HL Deb 23 April 1858 vol 149 cc1558-75

rose to move the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the deficiency of means of Spiritual Instruction and Places of Divine worship in the metropolis, and in other populous districts of the mining and commercial parts of England and Wales. The right rev. Prelate had placed his notice upon the paper somewhat thoughtlessly, and little knowing the extent of the inquiry which such a Committee would have to undertake; and now, feeling his inability to deal with the subject, he almost shrank from the labour which he had undertaken. He had been incautiously induced to make this Motion by the debate upon the Church of England Special Services Bill, which was passed by their Lordships last Session. After the speech of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), who introduced a measure which was superseded by that to which he had referred, to which he gave his full concurrence, he felt that it would be a humiliation to the episcopate of England if it could suggest no stronger measure. The Motion he was now making had for its object to show from inquiry the necessity for such a measure, and to arrive at some conclusion as to what its shape should be. The Motion divided itself into two parts, the one relating to the metropolis, and the other to the populous districts of the mining and commercial parts of the country. As to the metropolis, he had asked his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of London) to undertake that part of the subject supposing that it would come more naturally from the Bishop of the diocese, but that right rev. Prelate said that he had rather that he should include it in his Motion, and at the same time promised him his fullest and most effectual assistance—a promise which he had amply fulfilled, for which he sin- cerely thanked him. The metropolis was an agglomeration of men such as had hardly been known before. We had heard of greater multitudes belonging to one city, hut those accounts were not authenticated as ours are. Allowing for the increase since the last census there must now be a metropolis containing nearer to 3,000,000 than 2,000,000 persons. It was true that the census of 1851 gave the number of inhabitants as 2,362,236, but the Registrar General had recently stated that at least 300,000 persons had been added to that population, and that the increase went on at the rate of 60,000 a year. The moral and religious instruction of such a vast agglomeration of persons was one of the greatest national objects to which the attention of the Government could be turned. He was not now asking the Government to take any step in the matter, nor did he propose to do so in the Committee; he only wished to ascertain the facts upon which future measures might be founded. In the Census of 1851, which, despite some fair grounds of objection, was a work of great research and great industry, and which contained information of the most important character, it was stated that in order to afford to every person, capable of attending, an opportunity of religious worship, the proportion of church accommodation which ought to be provided was fifty-eight in every 100 of the entire population. The actual number of sittings in places of religious worship of all denominations in the metropolis was 691,793, or, making allowance for cases in which no returns had been made, the number of sittings is estimated at 713,561. Of these the Church of England supplied 415,000, or something less than eighteen for every 100 of the population; and other denominations 264,261, or little more than eleven for every 100. To provide, therefore, accommodation for 58 per cent. of the population there would require an addition of 670,000 sittings. But that very inadequately expressed the real extent of the evil. It was manifest that proper accommodation for 58 per cent. of the population was required in every district and in every parish, and it would be delusive to show that in all England or in all London there was the necessary accommodation if there was a great inequality in its distribution in different parishes; because, owing to this inequality, the deficiency was far greater in some districts. That this inequality existed to a most distressing extent was abun- dantly proved by the statements in the census returns. For the purpose of making those returns in reference to religious accommodation the country was divided into 623 districts, of these twenty were selected as being the most deficient; and nineteen of the most destitute of these districts were in the metropolis; the population was 1,423,000, and the Church of England sittings amounted to only 208,865, or little more than one-seventh of the population. It was not only in London that this want was felt; it was experienced also in all our largest towns. He found that the population of the other towns containing over 100,000 inhabitants was 4,260,000 and of these only 1,000,000 or one fourth were provided with religious accommodation. In six of the most populous districts of the metropolis there was a population of 806,000 for whom there were provided 192,183 sittings, of which 78,756 were free. The Church of England provided 118,871 sittings, 44,141 being free. The secretary of the London Diocesan Church Building Society stated that the population of twenty-five parishes, a list of which he held in his hand, was 460,125, and the sittings 37,170, or less than one twelfth of the population. The destitution was, however, best measured by comparing the number of persons to be ministered to with the number of ministers. Church accommodation was of slight importance when compared with the necessity that persons should have clergy to minister to them on all occasions on which