HC Deb 14 June 1850 vol 111 cc1283-92

Order for Committee read.

Clauses from 54 to 63 were agreed to.

Clause 64.


begged to substitute the following:— And be it enacted, that the said board shall from time to time be assessed or rated to all county, parochial, or other local rates, for or in respect of any burial ground provided under this Act, and any building or place of burial therein, or other lands acquired by them for the purposes of this Act, in such and the same proportion as, but not at any higher value or improved rate than other lands lying near or adjacent thereto, are or shall, for the time being, be rated at, and as the lands to be so required and taken by the said board, would have been assessable or rateable in case the same lands had continued in their former state, and had not been acquired and used by the said board for the purposes of this Act.


had no objection to the provisions, as he found they were inserted in most Cemetery Acts.

Clause agreed to.

The remaining Clauses agreed to, as were also the schedules.


rose, pursuant to notice, to move the addition of three clauses: the first, giving power to overseers to charge in their accounts the costs they may incur for the conveyance of the corpses of paupers dying within their parishes to any cemetery appointed under this Act. The second gave power to the Board of Health to enter into any contract with any railway company for the carrying out of corpses in properly constructed carriages to cemeteries; and the third giving power to directors of railway companies to make such contracts, and making the contracts binding on future directors.


said, he would effect the object of the first clause, by introducing a few words on the bringing up of the report.


said, he wished to make an attempt to obtain from Government information as to the mode intended to be adopted for the removal of corpses. If they allowed corpses to be carried by water they might propagate disease and contagion, for it had been observed that the cholera and infectious diseases followed the courses of rivers. He hoped Government would state the general mode to be followed of removing bodies from the metropolis. He suggested that the duty on horses should not be charged in respect of horses used by undertakers.


said, he could give no opinion as to the post-horse duty. With regard to the question of his noble Friend, the conveyance of the corpses would be included in the contract; but he could not say whether the corpses would be all carried by water. There was at present no prescribed mode. He had no doubt that the clause proposed would facilitate the cheap carriage of bodies to the cemeteries, and he felt no objection to it or the similar clause moved by the hon. Member.


asked whether it was intended to have one large cemetery for London, or several?


said, it would be clearly impossible to have one cemetery for the whole of the metropolis. As yet there had been no selection of cemeteries. It was an open question to be decided by the board when constituted, but it was under-Stood that the existing cemeteries would be made available for the purposes of the Act as far as possible.


said, he wished to know whether there was to be a separate cemetery for Her Majesty's Government; and if that cemetery was to be paid for out of the public purse?

Clause agreed to.


proposed a clause authorising the board to pay compensation to owners and occupiers of land near or adjoining to lands taken, in the manner provided by the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act.


objected to the clause, as, if it were adopted, owners at a distance from the lands taken might consider themselves aggrieved, and demand compensation.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read the First Time."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 180: Majority 161.

The ATTORNEY GENERAL moved the following Clause:— And be it enacted, that the salary of the additional member of such board, to be appointed and fixed as aforesaid, shall not exceed the annual sum of 1,500l., and shall be defrayed out of the fees and sums received by the said board under this Act.


thought 1,200l. a sufficient salary for the new officer.


believed that the office was to be created only for the purpose of placing patronage at the disposal of the Government. Ministers had been asked repeatedly who was to fill the office, but had never answered the question. Hon. Members could draw their own conclusions from that circumstance.


thought it unreasonable to expect that the Bill could be carried into effect without the assistance of another paid officer, there being at present only one.


said, that the taxpayers would not like the additional burden thrown upon them by the Bill. He should move that the salary be only 1,000l. a year.


assured the Committee that the charge made against the Government of seeking patronage under this Bill was unfounded. The proposition which the Board of Health originally submitted to the Government was, that a distinct Commission to consist of four paid members, should be established. The Government said, they were unwilling to extend the number of paid Commissioners, and expressed a hope that the Board of Health, with some assistance, would be able to discharge the functions the Bill would impose upon them. An idea, he understood, prevailed, that the office of paid member of the board was destined for him. The notion was completely unfounded. It was his happiness to have served the public without remuneration, and it was his intention to continue in that course so long as he was allowed to do so. His experience of the working of the board satisfied him that additional assistance was necessary. It was impossible the board could go on with its present staff, even if no additional duties should be thrown upon it.


did not dispute the necessity of appointing another paid member to the board; he merely objected to the amount of salary proposed to be given him.


said, that a salary of 1,000l. was enough, and more than enough, in these times.


said, he could not state who was to fill the office, because he did not at present know. As to the salary, he would not object to fix it at the sum suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for North Essex—namely, 1,200l.


thought the House ought to act consistently with respect to salaries. It had recently been determined that a dean should receive no more than 1,000l. a year. Surely that which we thought enough for a dean ought to satisfy a member of the Board of Health.


would support the hon. Alderman if he divided. It had been considered the other evening that 1,000l. a year was enough for a dean, who was to superintend the living; and if so, 1,000l. a year was enough for a commissioner to superintend the dead.

