The old and new has come together at Bangor’s ancient Cathedral after traditional old oak pews have been replaced with brand new modern stackable furniture.
New lighter in weight and colour oak seating, as well as an altar table, lectern, reading desks, chairs for ministers, choir stalls, conductor’s stand and other tables have been installed in the sixth century Cathedral’s nave.
Public reaction to the change has so far been “very positive ” according to the Cathedral’s Reverend Canon Tracy Jones.
The Cathedral’s Canon for Congregational Life, said “Most people seem to like the change although some have said it will take them a little time to get used to the new pews. Our new pew benches are much lighter, safer and easier to move, and the design is more flexible for our modern needs.
“Being stackable, it means we have more room for our activities – the old pews, were over 100 years old, were really huge and heavy to move. They were coming to the end of their life and with bits dropping off and loose joints.
“The Cathedral is busy as a place of worship and with services but we also have musical and theatrical events, and we host lots of local groups and community activities. We are now better able to give more room to groups such as our Camau Bach toddlers’ group and others.”
Public donations have helped fund the new furniture which has been bespoke-made by London-based craftsman and designer, carpenter Luke Hughes.
He worked closely with a team from the Cathedral, who visited the capital to see examples of his work, and they were instrumental in the furniture design.
It has also been designed to reflect Bangor’s history and worship in the area over the centuries.
The Cathedral site is believed to have been used as a place of religious faith since it was founded by St Deiniol in the sixth century. When Deiniol established his cell in Bangor, believed to be around 525, Bangor was a fenced settlement
The new pew benches have high backs and deep seats, and include a bronze panel based on a hazel fence design.
“The new choir stalls are shaped like a fence, and the pews have a fence emblem at the back which ties in the history of the locality,” Canon Tracy added.
The new altar table has been designed like a carpenter’s table, a reference to Christ’s origins and Joseph’s profession. It also draws inspiration from traditional depictions of the Last Supper.
The altar-table also includes an inscription composed by Sion Aled, a Bangor born, Eisteddfod-crowned bard. The lighter brown colour of the furniture also matches the Cathedral’s rood screen.
The new furniture was installed before Easter.
Around two dozen of the post Victoirian pews have been sold off, but for every one removed two smaller, more modern, bench seats have been introduced.
On Good Friday, the Cathedral presented Alex Mills’s new composition, Saith Air y Groes – Seven Last Words from the Cross – performed by Saint Deiniol’s Cathedral Choir. It was the first ever Seven Last Words to be sung in Welsh.
Canon Tracy, said “We placed the new seating sideways on, with people looking towards each other, and we had candles all down the nave, it had quite an impact on everyone.”
The new furniture has yet to be costed and the revenue from the sale of the old pews is not known yet, but it is believed it will be used to help offset the cost.