the ministry of a clergyman could be most beneficial. Besides, the best means of securing attendance in the churches was having earnest and zealous clergymen, who felt an interest in the people, and could interest them in the holy offices of religion. In twenty-five parishes of the metropolis there was only one clergyman to every 9,000 souls. It was an opprobrium to England that the Gospel was not brought within the reach of the poor; and the poor not only had not churches to go to, but they were elbowed out of the places to which they had as good a right as any one of their Lordships to his seat in that House. He spoke in the presence of noble and learned Lords who would correct him if he was wrong, when he said that every parishioner had a legal and constitutional right to accommodation in his parish church, as far as the room would admit, and that the system of assigning particular pews or particular seats to certain individuals and certain families was not warranted by the law. The great necessity, however, was for additional clergymen. In the diocese of London the number of parishes containing more than 6,000 inhabitants each was 127, the clergymen employed in them, reckoning curates, being only 234. It therefore appeared that in those parishes there was but one clergyman to every 6,000 or 6,500 souls, or 234 to 1,500,000 people. If he took some special cases the matter was still worse. In the parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, with a population of 25,111, there was but one church and one clergyman. The incumbent's income had been reduced from £500 to less than £100 by the operation of the Burial Acts, and he could no longer pay the stipend of curates. Similar results had followed in other parishes, and he asked what compensation had been granted for the injury done to the clergy by this legislation? It had been promised, but never carried out. The incomes of the benefices of St. George's and St. James's, Hanover Square, had each been reduced by £200 a year on account of the withdrawal of burial fees. The clergy of the metropolitan parishes had been challenged to produce a good claim for compensation; and yet within the last few days they had had it stilted on the highest authority—no less an authority indeed than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that the actual sum which the country was bound to pay to the proctors by reason of the late changes in Doctors' Commons was as much as £250,000 per annum. [The Earl of DERBY: That was what had been asked, but it had not yet been granted.] He saw from the daily newspapers that it had been broadly stated that £250,000 for several years to come was the amount which would have to be paid to the proctors, and as he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer it had been allowed. Lot their Lordships contrast this liberality with the miserable pittance doled out to those who had charge of the souls of the people. In the district of Haggerstone, with a population in 1851 of 31,627, which was greatly increasing, there was but one church, containing 2,000 sittings, or one for 11 persons; and 1,300 free sittings, or one for 24 persons. There were three clergymen, one of whom was paid by the incumbent, and another in part by private donations. The net income of the incumbent was about £200, he having lost £60 per annum by the Burial Bill. The expenses of this church were formerly paid in part by a share of the burial fees; but that resource had now been cut off, and no one knew by whom the deficiency was to be made up. But, coming nearer home, it would he found that St. James's, Westminster, was one of the nineteen districts in the whole kingdom which were most in need of church accommodation. That was also the parish which, with the exception of a parish in Clerkenwell, had the fewest free sittings in the whole metropolis; and what were called "free sittings" were principally occupied by the domestic servants of the wealthier inhabitants. In the reign of George III. an Act was passed, which provided that in all churches to be erected thenceforward a certain number of free seats should be reserved. The Church of St. Philip, Regent Street, in the parish of St. James, was one of those erected since that Act. The poor were crammed into a dark quarter of the building, which was out of sight, and even to get there the poor creatures had to mount eighty steps. Was that the way in which they ought to treat persons whom they ought to regard as brethren? Still more, he would go from the parish of St. James to the fashionable parish of St. George, Hanover Square, containing more wealth than any equal area in Europe or the world, and which was assessed to the poor rate at £640,000 a year, and with a population of only 11,000. It would naturally be expected that here at least would be found ample church accommodation for all—the poor as well as the rich; and he had no doubt if the matter were brought before them in a visible and tangible way, that the inhabitants would contribute largely to provide sufficient spiritual accommodation for their poorer brethren. But from Oxford Street to Piccadilly two churches formed the whole supply for the poor; and for the remainder of the parish, containing more than 20,000 persons, the whole number of sittings which the poor were now permitted to look to as their own in consecrated churches amounted to 500. There were some doubts respecting the legal powers of churchwardens, but he did not hesitate to say, in the presence of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, that it was contrary to the common law of England for the churchwardens or any one else to impose a single six-pence upon a church sitting, yet upwards of £1,000 a year was raised by the rents of