HC Deb 22 June 1852 vol 122 cc1187-93

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 2 (Her Majesty may order a discontinuance of burials in any part of the metropolis).


moved to add the following Proviso:—"Provided that no burial ground in the metropolis where burials should have been discontinued by such order as aforesaid, shall be allowed to have any dwelling-houses, shops, or warehouses erected thereon." The only ground of objection he could anticipate to this Motion would be in fact obviated by the clause to be proposed for compensation, which he understood would not be opposed. He therefore could not see any reason why the Government should not endeavour to make some provision to obviate the violation of decency and public feeling which would take place if burial grounds were allowed to be devoted to building purposes.


said, he fully concurred in the feeling expressed by the hon. Baronet on this subject. Burial places ought not to be applied to any other purposes than those to which they were originally devoted, but there was a difference between consecrated and unconsecrated burial grounds. The consecrated grounds were already protected by the law, but the unconsecrated burial grounds were not. It might, therefore, be necessary to bring up a clause to effect that object. He would suggest to the hon. Baronet to postpone his Amendment till the bringing up of the Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 2 to 9 inclusive.

Clause 30 (The Burial Board may lay out burial ground and build a chapel; that a portion of the ground may be consecrated, and a portion not consecrated).


said, he should move to strike out the Proviso at the end of this clause, which provides for liberty in the parish board to have part of the new parish burial ground unconsecrated, and to substitute the Proviso of which he had given notice. The clause provided that the board may build a chapel on the burial ground for the performance of the funeral service according to the rites of the Church of England, and that such burial ground should be consecrated by the bishop of the diocese; it then provided that a portion of the ground might be set apart which should not be consecrated, and that a chapel might be built thereon for the performance of funeral service. This distinction between consecrated and unconsecrated ground was of recent invention, having originated from the establishment of commercial Cemetery Companies, and was intended to obviate the opposition of the bishops in the House of Lords. The clause, as it stood, involved either an absurdity or an injustice. If they built a chapel for the members of the Church, and another for Nonconformists out of the rates, they saddled the ratepayers with a double expense, which was an absurdity; but if they did not intend to build a chapel for the Nonconformists, then they would do them a great injustice, by requiring them as ratepayers to contribute to the building of a place of worship of which they could not make any use. It was an indirect mode of extending the system of church-rates. There was no objection on the part of Nonconformists to be buried in consecrated ground. Nor would they have any objection to a portion of the funeral service on occasion of the interment of their relatives or friends being performed in the chapel provided for the use of members of the Church. It should be recollected that a chapel for such purpose was not strictly a place of worship, there being no direction in the Rubric for any portion of the funeral service being performed within the walls of a consecrated building. There was a precedent in an Irish Act of Parliament (the 5th of George IV.), which contained this clause:— To the end thereof that all classes of His Majesty's subjects may be permitted to have the said easement of burial according to the rites of the several religions professed by them, be it enacted, that from and after the passing of this Act it shall and may be lawful for the officiating minister of the Church of Ireland by law established, in each and every parish in Ireland, upon application being made to him in writing by any clergyman or minister of any church or congregation not being of the Established Church of Ireland, duly authorised by law to officiate in such church or congregation, stating the death of any member or members of such church or congregation, for permission to perform the burial service at the grave of such person or persons in the churchyard of such parish according to the rites of such church or congregation, to grant permission accordingly; provided always, that such permission for the performance of such burial service at the grave, according to the rites of such church or congregation, shall be in writing. They had therefore a precedent for doing away with the invidious distinction between consecrated and unconsecrated ground; and thus Nonconformists might be able to use the same building as the members of the Church of England. This was an opportunity for doing a gracious act. He knew the power of parties in another place to oppose this proposition; but he would warn the members of the Established Church that the time was coming when it would be worth while for them to conciliate friends. which they could now do without shocking the feelings of any party. This was not a time for adding to or continuing religious divisions among the people; but, on the contrary, they should seize the occasion to introduce conciliation and goodwill between the different religious sects, who agreed in so much and differed in so little. Lot them not continue their religious differences beyond the grave. In the name of their common humanity, and in the name of common sense, be would recommend to the Committee the adoption of the change he had suggested in this portion of the measure.


seconded the Amendment, and hoped the noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works would remove from the Bill, which in other respects was so acceptable, a clause that was most unfair and unjust towards the Nonconformists.

Amendment proposed— Page 9, line 3, to leave out from the word 'providing' to the end of the Clause, in order to add the words 'every case in which the party having the direction of the funeral of a person whom it is intended to inter in such Burial Ground shall give notice to the keeper of the said ground, that the services of a Minister of the said United Church of England and Ireland will not be required thereat, it shall be lawful to inter in any part of such Burial Ground the body relative to which such notice shall have been given without the services of any such Minister, and to have the Burial Service performed as well in the said Chapel as in the said Burial Ground, according to the usages of the religious denomination to which the deceased, or the party having the direction of the said funeral, may have belonged, or belong.


