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moveable seats were the property of the Incumbent, and in all respects at his disposal; and they were frequently bequeathed by incumbents to their successors, or others, as they thought fit. The Common Law books of an early period mention but two or three cases upon this subject, and those relating to the chancels and seats of persons of great quality.

* In later times, however, pews have been usually provided, as conducing to more undivided attention, and affording a point of union and mutual good example among individuals of families, so that they are probably an assistance to the devotions of the occupiers. '-— Law of Pews, pp. 2, 3.

Archæologists would remind this writer of the stone bench surrounding the whole church, which is of so frequent occurrence in our old churches; and he has certainly transgressed somewhat the strict limits of his profession, when he ventured on an opinion as to the devotional, or social, effect of pews. That pews were not esteemed an unmixed good even on their first introduction, we have the witness of Dr. Corbett, Bishop of Norwich, who in 1622 thus writes to his clergy :

•“ Stately pews are now become tabernacles with rings and curtains to them. There wants nothing but beds to hear the word of God on: we have casements, locks, and keys, and cushions, and for those we love the church. I will not guess what is done within them : who sits, stands, or lies asleep at prayers, communion, &c.; but this I dare say, they are either to hide some vice, or to proclaim one; to hide disorder, or to proclaim pride.” So in the orders and directions of Bishop Wren, issued in the Diocese of Norwich in 1636, it is directed “that no pews be made over high, so that they which be in them cannot be seen how they behave themselves, or the prospect of the church or chancel be hindered; and therefore that all pews which do much exceed a yard in height, be taken down near to that scantling."

The above passage we extract from Mr. Fowler's very able and interesting little treatise on our present subject of pews. In tracing the growth of pews, he first considers the origin of that word. Dr. Johnson defines it, an enclosed seat in a church, and its probable derivation is from the Dutch word puye,' signifying an enclosed balcony from which to speak, from the Latin podium, a place next the orchestra, where great people sat. It was used for the place where the service was read, and also for that enclosure which the lords of the manor were the first to erect in church for their accommodation. The general idea connected with the derivation of the word is, that of an enclosure of rather a conspicuous character, as Milton talks of sheep in their “pues' in Smithfield, meaning the pens where they were exposed for sale. The able paper published by the Cambridge Camden Society some years ago, and to which mainly is to be attributed the distaste into which pues' have fallen, it is scarcely necessary to recall to our readers. The following is a comprehensive and interesting account of the supposed history of pews, from Mr. Fowler




· Persons who have visited Roman Catholic countries, can easily imagine that this would be the case so long as England formed part of the Romish communion. For whatever may be the errors and corruptions of that Church, respect of persons within the walls of her sacred buildings, and indulgence of personal ease and accommodation there, are certainly not to be laid to her charge. The services of that Church indeed make accommodation for sitting of much less consequence to her members than to ourselves. Chaunting and prayer, with short selections from the Scripture, form the chief features of those services; and accordingly Roman Catholic congregations will be generally observed to be either standing or kneeling. Nor was the practice of preaching lengthy sermons, or rather (as it should now be called) of reading long essays, so much in vogue as it was afterwards under the reign of the Puritans, who carried it to a ludicrous extent, or as it is at present in a more moderate degree amongst ourselves. Under these circumstances, therefore, we should not expect to find general and luxurious accommodation for sitting in the early English churches, even if there were nothing but mere conjecture to rely upon.