the sittings in St. George's, Hanover Square. It was but justice to the incumbent to say that he did not receive a single sixpence of the rents imposed upon the sittings in that church. It went entirely to the maintenance of the building, and no doubt every one must admire the way in which it was kept up. Amongst 6,500 of the richest inhabitants of the metropolis who lived in this parish there were 2,500 of the poorest class, because where the richest people lived the poorest must live also. There were dens and alleys in the parish which presented a frightful spectacle of destitution, physical and spiritual. The Woods and Forests had been applied to for ground near the Green Park whereon to build a church, which would greatly relieve the spiritual destitution in this quarter. The answer returned was worthy of the Woods and Forests. They said that the Woods and Forests did not feel themselves at liberty to make such a present. Oh! the genius of red tape; where would it cease its flight? He would not go into any further details respecting the metropolis. The facts he had stated fully justified— demanded the appointment of a Committee. He could prove that the vast population of Manchester, which was larger than many of the capitals in Europe, was as spiritually destitute as London; but he was unwilling to occupy their Lordships' time by going through all the details regarding it. In Liverpool the spiritual destitution was equally great. Referring to a communication which he had received from a rev. gentleman there, who was well acquainted with the subject on which he wrote, he found that in six new parishes or districts in that town, containing 120 acres of houses and 54,000 souls, there was church accommodation for only 4,300, or for 1 in 13 of the population—the free seat room being for 3,050, or 1 in 18. The entire population of the borough was 343,784, and there was not church accommodation for more than 57,500, or for 16⅔ per cent, and that was so unequally distributed that in two districts containing 24,000 inhabitants church accommodation was only provided for 600, or one in forty. But the actual attendance when the churches were fairly filled could only be about 10 per cent of the population. The churches were not frequented by the labouring classes, because, though surrounded by the poor, they had been built chiefly for the rich, and some of them did not contain, until very recently, a single sitting or even kneeling place for the poor. It was notorious that the accommodation for the lower classes, added the writer, was always in the least desirable parts of the church, and hence they felt themselves degraded. There were thousands of persons in Liverpool who had never been in. church or chapel, and who had even never been baptized—that was to say were not Christians in a Christian land. The only other place to which he would refer was the diocese of Durham, with which he had been connected for nearly sixty years. That was the most largely endowed of any diocese, and their Lordships might suppose, therefore, that it was the one which would be best provided with church accommodation. The very contrary was the fact, for the county of Durham stood the lowest in the list. This was not in any way to be attributed to any laxity on the part of a late right rev. Prelate who had long administered the affairs of that diocese; for a more liberal, earnest, and conscientious diocesan there could not have been. The subject was one which had often been discussed in conversation between that right rev. Prelate and himself, and the former had sometimes expressed a fear that he should die too rich. Upon that he (the Bishop of Exeter) had told him that if he left behind him only his private property, and not any accumulations of his ecclesiastical property, no one could blame him. Upon his death it was found not only that he had liberally dispensed his ecclesiastical property, but that he had also largely expended his private property in the spiritual improvement of his diocese. On the death of his right rev. Friend the revenues of the see were cut down, and his right rev. successor was unable to do so much, but he had nevertheless done very handsomely. The chapter of Durham also was most liberal in its disbursements. It had been always open to the necessities of the people, and not long since it contributed £5,000 out of its rents to the building of a church. It was not owing, therefore, to the avarice of the well-endowed clergy that the diocese of Durham stood so low in the scale with respect to church accommodation, but it was mainly to be attributed to the introduction of large bodies of miners and adventurers of various kinds into that county by which means the population increased too fast for the means of the church to keep pace with it. If he might venture to make a suggestion with reference to this diocese, it would be that he thought it only fair that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be empowered to apply a portion of the revenue which they derived from their mineral property in the diocese of Durham to the spiritual destitution of those multitudes who were attracted there to work those minerals. No doubt splendid things had been done by private individuals, especially in the metropolis, in providing increased church accommodation. The late Bishop of London, besides large donations to all sorts of funds, had himself built and endowed a church at Fulham. When collections were made for building churches in Bethnal Green one individual gave £10,000, and a lady, whose immense wealth was well known, but whose power of doing good was not greater than her disposition, presented £17,000 to a Bank director, who was on the building committee; and various individuals gave large