HL Deb 14 July 1851 vol 118 cc628-40

rose to move for the production of certain papers containing the Correspondence which had passed between the Copyhold Commissioners and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners touching the Horfield Manor Estate. His motive in calling for these papers was to avail himself of the opportunity of stating before their Lordships and before the country certain facts regarding recent transactions relating to the Horfield estate, which appeared to him to have been grievously misstated, in a manner to damage the character of a right rev. Friend of his who was now absent on the Continent, and was prevented from returning immediately in consequence of indisposition. He mentioned the fact of the illness of his right rev. Brother, not for the sake of predisposing their Lordships to a favourable judgment of his case, because he thought it needed no such partial view; he did it simply to bespeak their kind attention for himself, who was about to lay before their Lordships the case of an absent and calumniated brother. He should not trou- ble the House with any remarks on the mode in which the charges to which he was about to refer had been made, the motives which dictated them, or the persons who had brought them forward. He believed that if he were to indulge in any such remarks, he should have to condemn himself for what he condemned in the authors of those charges, namely, that they had made them in a place and under circumstances which prevented the possibility of an answer. He should take it for granted, therefore, that every misstatement of which he should complain, had been accidental, and that the motives of the accuser had been of the purest and most unimpeachable character. He had to deal with facts, and to convince their Lordships, and through them the country, that those facts had been thus misstated. The shortest and simplest way in which the question could be treated was this:—He would first state what the charges were which had been preferred against his right rev. Friend; he would then put the House fully in possession of the facts by stating what he considered to be the true view of the case; and he would afterwards give the proofs which he had by him to show that his view was the correct one. Now, the charge was to this effect—that when the see of Bristol was united to the see of Gloucester, the property of the see of Bristol was, under power given by Acts of Parliament, made over to the new Bishop of the united sees of Gloucester and Bristol; that one property, named Horfield Manor, stood, if not legally, yet equitably and morally, upon a different footing from any other property belonging to the see of Bristol; and that his right rev. Friend the present Bishop of the united sees of Gloucester and Bristol, on taking possession of that see, was perhaps equitably, but certainly morally, bound not to deal with that estate in the same manner as with the rest of the property belonging to the see, but to deal with it on different principles altogether. The charge was, that under such obligations, his right rev. Friend, when he became bishop of the united sees, had first endeavoured to sell his right in that estate of Horfield to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—as it was suggested, in order to prevent a great scandal—consented to the bishop's proposal; that an agreement, which was at first intended to be private, was entered into for the transfer of that property for a fixed sum; that the solicitor of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners felt so ashamed of the transaction that he refused to incur the responsibility of carrying it out; that thereupon he was directed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to prepare a scheme for the purpose of procuring an Order in Council to sanction the transfer; that upon its being applied for, a Member of the other House, who had discovered this treachery, called the attention, first of the Attorney General, and afterwards of the First Lord of the Treasury, to the job which was about to be perpetrated; and that, owing to the watchfulness and readiness of that noble Lord to prevent it, it was defeated, and the right rev. Prelate lost his bargain; that then the bishop did nothing until the last life named in the lease dropped, and that he then granted a fresh lease, his own secretary being the lessee, and his own children being the three lives put into the lease; and that the right rev. Prelate by so doing had violated his implied, if not his express engagement. He (the Bishop of Oxford) begged their Lordships to remark the full amount of the imputation contained in those charges. It would not do to make imputations of the gravest possible nature, and then to ride off on another charge; but in this case it had been stated that "no man except a dignitary of the Church would dare to carry out such a transaction, and afterwards show his face in public as an honest man." Now, what he (the Bishop of Oxford) begged to state in answer to these charges was this, that the Bishop of Gloucester received that estate of Horfield upon precisely the same footing that he received the other estates belonging to the see of Bristol; that there was no understanding, direct or indirect, in reference to that estate; that in dealing with that estate he was not violating any honourable understanding made either by himself or his predecessor in the sec; that he did what the Legislature intended him to do with every property of the see over which he was placed; that he had entered into a negotiation with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners respecting the disposal of it of his own free will and accord; that his object, in wishing to carry out that negotiation, was, as he would show hereafter, a singularly liberal thing—that it had been defeated on a mere point of technicality by the law officers of the Crown—that he had never said to any man that he would not lease that estate—that he had always been ready to lease it on certain conditions bene- ficial to the Church and to the estate itself—that he had now leased it for three lives to his own secretary as a means of retaining