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Sacred Space in England, 1560–1640: The View from the Pew

  • CHRISTOPHER MARSH

Abstract

This article employs evidence relating to church seating between 1560 and 1640 in order to argue that English people experienced the interior of their parish church as a setting of profound significance. It seeks to augment the rather secular interpretative framework within which social and economic historians have tended to consider the importance of church seating. Such seating mattered to people not only because of their preoccupation with social precedence during a period of economic strain, but because of its stirring and symbolic location. Church seating also deserves to be interpreted as evidence of popular attachment to the church, rather than almost exclusively as an instrument of social control deployed by parochial leaders. Much of the surviving documentation relates to the misdemeanours of a conspicuous minority, but it is also possible to examine the sources for what they reveal of the arguably more positive attitudes of the ever elusive majority.

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Footnotes

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ChRO = Cheshire Record Office; CUL = Cambridge University Library; EDR = Ely Diocesan Records; WRO = Wiltshire Record OfficeThis is one of three interlocking articles in which I will attempt to locate the subject of church seating within a matrix of commonplace religious attitudes and ideas, concentrating particularly on the period 1560–1640. See also ‘Common prayer in England, 1560–1640: the view from the pew’, Past and Present (forthcoming), and ‘Order and place in England, 1560–1640: the view from the pew’ (in preparation). Ideally, the three articles should be treated as a whole, and I have cross-referenced them as sensibly as I can. I would also like to acknowledge the important but unpublished work of Kevin Dillow on the subject of pew disputes: ‘The social and ecclesiastical significance of church seating arrangements and pew disputes, 1500–1740’, unpubl. DPhil. diss. Oxford 1990. My interpretations are rather different from his, but I would have found it difficult to develop them without the broad survey that he has provided. Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the Arts and Humanities Research Board for its financial assistance.

Footnotes

Sacred Space in England, 1560–1640: The View from the Pew

  • CHRISTOPHER MARSH

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