HC Deb 10 March 1959 vol 601 cc1213-5

9.58 p.m.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

I beg to move, That the Truro Cathedral Measure, 1959, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. The diocese to which this Measure relates is not one of the ancient dioceses of the Church of England. It was revived or recreated, with the boundaries coterminous with the County of Cornwall, as late as 1877 and its constitution was regulated by an Act of 1878 followed by an Act of 1887. The diocese, in its setup, has two unusual features. First, the bishop is allowed to be his own dean. Up to the present, that practice has always been followed. It has now been found possible financially, however, for a separate dean to be appointed and maintained.

That arrangement is, of course, advantageous to the bishop, who is able to give up that side of his present duties, and it is also advantageous to the see of Truro itself that the arrangement under which there has been a doubling of duties should be ended and the cathedral looked after by its own officer. Under this Measure there will be a separate dean. There is already a chapter. The constitution of Truro Cathedral in that respect will be brought into line with all the other cathedrals of the Church of England, which possess a dean and chapter.

The second feature is that when Truro Cathedral was built in the last century it was built on the site of, and indeed it swallowed up and enveloped, an existing parish church with a parish round it. That was the Parish of St. Mary. Today a part of the cathedral building is called St. Mary's Aisle and has the status of a parish church. Up to the present time the sub-dean has been the rector of the parish church. Under this Measure the office of rector will be taken away from the sub-dean and transferred to the new dean to be appointed.

As soon as the constitution for the cathedral conies into force the office of sub-dean will be abolished, and the dean therefore will have the full authority that other deans have over the whole of the cathedral building, although in the case of St. Mary's Aisle it will be in his capacity as rector.

There are only two other matters that I need mention, both of a minor character, but important in detail. First, up to the present time, the bishop has been the patron of the Parish of St. Mary. Under the Measure that patronage will be transferred, and necessarily so, to the Crown, because the appointment of dean will be made by Her Majesty.

The second matter relates to the cathedral buildings and their precincts. When Truro diocese was established there was no dean and chapter, and, therefore, the cathedral and its precincts were vested in the bishop. Now that there is to be a dean and chapter that possession is being taken away from the bishop and being vested in the dean and chapter, as is the case with all other cathedrals that possess a dean and chapter.

This Measure passed through the Church Assembly without a vote at any stage and it has received a favourable report from the Ecclesiastical Committee.

10.3 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I rise to second the Motion proposed by the hon. Member for Worcerstershire, South (Sir P. Agnew). I do so with sonic feeling, because I was born in Truro and lived and worked there for the first twenty-five years of my life.

The hon. Baronet has said that Truro is one of the modern dioceses of this country, but I remind the House that Cornwall was a Celtic country originally and was christianised long before St. Augustine came to Kent. Therefore, Truro as some very old connections with the Church in this country.

The first cathedral of Cornwall was at St. Germans and was erected by King Athelstan in A.D. 936. That diocese lasted for a century, when it was incorporated with Exeter. I have said that Cornwall was a Celtic country. From Truro on the south coast, to which the River Fal is navigable, up to Crantock on the north coast, there was one of the ancient Celtic highways. Therefore, this site at Truro is very much linked with the history of my county.

Truro was granted its first charter in 1180, almost eight centuries ago. It is interesting to remember that at Michaelmas in 1259 Bishop Branscombe of Exeter consecrated the Chapel of St. Mary at Truro. That chapel eventually became the parish church of St. Mary and, as the hon. Baronet has just said, the south aisle of the cathedral will, by this Measure, be known as St. Mary's Aisle, and so carry on this centuries-old parish.

I feel somewhat nostalgic about this, because the present Truro Cathedral was erected in the twenty-five years before the First World War. During the latter part of that period I was a youngster, and was able to watch the completion of the towers at the west end of the cathedral. This is already a historic occasion, but it is also historic in the sense that one of the most famous Parliamentarians of this House, Sir John Elliot, lived in St. Germans, where the first cathedral of Cornwall was erected. It is because of these things that I ask the indulgence of the House for having dwelt on this aspect.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)

Having had the privilege of serving in the House with my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) when he represented a Cornish division for so very long, I am extremely glad to have heard him move this Motion. As a licensed lay reader of the diocese, I am only too happy to support the Motion.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

I, too, would like to support the Motion so ably proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew). Our bishop in Cornwall is a very wonderful man, and anything that can be done to make his task less onerous by appointing a dean will be a most excellent thing to do.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Truro Cathedral Measure, 1959, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.