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A brief history of Church Furniture

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Is Britain still a Christian country? A 2012 opinion poll by YouGov suggested that a majority (56 per cent) believe that it is. But this is not reflected in our churchgoing habits: it’s reckoned that by 2020, around 4 per cent of the population (that’s less than three million) will be regular churchgoers. The number of regular Church of England worshippers recently dropped below 1 million. (In comparison, in 2001, 390,127 people listed their religion as Jedi on their census forms.)

However, some Catholic churches are seeing a rise in attendance thanks to the arrival of immigrant communities from countries such as Poland. And there are also a growing number British people who belong to the “British New Church Movement” – Pentecostal, charismatic and suchlike. So, while Christianity may be in decline, churchgoing will be with us for some time yet. And so, too, will churches. 

When churches were houses

The church buildings of today would be unrecognisable to churchgoers from a few centuries ago. For the first few centuries after the birth of Christ, churches were simply homes that had been adapted to become places of worship. One of the earliest known Christian churches, the Dura-Europos Church in Syria, was apparently a normal domestic house converted for Christian worship. And when Christians began building purpose-built churches, they were often very simple buildings with little or no furniture. Worshippers would stand during the service, often with the priest in the middle.

Around the 13th century, western churches began to introduce pews. These were made of stone and would be placed against the walls. By the 15th century, wooden pews had begun to appear. Often these were paid for by individuals and their families and were not owned by the churches. Wealthier churchgoers could buy seats that were more comfortable, more ornate, and situated where they would be seen by more people.

Then came a big change in church architecture and furniture: the Reformation. This emphasised the importance of the minister, the Bible and the sermon, with rows of seats or pews focusing on the raised pulpit, where the minister would read from the scriptures or deliver his homily. Nothing was hidden from view. This led to the model of church that many of us are now familiar with, many of which date back to the Victorian era.

More than a place of worship

More recently, churches have grown to become not just places of worship, but social centres too. This has been driven partly by necessity. Falling church revenues have driven a need to use church buildings more innovatively: as social centres, cafés, drop-in centres. A typical example would be in the plans that were published last year for All Saints Church in Little Bealings, Suffolk, to regenerate its buildings by opening a “hub” which would open for daily worship and also house a staffed café. Other proposals for the hub are for it to be used as a breakfast club for schoolchildren, as a space for toddler groups and for private venue hire.

St Luke's wedding reception

Open all hours

Churches around the country are now used for theatre productions, social functions, banqueting, classes and meetings, while also retaining their core purpose as places of worship. Some churches even host post offices. In many churches, smaller areas or rooms around the church have been equipped with kitchens, lavatories and so on, and furnished with chairs and tables, so that they can be used for group meetings, classes and to serve refreshments after church events such as Christenings.

The church hall is also a space that can be used flexibly throughout the week for a variety of community-based activities. Many of Britain’s estimated 25,000 choirs use churches and church halls for rehearsals and performances. The Church of England’s “Open and Sustainable” report contains many suggestions as to how churches can expand the use of their buildings; ideas include community banks, farmers’ markets, food banks and night shelters for the homeless. Many churches have found that by extending their opening hours rather than being locked up between services, they have reduced problems such as vandalism and theft.

So, an interesting picture is emerging of the church in the 21st century. On the one hand, the traditional role of the church as a place of once-a-week Sunday worship is vanishing. Instead, we are seeing churches and their associated buildings hosting all kinds of events, from yoga classes to concerts. St Luke’s Church in the City of London, for instance, is regularly used as a concert venue by players from the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as hosting functions such as wedding receptions. And the Union Chapel in north London is a working church that also hosts high-profile rock and folk music concerts as well as comedy nights. Perhaps most imaginatively, Holy Trinity church in Barnstaple has converted the inside of its tower into an indoor climbing wall.

Church furniture in the 21st century

What does this mean for furniture? In many older churches, traditional wooden pews are still in place and cannot be removed because they are fixed, or for reasons of heritage and aesthetics. Often, though, the nave is a flexible space that can be filled with church chairs or cleared if required. If it’s a space that is used for different purposes, it’s best that these chairs are stacking chairs. St Paul’s Cathedral in London, for instance, has used a design classic – David Rowland’s 40/4 stacking chair – since 1973 (the chair is so-called because 40 of them can be stacked just four feet high). But many other stacking chairs are available, such as Trent Furniture’s Cambridge Deluxe steel chair, which is available in a variety of finishes for both the metal frame and the upholstery fabric. Trent Furniture also supplies linking clips which will hold rows of chairs together in a neat line. These clips are easily removable if the chairs need to be moved away for stacking.

