HC Deb 30 January 1961 vol 633 cc733-6

10.12 p.m.

Sir Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)

I beg to move,

That the Farnham Castle Measure, 1960, 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.

I feel that I should tell the House that this Measure was agreed to unanimously by the Ecclesiastical Committee on 23rd November, 1960.

As hon. Members know, Farnham Castle is a very ancient, very fine and very large building. As stated in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Measure has been prepared in the closest consultation with the Church Commissioners and the authorities in the Diocese of Guildford. It received the approval of the Diocesan Conference with only one dissentient vote.

The purposes for which the castle is to be used have to be approved both by the Archbishop of Canterbury and by the Bishop of Guildford. It is, of course, the case that the present Archbishop of Canterbury has resigned and his successor has been nominated. Furthermore, a new Bishop of Guildford has been appointed since the Measure came before the Church Assembly. The Church Commissioners have been in touch with both these dignitaries, and I am authorised to say that they both approve of the Measure now before the House. The Bishop of Guildford has informed us that he would not wish to take up residence in Farnham Castle.

Since 1935, part of Farnham Castle has been vested in the Guildford Diocesan Board and part in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners-now the Church Commissioners-as a residence for the Bishop of Guildford. Successive tsishops resided there until 1956. The rest—that is, the greater part of the castle—was used as a retreat house until the end of 1958. The whole of the castle is now unoccupied, and although every effort has been made for some time to find a practical use directly by the Church of England, unfortunately no solution along those lines has been forthcoming. It is clearly desirable that a suitable and seemly use should be found if possible for the castle. To this end, it is essential that the whole castle should be in one ownership, and it is convenient that this should be the Church Commissioners.

Clause 1 proposes that this should be done. Clause 2 sets out the powers of the Commissioners to let the whole or part to approved persons for approved purposes. Clause 3, as I have already mentioned, states that approval has to be given in writing by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Guildford. This Clause also defines the area of Farnham Castle for this purpose. Clause 4 repeals Section 14 of the Diocese of Winchester (Division) Measure, 1923, and the whole of the Farnham Castle Measure, 1935.

As I have said, the Measure received only one dissentient voice in the Guildford Diocese. It was debated for some time on two occasions in the Church Assembly, when there was no division at all, and it was passed unanimously by the Ecclesiastical Com mittee. I am confident that the Measure will commend itself to the House this evening.

10.17 p.m.

Sir Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

It would not be appropriate for the House to approve this Measure without something being said by the hon. Member for Farnham. I do so in a spirit of melancholy loyalty and affection for Farnham, because this is a sad day for the town in that it ends the last hope that long tradition might be sustained—the tradition of residence of bishops in the castle.

I do not want to weary the House. I would only say that for the hundreds of years Farnham Castle has been closely associated with Bishops of Winchester. But we must face facts in this modern age, and this Measure faces the fact that began to become outstanding on the day when the diocese of Winchester was divided. Since then Farnham and the diocese of Guildford have been fighting a gallant rearguard action. Twenty-five or more years ago a large sum of money was raised locally. That has all been spent to no avail, and the day now comes when we in Farnham must say "Goodbye" to the castle as a residence for bishops.

I merely rose to say that I reluctantly approve the Measure. I thank the Church Commissioners and all those who have laboured so hard to find this solution, which I welcome as being as satisfactory as possible under the circumstances. I trust that in future the castle, with its glorious and great past, will continue to serve the cause of Western and Christian civilisation.

question put and agreed to


That the Farnham Castle Measure, 1960, 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.