HL Deb 05 March 1857 vol 144 cc1889-92

, in moving for a return of the number of benefices within the diocese of London having endowments under £200 a-year, said, that since he had given notice of his intention to move for that Return he had received several communications from London clergymen on the subject of it. Since the Burial Acts had been passed, and the consequent diminution of the burial fees, the income of many of the metropolitan clergy had been reduced to an amount incompatible with the maintenance of their social position, and manifestly disproportioned to the important and laborious duties they had to discharge. One of his correspondents was the Rev. Mr. Kelly, the incumbent of St. John's, Hoxton, who stated, that the church there was consecrated in 1826, that he was then appointed minister of it, and that there was no endowment of the church. He added, that in 1851 the population of St. John's was 21,365; that his average net income from pew rents, marriage fees, &c., was £330, and from burial fees £210, making together £540.The effect of the Act passed a few years ago for regulating the burial of persons dying in the metropolis, had been to reduce his income from £540 to £330, and that after he had been thirty years a minister of that church. In addition to that, he was liable to pay £90 a-year out of the fees to a fund of the church wardens which went to defray certain expenses incidental to the celebration of public worship. He (Viscount Dungannon) submitted that that was a very hard case, and he believed it was only one among many such. It was a melancholy fact, that the Legislature was not doing anything whatever towards placing the parochial clergy in populous parishes in the position in which they ought to be; and if their Lordships would grant him the return for which he asked, it would show an extraordinary catalogue of populous parishes with very poor endowments. Nevertheless, the incumbent was expected to be the largest contributor to all local charities, even the richest of their parishioners frequently regulating their subscriptions to such objects by the amount of the clergyman's contribution. He thought it, moreover, very objectionable that any portion of the incumbent's income should be dependent upon pew rents, as was the case in many parishes, on the ground that it placed him in a very invidious position in regard to his parishioners. He hoped the time had arrived when these matters would receive serious consideration, and when some satisfactory information would be given as to how the very large sum in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners was disposed of. Of course that Commission entailed a certain degree of expense and required a certain number of officials; nor did he complain of proper remuneration being given to those officials, but he did think that some account ought to be rendered to this House and to the public as to the manner in which those funds were applied. He was not to be told that because in certain parishes the clergymen occasionally received large fees, or because they had large congregations, therefore they were to be considered well endowed. These were matters of chance and favour to which the Church of England ought not to be exposed, and he thought that the information which he now sought to obtain would fully justify the course he had taken on this question. Moved—"That there be laid before this House, Return of the number of benefices with in the diocese of London, having endowments under £200 a-year; specifying the population in connection with such benefices, the name of each benefice, and those of them which are without a residence for the incumbent.


said, he had no objection to the production of the Return moved for, and was glad to see that the noble Viscount had turned his attention to this important subject, which deserved the fullest consideration. With respect to the Ecclesiastical Commission, however, the noble Viscount seemed to be unaware that, not only did that Commission present an annual report to Parliament, containing every possible detail as to its proceedings, but that on two occasions Parliament had made this the subject of most minute investigation. So lately as last year the House of Commons appointed a Committee which received evidence in detail from the officials employed, and to the Report of this Committee he would refer the noble Viscount for full information respecting the expenditure and the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Commission. If he remembered rightly, the Commission had made an augmentation of the endowments of benefices to the amount of £86,000 a-year. [Viscount DUNGANNON: I believe a miserably small sum was added to each benefice.] That might be, but there was an immense number of claimants, and it was impossible to give what might be wished to each of these. It might be a question for discussion as to whether it was desirable to give more to few or less to many; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, acting, he believed, in accordance with definite instructions from Parliament, had gone on the principle of giving small sums to a great many, rather than larger amounts to few. No doubt a large body of the clergy of the Established Church were possessed of endowments totally inadequate; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were doing the best with the funds at their disposal, and could not be accused of partiality as to the distribution of those funds. Then, too, very desirable reforms had been introduced. It used to be the practice for a person to hold two, or three, or four small benefices, performing service in each sometimes once a fortnight, sometimes once a month, and yet receiving from all of them a very in adequate remuneration. For good reasons it had been thought better that each parish should have its own clergyman, but in laying down and applying this provision it naturally happened that in some instances the endowments were of very small amount. He was afraid that he could not entertain any very sanguine hope of the deficiencies which had been occasioned being made up from any existing fund.


said, that late changes, caused by the Burial Act, had fallen very heavily on many of the clergy. In one living it had occasioned a loss of £408 a-year to the incumbent; in another living, a loss of £518 a-year; in another, a loss of £250 a-year, where there was a population of 17,000; in another, a loss of £250 a-year, bringing the living down to £200; in another, a loss of £200 a-year, reducing the living to £100; and in another most important parish the living was entirely dependent upon the Easter offerings, there being nothing left after the incumbent had paid his curates. Seeing, then, how severely the clergy were suffering from recent measures of legislation, by which the public were largely benefited, he trusted that the attention of Parliament would be turned to the subject with the view of remedying this state of things.


also said, he was aware that the incomes of many of the clergy in the metropolis had been very greatly reduced by the operation of the recent Burial Acts.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned till To-morrow.