HC Deb 12 August 1896 vol 44 cc578-83

Lords' Amendments considered (by Order).

SIR JOSEPH SAVORY (Westmorland, Appleby)

moved to disagree with the Lords' Amendment by which the clause preserving the church of St. Mary Woolnoth, in the City of London, was struck out, and a new clause was inserted by which the proceeds of the sale of the church should be handed over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In the City of London, he said, there was a very strong feeling that this church, which was the central parish church, ought to be preserved. ["Hear, hear!"] First of all, it was an interesting historical monument. Before the Norman conquest this church was a Christian church, and had been so used ever since; and, indeed, the earliest records in the possession of the Lord Mayor and Corporation showed that, even before that time, a Pagan temple stood on its site. The church was valuable not only as an historical monument but for the beauty of its architecture. Standing at the western end of Lombard Street, facing the Mansion House, and within sight of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange, it had a beautiful exterior, and its interior was also singularly attractive. And not only did they value the church as an historical monument and as the parish church of the City, but for the many remarkable men who had worshipped within its walls, and had been interred there in bygone centuries. An intense interest and affection were also felt for the church, owing to the remarkable men who had ministered within its walls—men like the Rev. John Newton, who was beloved by everyone who took an interest in the Church of England. This was not the first time that the Lord Mayor and citizens of London had been called upon to defend the church. In 1863 an attempt was made by the post office which adjoined the church, and which in former days used to be the General Post Office of the City of London, to take the church in order to increase the size of the post office. Owing to the agitation and efforts then made by the Lord Mayor and citizens, the church was preserved. He earnestly hoped that they might again be successful in saving the church. All that the citizens asked was that the clause which was inserted in the House of Commons for the protection of the church should be reinserted. It might be urged that the rector of the church was in favour of its disappearance; but the rector wrote a letter to The Times the previous day, in which he stated that he was utterly opposed to the church being destroyed. But the rector must be judged by his deeds rather than by his words. Early this year a large meeting was held in the Mansion House, when resolutions were passed earnestly protesting against the destruction of the church, and petitioning that it might be saved. The rector declined to attend that meeting. The Church of England had rectors and clergymen, some of whom were of great benefit to those among whom they ministered; there were others who harassed and injured the flock among whom they dwelt. The rector of St. Mary Woolnoth lived at Hendon. The church, which was formerly open every day of the week, was now closed except on Sundays, and it was impossible for a clergyman living at such a distance adequately to minister to the flock whose spiritual care was intrusted to him.

MR. R. B. MARTIN (Worcester, Droitwich)

supported all that the last speaker had said, but on other grounds. He wished to call the attention of the House to the gratuitous manner in which it was proposed to destroy what was practically one of the adornments of the City of London. He had no hesitation in saying that there was no building in the City of London which was so completely suited to the position which it occupied, or was more universally admired for the fine character of its exterior than the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth. He did not think that for the sake of a few pounds, none of which might find their way into the coffers of the Church, that such an ornament should be destroyed, when, in reality, they were endeavouring to beautify the City. The real history of the case was this. The railway company, which was not an undertaking likely to pay in the immediate future, was got up for the purpose of putting money in the hands of the promoters. A notice was served on the rector that the church would be within the limits of deviation, and an agreement was made to sell the church. A large Scotch banking firm wished to set up a high suite of offices over the railway, and in this way something might be done to reduce the cost incurred; but he maintained that no necessity existed for a station at this particular point. A station was absolutely not wanted, because there was a station 300 yards on either side—one at the Bank of England and one at the Monument. It was, indeed, an excuse to get hold of the site for the contractors, who would be enabled to dig the soil out, and this, no doubt, would be a great convenience to them. Otherwise, there was no necessity for pulling down the church or destroying it. If the church was saved by the reinsertion of the clause, it would carry out the idea of the railway company and would be quite as much as they could now expect. There was one objectionable feature in the Bill. It was that any extra expense to which they were put in reinstating the work was to be taken out of the compensation fund, for the right to make a station under the church. But there was nothing to show that the making of a station would not entail quite as much cost, by having to pull the church down and rebuilding it. Altogether, the whole affair was in a most unsatisfactory state. In an important matter of this kind the City were at the mercy of the contractors, who got into a place where they had no business to be without the permission of the, central authority. He hoped that the House would reject the Amendment of the Lords.


, as Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill, said that there was an undoubted feeling on the part of hon. Members that this object of historical interest should if possible be preserved. With that view an Instruction was given to the Committee to consider what provisions could reasonably be made for its preservation. In accordance with that view a clause was inserted providing that the company should not purchase the church, but should make an underground station beneath it. That was passed with the consent of the railway company, and the Bill went to the House of Lords in that form. He understood the feeling which had been expressed by the hon. Baronet, but if the City considered that it was aggrieved, they had only themselves to blame, for they allowed the railway company a few years back to obtain possession of the church, and the company had enjoyed the power to pull it down for the last five years. In the House of Lords the rector was allowed to go in and do what he liked, and apparently the City did not interfere in the way they might have done. He took exception to what the last speaker said that those railways were not of importance. Those who had to do with the communcications of London, and on whom the responsibility was thrown of deciding what reasonable communications were necessary for the enormous population of the metropolis, felt that there were few points which came before them of more importance than the fact as to how this traffic was to be carried. Further, the undertaking should not be cited as a speculative one, because a great public benefit was conferred by it. It was of great importance that the House should be careful not to inflict an injustice in this matter on a railway which had endeavoured to meet the obligations thrown upon it by Parliament. If this clause was struck out, and the Amendment was accepted in another place, he hoped that whatever happened the railway company would not be deprived of the Bill.


, thought that the hon. Baronet had called the attention of the House to an important factor in connection with the Bill. Supposing the House now reinstated the clause and the Bill went back, and was either not accepted there, or if the company refused to proceed with the Bill, what would be the effect on the church? The hon. Baronet had pointed out that under a former Act, of which this Bill was really an extension, the company already had the power to take the church. They had already issued a notice to treat to the rector and churchwardens with regard to the church. He thought that their powers expired about the 24th of this mouth, and they had issued their notices to treat. If, therefore, the Bill did not go through, the company had still practical possession of the church. They might therefore consider that the church had gone. It was possible, however, that the railway company might accept the Bill with this clause reinstated. He did not know what the company would do, because they had not instructed him one way or the other, but it was possible that the promoters and the House of Lords might say that they would accept the Bill with the clause reinstated. It was obvious that the hon. Baronet the Member for the Appleby Division of Westmorland really voiced the general view of the House, which was that the House was anxious to retain this church. It was built by a famous pupil of Wren's, and was an object of some artistic, and he might almost say historical, value to the City. At any rate they would rather see this church on the site than a big block of buildings. On the whole he thought the House might wisely reinsert the clause and take the risk of the company's refusing to proceed with the Bill. In the other House this clause was struck out apparently at the instigation of the rector, without his having consulted the churchwardens. That was unfortunate, and by introducing this clause they would show that it was the opinion of the House that the church should be preserved; and it was quite possible that, in these circumstances, the Company might take the Bill as it stood, and that the church might be preserved to the public.

Lords' Amendment disagreed with.


begged to move that Clause 7 be re-inserted.

Amendment agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up reasons to be assigned for disagreeing with certain of the Lords' Amendments.