HC Deb 10 May 1824 vol 11 cc603-8
Sir George Hill,

on moving the second reading, said, that the bill had two objects. The first was to vest in the bishop, dean, mayor, and representatives of the city and county of Derry, subscriptions, which had been entered into, for the rebuilding of the spire, and repairing and embellishing the cathedral. The estimate of the expense of carrying this work into effect, was 5,000l. The bishop had subscribed 850l, the corporation 80l. per annum for ever; and the parishioners proposed to assess themselves, at vestry, in the sum of 60l. per annum, for 25 years; they having already, in part of the estimate of 5,000l., put a new roof upon the cathedral. The remainder of this sum was supplied by private subscriptions. The object of the bill was to vest the whole of these funds in trustees, to secure their care, application and the immediate execution of the plan. The second object of the bill was to create a permanent fund for the future maintenance of the cathedral. It did not appear that there was any fund at the disposal of the dean and chapter applicable to the cathedral. It was therefore proposed, by the bill, to charge the deacons of Derry, after the present incumbency, with an annual payment sufficient for that purpose. The anxiety to render the church not only fit for divine service, but to embellish it, and to rebuild the spire, was general. Good-will and co-operation existed locally to carry into effect the measure now proposed, which had for precedent a similar measure carried in the Irish parliament, for the cathedral of Down in 1791, and another for the cathedral of Litchfield in 1797.

Dr. Lushington

said, it was quite clear that since the erection of the cathedral there must have been some specific fund set apart for its repair, because it was impossible that it could have remained from that period up to the present, without receiving repairs. What, then, had become of that fund? Why should parliament be called on to furnish the means of repairing the cathedral, when it was clearly the duty of the bishop or the dean and chapter to do so? He defied the right hon. bart. to point out any instance in which parliament had been requested to tax the people at large for the sustentation of a church. The bishop had formerly built the spire. Now, it was clear, from this fact, that there was some regulation which bound him to do so; and the same regulation, he presumed, would apply to the repairs of the cathedral generally. He could not suppose that the building of the spire was a mere voluntary act. He could not suffer the onus of repairing the cathedral to be transferred from the dean and chapter, where it properly rested, to the shoulders of the people at large. Such was the criminal neglect of those under whose superintendence the cathedral was placed, that it was suffered to fall into decay, and the service, for two years, had been actually performed in the Presbyterian meeting-house. Nothing tended more to bring the clergy into disrepute, than their overlooking the repairs of places of worship. It was quite unworthy of their character. The bishop was bound to compel measures to be taken for the repair of the cathedral. A letter, written by an hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Dawson), on this subject, had been published in the newspapers. That letter contained an opinion which should have satisfied the promoters of the bill that it was an inexpedient measure, and ought to have induced them to abandon it. The sentiments expressed in that letter did credit to the feelings of the hon. writer. The whole of the bill was most obnoxious. He should therefore move as an amendment," that it be read a second time this day six months."

Alderman Wood

observed, that the Irish Society felt considerable objections to this measure. That society had been reproached for not advancing funds for the repairs of the cathedral, but they had no right to appropriate their funds to that purpose. A series of resolutions had been agreed to by the corporation of Derry, which reflected on the corporation of London and the Irish society. Those resolutions charged the corporation with holding estates, in perpetuity, to the amount of 8,000l. or 10,000l. a-year, and with laying out the money in eating and drinking. The fact, however, was different. The Irish society received, in perpetuity, 2,300l. a-year for property which was worth 20,000l. a-year. Almost the whole city of Londonderry, which belonged to the corporation of London, had been disposed of by very improvident persons, at a rate greatly below its true value. For his own part, he believed that some of their ancestors had received an Irish bribe. From the other leases, the Irish Society received 3,300l. These two sums of 2,300l. and 3,300l. were the total amount of their receipts, with the exception of the Fishery. It was let for 1,200l. a-year; but he could prove, that individuals at the present moment were willing to give 6,000l. a-year for it. The Irish society had, out of this income of 6,000l. a-year, built a school and rectory on the Coleraine estate.

Mr. S. Bourne

could not agree to es- tablish such a precedent as would unquestionably be established if this bill were agreed to. It was the duty of the dean and chapter to repair the church. That was the primary object for which their revenues were granted. He recollected, when part of the cathedral of Hereford fell down, that it was repaired without any application being made to parliament for assistance; and it was a well-known fact, that the dean and chapter of Winchester were spending thousands annually on the repairs of the cathedral. How was it proposed to carry on the repairs of the cathedral of Derry in future? Why, the expense was to be thrown on the successors of the present dean and chapter. This, he thought, was not a very decorous mode of proceeding. In his opinion, the dean and chapter were not entitled to touch a farthing of their revenues until the cathedral was repaired. If a precedent of this kind were once established, it would be the means of inducing deans and chapters to neglect the repairs of those magnificent pieces of architecture, to which they were paying so much attention at present.

