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Seats that weren’t rented

08 April 2016

Your answers

Was it common practice to place this extra seating (pictured) at the end of every pew? I have never come across this previously.


I worship at the old parish church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone. All the pews in the nave, installed in 1855 when the church was finally rebuilt after damage from a devastating storm in 1705, have extension flaps at both ends.

In the 13th-century chancel, the Victorian pews, which face across the aisle in monastic fashion, have extension flaps running the entire length of the aisle.

These have been used in my lifetime when for major festivals the church was almost full (350-plus). As a choirboy, along with choirmen, servers, and clergy, I remember having to negotiate very carefully the restricted space that was left during our festival processions. Seeing the thurifer in action in such a small space and the reactions of the congregation on the extension seats added an extra frisson to the occasion, as you may imagine.

Ian Gordon, Folkestone


I suspect the extra seating at the end of each pew was probably the result of the system of appropriated pews. These pews, which were not rented, were allocated to specific houses or farms in a parish, but over the course of time they became regarded as private possessions. This meant that no outsiders were permitted to use them. A church could be technically full, but in reality half-empty.

Those excluded from the system, generally the poorer sort, had to make do with accommodation in the less salubrious areas. At Oswestry Parish Church, for example, planks were placed between two pews on either side of the nave for this purpose. It is probable that these seats, which are presumably hinged, served the same purpose, though with less inconvenience for the congregation.

Roger L. Brown, Welshpool


Extra seating at the end of pews as in the picture certainly exists at Catcott, Somerset, where some extra seats were restored by a devout local woodworker.

Simon Gordon-Clark, London E3


Your questions


Is it necessary for there to be a godparent or godparents at a child’s baptism when no appropriate person is available?

D. W.


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