In 1878, All Saints’ year-end accounts record $679.32 in receipts for pew rental. (Sunday offering that year totalled $757.57 and the clergy stipend was $823.00.)
In the early days of the Church, prominent families paid cash for the privilege of occupying the same pew each Sunday. Unassigned pews were available for use by the unpaying ‘rabble,’ but the choice pews, in terms of visibility and confirmation of socio-economic status, were at the front. Trespassers in reserved pews could be escorted out by churchwardens.
Most churches gave up pew rental in the late 1800s; we don’t know when exactly in All Saints’ case. The practice was controversial and contradictory to the fundamental truth that we are all equal within God’s house. Of course, the fact that we don’t charge for reserved pews doesn’t mean members don’t have preferred locations. Many of us can be found in the same pews in the same locations every Sunday. But even so, no one is getting sent to the back or squeezed out.
~Bertie Weatherbottom, Notes & Queries Reporter for the 150th