Mr. Littleton

said, it was most disgraceful in those whose duty it was to repair the cathedral, to suffer it almost to fall, and then, with unblushing effrontery, to apply to parliament for assistance. The right hon. baronet had alluded to the cathedral of Lichfield; but the fact was, not only that bishop Cornwallis contributed to the repairs to almost the whole extent of his revenue, but that a great proportion of the chapter revenue, now and hereafter, was available for such repairs as were necessary. The dean and chapter of that cathedral would feel ashamed to come to parliament with such an application as the present.

Sir J. Newport

said, that in consequence of the carelessness of those who should keep those sacred edifices in repair, many of the most ancient of them had vanished. Funds which should have been applied to the repairs of cathedrals had too often been appropriated to purposes of private emolument; and then the House was called on to furnish money for repairs, because no inquiry was instituted as to what had become of those funds. Sums were levied on entire parishes for this purpose; but from those parochial proceedings the whole body of the Roman Catholics were excluded. They were liable to contribute their money; but they had no control whatever over the disbursement. It was a great hardship to throw the burthen of repairing a church on individuals who were of a different religion. It was a shame that, in so rich a diocess as Derry, it had become necessary to apply to the Presbyterian body for the use of their chapel. Gentlemen were taunted with entertaining a wish to degrade the church of Ireland; but, was it not degraded in the eyes of the community, by coming to parliament with such a demand as this?

Mr. Dawson

said, he feared the citizens of Derry would be left without a place of worship, unless the House came to "some prompt decision on this subject. At present, they had in fact no church; for it happened that the cathedral, which was in a dilapidated state, was the only church within the walls, and no service had been performed there for two years. The consequence was, that it was found necessary to apply to the Presbyterian congregation for the use of their chapel. The citizens were not able to repair the cathedral; and thus 7,000 or 8,000 people were without a regular place of worship. The difficulty of the case was, to devise some mode of giving them a church, without saddling them with the expense. A letter written by him had been alluded to. It was a letter written for a private and local purpose, and he was sorry that it had been published: but, as it had been given to the public, he was prepared to support the opinions therein stated. He thought the revenues of the church should, when it was necessary, be applied to the purpose of repairs. That this was not done, in the present case, was the more extraordinary, as the riches of that diocess were notorious. He concurred in the sentiments which had fallen from gentlemen. He trusted those sentiments would bring the dean and chapter to a proper sense of their duty. The intention of the bill was, to make the parishioners liable for present and future repairs; and he could wish, whether it was agreed to or not, that the House would take some step to see this ancient edifice put into repair.

Mr. Plunkett

expressed his entire concurrence in the opinions of the hon. members The church of Ireland ought to be vindicated from any participation in a measure of this kind. He was glad to have that opportunity of rendering justice to the bishop of Derry. It was but justice to say, that there was not an individual who was more regardless of private interest, or who delighted more in works of charity and benevolence. He (Mr. P.) thought it was a most improper thing, that those economy funds, as they were called, were not sought after, and properly bestowed. Those funds, he believed, were frequently misappropriated. No person could do the church greater service at the present moment, than by showing the clergy the necessity of entrenching themselves on public opinion by their good conduct.

Sir George Hill

expressed his deep regret, that a measure which he had prepared in consequence of the unanimous vote of vestry, and a liberal grant of the corporation supported by a petition from the bishop, dean, chief magistrate, and principal inhabitants of Derry, and intended to accomplish so excellent and so necessary an object, should meet with such discouragement from the House as to prevent him from persevering in it. It was now clear, that the House disapproved of the measure, from an impression that the clergy had not done their duty. The occupation of some other place of worship than the cathedral could not be avoided, whilst the parishioners were putting on a new roof. The dean, who was a zealous, charitable divine, and constantly resident, was liable in this respect to no reproach. It having been believed, that Derry cathedral had no economy fund, and was no more than any other parish church in the diocess, this measure of creating one was resorted to. The diocess of Derry presented a body of clergy, not merely irreproachable, but, by their conscientious discharge of their professional duties, entitled to his humble praise. He did not believe there was in the whole diocess a single non-resident. With these explanations he would withdraw his motion.

The bill was withdrawn.