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"Churches as they were, and as they will be", illustration of church pews from Milford Malvoisin, or Pews and Pewholders (1842), by Francis Edward Paget

Pew rental emerged as a source of controversy in the 1840s and 1850s, especially in the Church of England. The legal status of pew rents was, in many cases, very questionable.[8] Further, it exacerbated a problem with a lack of accommodation in churches, that had been noted already in the 1810s, especially in London, and in particular by [8] Further, it exacerbated a problem with a lack of accommodation in churches, that had been noted already in the 1810s, especially in London, and in particular by Richard Yates in his pamphlet The Church in Danger (1815) with his estimate of over 950,000 people who could not worship in a parish church. St Philip's Clerkenwell, a Commissioners' church, was the first London church to break with pew rents.[9]

William James Conybeare commented on the pew system in his "Church Parties" article in the Edinburgh Review of 1853, stating that it was the Anglicans who had adopted the slogan "Equality within the House of God".[10] The early 19th century Commissioners' churches were only required to offer 20% free seating. Attitudes changed from the 1840s, with the High Church party turning against paid pews. By the 1860s and 1870s that view had become quite orthodox, and was supported vocally by Frederic William Farrar.[11]

William James Conybeare commented on the pew system in his "Church Parties" article in the Edinburgh Review of 1853, stating that it was the Anglicans who had adopted the slogan "Equality within the House of God".[10] The early 19th century Commissioners' churches were only required to offer 20% free seating. Attitudes changed from the 1840s, with the High Church party turning against paid pews. By the 1860s and 1870s that view had become quite orthodox, and was supported vocally by Frederic William Farrar.[11]

Many Anglo-Catholic parishes were founded at this time as "free and open churches" characterized by their lack of pew rentals.[12] In mid-century reforms, pews were on occasion removed from English churches in order to discourage rental practices. The Free and Open Church Association was founded in 1866 by Samuel Ralph Townshend Mayer.[13]