b'Pew DisputeKate PrattThe heading from one of the documents consultedshows how difficult it is to decipher them. You might just spot the names of Sir William Hildyard and Hugh Bethell gent.Background Institute at York University and at the Brynmor Jones F rom the 15th century benches were occasionallyLibrary at Hull University 3 . The dispute was between introduced into churches, but before that thereSir William Hildyard of Bishop Wilton and Hugh Bethell was only a rush-strewn open space for standing orof Rise and Grays Inn, who had been left the Manor of kneeling, with perhaps stone seating along the wallsBelthorpe in 1612 by his uncle, Sir Hugh Bethell. The or around pillars for the old and infirm (remember thewhole affair might seem like a storm in a teacup, but it saying let the weakest go to the wall?) represented a struggle for social supremacy, the right The introduction of wooden seats for theto be recognized as the first family of Bishop Wilton. congregation seems to have originated with patronsSir William Hildyard had fairly recently come by the specially equipping their own chantries and chapels.Manor of Bishop Wilton through his father, and would Initially the seats would only be for women and thehave felt slighted that he only had the right to sit in the sick, but gradually charges started to be instituted,body of the church, not the grand Belthorpe Aisle.and also social gradation, as the best seats wouldHildyard vs Bethell, 1613/14cost the most. Allotments were made to variousThe facts from the documents of 1613-1614 seem owners of manors and farms, and next to otherto be these.Long beyond the memory of any man parishioners according to the amount of levy paid, men and women being placed separately 1 . As canliving, the Lords of the Manor of Belthorpe did erect be imagined this policy led to many disputes, oftenand build an aisle in the North side of the church of both verbal and violent, as those who were advancingBishop Wilton and glassed the windows thereof, as in the social scale attempted to obtain the advantagethey continued to do, and did adorn it with their coat over older established families 2 .of arms namely the black ravens and did bury their Bishop Wiltons very own Pew Dispute must havedead there. The right to sit, stand, kneel and hear been a great event in the village; not the event itselfsermons in this Aisle belonged solely to the owner or so much as the ensuing legal investigation whichoccupier of Belthorpe, who paid the church dues for lasted for well over a year, leaving a large number ofthat right. About 60 years ago in the time of Queen documents which are located both in the BorthwickMary [ie the 1550s], the priest who served at the Church and was also the schoolmaster used to sit 1Alfred Heales, The History and Law of Church seats or pews, 1872, p932John Addy, Assault and Battery in North Yorkshire Pews, 1999, p13Borthwick Institute Ref: D/C C.P. 1613/3, and at the Brynmor Jones Library at Hull University Ref:DDSY/4BULLETIN 17 341'