St Michael and All Angels Church, Middlewich
Decorated Pews Click to enlarge

The oak pews situated at the west end of the church would originally have been installed in the Barons Chapel in the north east corner, facing south towards the chancel. The Baron, his family and servants would enter the chapel through their private door situated low down on the east wall (see Trail 13).  

ZZC2.JPGMany of the bench ends have a shield with a copse of six trees, probably oak, topped by three Fleur-de-Lys.  Some have trees only.  All the pews are finished with vine leaves and grapes.  

D2.jpgThe Baron’s pews along the west and south walls have moulded backs and armrests, open quatrefoils with shields at the centre and at the pew ends, the same shield is carved.  


P1030354b cropped.jpgThe shield also appears at the very top of the west window (see Trail 21) along with the text “VIRTUS SEMPER VIRIDIS” (virtue ever young).  It is the shield and crest of the ‘France’ family of Bostock Hall. This dates the decorated bench pews to at least the latter part of the 1700s but most likely to the time of the 1857/58 restoration by Rev Isaac Wood, as a gift to the church by James France France.

The Fleur-de-Lys is a symbol of the Holy Trinity which is also used as a symbol of the Blessed Virgin because of its derivation from the Madonna’s lily.

In the Middle Ages people stood or knelt in the body of the church, together with their dogs. The alter rails were first added to keep them from the sanctuary.  The more ”well to do” would have some support from ledges round the walls.

For the majority who could not read, knowledge of the Christian faith depended on visual aids such as stained glass, wall paintings , or oral instruction.  From the 15th Century individual members erected their own pews or bought others when they wished.  With the absence of heating box pews were favoured to keep out the draughts.  

Pews were auctioned in the local public houses.

Grant of a Pew 13 March 1663 – “William Seaman of Middlewich did, by deed of purchase, and buy off John Reynolds one pew or seat in the parish church of Middlewich with deed, and did pay one pound five shillings and eight pence (£1.28)”.(1)

Grant of a Pew 5 April 1765 – “Elizabeth Spencer and Thomas Naylor to Ralph Leeke Gent.  Second pew on right side of north entrance, lying next to William Seaman’s pew (above), consideration ten pounds ten shillings (known as 10 guineas, £10.50)”.(2)

N1.jpgOn the south wall in the Lady Chapel is an inscription which probably refers to possession of a pew below.


(1) Grant of a pew (pdf) p71 Alan Earl 900-1900 William Seaman.

(2) Grant of a pew (pdf) CRO p13/13/1 Ralph Leeke Gent.

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