St George

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Pew Renting - the practice of paying a church rate in order to maintain suitable seating in the church for one's family and servants - was common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Gilbert White, the naturalist and antiquarian, wrote of his church at Selborne in Hampshire:  ' . . . nothing can be more irregular than the pews of this church which are of all dimensions and heights, being patched up according to the fancy of the owners.' This was a not unusual description of many a parish church in the 17th and 18th centuries, because the order of seating reflected a rigid social structure and was regarded as       a matter of the utmost importance by those concerned. 

Rented accommodation from the very elaborate and often ostentatious family pews (see Croft, Yorkshire, NR)  to rectangular high-sided box-pews, which provided comparative privacy and comfort (see  Whitby, Yorkshire, NR) and benches which were reserved for particular farmsteads and tenements. Of course, additional rented accommodation resulted in additional income for the Church wardens, often to the exclusion of those who could not afford to pay for their seats and were crowded together on makeshift forms in the aisles and the galleries. Such was the lot of the unfortunate ordinary parishioner, and it was not surprising that this led in many instances to defection to the Independent and non-conformist chapels, where there was relatively little social snobbery.



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Dove's reference for the bells:

West Grinstead, W Sussex, S George (GF), 6, 8-0-7 in G#. Thu 


Map reference  :  TQ171206


Photographs kindly supplied by Phil Draper, 2003



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