Pews to be removed from Grade I listed church

St Mary's Church, Ringmer
St Mary's Church, Ringmer

A church-goer has failed in an objection to plans to remove some traditional Victorian church pews from a Grade I listed church at Ringmer where he has worshiped for more than 60 years.

Despite two letters from Mr A R Peters MBE objecting to the proposals for St Mary’s church at Ringmer, a top Church of England judge has given the go-ahead for the pews to be removed.

In challenge to the plan, Mr Peters said: “My reason for objecting to the removal of these pews is that situated as they are they serve an ideal position for sidesmen of church watchers or for any member of the congregation who is late or wishes to leave early with small children.”

He added that the two pews in question are occupied almost every Sunday morning by two families with young children and added: “We get few enough of these without removing pews which they find convenient.”

However, Mark Hill QC, the Chancellor of Chichester diocese and a judge of the Church’s Consistory Court, which has to approve any significant changes to be made to churches, has over-ridden Mr Peters’ objections.

The application made by the church wardens and treasurer of the church sought permission for removal of two short pews with provision of additional bookshelf units and removal of another pew to provide additional space for wheelchair users attending the church.

In his decision Chancellor Hill says: “The petitioners, in my opinion, have demonstrated a sound and compelling case for the removal of a small number of pews from two particular parts of the church.

“It would allow push chairs to be positioned in such a way as not to block the aisles. The pews do not need to be retained for ‘church-watchers’ since they can perform their responsibilities to equal or better effect from other locations within the church.

“I have no doubt that Mr Peters is entirely sincere in his letter of objection and that in writing as he did, he was motivated by nothing other than care and concern for the parish and those who chose to worship with him in a church which he has loyally attended for upwards of 60 years.

“However, I am satisfied that the petitioners have considered his concerns and have specifically considered the points with the groups whom he claims will be affected, such as young families, sidesmen and churchwardens.

“In their view, which I accept, the removal of the pews as proposed will be positively beneficial and not have the negative impact which Mr Peters fears.”

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