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Norfolk church awaits new chairs at cost of £11,500, after Rosehill Furnishings goes into administration

21 March 2024

Creative Commons

The interior of St Mary’s, South Creake, in 2017, showing the old chairs

The interior of St Mary’s, South Creake, in 2017, showing the old chairs

THE PCC of St Mary’s, South Creake, in Norfolk, is out of pocket to the tune of £11,500 after 80 new chairs, paid for in December 2022, have failed to arrive. The company, Rosehill Furnishings Ltd, went into administration last month.

St Mary’s placed the order to replace chairs that had been used for 70 years, after the removal of the pews in the 1950s. The church hosts the annual, week-long North Norfolk Music Festival, and two of the chairs collapsed under audience members. Closer inspection revealed most of the rest to be riddled with woodworm, and the PCC and congregation decided to replace them.

Rosehill, based in Cheshire, sent a sample chair that met with PCC approval, and the order was placed. The company gave a delivery time of between eight and ten weeks, while the church used plastic chairs from the Yorke Trust.

The Rector of St Mary’s, the Revd Clive Wylie, contacted the company when the order failed to materialise. “We were told, first, that there were problems in getting them made, which was when we discovered they were made in Poland,” he said last week.

“The story continued. We were eventually told that, as a consequence of Brexit, no Polish driver wanted to bring a small load over to the UK, and no English driver would go out there to collect them, because of all the paperwork.”

The company said that it would source a factory in England to make the chairs, though there would obviously be a delay. The PCC continued to contact it for updates. “The next bit of the story was that there had been a fire at the factory supplying the wood,” Fr Wylie said.

“At that point, I wrote a letter to the managing director asking for a full refund. It was sent recorded delivery; so we know they got the letter.” The letter was never acknowledged.

Page from the website of the Rosehill Furnishings Group

The situation eventually reached the diocesan registrar, who discovered that the company had gone into administration in mid-February. Having got into financial difficulties, the company had built up rent arrears of £135,000 and was locked out of its premises in January.

The company has since been bought by Rosehill Furnishings Group Ltd for £35,000, which continues to offer furniture, including chairs, to businesses and churches. The new company has no responsibility for the former company’s debts, however, and Fr Wylie has to deal directly with the administrators.

South Creake is among the company’s unsecured creditors, who are together owed £173,000, and is, therefore, unlikely to see any of its money. Altogether, the failed company left debts of £723,000.

In the mean time, the organisers of the forthcoming music festival in August may have to hire some chairs, which would reduce the donation to the church.

Fr Wylie said: “If we had got the chairs, we would have thought that money well spent, but to think that we might not see a penny of it is a huge source of stress.

“I’ve had to ask the diocese to reduce our contribution to the parish share, because we just cannot afford it at the moment. Like a lot of rural congregations, we’re struggling. We rely on the music festival to balance the books at the end of the year.”

The Rosehill Furnishings Group was contacted for comment. It said: “The former business is now in the hands of the administrators and the church should now have been contacted by them to discuss next steps. Unfortunately, we are no longer permitted to be involved. We appreciate how frustrating this must be for the church. The administrators will be able to confirm directly to them either way.”

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