Restoration of the Shelburne Pew

Before Restoration

As part of the Big School renovations, the Estates Department undertook the ambitious feat of restoring the Shelburne Pew. We are incredibly fortunate in Estates to have the talent of our Maintenance Joiner, Mr Colin De’ath at our disposal, who, with our highly experienced carpenter Mr Kelvin Pearce to assist him, has restored the Shelburne Pew to the glorious centre piece it had once been.

To assume this impressive task, Colin recycled the teak wood from the original Big School pews, meaning that the Shelburne Pew is now steeped in School history with hundreds of years of Wycombe Abbey pupils having used the original pews for seating over the last 125 years.

This extensive and intricate work was achieved thanks to Colin’s commitment to the project and outstanding attention to detail, as well as undeniable craftsmanship of the highest order.

After Restoration

Different techniques were considered before the method of steam bending was chosen; steam bending was the most appropriate process as it exposes the wood to steam to render it pliable, meaning the heat and moisture from the steam softens the wood allowing it to be bent and stretched from straight timber, into the curvature of the Pew which, once cooled, hold perfect and precise shape, with no damage to the surface, leaving an elegant and smooth, classic façade. For reference, this process is used in the production of traditional wooden lacrosse sticks, musical instruments such as the violin and wooden furniture such as the Windsor chair.

Colin De’ath has been with us at the Abbey for 10 years and we are all in awe of his gift for the creation of oftentimes fine, bespoke pieces, no more so than with his most recent offering with the Shelburne Pew. He is a true master craftsman, and we are delighted to be able to share this with all of you.

The Shelburne Pew was built for John Petty, the 1st Earl of Shelburne in the 1700s. The Pew was originally placed above the chancel in All Saint’s Church but was moved to Wycombe Abbey by the Carrington family and placed in the ‘big room’, which is now Big School.

Bran Karavla
Facilities Manager

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