HC Deb 12 March 1875 vol 222 cc1772-5

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Acts relating to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and enable them to carry into effect a certain proposal for the rearrangement of the Dioceses of London, Winchester, and Rochester, and the erection of a new Bishopric of Saint Albans, said, that as the matter was of some public interest, he should state very shortly what the proposition was which the Government had to make upon the matter, and how they had been enabled to make it. Hon. Members were quite aware that the dioceses of London, Winchester, and Rochester had, in the opinion of all men who had thought about the matter, and who were competent to judge, largely outgrown the dimensions of such a diocese as one Bishop could practically do the duty of. But in all these matters, the first great difficulty, however much it might be wished to subdivide a diocese, was the question of funds. In considering the question, the Government had come to the conclusion, first of all, that it must not be held to be a necessity in the Church of England that every Bishop who might be created in future should have an income of £5,000 a-year; and, in the next place, they took it as a maxim, that in the formation of any new dioceses no money was to be taken from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Having stated that, he would now explain that the reason which had induced the Government to introduce this Bill was the very generous offer made by one of the Bishops concerned. The Bishop of Winchester had an extremely large diocese, extending up into a very crowded part of London; his episcopal residence was at Farnham, and up to the present moment he had also one of the largest houses in St. James's Square, Winchester House. It struck that Bishop that that House was hardly wanted by the Bishop of the diocese. It was an extremely large and valuable property, and the rent would no doubt be very great. The Bishop conscientiously felt that his residence in London was not so long as to require such a residence, and the rent, he thought, could be put to a much better purpose. He therefore came to the Government through him (Mr. Cross) with what he might call a most generous and noble offer, placing that house entirely at the disposal of the Government on only one condition—that whatever money could be obtained by its sale should be devoted to the foundation of the new See. He must tender his thanks publicly to the Bishop for that generous offer on behalf of the Church. When the matter came to be considered, several proposals were brought before them. Eventually, the Bishops of London, Rochester, and Winchester, and the Archbishop, together with some other person, were formed into a Committee, and a scheme was the result, which had been modified, but eventually assumed the form he was now about to state to the House. He would state the limits of the diocese of St. Albans, and the territorial rearrangement of Winchester, Rochester, and London consequent on its formation. The new See would take Essex and Hertford from the diocese of Rochester; Rochester, therefore, would have considerable relief, and would take from Winchester East and Mid Surrey, and from the Bishopric of London St. Mary, Newington. There would be ample work for St. Albans, and they would also by this means be able to provide for the spiritual wants of a great part of the south of London—he believed to the satisfaction of every one concerned. The next question was how the funds should be provided for the new Sec. Whatever might be the produce of the sale of Winchester House, it would be entirely devoted to the endowment of the See of St. Albans. He would now state the income of the three different Sees, as they would be on the first avoidance of the present Bishops. The arrangement after the avoidance of the Sees of Winchester and Rochester would be this—Winchester would have £6,500 instead of £7,000; Rochester would have £4,500 instead of £5,000, and the £500 to be taken from Winchester and the £500 from Rochester, would be added to the sum to be gained by the sale of Winchester House, to form an endowment for the See of St. Albans. That sum would be augmented most probably by certain funds not legally attainable at present, but which eventually would be appropriated to this purpose. They were of opinion that they could now present this Bill to the House, and request its sanction to the formation of this new See, with a complete scheme to enable the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to sell Winchester House, and to devote the sum realized to the foundation of the See of St. Alban's. As soon as a sum was obtained which would produce £2,000 a-year, the Bishopric would be founded. The Bishop would be in possession of the See, and on the avoidance of Winchester and Rochester, he would have £500 from each added to his income. The probable result of the arrangements would be to secure for the new Bishopric an income of between £3,000 and £4,000. As to the other arrangements, of course everything must be done with the consent of the Bishops of London, Rochester, and Winchester, and the consent of all had already been amply obtained. In the most generous way all the Bishops had given up all their patronage in the parts of their dioceses, which they were consenting to give up. The Bishop of Rochester would during his lifetime continue to receive the same income as at present; but he had come forward to say he gave his consent to the sale in his lifetime of Danbury, and the devotion of the proceeds to the erection of two residences, one for the See of St. Albans, and the other for the See of Rochester. The Bill was simply a Bill for the rearrangement of the three dioceses of Winchester, Rochester, and London, and he presented it to the House without asking for a farthing of money from any one, only desiring that they would authorize the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to carry the scheme into effect. He presented it really as a gift offered to the Church by the Bishops concerned; and he tendered them thanks for the sincere and earnest liberality with which they had come forward to make the offer. It could not be made in any way with a view to their own advantage, and it was dictated solely by the wish to devote their means, as far as they could consistently with their duty, to the sole good of the Church. [Mr. WHITWELL: Will the new Bishop have a seat in Parliament?] With regard to that, the precedent of Manchester would be followed exactly. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to introduce the Bill.


said, there was no doubt that the Episcopate ought to increase with the growth of the population, and he therefore had great pleasure in thanking the Government for the introduction of the measure, for no one could have heard the statement that had been made without the greatest gratification. While desirous of expressing his sense of the great generosity which the Bishops of these dioceses had shown, he trusted it was not intended by this Bill to shut the door to a larger measure, whatever form it might take. For his own part, he could see no incompatability between a general measure and a specific one like the present. He must also state that at St. Albans there was a magnificent Cathedral, but a Bishop without a Chapter was like a military commander without a staff, and he therefore trusted that a Chapter would be provided for this Bishopric. He would also like to know what was going to be done with the parishes of Addington and Croydon?

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend the Acts relating to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and enable them to carry into effect a certain proposal for the re arrangement of the Dioceses of London, Winchester, and Rochester, and the erection of a new Bishopric of Saint Albans, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary CROSS, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Sir HENRY SEWIN-IBBETSON.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 95.]