The Victorian Society have applied to appeal against the recent judgement in favour of permanently removing the historic nave pews from Bath Abbey.
Late last year, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Bath and Wells granted permission for Bath Abbey to remove the Victorian pews from the abbey nave as part of their multi-million pound ‘Footprint’ project.
The pews were designed by renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott and are an almost complete set, unusual for churches of this size.
The Victorian Society believes the permanent removal of the Gilbert Scott pews is unnecessary and would harm the significance of the Grade I-listed building.
It objected to the plans when they were first issued and eventually became party opponents at the Consistory Court hearing which took place within the abbey in October 2017.
Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: “We were disappointed with the Chancellor’s decision to allow the pews to be removed, but believe we have strong grounds to appeal against the judgement.
“We are continuing to fight against a decision which we believe would cause significant harm to an outstanding listed building.”
Bath Abbey’s ‘Footprint’ project involves the removal of the Gilbert Scott pews from the nave and aisles in order to install contemporary underfloor heating.
The Victorian Society is objecting to the abbey’s plans to make that removal permanent, and to instead replace the pews with new seating.
The pews were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who was one of the Victorian era’s most celebrated architects, and is best known for designing London’s St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial.
His major restoration of Bath Abbey in 1859-74 was intended to ‘complete’ the church as it would have been if the Reformation had not stopped its construction.
The nave pews, which would be lost if this scheme is permitted, are unique to the abbey and are excellent examples of Scott’s work, each one modelled on those in other 16th century Somerset churches.
James Hughes, Churches Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, said: “We received significant public support for our campaign to save the Gilbert Scott pews, including over 1500 signatures on our online petition and dozens of comments and letters from the public expressing outrage that they may be lost forever.
“There is clearly strong feeling, from the general public and Bath residents alike, that the pews are irreplaceable and significant to the historic and architectural importance of the Abbey.”
Following the decision last year, Revd Edward Mason of Bath Abbey said: “We strongly believe in the benefits of removing the pews. It will enable us to open up the Abbey’s nave and side aisles to all and make it possible for people of different physical ability to sit where they choose.
“Stackable chairs mean that the nave can be used for a wide variety of traditional and contemporary worship and restore the Abbey to the community use for which it was first designed.”
“It will also mean that for the first time in over 150 years, hundreds of the Abbey’s historic ledger stones, previously hidden beneath the pews, will once again be seen, revealing a whole layer of 17th and 18th century ancestry and heritage.”
Revd Mason continued: “We are aware that change to a historic and much-loved building like the Abbey can be difficult to understand and can provoke strong reactions.
“However, we have had considerable support for this change from the local community and honestly believe that freeing the nave of pews will greatly benefit the hundreds of thousands that come into the Abbey every year.”