HISTORY - 18th & 19th Centuries
During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, church life was generally at a low ebb in England.
At St Chad’s there was only one service a week, on Sunday evenings and Holy Communion was celebrated only three times a year There was no choir and the psalms were intoned by the clerk who sat in the bottom deck of a two-decker pulpit. St Chad’s only had a curate at this time who was responsible to the vicar of St Mary’s Church. He preached from the top deck of the pulpit after taking off his surplice and donning a black gown.
The congregation sat in high box-pews, which had seats on all four sides thus, some sat with their backs to the preacher. Each pew was occupied by members of a particular family who paid rent for it. The families would be shown to their pew by the official ‘Pew Opener’ who unlocked it for them. Those who could not afford a pew sat on benches placed down the central aisle. There are small holes in the nave pillars indicating where the box pews were fixed.
In 1840 it was found necessary to rebuild the north aisle. This was done in the Victorian ‘Gothic’ style, which makes an interesting contrast with the mediaeval Gothic of the south aisle. However, it was not until the Reverend John Graham’s time (1854—93) that major work was undertaken to restore the building to a sound condition.
Starting in 1862 the chancel and the chancel arch were thoroughly restored, the brick clerestory was removed from where it extended over the chancel and a new roof was constructed. The choir vestry was built and the churchyard was enclosed with a wall and railings. All this cost £7,200, a tremendous sum for the parish at that time.
John Graham’s next project was to build a rectory and so make the parish independent of St Mary’s. In so doing the incumbent was a rector in his own right.
The west window was restored in 1875 and central heating was installed. The box pews were gradually phased out, although a few remained until 1905 and the double-decker pulpit was replaced.