Ancient pews are resurrected

Rev Diane Westmoreland with Rob Angus from Amble Coastal Rowing Club. They are pictured with one of the pews and the new skiff, which is under construction.
Rev Diane Westmoreland with Rob Angus from Amble Coastal Rowing Club. They are pictured with one of the pews and the new skiff, which is under construction.

Ten ancient pews which were removed from the back of a church will be given a new lease of life, as part of a community boat-building project.

The seats have been given to Amble Coastal Rowing Club (ACRC) by the town’s St Cuthbert’s Parish Church for a small donation.

The pews are believed to date back to 1870, when the church was built, and will be used as part of ACRC’s second skiff, which is under construction.

The items will be used as thwarts (seats), oars and foot rests and it is hoped that the new boat will be completed by Christmas, ready for next season.

Parts of the pews, made of pitch pine, have also been installed as foot rests in the club’s first skiff, Coquet Spirit, which was launched in 2014 and featured on Robson Green’s More Tales from Northumberland programme earlier this year.

As a special thank-you, ACRC will be making a wooden cross for the church from some of the timber from the pews.

Club chairman Rob Angus said: “We are a community-based club which aims to bring the people in Amble together and this an example of that. For me, using some of the pews as seating is particularly poignant.

“The pews had been in the church for many, many years. A lot of the members of our club are Amble born and bred and over the last 145 years members and their families have sat on these pews for some of the most emotional moments in their lives, such as weddings, christenings or funerals.

“So it is poignant that these pews are now going to be used in this way.”

The pews were removed from the church and had been housed in the nearby parish hall, before being given to the rowing club.

Rev Diane Westmoreland, from the church, said: “It is fantastic that the pews are being used in this way and it is an unexpected blessing. We would much rather them be used in this way than sell them off to a sale room or something like that.

“We took them out of the church on an experimental basis about 18 months or so ago and they went across to the parish hall.

“We decided as a church that we were happy with them out, as it gave more room at the back of the church, and now they have been given to the rowing club and it is very exciting and it all seems like it was meant to be.”

Rev Westmoreland, who blessed and launched Coquet Spirit in 2014, has been asked to do the same thing for the new skiff when it is ready.

For more information about ACRC, visit amblecoastalrowingclub.co.uk
A tale of 10 pews

Rev Diane Westmoreland has written a short story, from the pews’ point of view.

Once upon a time, not that long ago, 10 old wooden pews sat quietly at the back of St Cuthbert’s, Amble.

“Not many people sit on us,” said one. “No,” said another, “and when they do, they’re always complaining they can’t hear!”

“I wish we were really useful,” said another. “I’m fed up of people complaining we’re in the way.” The ten pews muttered at the back of church and felt unloved.

One bright morning, builders arrived and began to remove them from their places.

The old pews were already damaged by the heating pipes. Being taken out of their places really made them feel their age.

“Oooh, shrieked one, what’s happening?” Another shouted: “Where are we going?” Yet another asked: “Are we going to be useful again?” The pews made the short journey in the sunlight to the parish hall, where they sat around the walls, looking at each other.

“Fancy that!” said one. “What a surprise,” said another, “I never expected to be part of Pottergate Outreach.”

The 10 pews had a taste of new life for a while; they saw plays and films, eavesdropped on conversations, heard music and one longed to join the Zumba class. “Steady on,” said another. “We’re a lot more rickety than we used to be. I’m coming all to pieces underneath; it’s getting rather embarrassing!”

Just when they doubted they could cope with all this excitement, some new upholstered chairs were delivered. “Oo-er,” said one of the pews, “Look at that posh lot.”

“Oh dear,” said another. “It’ll be the scrap heap for us now. Just wait and see.” So they waited.

Sure enough, men came to take them away. But not to the scrap heap. They only went across the car park, to where Amble Coastal Rowing Club were building their new skiff.

“I can’t believe our luck!” said the back pew. “All those years serving the church folk, and just when I thought I was scrap, I’m going to be useful again!” “Why aye, man!” shouted another. “I can’t wait to be cut down to make a nice new thwart in that new skiff.”

The shortest pew of all, who was always the quietest, spoke at last and said: “Rob Angus says I’m going to be made into an oar! Just imagine that, cutting through that bright blue water, not a care in the world.”

“God has blessed us!” said the pews, “We’re not old pews anymore! We’re resurrected, to be new seats, new oars! New life everybody! New life!”