• The most probable account is, that the exclusive appropriation of seats was gradually brought into fashion. The origin of English parish-churches was, speaking generally, the erection of an edifice by the feudal lord of a manor on his own property, for the benefit of his own family and his tenants, and the subsequent annexation of the tithes of that district to the church which he had built. Many founders of churches would probably reserve some part of the floor for the use of themselves, their families, and their successors; or if not, yet in the time which elapsed between the foundation of most of our churches and the Reformation, it was natural that the same pride and exclusive feelings which have served to perpetuate pews, should have suggested to their successors, sooner or later, to obtain for themselves a grant or licence of appropriation of some distinct portion of the church. Many years might again elapse before any one would presume to solicit a similar distinction. But in proportion as the awe of feudal dignity faded away, and growing commerce swelled the wealth and importance of other classes, and the property of ancient families began to be transferred to other hands, so the acquisition of Church privileges was extended, and other influential families were allowed occasionally to appropriate new portions of the floor. So that about the period of the Reformation, a parish-church would probably have presented the appearance of a floor partially covered with moveable seats, open benches, chairs or stools, with here and there one or more detached pews appropriated to the principal parishioners. Then the Reformation, with its lengthened services, and sermons, rendered accommodation for sitting of much more importance than before, and pews became rather more common than before : by-and-by the old open seats and chairs required reparation or renewal; and when a general new seating was determined upon, the privileges of the pew were imitated throughout, and the old fashion of moveable or open seats almost entirely discarded.'—Church Pews, pp. 7–10.

The progress of this evil is easy enough to imagine. Selfishness and pride made the possession of a church pew a matter of personal dignity. The authorities of the Church sanctioned this by the odious system of faculties, and where these were not granted, the law, which judges by precedent rather than by abstract right, supposed that long use implied a faculty, and called this a prescriptive right. Sales and bartering then followed; the original freedom and equality of a church was altogether lost; the poor were left to feel their poverty more acutely in church than anywhere else; in town congregations the rich possessed the whole space of the church, and the poor got quite out of the habit of looking on the church as their own ; those who went found themselves in back parts, and seated in places which marked their low estate very strikingly. They were unable to enjoy any sense of freedom, and could not choose any position according to their necessities or infirmities. They were put to a very unfair test in the matter of going to church, as compared with the rich. To the latter it was a positive sign and mark of rank, an opportunity of display, a gratification to their pride, while to the former it was quite the reverse. It is not, therefore, just to compare the habits of different classes of people in any matter which holds out these varied inducements; which attracts the one even on selfish principles, but requires a great exercise of humility in the other. To prove the operation of this state of things, we may

. refer to the habits of the poor in country places, where there are no gentry or influential tradesmen, except the squire and one or two farmers, to have absorbed the whole church to themselves. We there find the labourers generally very regular in attending church; whereas in towns the influence of the middle classes seems quite to have driven the poor away, and to have stamped the church with the ignoble title of the rich man's religion.

This state of things—for it is unnecessary further to describe what all so well know, and what is now an oft-told tale—is entirely, after the common principle of a gradual spoliation, sanctioned by law, according to the received necessity of making abstract right yield to the habits of a people and to a series of precedents. An original right is always supposed to lapse if possession has been held by other parties for a certain length of time. We do not say that this principle is unjust, for it is a necessary law of society, and it is futile to suppose that rights will continue in force, with no claimants, from generation to generation. Nor was that pure and spiritual duty of the Church, to protect the privileges of the poor, likely to be undertaken by the secular arm when forgotten by the Church herself. The Church must either do her work or lose her ground.

If, for example, the Church makes no proper use of her revenues, of course, as by nature they are ipso facto made secular, so will the law in time establish that fact, and the Church will find herself spoiled of her inheritance outwardly as inwardly she had long been so.

In the case of churches this spoliation has gone to very great lengths, and the matter has been made more difficult to manage, by modern legislation adopting quite a different theory in the establishment and building of new churches to that which we have pictured in tracing the inherent freedom of our old parish churches. Modern habits and abuses were legalized by being made to form the basis of a new system in district churches and chapels. Still, however, the distinction between the two was always recognised, and the freedom of a parish church has seldom been altogether swamped, so strongly is the principle fixed in the whole legal position of the Church. A parish Church, in which all the pews are rented, is rare. It was indeed a matter of necessity to make district churches dependent on rents, and thus to destroy their free character; not because it was an approved system, but because no one came forward with that selfsacrifice which is always a necessary element of more perfect systems. It is obvious, therefore, that unless we have the spirit of self-sacrifice which is necessary to form endowments, and to give the church, clergy and all, as it were, to the benefit of the cause of Christ, we must be content to pass over the evil of our pewrenting district churches. They may do good in their way,

but they are not true churches according to the original type; they are only private associations to relieve the parish church by hiring an ecclesiastic to perform the public acts of religion to a select company, the proceeding being cleared of the charge of schism by special provisions and licences.

