a boat. He had previously put a heavy altar on castors, and created a kitchen-on-wheels to avoid having to move a bell-ringing platform. Smoother new flooring was put in place to ensure easy wheeling, and underfloor heating was added.
Although it took “quite a while” to get the proposal for pews on wheels through the diocean advisory committee, Mr Pearkes said that “we did not have a single grumble from the village,” and that English Heritage praised it as a “sympathetic conversion”.
It had been great fun to work on the project, assisted by so many in the village, he said, and others were welcome to adopt the idea. Already, the church is receiving two to three inquiries a week.