in his own hands the full and entire control and direction of it—and that he had thus taken measures to carry out his own liberal policy, although he would not state what the objects of that policy were, lest they should seem to be the effect of pressure from without, rather than of his own liberal and ingenuous disposition. That was his case. Whether his right rev. Friend had adopted the wisest and most prudent course in carrying out this liberal intention was another question, upon which he (the Bishop of Oxford) would not then pronounce an opinion. It might be the best, or it might not; but he thought he should be able to show their Lordships that it subjected his right rev. Friend to no possible just imputation upon his liberality of intention. Now for the proof. The statement was, that first of all his right rev. Friend was, as to this estate of Horfield, differently situated from other properties belonging to the see, because two of his predecessors had refused to renew the lease on the dropping in of the lives, with the view of allowing it to fall in for the benefit of the Church, and that therefore his right rev. Friend was bound in like manner to allow the lease to drop. The first of these was Bishop Gray. He (the Bishop of Oxford) stated advisedly that, amongst many cases of misrepresentation, he had never heard of one in which every single incident had been so misrepresented and twisted to a false issue as in the present instance. The first statement was, that when the first life of the lease dropped, Bishop Gray thought that he might renew, but that when two dropped in, he thought that he ought not to do so. Now, what was the fact? No negotiation took place between Bishop Gray and his lessee until after the second life had dropped. Next, there never was any breaking off of that negotiation, but Bishop Gray died while it was still going on; and there was the testimony of Dr. Shadwell to prove that all the difficulties attending the transaction had been cleared away, and that the renewal would have been completed if it had not been for the death of Bishop Gray. Well, his death then took place; and the next statement was, that Bishop Gray's determination having been made known to Lord Melbourne, he told it to his successor, Bishop Allen, on his appointment, and stipulated with him that he should not renew, and that Bishop Allen gave a pledge to that effect. Now, in the first place, Bishop Allen himself stated—this he mentioned on the authority of the Bishop of Gloucester, who might be considered an interested party—but Bishop Allen himself told the Bishop of Gloucester that Lord Melbourne informed him that his attention had been called to the matter, but that he saw no reason for putting any impediment in the way of the renewal of the lease, and that he would leave him at liberty to act as he might think best; and in fact Bishop Allen was himself in treaty for a renewal of the lease when he was translated to the bishopric of Ely. What was the proof of this? In the first place, he had the statement of Mr. Charles Clarke, an eminent solicitor of Bristol, to prove that his father was the confidential agent of Bishop Allen, and was employed by him to renew the lease; and two of the witnesses before the Committee on Church Leases (1838) a witness (Mr. V. Stuckney) stated that—"The two late bishops (Gray and Allen) refused to renew because the lessee refused to give the fine they asked." And at pages 294 and 295 of the same report, another witness (Mr. J. P. Sturge) stated that—"There was a negotiation between the late Bishop of Bristol (Bishop Allen) and the lessee, but they could not agree." And, again, the same witness further stated that the renewal was one "in which the bishop and the lessee could not agree as to the amount (of fine), and consequently no renewal was made." Thus the declaration of his right rev. Friend the Bishop of Gloucester was corroborated by two witnesses of unimpeachable character. The next statement was, that in 1842 it began to be rumoured that the present bishop was about to renew the lease; and that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, upon hearing the rumours, desired their secretary to write to the bishop on the subject, expressing a hope that the reports were unfounded; that the bishop replied that he felt aggrieved by the supposition that he entertained thoughts of renewing; and that if he did so, he should be doing something unbecoming a bishop, and would be leaving a lasting reproach to his family. He (the Bishop of Oxford) believed that that quotation from the reply of the bishop had been one of the main things that had stamped disgrace and odium upon his right rev. Friend; and he would now assert, first, that after going through every document in the Ecclesiastical Commission Office, no communication of any kind had passed between the Commissioners or their secretary and the Bishop of Gloucester, in the year 1842, or for five years afterwards; so misinformed were those who had put forward these statements. But that was not all; and now he begged their Lordships to notice what did happen. In 1847 new schemes were being carried out by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as to the sums to be charged upon future vacancies upon bishoprics, and amongst others upon the bishopric of Gloucester and Bristol. It was made to appear to them that the see of Bristol would bear a larger future charge than had been put upon it. They, therefore, passed an order putting that larger charge upon it, and resolved upon taking this estate of Horfield upon the next avoidance of the see to the Episcopal Fund of the Commission. Accordingly, this resolution was intimated to the bishop, and he felt considerable annoyance at it, because he thought the arrangement would be unfair, not to himself, because it did not affect him, but to his successors, who, he thought, would be left poorer than they ought to be. And then, in 1847, there did happen a communication between the solicitor of the bishop on the one side, and the solicitor of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners on the other, which related solely to the manner in which the arrangement could