said, he deeply regretted that the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay) should have felt it his duty to propose this considerable alteration in the Bill. So far from believing that the Amendment would have the effect of checking those religious discords of which he complained—so far from believing that it would have the effect of keeping these burial grounds free from the painful scenes which they must all deprecate and deplore, he was deeply persuaded that the Committee could take no course more fatal for the preservation of religious peace than by adopting this Amendment. One would suppose, from the speech of the hon. Baronet, that it was proposed to deprive the Dissenters of some right which they at present enjoyed. The Bill did no such thing. Every right which the Nonconformists enjoyed by law, they would enjoy under this Bill. The hon. Baronet had referred to an Irish precedent, but it was not wise to select an isolated piece of Irish legislation and apply it to a measure of this nature. In every Act for the formation of Cemeteries similar provisions to those contained in this Bill were adopted without opposition. The clauses were inserted, not in hostility to the Nonconformists—God forbid!—but with their approbation and approval. The hon. Baronet had now asked them for the first time to depart from this way of moderate arrangement, which conciliated all religious feelings, and did injustice to none. The clergy of this metropolis had acceded in the most frank and fair spirit to the various provisions of the Bill, which certainly in many respects materially trenched upon their incomes. He had felt it his duty not to take into his counsels the clergy of this metropolis; thus guarding himself by anticipation against any imputation of that nature. And now having, with the assent of the clergy, brought this difficult measure up to this point, they were met by the hon. Baronet with a proposition which, if carried, would materially, if not altogether, tend to defeat the beneficent objects which were contemplated by the Bill. It was for the public convenience, and for the well acting of this Bill, that the Committee should adhere to those provisions which in all previous instances had been found to work satisfactorily in promoting religious peace among the people. He must, therefore, however painful to himself, resist the proposal of the hon. Baronet.


said, feeling the spirit of fairness and equity with which the noble Lord had conducted this Bill, it was with regret that he differed from him in this instance; but, as he thought the clause was lessening the common-law right of the Dissenters, he felt bound to support the proposition of the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Clay). The Com- mittee ought to remember that the Dissenters would be deprived of their own burial-grounds by this measure. Their claim, therefore, was more imperative that this clause should not pass in its present form.


said, he could bear testimony to the fact, that the Nonconformists had no objection to be buried in consecrated ground. The noble Lord the Chief Commissioner of Works said that no injustice would be done to Dissenters by this Bill, but he would mention a case in which great injustice would be inflicted on their feelings. It was a feeling of our common nature that we all wished to lie by the side of those whom we loved when living. Well, suppose the parents should be members of the Church, and the children should be Nonconformists—in that case the parents would be buried in the consecrated portion of the ground, and the children would be obliged to be buried in the unconsecrated portion. He thought the distinction was most injudicious and uncharitable.


said, if the clause remained in its present form, the Nonconformists would have to contribute to the expense of a chapel which they could not use, and the members of the Church would also have to do the same.


said, this Bill differed from all other Bills, this being a general Bill, whereas all former were Joint Stock Cemetery Company Bills.


said, he considered this provision of the Bill calculated to create more heartburnings than had ever existed before between Dissenters and members of the Church of England.


said, the common law assumed that every man belonged to the same religious community, and was therefore entitled to burial in the same consecrated ground, and by the same religious ceremony. But, since there were many persons who dissented from the Church, it was necessary to provide them with a burial ground also. Again, with respect to the chapels—a chapel was provided for the members of the Church, and also one for those who dissented from the Church. These appeared to him to be very reasonable provisions. There was no objection to Nonconformists being buried in consecrated ground, provided they would submit to have the burial ceremony performed by a minister of the Church of England.


wished to remind the Committee that if the whole ground were consecrated, it would be under the authority of the bishop, and any monumental inscription to which the bishop might object, however agreeable to the feelings of the friends of the deceased, might by his order be removed. He thought great inconvenience also might arise from the use of the same chapels by Nonconformists and members of the Church.


said, persons of all persuasions were buried in Bunhill-fields burial ground, and he had never heard of any difficulties arising therefrom.


said, he must complain of the conduct of the clergy of the Church of England refusing to perform the funeral service at the funeral of a Dissenter, ro of permitting the service to be performed in the churchyard by his own minister. But the Dissenters of this country were too numerous, too important, and too powerful a class long to submit to this amount of degradation, which was so undeserved.


said, he did not see the necessity of the distinction between consecrated and unconsecrated grounds, and, as the chapel was erected simply as a place of shelter and not of worship, he was of opinion that the ratepayers should not be put to the expense of building two chapels. But that was a small part of the question. It was important they should not make these distinctions.


said, he would beg to ask the right hon. the Home Secretary, whether he had correctly understood him to say, that Dissenters might be buried in what was called the consecrated ground, if no objection was made to the Church of England's service. If he was assured of this, it went to remove much of the difficulty before the House. He took for granted, few Protestants attached much more importance to the consecration of ground, than to the consecration of bells, candles, oxen, asses, and various other matters which were made the subject of consecration in another Church; unless in so far as the practice had a tendency to secure respect and repose to the remains of the deceased. But if this was so, it made it a peculiarly impolitic ground to enter into contest with the Dissenters on; and he hoped the Government would think so.

Question put, "That the words 'pro- viding any Burial Ground such Board shall' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 40: Majority 22.

Clause agreed to; as were also Clauses 31 to 38 inclusive.

The House resumed. Committee report progress.