Iwerne Valley Benefice

Celebrating Gods love in beautiful North Dorset...

St Mary's Iwerne Minster - Reordering

Church Reordering. What Progress are we Making?    

The last four years have been a journey of discovery for the reordering group of Malcolm, Niels, Mike and Richard.  We have kept you informed of our thoughts and investigations, and at the end of 2016, finalised a plan which we are confident will obtain a Faculty, and will not by vetoed by any of the Statutory Authorities. The Faculty is the Diocesan equivalent of planning permission and is a legal requirement.

We submitted this plan to the PCC in November 2016, and we were pleased that they approved it.    

Historical Context.  Simon Everett recognised that there were many and varied ways of worshiping God, and that our church did not lend itself to many of them, because it was too packed with pews and for much of the year very cold.

These initial views were echoed by responses from the village in the Parish Council survey of 2013. Respondents asked that the church be made more flexible, and comfortable for village events, such as concerts and plays, which were too large for The Club or Abingdon Hall.

For many events in church, such as funerals and weddings, people travel a long way, and a toilet is necessary for them, and for the comfort of everyone using the building.

The installation of the toilet was completed in spring 2015. 

Why do we need more space in church?  Three of the most important ceremonies of the Christian Faith are Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals. They are each social occasions of very different natures, but all are more fitting where there is space for the family group, and the setting of the ceremony is enhanced, by allowing the beautiful simple architecture to frame it.

We have the most beautiful church, very largely as it was built in 12-14C, but because the Victorians were preoccupied with providing seats for the greatest number of people, there is not enough space to move around easily, thus preventing the beauty of the building from making maximum impact, and inhibiting full flexibility for varied styles of worship and community events.  

Where to Now?  There are two important initiatives to be followed, before building work can begin:-

          Funding.  – Obtaining the money to fund the work  
Faculty    -- Obtaining permission to do the work

During 2017 we shall begin to raise the funds. There are several avenues which we intend to pursue, and we would be very pleased if you would help us, either by helping us fund-raise, or by, generously, contributing to the fund.  Please give us a call and thank you in advance.

We have two further steps to take before making our submission for a Faculty, and we aim to achieve these during 2017. They will require outline and then detailed plans from our Architect and Engineer, with a full description of the work involved and of the impact on the building. These will be submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Council.  We will then have a chance to respond to their comments before submitting our final application for a Faculty to the Chancellor.

Articles in the following months will explore proposals for the several areas of the church in more detail, together with historical information which we have found, which sheds light on the history of the building.

 Richard Hood,  Malcolm Green, Niels Kraunsoe, Mike Deeming, David Parkhouse.

January 2017

Reordering at St. Mary’s Church.     

Seating  in Victorian Times.  

The article in the February Valley Views set the scene for those in subsequent editions describing the main changes being proposed for the Church, already agreed by the PCC.  

Our Church Community.  A church comprises two principal aspects: the building and the community which worships there. Our aim is to increase the number of the latter, and enable them to be more comfortable. The space should be more appropriate to contemporary forms of worship and warm enough for them to enjoy the experience.

The core of the building dates from the 12C, but through the centuries the building has been added to and adapted as the needs of the communities have changed. The building has been conserved because there has been this slow process of change responding to the needs of the time. 

During our investigations we have uncovered some of the changes which have taken place during the last 150 years, and this history helps to understand the context of our proposals.

Changes to the Style of Worship.  Over the last century or so the styles of worship have gradually changed.  Celebrations by the priests have been brought physically closer to the congregation, so that the congregation can participate more easily and more creatively.  

In our church the pews freeze the space, and make it very difficult to worship in other than a traditional way.

The Church before 1880. In the course of our research we have found the plan of the church and pews prior to the changes of 1880. (Fig 1)  The church looked very different. Much of the seating was in rectangular family pews, where people did not all face the altar. Each pew was reserved for a particular family.  The vestry was at a high level in the SW corner, with steps leading to it from the entrance. The font does not appear on the plan, suggesting that it might have been in the base of the tower, or under the vestry. The pulpit was in its current position, but surrounded by pews.

The Victorian Renovation. The description of the work to be done reads, ‘ – to take down and remove the existing gallery and the staircase leading thereto and the whole of the floors paving pews seats and fittings of the said church and Chancel and entirely refloor repave reseat and refit the same’ --.

The Victorians removed everything which was in the church at that time, and replaced it. Their work is illustrated by the architects plan (Fig 2) and it is the seating which we have today.  The font is in its current position, the N vestry was constructed in place of the gallery, and there are pews in the north transept, and chancel.  

The 1880 faculty document gives an insight into their motivation.  This was to replace the family pews, each occupied only by one particular family, by open seating, all of which faced the altar, and all of which could be occupied by anyone.  This was a time when the landowners and important families in the village required their households to join them for worship each week.. 

With fewer practising worshippers these days, we have the freedom to worship in different styles and also to offer the church for community uses which are not possible elsewhere in the village.    

These were not the only changes to the seating, There were more just 30 years later, and more recently, which we will describe  in the next article, when we will also set out our ideas for seating and the rationale behind them.     

Mike Deeming, Malcolm Green, Richard Hood, Niels Kraunsoe, David Parkhouse. 

 Fig 1. Seating in the Church Prior to 1880


Seating before 1880 


 Fig. 2  Seating in the Church after the 1880 Reordering.

Seating after 1880