be satisfactorily carried out; but there was no hint in any one word, either on the side of the Commissioners or on the side of the Bishop, that there was anything like moral obligation one way or the other involved in the question of renewal. But there was an answer of the bishop upon which this misrepresentation had been based. The bishop, from the day that he had taken possession of the see, felt that the peculiar tenure of the Horfield estate was a most injurious tenure to the Church, because it prevented improvements being carried out; and therefore he stated that he never intended to renew the lease upon the terms upon which it had hitherto been granted; but he never gave the least hint in the world of not granting a different kind of lease. The ground of the words of which use had been made was this. The bishop addressed a letter to the Commissioners, in which, after having stated that he felt considerable annoyance at the Commissioners not communicating with himself, instead of sending their solicitor to his solicitor, he proceeded to say— I learn that a report of my intention to re-grant this lease for lives as heretofore has been several times matter of conversation at the board, and has been spoken of in terms of condemnation. Of the existence of the report I was aware, as well as of its origin; the authority being certain printed evidence given before the Ecclesiastical Leases Committee of the House of Commons some years ago, by a land surveyor of this neighbourhood, who stated that he understood such to be the intention of the bishop. [This person, to whom I never spoke, is notorious for his unfriendliness to the Church and Churchmen.] His assertion, as coming from an individual who could know nothing about me, I treated like a newspaper report, with silent contempt. To have noticed it publicly at the time would have been thought by some presumptuous, by other ridiculous. However, the manner in which I spoke of this evidence in conversation is at least a proof that I did not meditate acting the very part which he had assigned me. It had been stated that there was a blank after the word "very," which was intended to be filled up with "disgraceful," or "shameful," or some word to that effect. Now he (the Bishop of Oxford) could assure their Lordships that there was neither blank, omission, nor erasure at the word "very;" that the words followed each other in the closest contact. It was this letter, written in 1847, which had been assigned by the accusers of the right rev. Prelate to the year 1842; and hence the obloquy thrown on his right rev. Friend by those who took it for granted that he had written, "I am sorry the Commissioners should suspect me of acting so very—a part," and hence the fine embellishments about blanks and erasures of Mr. Horsman. The sense was distinct, and it was clear that he did not meditate acting the part attributed to him. There was nothing like an intimation that the bishop thought it was a disgraceful thing to renew the three lives. The charge proceeded to state that— Under these circumstances the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were surprised, at the commencement of 1848, by reciving a communication from the Bishop of Gloucester, stating his intention to renew the lease, and giving them the refusal of it for the sum of 11,500l. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners desired their Secretary to write to the Bishop, reminding him of the moral obligation he was under not to renew the lease. The Bishop answered that he knew nothing of any moral obligations; that he had a legal right; and if the Commissioners did not choose to pay him 11,500l., he would renew the lease, and alienate the property from the Church. Now no such letter was written by the Secretary, and no such answer was sent by the Bishop. But the case was still stronger, for instead of the Ecclesiastical Commis- sioners having been surprised at hearing a rumour of the bishop's intention, the real fact was that they themselves received, in February, 1848, a communication from the Bishop of Gloucester, stating his intention to renew the lease, and opening a negotiation with them, offering to part to them his interest in this estate of Horfield Manor. The Commissioners having taken the property in reversion, and the bishop thinking it was for the good of the Church that they should have it at once, and carry out the improvement he had intended, offered to part with his interest to them. That letter was received on the 21st of February, and on the 24th it was referred to a select committee of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, not very likely either to perpetrate or connive at a job, as Sir J. Graham was its Chairman. On the 4th of March this letter was transmitted from that Committee to his right rev. Friend: "Your letter has just been brought before the Finance Committee, who felt strongly the liberality of your offer." This was the letter which was said to have been a gentle reminder from the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the moral obligation which his right rev. Friend was ignoring. The negotiation then went on. They had been told that "the Ecclesiastical Commissioners had agreed most improperly to deal with the bishop, and to pay him 11,500l.; that they endeavoured, not openly, but privately, to arrange the transfer; that the deed of transfer was submitted to their solicitor, who refused to incur the responsibility of being a party to it." Now, how stood the facts? The Commissioners being satisfied that there was neither legal, equitable, nor moral restraint, came to the unanimous resolution that the bishop was not bound to deal differently with this from any other property, and they drew a plan transferring it to themselves, and passed a resolution, and sent it, not to the solicitor, but to an eminent conveyancer, Mr. Dugmore, requesting him to advise by what legal document the conveyance of the Horfield Manor estate could be made from the Bishop to the Commissioners. His answer was that by the provisions of the statute of the 13th of Elizabeth, which had never been repealed, it would be necessary to do it, not by a simple