The Amendment proposed by Mr. Alderman SIDNEY was withdrawn, the words "twelve hundred pounds" were inserted, and the clause, so amended, agreed to.


then moved the following Clause:— That no compensation shall be awarded to incumbents, clerks, or sextons for the loss of any fees for the burial of persons who may have been brought for interment from other parishes. It was known that certain days were set apart for funerals of paupers, who were crammed into a pit together, one funeral service read in the plural number, and a fee demanded for each interment separately, as if there was a separate service over each. This was a most indecent and disgraceful proceeding. In St. Giles's-in-the-Fields there were 360 fees charged for the burial of that number of paupers in 1847, and only about 100 services read, being about one service to 3½ bodies. In 1848 there were 426 fees, and only 104 services, being about 4¼ bodies to each service. In 1849 there were 482 fees for only about 120 services performed. He believed that St. Giles's was not the only instance in the metropolis where this abominable conduct was pursued by the clergyman; and he thought care ought to be taken in passing a compensation clause. There were interred in St. Giles's burying ground a much larger number of bodies than the number of persons who died in the parish. The rector charged 4s. for the burial of each pauper, though five or six of them were put in one grave, and the clerical sexton read one service over them.


begged to state, that in consequence of what passed on a former occasion the Board of Health had directed one of their inspectors to examine the state of things in this burial ground, and make a report upon it; his report was now ready, and would be immediately presented. The result was this: that the burial ground was constructed under an Act of Parliament passed in 1803, which not only gave power for the construction of the burial ground, but regulated the fees, and gave permission to inter non-residents; that the Rev. Mr. Tyler found the custom prevailing when he became rector in 1826, and conformed to the custom; but so far from being anxious to exaggerate the fees, the fees had been reduced since he took the incumbency, at his instance, with the consent of the vestry. It was stated that the rector's fee was 9s. 6d. for the interment of each pauper, but only 4s. of that went to the rector; the rest went in what was called the churchwarden's fee, and to the clerk and sexton. Other matters had been stated with which the report would be found to deal. It was said that the Rev. Mr. Tyler praised the condition of the graveyard in 1842, and afterwards it was found in a had condition. The evidence was given in 1842, and the statement upon which the charge was made related to 1846, and was examined and refuted in 1847. It was not to be denied that the system of pauper funerals was not such as any one could wish; but he (Lord Ashley) sincerely hoped that a remedy would be applied. If there could be any doubt of the necessity of such a measure as that now introduced, it must be removed by the state of the graveyards under the control of the parishes. The rector was not the chargeable party. This graveyard was under the management of trustees, of whom he was only one, and taking no more part than occasionally to interpose and correct where he had the power. The rector had not been cognisant of many of the misdeeds referred to; but no doubt a system had prevailed which was excessively disgusting, and which it was to be hoped would cease after this Bill became law. He (Lord Ashley) trusted that then the pauper would receive decent and proper interment.


was per suaded that the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone totally misunderstood the ground on which these fees for interments were taken. The hon. Member must be totally ignorant of the mode of performing all the services and offices of the Church of England under circumstances in which more than one body was to be buried in the same place at the same time, if he thought it the duty of the clergyman to read the service more than once. The service was adapted to be read with the substitution of the plural for the singular. So with regard to baptisms, marriages, and all the services of the Church; and the fees were to be paid to the clergyman, not for reading the service, but for performing his office according to the custom and manner of the Church. Therefore, the hon. Baronet complained of the law and universal custom of the Church, in which there was neither impropriety nor indecency in reading one service when there was more than one body, if otherwise the funerals were conducted in a proper and decent manner. He had heard with great pain an attack made in a very unkind and unfair spirit on a gentleman who had discharged the important duties of his office in a laborious, pious, exemplary, and most successful manner, and who was spoken of by the poor and rich through his parish in terms of the highest respect, veneration, and affection.


said, that if the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth had laid down the law correctly, the rev. gentleman had taken the most convenient way of discharging his duties. But he only allowed two days in the week for the interment of paupers. It was said that the reverend gentleman was not responsible for what was done, and that the whole was conducted under a board of trustees. In order to show how far the reverend gentleman was responsible, he should refer to a resolution of the joint vestry of Holborn, which declared that, in the event of proceedings being taken by the Board of Health against the churchwardens, their Solicitor should be instructed to defend the churchwardens, and take such steps as counsel might advise. The rector of St. Giles was in the chair, and signed that resolution. The evidence he (Sir B. Hall) had cited the other day was given by most respectable people; and it would be a very great satisfaction to himself, if he found the report to be laid on the table could refute that evidence, which showed the state of matters to be most disgraceful.


thought that what had fallen from the hon. Baronet was only a proof of the facility with which he could make charges against a reverend gentleman whose character ought to protect him against imputation from any one, at least, who knew him. The hon. Baronet, he presumed, did not know that reverend gentleman. The hon. Baronet argued that the clergyman was responsible in these matters, because he signed a resolution against the interference of the Board of Health. But the clergyman was chairman of the meeting of vestry by law; although he had been in a minority of one he would have signed that document; and he was as little responsible for the resolution of the body over which he presided as the Speaker for a decision of that House. The attack of the hon. Baronet had given the Reverend Mr. Tyler the satisfaction of receiving from the persons best acquainted with the affairs of the parish an address, which was presented yesterday, expressing in the most gratifying terms their sense of his kindness, and of the mode in which his duties were discharged, and adding that they represented the general opinion entertained by all who had observed his conduct during the twenty years of his ministration in that parish. He might, then, fairly endure the imputations which, in ignorance of the facts, the hon. Baronet had thought it necessary to bring against him.


had seen twenty or thirty couples married at the same time a few days ago, and suggested that an alteration should be made in the fees for marriages as well as for burials.

Amendment negatived.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Monday next.

The House adjourned at One o'clock till Monday next.