sums in recognition of a successful year of business. But the march of population outran all voluntary efforts, and in every year there was a larger access of the necessity for church building. In the reign of Queen Anne a message was sent down to Parliament, recommending that means should be provided for building fifty new churches in and about London. To this Parliament cheerfully responded, and an Act was passed, 9 Anne, c. 22, granting to Her Majesty certain rates and duties for this purpose—so that Parliament had not hesitated to tax the people for this purpose. Her successor had naturally not much sympathy with the Church of England, and his Ministers, Sir Robert Walpole and others, took their cue from him in this respect and were disgracefully neglectful of their duties. He was aware that it was not in their Lordships' power to vote any funds for the purpose of relieving this spiritual destitution, which was so much to be deplored. He would not, therefore, blame their Lordships. Neither would he address any blame to the other branch of the Legislature, whose duty it more particularly was to vote the public money. He would address the people of the country, for it was those who empowered the Legislature who were guilty of this gross and sinful disregard of the best interests of the nation. It would not do to say that the people were divided into sects; because the necessary and logical conclusion from that fact was that more money should be granted, not that none should be granted. It might be fashionable in modern times to ignore the claims of the Church of Eng- land, or at all events to regard it as nothing more than any ordinary institution. But by whomsoever or wheresoever that was said, he did not hesitate to say that it was false; for if there was a constitution in England the church was a part of that constitution. If Magna Charta was a part of the constitution — if the great Statute of Appeals was a part of the constitution—if the Bill of Rights was a part of the constitution—if the Acts of Settlement, of the Unions with Scotland and Ireland—if these were parts of the constitution, then the Acts which declared the Church of England and its maintenance to be essential and fundamental to it, were also part of that constitution. Littleton, Blackstone, and other sages of the law, had laid it down that the Church was a fundamental part of the constitution, and if that were so, was it not the duty of the country to maintain the Church in a state of efficiency? He feared that we were a people who worshipped Mammon, Mammon, the least erected spirit that fell From Heav'n, for e'en in Heav'n his looks and thoughts Were always downward bent, admiring more The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold, Than aught divine or holy else enjoy'd In vision beatific. Commercial prosperity was perfectly consistent with spiritual action; but they had the histories of many commercial countries to show that commercial prosperity did not survive Christian principles and the acknowledgment of Christian duty. The right rev. Prelate concluded by moving— That a Select Committee of this House be appointed to inquire into the Deficiency of Means of Spiritual Instruction and Places of Divine Worship in the Metropolis, and in other populous Districts in England and Wales, especially in the Mining and Manufacturing Districts; and to consider the fittest Means of meeting the Difficulties of the Case.


My Lords, I am not about to follow the right rev. Prelate through all the eloquent observations which he has made to your Lordships on this most important subject. In many of the sentiments which have been expressed by the right rev. Prelate it is impossible not to concur, and it is equally impossible not to concur in the connection between many of the facts which he has brought forward, and the conclusions which he has drawn from them. I believe no one can doubt that in this metropolis, and in the great manufacturing and mining districts of the country, there does prevail a most lamentable amount of spiritual destitution. I have no doubt that a great portion of that spiritual destitution is to be attributed to the rapid extension of commercial and manufacturing industry. But perhaps the right rev. Prelate, not unnaturally, has somewhat failed to do justice to the many instances of the splendid liberality and distinguished munificence of those who have made their fortunes by commercial pursuits. It is within my own knowledge that there are many instances which reflect the highest credit upon those who, for the spiritual benefit of their fellow-citizens, and more especially those under their own immediate superintendence, have devoted a large portion of the advantages derived from their commercial prosperity. Nevertheless, we cannot doubt that there does exist in the great manufacturing and commercial districts of this country, and more especially in this metropolis, a large and overwhelming amount of spiritual destitution, which requires the deepest attention. It is a subject, however, which has not been altogether overlooked by the Legislature, nor by those who have been placed in a situation of responsibility with regard to it. I need not refer to what has been already stated by the right rev. Prelate as to the great efforts which have been made find the stimulus which has been caused by the efforts of the late Bishop of London towards the improvement of the most destitute portions of the metropolis. The Legislature, also, has not been wanting in its efforts from time to time—I do not say to supply, because that is not desirable — but to assist and stimulate the exertions of private individuals in this respect. Your Lordships have not forgotten that the late Sir Robert Peel took a very