Bloxham Vicar relieved pews ordeal can be put to rest

St. Mary's Church, Bloxham.
St. Mary's Church, Bloxham.

A vicar is relieved an ordeal over the removal of a number of hazardous pews from his historic church 12 years ago is finally over.

A Diocese of Oxford consistory court gave retrospective permission for seven pews to be removed from St Mary’s Church in Bloxham at a hearing on May 22.

The seats were taken out in 2006, according to Rev Dale Gingrich but the court document says it was in 2011, to make space for a display and children’s play area in the Grade 1-listed building.

Diocese deputy chancellor Christopher Rogers described the decision as ‘highly unfortunate, to put it mildly’ but deemed it to be justified.

Rev Dale Gingrich said: “We were sort of pulling our hair out as they wanted to see a statement of purposes and plans for the church.

“We have future plans for reorganising the church which may include removing other pews.

“But this is something which happened 12 years ago in 2006 which should have been adequate evidence that we needed to move on from that.”

The pews have been stored in a barn in South Newington since they were removed because they were falling apart, riddled with woodworm and gave people splinters, Mr Gingrich said.

He added the diocese ‘made quite a fuss’ over the pews but apparently the archdeacon gave permission for them to be removed at the time, but it was never written down.

So they needed permission from the court, which decided ‘the harm caused to the church’s architectural and historical significance is outweighed by the resulting public benefit’, a position supported by Historic England.

Mr Gingrich said: “It seemed like a no-brainer to us but they came to the same conclusion eventually.”