Disappearing pews

Ledger stones on the floor are being revealed for the first time in 150 years.

More evidence today of the continuing work underway in Bath Abbey as part of the multi-million pound Footprint Project to stabilised the church floor and improve facilities for staff and visitors.

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The start of the work on the south side of the nave where quite a few pews have already been taken out.

On the south side of the nave, the pews are starting to be lifted and taken away – exposing the memorial stones underneath for the first time in over 150 years.

The work – of course – follows an ecclesiastical ‘court-room’ drama in which the Victorian Society opposed the removal of the pews – arguing that the Abbey displayed an impressive set of Sir George Gilbert Scott church furniture.

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Ledger stones on the floor are being revealed for the first time in 150 years.

Having lost their ‘action’ today’s small ‘demolition’ is the first evidence of the second stage of the work which is expected to last for another two years.

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Looking down towards the west end.

The memorial – or ledger – stones beneath will be taken up and the floor stabilised before under floor heating is installed and the stones re-laid.

The heating is coming via the city’s amazing hot springs and the church interior will be without pews in the nave when the work is finished.

The stone conservation work is being carried out by stone conservators working for Sally Strachey Historic Conservation.

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Stone conservator, Lee Hargreaves at work on the wall-mounted memorial.

I bumped into Lee Hargreaves working on a different and highly delicate project. A memorial on the wall was recently recognised by a Canadian visitor as a member of her family and she is paying for it to be restored.

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It’s detailed and it’s cold in the Abbey for such intricate work and a steady hand.

Lee – very carefully – is outlining the faded lettering in new black paint.

At the east end – behind the screens – other conservators have started to re-lay the memorial stones that were originally lifted. Many of these have been repaired and restored whilst in storage.

Meanwhile l am hearing not everyone in the congregation is too happy with the pews starting to disappear in mid-winter.

The wooden platforms on which they stand are also being taken up leaving a cold stone floor. I am told condensation has also been a problem with people slipping on the ledgers.