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Title: The social and ecclesiastical significance of church seating arrangements and pew disputes, 1500-1740
Author: Dillow, Kevin B.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3424 5629
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1990
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This thesis examines the seating arrangements of English parish churches between 1500 and 1740 in order to define their basis, the reflection of society through them and areas of tension made apparent in pew disputes. It begins by charting the development of the ecclesiastical law in the early seventeenth century. Unusually this is seen to have been based upon cases prohibited to the common law on the basis of prescription. Chapter Three then examines the procedure of the ecclesiastical courts and shows that the scope of their interest was far wider than legal theory implies. The courts are shown to have been most concerned with the physical appearance of seats and their convenient placement. This was never organised into a coordinated campaign until the 1630's, but even the Laudians failed to end the ingrained abuses of the pew system because of the passive resistance of the parish authorities. Pew disputes and the deciding of titles to seats was a significant part of the ecclesiastical courts' business. The motivation these cases differed under the office and instance procedure. The former type of case was concerned only with the punishment of disruption or disobedience; the latter with the actual question of title. The assigning of seats is shown to have been undertaken mainly by the churchwardens, either through the formation of a composite picture of an individual or on the basis of a life-payment or rent. Both systems are examined and their workings and differences analysed. Chapter Five examines the correlation between the church's seating arrangements and society as a whole and shows this to have been good but not perfect. In the final chapter, the reasoning behind pew disputes is analysed. This reveals pew disputes as essentially the preserve of the gentry of market towns and as a form of honour conflict.
Supervisor: Heal, Felicity Sponsor: British Academy
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Pews and pew rights ; Religion and social status--Great Britain--History