prominent part and active interest in this question, and that many years ago he was the means, by the arrangements which he then made, of causing the formation of 200 new ecclesiastical districts, and providing, moderately, no doubt, for 200 additional clergymen in those districts. That object was accomplished partly by stimulating private beneficence, and partly by encouraging an improved management of the church revenues. That improved management has gone on, and is at the present time in progress, and I am happy to say that, although undoubtedly of itself it will not reach the whole, or even a large part of the evils with which we have to contend, yet that to a great extent the improved management of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to which the right rev. Prelate has referred, is making some impression in some parts of the country upon the destitution which he has so feelingly described. The right rev. Prelate has entered into a discussion of some of the provisions of the Bill which I have laid upon your Lordships' table referring to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and I am quite sure your Lordships will excuse me if I do not follow him into that part of the subject. There will be opportunities enough for discussing that Bill when it comes before your Lordships, and particularly how far it is expedient to distribute throughout the country the revenues derived from the improved management of certain districts, or to confine the benefit to the wants of the districts where the funds arose. That is a very small part of this question. The facts of great destitution existing undoubtedly stand untouched, and, without entering further into any details, I may say that with respect to the parish of St. James, Westminster, with which I am more immediately connected, no more than justice has been done to the exertions and zeal of the respected rector. I believe that, although in that parish there is a considerable amount of spiritual destitution, there is hardly a parish in which greater efforts have been made to reduce it. It is agreed on all hands that there is a great deficiency, and I agree with the right rev. Prelate that that which is more necessary than the provision of churches is the provision of spiritual superintendence. Without pretending to say in what manner the Legislature or the country can best meet these great and acknowledged evils, I shall content myself by saying that the subject is well deserving the attention of the Bench of Bishops and of your Lordships, and that I shall rejoice most sincerely if the labours of the Committee now moved for, to which I make no objection whatever, should lend to the application of efficient remedies.


said, that the right rev. Prelate was entitled to the thanks of the House and the country at large for bringing this subject forward. There could be nothing more important than that the House should direct its attention to the moral and religious condition of the people. The right rev. Prelate had not overstated the case; but he (the Duke of Marlborough) said that most of the existing evils might be traced to two principal causes—the want of sufficient endowment for the clergy and the enor- mous evils which grew out of the degraded moral state of the people. The best and most practical mode of dealing with spiritual destitution was to increase the parochial action of the clergy, and this could not be effected without more liberal endowments. The Bill proposed by the late Sir Robert Peel for dividing populous parishes had proved most successful in operation, and by its means upwards of 200 parishes had been provided with churches, entirely through the almost unaided efforts of the ill-paid and hard-working clergy. What was wanted was a sufficiency of endowment, and if that were obtained, there would be no difficulty in raising the fabric of the church, as it was well known that persons now freely came forward to subscribe towards the material fabric if assured that an adequate endowment would be provided. He believed that if a Committee could devise a plan for providing such endowments they would confer upon the country a benefit that could not be over estimated.


said, he perfectly concurred with the noble Duke as to the necessity of providing an adequate endowment for the clergy of the Church of England. It was impossible that the clergy could ever obtain a due influence over their flocks unless they were placed in a position of worldly independence. The right rev. Prelate who introduced the subject had given a faithful account of the spiritual destitution that prevailed, not only in this metropolis but in populous towns and mining districts in various parts of the empire. He could not but deplore that due consideration was not given by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to the religious wants of those dioceses from which so much had been abstracted, and to no diocese did this re-; mark apply more than to that of Durham. Immense revenues had been abstracted from it and applied to the general purposes of the Ecclesiastical Commission, but its spiritual wants were still neglected, and he should like to know how much of the money drawn from it had found its way back to relieve that destitution. He hoped that means would be provided not merely to build but to endow an additional number of churches, for he knew that ft large number of persons would be perfectly willing to subscribe for the erection of churches if they were sure that an endowment for the clergymen would be forthcoming. He considered that the thanks of the community were deeply due to the right rev. Prelate for bringing the subject forward, and he sincerely hoped that some good result would attend the labours of the Committee.


