Wooden pews as we know them started appearing in churches in the Middle Ages, by the 14th century. Before then, people stood or knelt, with perhaps stone seats around the base of arcade piers or along the walls for the aged and infirm (`the weakest go to the wall')

Certainly by the 15th century, whole churches were seated, as at Gaddesby (1: Leics). By the end of the Middle Ages, most churches probably had benches, and sometimes they feature quite splendid carving, whether it is the animals at Denston (2-3: Suffolk) or the even finer saints of the early 1Gth century at Wiggenhall St Mary (4: Norfolk)

At Dennington, (5: Suffolk) there is the curious sciapod, the mythical beast with the huge foot that it used to provide shade from the desert heat (as M.R. James put it, Such men were to be found, if not in Africa then somewhere else').

Further reading; J.C. Cox, Bench-Ends in English Churches (Oxford, 1916); G. Randall, Church Furnishing and Decoration in England and Wales (Batsford, 1980). ND


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