HL Deb 21 February 1834 vol 21 cc631-4
The Earl of Durham

said, the next petition which he had to present, and of which he had given notice yesterday, was from the inhabitants of the parish of All-hallows, Lombard-street, complaining of the appointment of the reverend F. Dawson to the rectory of that parish, on the ground of non residence, and also on account of the reverend gentleman being in the possession of several other benefices. The petition set forth that the reverend gentleman was rector of Chiselhurst, rector of Orpington, prebend of Canterbury, sub-dean of Canterbury, and lastly, rector of Allhallows. Lombard-street. The petitioners stated, that "the object of the Established Church was to provide the most effectual means of religious instruction to the people, for which purpose the Legislature had provided funds, amply sufficient for the support of a respectable, educated, and efficient ministry; and they contended, "that while they were compelled by the law of the land to furnish those funds, they had an undoubted right to have the services of a resident clergyman." They felt that they had a right to complain of the conduct of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury in appointing this reverend gentleman, who was rector of Chiselhurst, and who held several other situations, to the rectory of Allhallows, he being a non-resident. They had already they observed, suffered from the evil of non-residence, inasmuch as the predecessor of the present rector, the reverend Mr. Browne, had for a period of eighteen years, during which he enjoyed the rectory, resided at Woodstock, in Oxfordshire. The emoluments derivable from the living were sufficiently large to command the services of a resident minister. The tithes amounted to about 400l. a-year; there was a parsonage-house which let for 60l. a-year; and the fees for burials, marriages, &c, averaged about 400l. a-year. The petitioners had nothing to say against the moral character and irreproachable conduct of the reverend gentleman, but they felt that, whatever his merits might be, his non-residence in the parish effectually deprived them of his services. They also stated, that the curate was likewise non-resident, so that the parishioners had no spiritual adviser among them. These were the points of which the petitioners complained, and they prayed their Lordships to supply a speedy and efficient remedy to the abuse. He could not help thinking that the case of the petitioners was a very hard one, and was well deserving the serious attention of the House. He had felt it to be his duty to present this petition, which was drawn up in most respectful terms. In doing so, he disclaimed all intention of casting any imputation on the reverend gentleman mentioned in it; he merely introduced the subject to which it referred as forming part of a system which called for, and which he hoped would receive, the mature consideration of his noble friend near him (Earl Grey). He entirely concurred in the sentiments of the petitioners, and he thought that the law which now existed, and which permitted such a state of things as the petitioners described, ought to be immediately altered.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said, after the very cool and temperate manner in which the noble Earl had brought for-ward this petition, there was no necessity for him to trespass long on their Lordships-attention. He had no cause whatever to complain of what had fallen from the noble) Earl. In fact, the objection which the noble Earl had made was against the system, and not against the person of this reverend gentleman. Indeed, the noble Earl's objection applied not so much to this particular place, as to many others which were similarly situated under the present state of the law. He entirely agreed with the noble Earl, that the state of the law, as it now stood, was very unsatisfactory; and he could say, with truth, that it was not his fault that it was so. Two years ago he had brought forward in that House a Bill on this very subject. That Bill had met with the most determined, the most violent, opposition. It was debated night after night, and clause after clause, but was at length carried through that House. He then thought that it was done with—but he was mistaken. When he introduced that measure, he said, that, if it became law, it would do away with two-thirds of the pluralities in this country; but, from information which he had since received, he had reason to believe that it would have removed five-sixths of the pluralities. Had that Bill passed as it was sent to the House of Commons, it would have been impossible that a case like the present could have been brought under their Lordships' notice that night; for, amongst other provisions, it enacted, "that no one holding a prebend should be capable of also holding livings in plurality." Now, as to the case immediately before the House, it was not his intention to say anything of the reverend gentleman to whom it referred, because no attack had been made on him. He was rector of Chiselhurst, and he was also rector of the sinecure living of Orpington, in the same neighbourhood, which was worth about 40l. a-year. The great tithes being held on lease for life, the occasional renewal was probably valuable; he could not say exactly to what extent; but he should suppose about 400l. This reverend gentleman having been chaplain to the House of Commons, was recommended to his Majesty for preferment; and not many months ago he became a prebend of Canterbury under that recommendation. Since that time the living of Allhallows, Lombard-street, had become vacant, and was given to this reverend gentleman. By the statute, the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury were bound to offer all preferment that fell in to members of the chapter. Under a positive law, they were compelled to give to members of their own body the option of accepting such preferments. The living in question came to Mr. Dawson under these circumstances. As to the propriety of his taking it he should not make any observation. Undoubtedly, as the law of the land now stood, he had a right to take it; and sorry he was that the reverend gentleman had that right. He believed, however, that the other living was so small, that the reverend gentleman might with great propriety devote a large share of attention to the duties of his living in London; and the reverend gentleman had apprised him that it was his intention to be there frequently in person. The curate who formerly officiated had died. Another gentleman had been appointed to the situation a short time since; and he had no doubt that the spiritual concerns of this parish would be very well attended to under a curate who had had considerable experience in large parishes, and with whom he was well acquainted, as that individual had been long under his jurisdiction when he was Bishop of London. He had no reason to trouble their Lordships longer on this occasion, except to assure them, that after all the obloquy which he had experienced in consequence of his former exertions, he was rather discouraged from meddling with legislation in that House. He should, however, be always ready to lend himself to any plan for lessening the evil of pluralities, or for removing any other evils connected with the Church, so far as it could be adopted with safety and advantage to those interests which were necessary to the well-being of the Church. When he considered the time which he had sacrificed, the expense to which he had been put, and the abuse which he had incurred, on account of the Pluralities Bill, he certainly felt some degree of discouragement. That Bill, he was confident, would have done much good; for it was a Bill that empowered Bishops and Chapters to alienate a portion of their own property for the benefit of the poorer clergy.

Petition laid on the Table.