The Church of England has ruled that wooden pews can be replaced with padded chairs to accommodate elderly parishioners.
Churchgoers and residents in Gaulby, Leicestershire, came up against some staunch opposition as they campaigned to have the pews removed from St Peter's Church and exchange them for a more comfortable alternative. Local doctors backed the campaigners, insisting that padded seats would be better for the health of the elderly congregants, some of whom are in their 90s.
The Church Building Council, the Victorian Society, the Georgian Society Historic England and the Ancient Monument Society all objected to the plan and insisted that the seats should remain wooden and unpadded. They argued that padded seating would not be appropriate for the interior of a 16th century Grade II-listed church building.
The Chancellor of the Diocese of Leicester, Lyndsey de Mestre QC, disagreed. Her ruling, which was handed down at the Church of England's consistory court, suggested that hard-backed pews had restricted elderly people from attending church services.
She said: "The choice of chair has been arrived at following consultation with churchgoers and villagers, some of whom are medical practitioners working regularly with the age group whom this project will initially serve."