With all the difficulties and obstructions that cloud the pure free ideal of a Christian Church, that primeval element has yet, providentially, escaped far more than might have been feared. The fearful unchristian effects of the pew system have at all times stood in such bold contrast to the Gospel blessings on the poor, that advocates have never been wanting to maintain the true principle; and now that the Church is striving to be active in her work, it is marvellous to witness how abuses, which had hitherto been so long established as to form legal precedents, seem to crumble into dust before the obvious and clear light of justice and Christian truth. Yet this is but partial, and the freedom of Christian worship is sadly overlooked in many quarters where we might have hoped that this development of their other professed principles would have forced itself upon their notice.

The prejudices in favour of pews are not overcome, and architects now have to contend with the same feelings which obstructed Sir Christopher Wren, of whom it is said, that he considered

it to be desirable that there should be no pews in churches, but ' only benches, and complained that there was no stemming the 'tide of profit and the advantage of the pew-openers.' No part of the Church movement that has been going on for the last twenty years has been so prolific of visible results as the improvement

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in the arrangement of church sittings; and so far we ought to be thankful for this witness to the Christian truth we are now advocating, for we call it nothing less : yet there are many discouraging signs in some of the restorations even now in progress; and we fear there is still a great affection for pews and pew doors, though actual traffic in the church, we hope, has received its death-blow. In many churches lately restored, we have the architectural beauty of a better system; but the door is still allowed, not only to remain, but to be rebuilt, thus keeping up the great mark of the exclusive system, though slightly glossed over by being a little lower and having pretty carving upon it.

Nothing, to our minds, is so disappointing as to see this adoption of revived architecture, without the ideas that ought to go along with it. The only thonght that can reconcile one to it is, that to a certain extent the Church is prepared for better things in future. It is singular to observe in how many new or restored churches everything is nice but some one or two points, which, to a correct eye, spoil the whole. This is often connected with the altar ; but into this question we shall not enter. The reading-desk is another tender point on which depends much of the character which outward arrangements are able to stamp on the service. There is a new church in the parish of Hackney, really quite a model in most respects. It is nobly situated, the spire is very handsome, the interior very solemn, and the seats open ; but in the midst of the church stands, elaborately carved, the offensive structure of pulpit, reading-desk, and clerk's desk; in fact, a regular old three-decker, in full sail westward. This same part-revival of better things is often very apparent in what immediately comes under our present notice. Poppy-heads, with lions, dogs, griffins, with a vast number of mediæval devices, may be seen standing erect in solid oak; the whole area of the church, perhaps, may seem to bristle with luxuriant freedom, as symbolized by art; but yet, on further examination, all this is mere sham : there are nothing but exclusive old pews, after all, though not quite so high. It is really too bad to see the pretty details of architecture actually made use of for purposes so contrary to their true ideal as pew hinges and latches. Solid oak doors, with clumsy bolts and hinges, are very noisy concerns ; and if doors are determined on, let them be simple,

i That this abomination has been introduced by a new Incumbent, and that it was entirely contrary to the known wishes and intentions of one who spent so much upon this church, the late Rector, Mr. Norris, it is only fair to state. But the crying evil is, that whatever ritual propriety, and at whatever cost, has been as it seems, secured to a church, authority is always ready to spoil and ruin the munificent and pious labours of the departed at the first summons of a conceited or ignorant successor.

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