HC Deb 12 February 1836 vol 31 cc331-2
Mr. Wilks

presented a Petition from Dissenters of Great Marlow, against Church-rates, and stating some circumstances of peculiar and individual hardship.

Sir William Clayton

I support most cordially the prayer of the petition presented by the hon. Member for Boston. The House will, I trust, permit me to occupy their attention for a few moments on this subject, which, in point of fact, is not only interesting to every Dissenter, but to every member of the Established Church. In consequence of the especial directions of the Church authorities, an Act was passed for establishing a new church at Marlow. The trustees for carrying this Act into execution, of which I was one, frequently applied to the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester for pecuniary assistance, to enable them to proceed in the work. After repeated applications, the Dean and Chapter promised a donation of 30l. I must here beg to call the attention of the Government to the point at issue— a Government which I have for many years supported, because I have been convinced that their measures are founded on justice, liberality, and true Christian principles; I feel a confidence, therefore, that they will, in consequence, be of opinion that some remedy shall be immediately applied to the grievances of which complaint is so generally made throughout the kingdom. The Dean and Chapter of Gloucester receive 1,000l. per annum from the parish of Marlow in money, in the shape of tithes, out of which they pay the vicar 72l. per annum for the cure of nearly 7,000 souls. The parish, therefore, contributing thus largely towards the support of the Church Establishment, are now compelled by a church-rate, be it observed, under the power of the Act I have before alluded to, again to contribute, and that for forty years to come, an enormous sum towards the support of that Church which they consider the l,000l. per annum, which they pay to the Dean and Chapter should defray. This week a Church-rate has been called, equal in amount to two Poor-rates, and also one Poor-rate has been called. Thus the labourer who earns 9s. per week, rated at the lowest sum, will have to pay 8s. this week, viz. 5s. 4d. as Church-rate, and as Poor-rate 2s, 8d. Thus depriving him of the whole of his weekly earnings, and in fact bringing ruin into his family. To the agriculturist also it is a most severe impost; and in consequence very great discontent every where prevails, not only amongst my constituents but in very many parts of England. If an execution under a warrant from a magistrate takes place, no one will sell or buy: this has been the state of Ireland. As a sincere friend to the Protestant Established Church, I view this state of things with considerable apprehension, because I observe that it is working a certain overthrow. The Ecclesiastical revenue should be made to support the Church, and I think it is unjust that the people should be taxed twice over for the same purpose. I earnestly hope, therefore, that the Government will very soon take the whole matter into their serious consideration, and remove the very oppressive system which now exists.

Petition laid on the Table.

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