Stacking chairs at St Pauls Cathedral

Meanwhile there are other areas of a church and its associated buildings that might need furniture such as church tables. Reception areas, which are often used for social functions such as coffee mornings, can be furnished with sofas and armchairs as well as coffee tables. Many churches have a café area attached and these will need furnishing with chairs and tables – if there’s enough space, it might be advisable to opt for a mixture of high and low, with regular-height chairs and tables for those staying for a quick drink and a snack, and sofas/chairs and low coffee tables for those who are lingering for longer. If a church decides to host a farmers’ market, this will require tables, preferably ones that can be collapsed and stored away – Trent Furniture has a good choice of trestle tables. A community bank can be operated from a moveable counter (a trestle table will do the trick) that can be placed in a quiet corner to offer customers privacy. Church halls meanwhile need to be similarly flexible, with stacking chairs and perhaps folding tables to enable different activities. Churches that host events such as wedding receptions will require banqueting furniture – tables and chairs – that can be stacked away when not in use.

Churches go back to their roots

For some traditionally-minded churchgoers, the use of church buildings for secular events such as plays and concerts might seem somewhat sacrilegious. In fact, the idea of the church being used only for Christian worship is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating back to the 19th century. Back in the Middle Ages, churches were used as schools, libraries and courtrooms; they also hosted plays, debates, elections, festivities and other events. So, by expanding the range of activities they host, today’s churches are returning to their roles as multifunctional community centres.

A short guide to this years top furniture trends

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Furniture Trends 2018

If you are planning on revamping your bar or restaurant and need some interior decor or furniture advice then here is our quick look at the furniture trends tipped to be big for 2018!

We’ve seen the revival of retro style furniture in bars and the emergence of metallics combined with minimalist designs and natural materials but what is next in terms of bar furniture trends?

STYLE

As expected, the Vintage and Retro style of furniture is continuing to rise in popularity and it seems it’s here to stay in 2018. Think rustic wooden table tops with metal bases and seating in a vintage leather effect finish.  Mix and match different styles of chairs for a really eclectic look and feel that is totally unique. A combination of traditional wooden chairs with contemporary metal chairs is guaranteed to create a space full of character.

 

FINISHES

Next year we are set to see much warmer wood colours throughout commercial interiors and popularity is rising for rich dark oak furniture and more natural wood tones to sit side by side with trendy Scandinavian style that features plenty of white and grey painted finishes.  Expect to see a lot more of natural wood tones creating a stripped back style that compliments the elegance and character of vintage designs.  Combining different shades of wood is an easy way to add depth and character to any space and make your bar stand out from the crowd.

 

FABRICS

Although neutral tones like whites and greys will also still feature in fabrics for 2018, much bolder use of colour on furniture are set to be popular. Stay on trend with vibrant jewel tones like ruby red and emerald green in luxurious velvet and chenille materials. Feeling really bold? Opt for bright tropical fuscia pink or striking turquoise for an instant style injection on wooden framed furniture. Not for you? Go for more modest colours and choose a statement pattern such as monochrome dogtooth or tartan for an easy way to completely reinvent an otherwise ordinary style of chair or bench seating.

 

SHAPES

Furniture shapes are going to change this year with us seeing much more rounded and softer edges. Curved lines on sofas or turned legs on wooden chairs and stools adding interest to furniture and contrasting perfectly with edgier geometric accessories like industrial lighting and vintage décor that are set to continue dominating the interior design scene in 2018.

 

QUALITY

When buying furniture for your bar it’s important to get the aesthetics and styling right but what is equally as important is buying furniture that has been designed specifically for contract use. Your furniture should be an investment and domestic furniture just won’t cut it in a busy commercial environment.  Trent Furniture offers a huge range of furniture that is certified suitable for contract use with specific ranges designed specifically for bars and restaurants.

Manhattan or Chesterfield sofa?

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If this was a case of choosing between Manhattan and Chesterfield, for most, the choice would be relatively simple. Manhattan would nine times out of ten come out on top. That’s nothing against Chesterfield, it’s just that the draw of the Manhattan lights can be hard to resist for the majority. 

However, what’s slightly harder to decide on for café, pub and restaurant owners is the choice of sofa: a Manhattan sofa or Chesterfield sofa? 

Where do the names come from?

You’d think that if anyone would know then it would be Trent Furniture, but we don’t. In fact, no one does; not for sure, anyway. The research that we have done shows that there are plenty of possible scenarios for the naming of the Chesterfield sofa but our favourite explanation is to do with the 4th Earl of Chesterfield.  

Unfortunately, the same can be said for the Manhattan sofa. No one is actually quite sure where the name originates from. 

Chesterfield sofa

If you are looking to create a classy, stylish interior, adding a few Chesterfield sofas will work wonders. The Chesterfield-style sofa is an iconic piece of furniture and its classic design is a popular choice for bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels.

The luxurious appearance is created by the upholstered arms, thick foam, brown faux leather and buttonhole pattern. The detailing on the back and arms create a truly traditional feel and look which is unique to the Chesterfield.

