HC Deb 20 July 1835 vol 29 cc730-2
Lord Ebrington

presented a Petition from certain occupiers of land of the Parish of Castle Moreton, in the county of Worcester, complaining of certain proceedings taken against them by the D[...]n and Chapter of Westminster, as lords of the manor there. The Petitioners stated, that for the purpose of enforcing (the Dean and Chapter's) manorial rights, they had by their agent served upwards of an hundred ejectments for the removal of the Petitioners from certain cottages occupied by them, and which had been erected upon grounds heretofore waste, many of which had been held by the petitioners and their predecessors for periods varying from twenty and sixty to a hundred years, upon all of which great improvements had been made by the occupiers, who fully relied upon the validity of their title, and that many of those cottages and pieces of land had been duly transferred by sale and purchase. The petitioners slated, that, in many instances, the purchasers of those premises took them under the idea that the sale was perfect, and had, in consequence, expended sums of money on their improvement, but that now the Dean and Chapter of Westminster came forward as lords of the manor, claiming them as their property, on the plea that nullum tempus occurrit ecclesiæ. The petitioners, after detailing a variety of circumstances connected with their case, stated that many of them, through the threats of the agent of the Dean and Chapter, had been forced to accept leases for lives, or for short terms of years. The petitioners represented their great poverty to the House—stated that, in the instances of many of them, these premises constituted their whole property, and complained of the extreme hardship to which they had been exposed. He (Lord Ebrington) had no local knowledge of, or connexion with, this place; but that the petitioners were in a very humble station of life was evident from the fact, that a great number of them signed by their marks. Since this Petition had been put into his hand, he had inquired into the correctness of the allegations contained in it, and he would state, upon authority that he fully relied on, that the whole of those allegations were substantially correct and true. In confirmation of the statements made by the Petitioners, he might mention that, in the year 1830, an action was brought by the Dean and Chapter against Lord Somers, for the recovery of a portion of this waste, which had been inclosed by an ancestor of his fifty years ago. Lord Somers offered to throw the land into waste again for the use of the commoners, but the Dean and Chapter refused to accept such terms, and claimed it as their freehold. Lord Somers, in order to try the question, defended the action, but he was cast after an expense of 400l. After this decision, it was considered vain by the poor petitioners to attempt to defend their right. The consequence was, that a great number of them had to become tenants of the Dean and Chapter. He would only say, that, by all persons locally connected with this place with whom he had had an opportunity of communicating, this proceeding on the part of the Dean and Chapter was considered a harsh one. He could not help expressing his regret that this privilege insisted upon by the Church, in this instance, should still exist. The House, of course, had no power of applying a remedy in this case, in which the letter of the law was certainly against the petitioners, but he trusted that, in the next Session of Parliament, the law would be altered, and that the Church would no longer possess this odious privilege against prescriptive right.

Major Beauclerk

said, that this was only one out of 10,000 cases that existed throughout the country. He did not throw any blame on the clergy for them, but he thought that the Legislature should lose no time in limiting the privilege of the Church in this respect, in the same manner as that of the Crown had been limited.

Mr. Robinson

supported the petition. The case appeared to him to be one of extreme hardship. He did not expect that the Clergy would forego their rights, but they ought to exhibit more forbearance towards the poor.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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