There aren't too many box pews left in churches today. Most date from the 16th to 19th century and were designed to give privacy to worshippers. Sometimes they contained tables, fireplaces, windows, curtains etc. and sometimes they were available to rent. Here are some pale and beautiful examples at St Stephen's, Fylingdales, near Whitby.
I was reminded of this type of church interior when hunting for a great, great uncle on Ancestry.co.uk the other day. This useful resource can often provide an interesting history lesson (not to mention a wonderful collection of unusual names - my favourite to date is Eglantine Thonger.)
I was looking at this particular 1871 Berkshire census page and discovered a really useful occupation for a lady of a certain age:
Here she is among the scholars, the carpenters and the under gardeners - Harriet Boult, aged 62, Church Pew Opener!
Those were the days, no need for an over-60s lady (with no pension) to worry about gainful employment. Her duty was to unlock private pews when required by their owners, while sometimes making extra money by renting out empty pews.
My great grandmother had another good idea; widowed at 60, she started up a servant's registry office - matching servants to employers. The responsibility for angry, mis-matched pairs would be just too much for me!
At the moment, of course, buying and selling the quaint & the curious keeps me busy - and I PROMISE I'm not "a duffer", the Victorian name for a pedlar of cheap and rubbishy goods.
But if I ever do need a gentler occupation, church pew opening sounds like a doddle to me...
..."this way, Sir!"