begged to express his ready acquiescence in the appointment of the Committee. He anticipated much benefit from their labours, both from the information which they might elicit, and from the advantage of directing public attention to the subject. I trust their inquiries will end, not merely in a blue-book, but that they will result in some measure of practical legislation. At the same time the noble Earl opposite has properly reminded us of the numerous cases which occur of munificent conduct on the part of private individuals in building and endowing churches, and I trust that the appointment of a Committee will not excite expectations that grants of public money will be voted for the purposes of church extension.


said, that as the right rev. Prelate had directed many of his remarks to the metropolis, he had taken the very theme that must interest him. The right rev. Prelate had described with great force the spiritual destitution of a large part of the metropolis. Last year he was requested by the noble Earl who then led that House, with a view to some legislation, to direct his attention to the state of the City parishes. He had thereupon collected information which was important, as it showed that some practical result might follow from the appointment of the Committee. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter) had pointed to the spiritual destitution of the metropolis, and had inadvertently said that he bad carried them into the heart of the City; but if their Lordships turned their attention to the heart of the City, they would find in the City parishes a state of things as anomalous in one way as was the spiritual destitution of the parishes which had been referred to in the other. Their Lordships would perhaps he surprised to hear that in the very neighbourhood of the overgrown parishes to which the right rev. Prelate had alluded there were others smaller than could be found in any of our country districts. There were four parishes in the metropolis the population of which was under 200, and in one of these parishes there were only ten families resident. In another parish in the heart of the densely populated metropolis there was a church in which no greater congregation than 100 persons could by possibility be assembled, where the endowment of the clergyman was not less than £1,200. He trusted that the Committee would consider itself entitled to enter upon the whole question of the City churches, and to examine how far the strange anomalies might be removed that existed between the almost deserted parishes of the metropolis and the overgrown parishes of the suburbs. Prom inquiries which he had recently made he believed that the expectations which were entertained of great wealth applicable to spiritual purposes being derived from the City of London, were not likely to be fulfilled. Great improvements might be made by the better application of the funds existing within the City, but he did not believe that more than a comparatively small sum would he obtained from an alteration in the City parishes for the improvement of those in the immediate neighbourhood. Still, it was a strange anomaly that where we had one parish scarcely endowed at all, but containing an overwhelming population, we should have within a very short distance another richly endowed in which the population was insignificantly small. There was another point to which he wished to direct attention. Their Lordships had doubtless often heard the name of "the Finsbury stall," but perhaps they were not aware that some of those places to which the right rev. Prelate had referred as the most destitute were the very parts of the metropolis which supplied the wealth of that preferment. If it were true that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might justly be called upon to contribute from the improved mines of the diocese of Durham to the spiritual instruction of that population which those mines had assembled, it must be equally true that those dingy streets, with a teeming population, where the very rent of the houses belonged to the Church, had claims of justice which could not be neglected, and which ought to be satisfied before the funds drawn from them were applied elsewhere. The Fins-bury stall produced about £7,000 a year to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and there was every reason to expect that in the course of a few years it would yield wealth of an almost fabulous amount. He therefore trusted that their Lordships would agree to the appointment of the proposed Committee, to consider whether the parishes mentioned by the right rev. Prelate were not entitled in the first in- stance to some portion of the rents of the property bequeathed, as we may suppose, for the express purpose of supplying the spiritual necessities of this metropolis. It was the cause of the poor which their Lordships had now under their consideration. The difficulties in the way of the poor obtaining access to churches had not been exaggerated by the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Exeter), and he had referred to the conduct of the churchwardens in certain cases. It was fortunate that amongst their Lordships were to be found some of the very churchwardens of whom he complained. If their Lordships wished that the working classes should have an opportunity of gratifying their unquestionable desire to attend Divine worship he believed they must alter the system which had now prevailed for many years.


