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Twickenham United Reformed Church

Our History: Pew Rents

Until 1911 regular members of our morning congregation rented a specific seat for which they were invited to pay a quarterly 'rent'

Pew rent chart


Extract The pew rent plan above (larger scale extract to the right) is one of the more interesting items in our limited archive. It is not dated but is presumably the plan approved for display at the Management Committee meeting on September 27th 1907. When it was presented to the October Church Meeting the point was emphasised that the figures shown were for guidance only

The chart shows all the pews in the chapel with a suggested quarterly 'rent' to reserve each sitting. You could sit at the front for two shillings and sixpence (12½p) or at the back for five shillings (25p). If every single seat had been let for the amount shown the annual income would have been £156-4s - in 1910 it was about half this.

Towards the end of 1910 the replacement of pew rents by a freewill offering scheme, much as we still have today, was discussed by the Deacons. The following letter was sent to all members at the start of 1911:

The Minister and Deacons have been considering a plan intended, not so much to increase the total income of the church, but rather with the object of introducing a simpler and more regular method of raising it and making the collection of our regular finance a less prominent feature of church activities. We shall esteem it favour if after reading this you will be good enough to use the enclosed form to let us know whether, if the church should decide to adopt the scheme, you would be enter into it sympathetically, and give it your support ...

BAZAARS: It is, we think, generally felt that the constant holding of Bazaars with all the incidental labour and exertion is not a satisfactory method of meeting the ordinary current expenditure of the church. They tend to absorb energy which probably would be better employed in other channels. We all give articles to the Bazaar, and we all do our share in buying them back again, so that the greater portion of the amount collected comes actually from the same people who support the church by their contributions to the Sunday collections, or by their pew subscriptions.

WHAT WE GIVE: You will see that as a church we contribute approximately in the following ways to make up our regular annual expenditure of £320:

Pew subscriptions   £80-0-0
Sunday collections and donations   £160-0-0
Bazaars and similar efforts   £80-0-0

The Deacons feel that for a church of this size the above total is a creditable one, and so far from suggesting that there is any reason for complaint as to the amounts contributed, is is a matter of congratulation that the church is financially supported, not by a few people, but by the liberal giving of all associated with it ....

For those who adopt the scheme the quarterly payment of pew subscriptions is discontinued, likewise the putting of loose cash into the collection plate. Each contributor has a private form sent to him in the first instance and is asked to say in confidence the total amount that he or she is prepared to contribute weekly towards to support of the church. The amount would be enclosed each week in an envelope to be placed in the collection plate at one of the Sunday services ....

If the system meets with the success with which it has been attended in other churches there ought to be no necessity in the future for the Annual Bazaar to meet incidental church expenses.

The letter also explained that sittings could still be reserved and challenged members to consider how much they currently gave in various ways when thinking how much they would would pledge as their weekly giving. Three-quarters of those responding were in favour of the new scheme which was unanimously endorsed at the March 1911 Church Meeting, rendering this pew rent plan an interesting piece of history. Balancing the books would remain a challenge for many years to come.

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Last updated 11 June 2008. For comments and reports of bad links etc., please mail webmaster@twickenhamurc.org.uk