When the Rev Samuel Wesley arrived at St Andrew’s Church towards the end of the 17th Century, so began a turbulent relationship with his local community.
The father of Methodist founders John and Charles Wesley was not warmly received by parishioners thanks to his high-church liturgies, academic proclivities and loyalist Tory politics. In 1709 his parsonage was destroyed by fire, although he stayed at the church until 1735.
Nearly three hundred years later, the historic church in Epworth, near Doncaster, which is said to date back to the 12th Century, has undergone a £700,000 restoration project, with independent furniture and kitchen manufacturer Treske playing a leading role in its renaissance.
The Thirsk-based firm, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, was chosen to provide new oak seating, to replace the old pine pews, as well as a new oak kitchen and server and a custom-made chair store.
In addition, the company’s joiners made oak doors for the north and south naves and a welcome desk, book storage and an oak and rope barrier. The company also manufactured a display cupboard for heritage tiles, fitted to a sloping wall in the nave, as well as covers for the heating units so they looked like nave furniture.
Managing director Justin Bartlett said: “We were absolutely delighted with the result and now, with all the other external and internal improvements, St Andrew’s has been restored to its former glory. It looks splendid.”
Treske has created a name for itself as a church furniture manufacturer, with contracts including work at Ripon Cathedral, St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London.
The company also receives unusual requests. During one project, joiners transformed an old pulpit into a sound desk for a church. Mr Bartlett said: “It was very ornate and not part of the new scheme so we changed it into something that was useful without losing its heritage.”
The company, which was founded by John Gormley, the elder brother of sculptor Anthony Gormley, has three divisions: domestic furniture, kitchens and church furniture.
The company has also won contracts with Oxford University to make bedroom furniture, including desks and bedside cabinets, for some of its colleges, including Christchurch College.
The company is growing. It has a £1.6m turnover, 27 staff and recently invested £200,000 in extending and updating its showroom area to house everything under one roof. Previously, it had to rent storage space to house its wood two miles away in Topcliffe.
Mr Bartlett said: “We are having a general smartening up of the site. It’s important to become somewhere people want to go to.
“The showroom is more aspirational now and better reflects what we do. The people who come to us want something of quality that is going to last. All our furniture is made to order.”
He added: “We don’t compete in the popular and fashionable markets because we are more niche and our customers are looking for something more traditional and substantial.”
Treske makes most of its furniture in oak but also gets requests for other wood such as maple, ash and walnut.
For more complicated projects, the company teams up with other specialists, such as metal workers.
Mr Bartlett said: “We are lucky in this region having a lot of quality craftsmen who do complementary trades that we can use.”
He added the company has found it tough over the last five years but it started to grow again at the beginning of last year and started to invest again. “We’ve ridden the recession out because we have had three markets,” he said. “If one market has dipped, the others have taken over.”
He added: “The churches side has been very constant because they tend to be long-term projects and they don’t obey normal economic rules.”
The company has also started exporting and has sent its furniture to mainland Europe and Japan. It is currently working on several projects in countries outside the EU.
“The export side is an area we will concentrate on from the end of the year but our priority at the moment is to upgrade our online presence and reinforce that with the new showroom,” Mr Bartlett said.