Manhattan sofa

The Manhattan sofa range has increased in popularity over recent years. As such, it is now available in black and brown leather to match with your décor.  

Comfort is paramount for Manhattan sofas. The comfortable padded cushions and thick upholstery make the sofas the perfect addition to any casual dining and drinking area as customers can relax comfortably whilst enjoying a drink or a bite to eat with a low table such as the Rectangular Shaker coffee table

Which should you buy?

Both sofas offer ample seating for customers to relax in and are the perfect option for casual seating in a restaurant, waiting areas or hotels as well as being a great option for bars and pubs. Which you choose ultimately depends on the goal of your interior design. 

If you are looking to create an upmarket, classier interior, we would advise you side with the Chesterfield sofa. But if you are striving for a casual bar or restaurant, the comfort that the Manhattan sofa brings means that it’s hard to go against. 

Buying sofas

Both the Manhattan and Chesterfield sofas are available at Trent Furniture as an armchair, two-seater or three-seater sofa. Whichever sofa you chose, adding sofas helps to make customers feel at home and more likely to while the hours away in your café, bar or restaurant

How pubs and bars can embrace Dry January

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Dry January is a month-long health kick that sees individuals stop drinking alcohol for 31 days. It’s estimated that over five million people in the UK take part in Dry January every year. That’s a significant amount of people for pubs and bars to contend with loosing for a month. 

January is already notorious for being a difficult month for pubs and bars. People are still feeling the pinch from Christmas and plenty have New Year’s resolutions to save money or to lead a healthier lifestyle. 
With plenty of customers taking up dry January, too, how can pubs and bars appeal through January?

Support the campaign

One of the worst things that pubs and bars can do is to completely disregard the Dry January campaign. Show your support for the campaign by maybe collecting money for the charities that the cause supports. Whilst other pubs nearby you might not change anything, you can differentiate yourself by embracing the event and helping those who are taking part to achieve their goal.

Give them a reason to visit

It’s true that most associate a Dry January with a month that is dull and will mostly involve them sitting at home. Socialising in Britain often involves a pint or glass of wine in hand, but why not change that stigma?

By hosting events, you can coax the non-drinkers out of their home and bring some cheer to their quiet month. Quiz nights, games nights and entertainment are all ways of bringing a crowd in.  

Embrace their needs

Now, it’s likely that you’ll already have soft drinks on offer, but what sets you from the other cafes and bars that have exactly the same soft drinks? To maintain custom with those who are ceasing their alcohol intake, create alcohol-free cocktails, alternative soft drinks, artisan coffees and speciality teas. 

The best thing that you can do is to ask those who are taking part in Dry January what drinks they’d like you to serve. Be sure to promote your plans, too. There’s no use in investing in new stock if nobody knows it’s there. 

Improve your interior

To attract customers and keep them in your bar or pub for as long as possible, you need to have an appealing, cosy interior. With bad weather outside, throws, cushions, warm lighting will make people feel right at home. Browse our collection of bar furniture

Michelin pub of the year announced

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Michelin’s annual Pub of the Year for 2018 has been announced and it has been awarded to The Pointer, an 18th century pub in Brill, a village in Buckinghamshire. 

The charming pub beat of competition from 469 other venues across the UK to be bestowed with the accolade of Pub of the Year by Michelin's new Eating Out in Pubs guide 2018. 

The traditional red-brick inn sits in a picturesque English village. There is plenty of history behind the pub’s walls and legend has it that the Great Train Robbery was planned there. It was also where the stolen money was divided up, too.

Why did The Pointer win?

So, what was it that differentiated The Pointer from all of the other potential victors? The editor of the Michelin Eating Out in Pubs guide, Rebecca Burr, said: “Not only is it a delightful place, but it is exceedingly well run by a young, personable team. They really pay attention to detail and nothing is ever too much trouble for them.

“The frequently changing à la carte menu offers a good range of modern dishes. Presentation is first rate, refinement and precision are there in equal measure, and much use is made of organic ingredients from their farm.”

Food is very important in winning the Michelin award. Although paramount, the assessors look at much more than just the food. The award incorporates everything including food quality, atmosphere, drink offerings, service and interior décor. 

We can’t help you with all of these areas, but we can certainly help to improve your pub’s interior décor with our range of furniture. 

The Pointer’s interior

You can get a taste of The Pointer’s interior by looking at their Instagram page. In a nutshell, the interior décor is modern and unfussy. Although erring on the side of minimal, the pub has plenty of character, with several lounge areas warmed by open fires and an outside terrace and garden for sunnier days.

Buying pub furniture

At Trent Furniture, we have been working with pubs for many years. We know what lasts well and in what circumstances, as well as what fits best with a pub’s interior and existing atmosphere. 

For advice about which pub furniture would work best for your pub, give us a call on 0116 2986 866 or email us at sales@pubfurnitureuk.co.uk.

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