conveyance, but by an Order in Council. And yet it was made an insinuation against the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and his right rev. Friend, that they were prevented from carrying out this job by the watchfulness of a Member of the other House. The Order in Council, having been drawn out, was sent in May to the law officers of the Crown to be approved. It was considered by them for a month, and then they returned it, stating that they saw a legal difficulty, in consequence of the act of the Commissioners, in transferring the estate after the next avoidance, and on that ground the Order in Council was defeated. The bishop naturally felt that he might be maligned on the ground that the negotiation had failed, and he called upon the Commissioners to express their opinion upon the subject; and at a very large meeting of the Board, at which were present not only the late Archbishop of Canterbury and a great number of right rev. Prelates, but also the Earl of Harrowby, Sir James Graham, and Mr. Goulburn, a resolution was unanimously carried, of which he would read an extract from the minutes of a general meeting, held on Thursday, the 13th of July, 1848:— Present—the Archbishop of Canterbury (in the chair), the Earl of Harrowby, the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham, the Bishop of Chichester, the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, the Bishop of Oxford, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Hon. Henry Goulburn, the Right Hon. Sir James R. G. Graham. The Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol having pressed the Board to an early settlement of the pending negotiation concerning the Horfield estate, and expressed his desire to be set free from his agreement, unless it can be speedily arranged, it was, after full discussion and reference to the secretary, resolved, 'That the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, having been under no obligation, legal or equitable, to deal with the Horfield estate otherwise than with any other estate of his see, and having made with regard to it liberal offers to the Board, the Board are anxious to avoid all needless delay in bringing the negotiation to a close, and desire their secretary to communicate this wish to the law officers of the Crown. The remaining charge was, that, on the dropping of the last life, the bishop had renewed the lease in the way he had said he would never renew it. Now, how was that? If his right rev. Friend had renewed that lease by selling it to a second party, as was commonly the case, allowing him to put three lives upon it, he would have done the thing he said he would not do; but he put in his secretary as a nominal lessee to represent himself, and he then filled up the lease with three lives in order to retain full power over it, so as to carry out the improvements which, from first to last, had been his object. He now possessed the power to determine that lease whenever he thought proper, and was able to carry out all the improvements he desired. He had already laid out a large sum in enfranchising the copyhold. He had received nothing, but spent much, and to avoid the reproach of grasping, he gave up a living which he held in commendam of the same value as what he would have received from this estate. But it was said that his children would have the benefit of the estate for three lives, while he had only given up the commendam which he held for his own life. Now when the bishop was in negotiation with the Commissioners for selling his interest in the Horfield estate, the terms were 11,500l. So fully was it believed that the scheme would be carried into effect, that the purposes of the bishop with regard to it became accidentally known, in consequence of which an official statement was made to his clergy as to the manner in which he intended to appropriate that sum. Some years before he lent, out of his own private fortune, 5,000l. for the purpose of establishing an educational institution in the neighbourhood of Bristol, which appeared to be very desirable. He had not given it, because he thought it would not be just to his children, but he advanced it on the condition that his children should receive it back again. Recent circumstances had made it very problematical whether it would ever be repaid, and he therefore arranged, that if his family did not receive back this sum of 5,000l., 5,000l. of the 11,500l. he was to receive for the Horfield estate should go to repay his family, and the 6,500l. should go to endow small livings in the diocese of Bristol. Now he would ask their Lordships, as honourable men, whether the man who intended so to appropriate the money, should be treated as if he were avariciously disposing of this estate for his own selfish advantage? And he would ask their Lordships one other question—whether, if this accusation of baseness had been brought against them, if they had been so pursued by the envenomed tooth of slander, he would ask, if they cared for their honour, would any of them have made public their liberal intentions when such false charges were made? That was the state of things. This was not an alienation from the Church. The property was in the power of his right rev. Friend, and, from his experience of the past, he was confident it might be safely left to his honourable intentions. His right rev. Friend stated that he had taken this course because he knew of only three modes of dealing with the property. One was, that he might have let it during his incumbency, in which case it would have deteriorated in value every year, from the impossibility of carrying out the necessary improvements; secondly, if he had let it for twenty-one years, he would have been prevented by the copyholder from carrying out his improvements; and he said the only other thing was to fill it up in the way he had done for three lives, not taking a fine and alienating it from the Church, but putting in one who only represented him as a trustee, and so enabling him to carry out his intentions. He (the Bishop of Oxford) had told his right rev. Friend that if he would communicate to him in a written form what his intentions were, he would