COUNCIL leaders have complained about the “disappearance” of pews from Hull Minster. For generations, the pews have given them a prominent position during civic services in one of the largest parish churches in England.
Rows of raised Victorian oak seating, known as “corporation pews”, were removed from the nave of Hull Minster during a £4.5-million reordering in 2017, to create a flexible open space. Only one survived: a special five-seater reserved for the Lord Mayor, the Lord Lieutenant, and the High Sheriff of the city. Other dignitaries now sit on chairs like the rest of the congregation.
Some councillors, including several former Lord Mayors, have raised concerns about the new “positioning and prominence of the mayoral party”. At one point, feelings ran so high that it was suggested that civic services should be moved elsewhere.
One former Lord Mayor, Sean Chaytor, said: “We understood that the pews were going to be removed, but, as far as we were aware, they would be put on wheels so they could be brought back in when needed. We do realise that the church needs to maximise its income, but the problem we have is that, since the work has been done, they have never reappeared.
The Minster’s interim Priest-in-Charge, Bishop Frank White, said that some of the pews had had “quite serious” woodworm and had been destroyed. “From our point of view, it all looks as historically right as we can, given that some of the pews haven’t been returned.
“There may be just one or two people who don’t find the remodelling of the church to their taste, and the pews question has become a bit of a focus for their concern. The church must now look very different to the way it did when they were active in senior responsibilities in the city; so it must feel a bit strange to them.
“The faculty [for the remodelling] allowed for the partial disposal of pews, and we have done that.
“We are doing what we can to meet their concerns, and the last thing we want is for there to be any unhappiness.”