said, he regretted that the estimable Prelate who presided over the diocese of Durham was prevented, by domestic affliction, from attending in his place, to advocate the claims of the vast and important district under his ministration. He (Lord Ravens-worth), therefore, thought it his duty to draw the attention of the House to the small sum devoted to the relief of the spiritual wants of the diocese of Durham, in proportion to the large sums derived from that diocese by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In doing so, however, he must refer to the constitution and acts of the Ecclesiastical Commission. That Commission, which had already existed twenty years, might, from the important duties it had to perform, be expected to last our lifetime, if, indeed, it was not to be regarded as one of the permanent institutions of the country; hence, therefore, the importance of inquiring whether its proceedings were in all cases conceived in a spirit of justice and equity. He had, since the establishment of the Commission, never ceased to raise his voice—unfortunately in vain—in defence of the great principle, that when great revenues were raised from particular districts, the claims of those districts were, in justice, and almost of right, preferable to those of other districts. The right rev. Prelate who had referred to the diocese of Durham (the Bishop of Exeter) had omitted all mention of one most important part of the diocese, a few facts in regard to which he would supply. He could not help thinking that the diocese of Durham had been treated most unfairly by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Probably not less than half a million had been abstracted from the diocese of Durham since the institution of the Commission; yet it comprised numerous districts in which the spiritual wants of the population were most inadequately supplied. He would, however, content himself with calling the attention of the House to the endowments of what might be called the metropolis of the north—the town of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He might tell them how many endowments there were under £400, how many under £200, and how many under £100, in a diocese from which half a million of money had been paid over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—a sum, moreover, that was increasing every year; but he thought the best way of showing the position of that town would be by reading an extract from the evidence given by the vicar before the Committee upon the Ecclesiastical Commission. That rev. Gentleman then stated that in this town, having a population of 100,000, there were six churches and fourteen clergymen, of whom eight were incumbents; that the average income of the eight incumbents and of the perpetual curates was only £147 per annum; and that the income of the vicar for the last year was only £207. Considering the charities to which the vicar must contribute, and the society in which he ought to mix, and to which he should give the tune, he thought such a sum utterly inadequate for a gentleman occupying his position. Surely the time had arrived when such miserable stipends should be increased. He had to point out the inadequacy of spiritual provision in those places; and he trusted that the cases in question would come under the consideration of the Committee; and he trusted that some different arrangement and distribution of the funds at the disposal of the Ecclesiastical Commission might proceed from the recommendation of the Committee, and that the suggestions that had been made would be properly attended to. As the question of granting this Committee had been conceded, he would not go into further details on this complicated and interesting subject, only hoping that the result would be, that the funds that were proceeding from ecclesiastical sources would be better applied, and be productive of better results for the future.


said, he should not have thought it necessary to address their Lordships on this subject, if his noble Friend (Lord Ravensworth), in commenting upon what he deemed to be the injustice of the present mode of distributing the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, had not expressed an opinion that it was owing to some mal-administration on the part of the Commissioners. He could assure his noble Friend that nothing would be more satisfactory to the Commissioners than to have their conduct subjected to the fullest and closest examination. How far priority should be given to the claims of the neighbourhood from which any particular fund was derived was a question that had been very fully discussed when the Act constituting the Commission was before Parliament; and it had been determined that, on the whole, it was wiser, and more likely to promote the welfare of the Church, not to admit any priority except that of greater spiritual destitution. This was the principle laid down in the Act, and the Commissioners had no power or authority to distribute the funds entrusted to them upon any other. Such being the case, he could not help thinking that great injustice would he done to many parts of the kingdom if a rule which had been so long acted upon should now he changed. The case of the diocese of Durham was, no doubt, a very strung one; but still his noble Friend had put it a little more strongly than the facts would justify. It was quite true that the Commissioners had received a great deal more from the diocese than they had expended upon it. In fact, from a Return which had been laid on the table of the House of Commons, and which showed both the receipts and the expenditure of the Commissioners it would appear that the amount received back by the diocese was very little more than a third of what it had contributed to the fund; nevertheless, he must contend that Durham would receive its full share of the general fund, in proportion to its necessities.

Motion agreed to.


said, that in the absence of his right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Exeter), he had been requested to nominate the Committee. In doing so, he must express his gratification at the unanimity which had characterized the House on the occasion. He earnestly trusted that the result of the labours of the Committee might be to devise some rule by which the parochial system of the Church of England might be strengthened and extended. He was sure that those who looked at the mode of working of the parochial system would be most convinced of the inestimable been that it was to the people of this country, and that they would feel convinced of the great value of the exertions of clergymen, labouring on very small stipends, devoting to the work of God abilities and powers which might have commanded in some worldly professions great worldly returns, and who throughout all maintained the character and position of scholars and of gentlemen, as well as of Christian pastors, and thereby conferred on the people of this country benefits it was impossible to estimate or overrate. The right rev. Prelate concluded by handing in the names of the Committee.

Committee named.