Buying a Church Pew - 1857

Location. Location. Location. That is always important in business. In the past, it could be important in religious matters too.

This is a legal indenture for ownership of Pew 15 on the north side of the aisle on the north side of St. George's Church in St. Catharines. In 1857, Thomas Helliwell purchased this pew for him and his heirs for £50. That would be about $2500 today. The deed was signed by the Helliwells, the rector Abraham Atkinson, and church wardens Henry Goodman and William Hamilton Merritt. In 1880, the Helliwell's sold the pew to Samuel Woodruff for $200.

In the past, churches of several denominations allowed pew sales and rentals to help fund the congregation. Often the best seats went to the most affluent members of the church for a higher cost and became symbols of social stature. By the mid-twentieth century, most churches did away with this practice.

This indenture can be found in the Woodruff Family Collection in the Brock University Archives.

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