lay them before their Lordships; and what did their Lordships think was his reply? He would read it to them:— Those who know me will believe that the same feelings animate me now as before; but I will not at this time enter into any promises or engagements. Those who wish to know my particular views and intentions must infer them from what I have already done. Spectemur agendo. I have surrendered an equivalent church income. I have expended a good deal, and have committed myself to expend a good deal more in the permanent improvement of property to which the reversioners contribute nothing, and I have signified my intention to endow the living at the first avoidance with the rentcharge. It is true that I have ulterior views, should my life be spared long enough; but I will not specify them, nor will I at the present time make the least further promise or engagement. You know the bitter and unscrupulous warfare by which I am assailed. It is impossible for me to say or do anything, however disinterested, to which a bad colour would not be given; and were I to make any promise with regard to Horfield at the present moment, it would infallibly be attributed to fear of him who has determined, per fas atque nefas, to destroy my character. His right rev. Friend called on their Lordships to judge from his past actions what his future would be, if he were left free from the venomous poison which had so long embittered his life. He (the Bishop of Oxford) thanked their Lordships for the indulgent kindness with which they had heard him. He could assure them that the expression of their sympathy would be dear to his right rev. Brother, who, without friends or patronage, had, by the force of his learning and ability, raised himself to eminence in the Church and in society; who had been, in his diocese and among those who had known him, remarkable for nothing more than his openhanded libe- rality; who, absent from his country, sick in body and depressed in spirit—at an age almost reaching the period assigned to man, was unable to defend himself in person against the unrelenting persecution to which he had been so long exposed; and who, under the unexampled misrepresentation of which he had been made the victim, would feel it one of his highest gratifications to know that this statement had been made openly before the country, and to find that he still retained the love and admiration of their Lordships.


said, that, after the able and feeling address of his right rev. Friend, he would only add that, from a long and intimate acquaintance of more than five-and-forty years with the right rev. Prelate, the subject of this discussion, he felt justified in asserting, without fear of being contradicted, that their Lordships and the country might safely leave the interests of the Church, so far as they were connected with this question, in the hands of the right rev. Prelate, with the assurance that he would do that which was just and true; and that as informer years a deserved reproach had never been cast upon him, so in the remainder of his days he would do nothing to discredit the character of a well-spent and virtuous life.


could not refrain from expressing his satisfaction at the well-proved statement of his right rev. Friend, which must remove from the minds of their Lordships and of the public every particle of suspicion that might have been supposed to exist. He had enjoyed the friendship of the Bishop of Gloucester for a great many years. He had always considered him one of the most kindhearted and generous of men, and it would have surprised him indeed if on this occasion his right rev. Friend had forfeited the character he had hitherto sustained. It turned out that there was not the smallest ground for the imputation which had been cast upon him. It all rested on this false statement—that his right rev. Friend had received the estate of Horfield under different circumstances from that relating to any other property belonging to the see. His right rev. Friend had demonstrated that there was not the smallest pretence for such a statement, and that his right rev. Friend had as much right to grant a lease for three lives of this property as their Lordships had to grant a lease of any other property. That being so, it appeared that a most cruel and unfounded attack had been made on his right rev. Friend, arising from his generosity in undertaking to give more than one-half of the premium he was entitled to receive, for the purpose of ecclesiastical endowment. It happened, too, that the present Bishop of Gloucester had consecrated more churches in his diocese than had been consecrated within that diocese from the dawn of the Reformation until his appointment; and had contributed most liberally to all charitable purposes. He would transmit to his children the fair fame which he now enjoyed, and which they would consider a richer inheritance than any wealth which he might bequeath to them.


said, he would bear witness to the perfect correctness of all the facts connected with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to which the right rev. Prelate had referred. The Bishop of Gloucester was under no obligation, legal or equitable, in any way to deal with this property otherwise than with other parts of the property in this see; and he was much surprised to hear the statement that the Bishop had in this instance departed from that line of conduct by which he had hitherto been distinguished. Having had the happiness of living in his diocese, he could bear testimony to the right rev. Prelate's acts of kindness and liberality. He was content to leave the matter entirely in his hands, being fully conscious that he would use this property in the most advantageous way for the interests of the Church. He could not understand the conduct of Gentlemen professing themselves attached members of the Church, whilst they were doing all in their power on every occasion to assume everything evil in the conduct of the heads of that Church. He considered the whole matter perfectly clear, and that the right rev. Prelate had been actuated by no other motive than a desire to promote the interests of the Church.

On Question, agreed to.