'Take A Pew' project transforms old church pews into household furniture

A unique scheme that will ensure the future of historic church pews as household furniture is being put in place in the Diocese of Hereford. The ground-breaking 'Take A Pew' project is being set up in partnership with Herefordshire Council, working with people with learning disabilities, and EnviroAbility, a local not for profit company.

The Take A Pew project will enable a church to re-use pews and for members of the congregation and others to buy a pew cut to their own requirements for use in their own homes.

"The result will be a unique and functional piece of furniture that incorporates an element of local history," said Martin Neicho of EnviroAbility, who will administer the scheme.

On behalf of the diocese, Wendy Coombey said the scheme would bring benefits all round.

"We are leading the way in the Church of England in the development of our buildings for the use of the community and schemes sometimes include the removal of some or all the old pews," she said.

"People are often sad to see them go but don't have room for one in their homes because they're so big. Now we have a solution that works for everyone."

Churches will be able to sell their unwanted pews to those who want them at a reasonable price, rather than the present system which forces parishes to sell unwanted pews often at less than their market value and to companies that go on to make a big profit.

"This project, the first of its kind anywhere in the country, will mean that a church will get a fair price and at the same time create opportunities for people with disabilities and others facing difficulties in the job market," said Mr Neicho.

Under the project, they will work alongside experienced, qualified carpenters supported by staff from Herefordshire Council day opportunities, providing a chance for those furthest from the job market to improve their skills and employability.

"It also means that pews are likely to stay in the local area. We will put a plaque on the recycled piece and supply information about the church it came from as well as other accessories," added Mr Neicho. " Having spoken to a large meeting of clergy, they were very supportive and keen to give us their pews."

The project is a joint venture between the Diocese of Hereford, EnviroAbility and Herefordshire Council and is supported by Advantage West Midlands through Herefordshire Access to Services Partnership and Community First.