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date: 17 September 2019


  • Charles Tracy


Term used to designate certain kinds of seating, particularly fixed wooden benches in churches. The provision of permanent seating for the congregation became common only in the later Middle Ages, and it may have been a speciality of England, where most examples survive. Earlier, bench-tables along the walls or encircling the nave piers had provided seating for the old and infirm, but most of the congregation stood, as is still the tradition in the Eastern churches. The earliest surviving examples of fixed wooden pews date from the late 13th century, at St Mary and All Saints, Dunsfold (Surrey), St Mark’s, Mark (Somerset), and St Luke’s, Gaddesby (Leics). Seats for parishioners are recorded at the synod of Exeter in 1287, when the practice of claiming a specific place was condemned, and enclosed ‘pues’ for wives and widows are mentioned in the Visions of Piers Plowman C, vi, 144 (c. 1377–87...

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