Antiques of all shapes and sizes find their way to Railton’s saleroom in Wooler, but the highlight due to go under the hammer on Saturday 10th October is truly majestic in both size and provenance. A genuine slice of Scottish architectural heritage is up for grabs in seven lots, numbers 233 – 239. Together the carved oak crest, doors, seats and columns make up the ‘The Victoria Pew’, also known as the ‘The Royal Pew’ or ‘The Sovereign Pew’ which formerly graced the interior of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh for 138 years. However, the monarch for whom it was made ‘was not amused’ and the Gothic style pew never found royal favour!
In 1872, Edinburgh Provost, William Chambers, began a programme or renovations to restore St Giles Cathedral to its pre-Reformation state. In 1560 it had been split into 4 independent churches, each with an independent minister, of which the East Church or former Medieval Choir was the most venerable. Designed in 1872/73 by architect William Hay, ‘The Victoria Pew’ was designed to replace the existing monarch’s pew which had stood there. Carved in oak it was manufactured by Taylor & Sons, joiners in Princes Street in the late Gothic style. The pew was initially positioned facing East against a remaining part of a dividing wall. It would not remain here long, however, and in 1878 was removed altogether as further renovations saw the wall to which it had been attached removed.
A completely new Royal Pew was commissioned, and the original, following extensive remodelling was finally repositioned at the West entrance where it served as a vestibule. The monarch’s central chair was replaced by a pair of large double doors (Lot 234) with the Royal Crest above (Lot 233) to provide a processional entry. The huge doors were flanked by the remaining seats (Lot 235) with a carved sectioned canopy above and behind (Lots 236 & 237). The vestibule had two further sets of side doors with glazed panels (Lots 238 & 239) which provided entrances to the north and south.
The poor old pew did not find favour here either as the vestibule it now provided was thought to be gloomy. It was finally replaced by new glass panels in 2010. It is believed that 90% of the vestibule removed from the Cathedral is present and makes up the seven lots for sale.
Suitable for an ambitious large-scale renovation or to recreate a set worthy of Harry Potter, the sale represents an extraordinary opportunity for someone to acquire some fabulous architectural oak pieces with royal provenance included in the price!