HC Deb 08 August 1855 vol 139 cc2014-7

Order for Third Reading read.

Bill read 3°.


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the inconvenience caused by the diversity of the arrangements required by different bishops as the condition of consecrating burial-grounds. It was his intention to move the addition of a clause providing that it should not be necessary for the burial board of any parish to do more than prove that a requisite line of demarcation had been made between the parts intended for the interment of members of the Church of England and others, and that no proceedings should be instituted against any minister of the Church of England on account of his having officiated at the interment in such ground after it had been approved by the Secretary of State, and before its consecration. He would in furtherance of his views adduce a case in point. The burial-ground of Torrington, which remained unconsecrated to that moment, because the Bishop required a four-foot wall between the Dissenters' burial-ground and the part appropriated to the members of the Church of England, and refused to consecrate, though even an iron railing or a sunk fence was offered by the burial board of that town.

Clauses brought up and read the first time.


said, he could mention that a similar case occurred in Carlisle, where consecration was refused because the division proposed was a foot-path.


said, the clause had been fully discussed on the Motion of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Ferguson), and the objection had been admitted by the Committee. There had been cases, no doubt, where a wall was insisted on by the Bishop as a condition of consecration; but the clause did not affect the provisions of the Bill, because if the ground remained unconsecrated the clergy could demand no fees for interments. He did not think the clause would effect the object in view, as a discretionary power should be left to the Bishop in the matter of consecration. It was, no doubt, most undesirable that those distinctions should exist; but the mode of separation required by the Act could not be decided by the clause of the noble Lord.


said, the clause would only make "confusion worse confounded," and he would not envy the Secretary of State his employment in the recess, should it pass, that of inquiring into the fitting fence and boundaries of all the church-yards in England. He (Mr. Henley) did not see what difference could arise on the subject of fences, as all that was requisite was that the distinction demanded by law should be permanently preserved; and whatever fence effected that object was, in his opinion, the best for the purpose.


said, he thought the question of boundary ought to be left altogether to the burial board. He did not agree with the clause.


said, he did not see why, as all met in the grave, there should be any attempt to make a distinction between the dead. The adoption of the clause would show the feeling of the House against such obstructive demarcation; and he (Mr. Fox) should, therefore, support it, irrespective of all considerations of ecclesiastical convenience.


said, he should support the clause. The Home Office would only have to interpose in a few cases. In some places there was so strong a feeling against consecration as almost amounted to ridicule. The Dissenters would have no objection, however, to all grave yards being consecrated, if their ministers were permitted to read service over their dead. As it was, some clergymen of the Church of England objected to the body of a Dissenter being carried over consecrated ground.


said, all consecrated burial-grounds were open to Dissenters; the only difference being that the Dissenters required their own ministers to pray over them. He (Mr. Wigram) was, however, of opinion that so long as there was an Established Church it was only right that the authorised officers of that Church should perform the authorised service for the dead. The separation was required for the sake of decency.


said, he should support the clause. The distinction was not made for the sake of decency, but for the sake of intolerance.


said, he would willingly agree to the clause, if it effected the object it had in view; but as it would not do so he could not support it.


said, the clause was a very modest one. If a better could be introduced hon. Members ought to introduce it, and thereby put an end to ecclesiastical vagaries, such as the House had heard stated. He hoped the clause would be pressed to a division.


said, he could not vote for the clause, because he thought it would give offence to a large portion of the community to legalise the quasi consecration of burial-grounds. He agreed that division should be made as inexpensive as possible.


said, he should support the clause, for in reality the grievance was a Churchman's, and not a Dissenter's grievance.


said, that he could not agree to the clause as proposed by the noble Lord, but would assent to a clause giving to the burial boards (subject to the approval of the Secretary of State) the power of deciding whether the consecrated portion of the burial-ground was adequately fenced off from the unconsecrated ground.


said, the really important part of the clause was that which enacted that no clergyman of the Church of England should he liable to prosecution for performing the funeral service in unconsecrated ground. He would, with the permission of the House, move that portion of the clause alone.


said, that the difficulty would not be met by the proposition of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), for the burial board had now the power of deciding whether the ground was sufficiently divided, but the Bishop might still refuse to consecrate, and the noble Lord admitted that he could not be forced to do so.


said, that as part of the clause was objected to on one ground and part on another, he would press the whole.


said, he objected to giving a power to the Secretary of State to override the authority of the Bishop) which, so long as there was an Established and Episcopal Church in England, ought to be maintained. There was a very strong feeling among a large class of persons with regard to burial in consecrated ground, and although personally he had no feeling on the subject himself, and had no desire to carry what was called intolerance beyond the grave, he should vote against the clause.

Motion made and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a Second Time."

The House divided:—Ayes 26; Noes 29: Majority 3.

Bill passed.

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