HC Deb 05 March 1824 vol 10 cc729-31
Sir John Newport

presented a Petition from the parish of Devenish, in the county of Fermanagh, complaining that its parishioners had been long inconvenienced for the want of a Church. That parish comprehended one hundred and thirty heads of families, all Protestants, and yet was deprived of a place of worship. Formerly there had been a chapel of ease, but the ground on which it stood became the object of a Chancery suit, on which there was now an appeal depending. The rector under these circumstances felt it much more convenient not to take any step towards a remedy, as he had no curate to pay. The petitioners, therefore, prayed that a grant might be made out of the First-Fruits Fund for the purpose of erecting a Church. He also held in his hand a number of petitions, all complaining of the same grievances, and seeking the same protection from the House. The petitions were from a number of parishes in the south of Ireland against the introduction of any compulsory clause in the Tithe-composition law. In some of these parishes, there was no church at all, in others the churches had been suffered to fall into decay and in many there neither was nor had been a resident rector. One of those parishes, in which there was no church, consisted of 13,000 statute acres, and it had been united to two others of larger extent. The petitioners declared, that they saw nothing of the rector, and knew of his existence, or of the church establishment itself, only by the demand of his tithe-procter for the tithe. They therefore petitioned the House against any compulsory enactment, by which a tithe average would be taken for above the present price of produce. In the parish of Ballylough, the rector, Dr. Woodward, demanded from his parishioners a sum of 2,000l. a year, in lieu of compensation for his tithes. To this agreement the parishioners refused to accede and it had been stated to him (sir J. N.), from authority of the most respectable character, that the said rector had himself admitted, that in the year 1809, he had let his tithes to a Mr. Montgomery at 1600l. per annum, and that the proctor lost 200l. by the contract. That was in the year 1809, when all the articles of agricultural produce were much higher than at the present time. The petitioners therefore prayed the House, that they should not be exposed by any compulsion to such arrangements; for, bad and mischievous as was the payment of tithes in kind, it was still preferable to a system of averages so far above the value of present prices.

Mr. Goulburn

said, it was not to be expected that he should be prepared to meet every individual case that was offered by hon. members. He still, in reference to the observations of the right hon. baronet, felt himelf bound to say, that there was not in Ireland a more worthy, excellent, or scrupulous clergyman than Dr. Wood- ward. All he (Mr. Goulburn) begged of the House at present was, that they would suspend their judgment on the statement which the right hon. baronet had made.

Mr. Dawson

bore his testimony also to the excellent character of Dr. Woodward. He was an English gentleman possessed of property in his own country; but he preferred for the purpose of doing good to reside on his living in Ireland.

Sir J. Newport

said, he was not in the habit of indulging in statements without inquiring into the grounds upon which they were founded. His authority for stating to the House what he had felt it his duty to offer respecting Dr. Woodward, rested upon a communication that he had received from a peer of parliament, who was himself present at the meeting of the parishioners and who had authenticated every part of it. He should therefore have felt that he had derogated from the line of his duty, if he had hesitated to present petitions, or to enter upon the explanation he had done under such unquestionable authority.

Ordered to lie on the table.

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