Wheely good idea brings church into heart of community

The pews have been put on wheels to create a community space after worship Credit: ITV West Country

What do you do when you've got a lovely church but not a lot of space and you're crying out for a church hall? You put the pews on wheels of course.

They're as easy to push as shopping trolleys and they've opened up a much needed space for the area, allowing community groups somewhere to congregate.

The Grade I-listed Church of St John the Baptist in Littlehempston now holds pilates and zumba classes, parish council meetings, birthdays, children's birthdays and village dinners.

We had a problem - we had no village hall, our pub was closed and we had maybe eight or 12 people coming on a Sunday on two Sunday's a month.

Former rector Nicholas Pearkes

It wasn't a cheap project though, as some of the old flags in the medieval church had to be replaced with a smoother surface, and underfloor heating was added - but that's perfect for a pilates class.

And that's just one of a number of events placing the church right back at the heart of a community.

Activities like pilates and community meals now take place in the open space Credit: ITV News

Lockable casters on the bottom of pews mean you can not only get married here, but also have your reception too.

Within minutes the nave can be transformed out of - and back into - a space for worship, as well as giving the church, and wider community, a socialising opportunity.

Credit: Church of St John the Baptist

The idea came from former rector Nicholas Pearkes who went to another local church and helped them install a portable kitchen.

It came about after fears St John's might close due to dwindling congregations.

But, with no community space the village decided to grasp the opportunity and put the church to good use.

They launched a campaign to raise the money needed – around £200 per pew – and installed the wheels.

The wheels on the pews Credit: ITV West Country

The church says it is returning the space to how it was used centuries ago - with a medieval screen dividing the public and holy space.

The church is now being visited by other parish leaders from around the country to see how they can copy the idea.

Credit: Church of St John the Baptist