Loos over pews: Judge sanctions removal of church seating in favour of toilets
PUBLISHED: 16:44 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 09 June 2020
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A judge has authorised the removal of more than a dozen pews from a Norfolk church to accommodate new toilets.
In his role as a judge of the Church of England’s consistory court, David Etherington QC - Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich - ruled in favour of loos over pews at St Andrew’s Church in Hingham.
It came despite objections from the Victorian Society, which argued that removal of 16 pews would impact on on the significance of Grade I-listed St Andrew’s, completed in 1360.
But, while accepting the removal of pews would result in some harm, Chancellor Etherington argued it was outweighed by the benefits of their removal.
Reverend Colin Reed, rector for the parish of Hingham, said the battle to install toilets at the church had been going on for 40 years, including a failed bid in 2011.
“St Andrew’s is enormous and has the capacity to serve the community, so having toilets is essential,” said Revd Reed.
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“The advent of coronavirus and the need for more stringent hygiene only increases that. When people are travelling long distances for weddings or funerals, it feels churlish not to have these facilities.
“I acknowledge that some of the pew ends are beautiful, but we have identified the pieces we absolutely have to keep - we are not just vandalising the place.
“Some won’t like it but we have thought very carefully and I would happily defend this to anyone. I make no apologies because part of my role is to make sure the church is suitable for future generations.”
Substantial work has been done in recent years to improve amenities at St Andrew’s, including its lighting and heating.
The added provision of toilets will see the existing kitchen brought forward, resulting in the removal of several pews.
The alterations will, however, create additional space for baptisms and meetings at the rear of the church, while improving health and safety by reducing trip hazards.
Giving the go-ahead, Chancellor Etherington said: “There is no dispute that the pews are impressive and make a marked contribution to the special historic and architectural features of the church.”
But he continued: “I am satisfied there is a substantial need to create a more flexible space for those using the church for additional activities, particularly when the new facilities are in place.”