HL Deb 16 March 1860 vol 157 cc711-5

asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether, in the present vacancy in the See of Rochester, it was in contemplation to divide any portion of the present diocese, so as to establish a Bishopric at St. Alban's; or, whether it was intended to transfer the See and Title of the Bishopric of Rochester to St. Alban's, and to throw the Town of Rochester and its dependencies into the Diocese of Canterbury? He took the opportunity of putting the question at that time as a fair opportunity now existed of making a most desirable alteration.


said, that in the absence of his noble Friend the Earl of Verulam, the Lord Lieutenant of Herts, and before the noble Duke answered the question, he wished to remind their Lordships of what had been done in this matter. A Commission was appointed in 1835 which took into consideration the boundaries of the dioceses in England and Wales, and, in their report upon the best mode in which these dioceses might be remodelled, they recommended that, after the avoidance of the See of Winchester, a portion of that diocese should be transferred to the diocese of London. In 1858 another Commission was appointed, to consider the special circumstances of the four metropolitan sees, London, Winchester, Canterbury, and Rochester. The Commissioners pointed out that the area of the see of Rochester was as large as that of Winchester, although the population was not so great, and that the benefices were still more numerous. They also stated that when, on the avoidance of the see of Winchester, a portion of that diocese was transferred to London, the diocese of Rochester would have a larger area and a much larger number of benefices than Winchester. The Commissioners added that these four metropolitan sees contained 5,000,000 souls, 1,900 beneficed clergymen, and a more than ordinary number of curates. One of their recommendations was that a new diocese should be formed out of that portion of the diocese of Rochester, which lay north of the Thames, and it was proposed that the town of St. Alban's should be the seat of the bishopric with the abbey for the cathedral church. The difficulties to be overcome in forming three new dioceses were three—a cathedral, an episcopal residence, and an income for the Bishop. Recently some of the inhabitants of the proposed new bishopric went to the Government and endeavoured to meet these difficulties. The county of Hertford offered to restore the abbey of St. Alban's as acathe- dral for the new bishop, and they also suggested how the two remaining wants of an episcopal residence and income should be supplied. The clergy of the Church of England very much needed additional over lookers and mote pastoral encouragement, and this want prevented that union and organization which were at present so much wanted in the ministration of the affairs of the Church. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government stated to the deputation that he should prefer to see the question taken up as a whole, instead of being treated in detail. He hoped the matter would nut be allowed to drop through, and taking advantage of the present favourable opportunity the Government had only to appoint Commissioners again to consider tins matter, and then the details might easily he arranged.


said, his noble Friend proposed the appointment of a Commission to inquire into this case, but the probability was that before any Commission could report, these of Rochester would be filled up. He would not enter into the general question raised by his noble Friend as to the necessity of increased ecclesiastical supervision in the dioceses referred to, nor as to the extension of the episcopate throughout England. No doubt the population had greatly out-grown the spiritual provision in many of the dioceses, and he agreed with him in thinking that increased episcopal supervision, both of the clergy and the people, was necessary. His noble Friend behind him had kindly undertaken to answer the question put by the noble Viscount, for he stated to the House the answer that a deputation had received from his noble Friend at the head of the Government—namely, that the case was one requiring serious consideration, but that it ought not to be taken up as an isolated question, and that he recognized the propriety of dealing with the whole subject of the extension of the episcopate on a more extensive scale. In the meantime he (the Duke of Newcastle) was authorized to state that any clergyman who might be recommended to the see of Rochester would hold the see subject to such arrangements as the Government and Parliament might hereafter make.


thought the answer of the noble Duke far from satisfactory. They usually found that when Her Majesty's Government were asked to take up a great question of this kind the answer was that the subject was too wide and must be dealt with in detail, and when they asked the Government to go into detail and take up a particular case that they thought might be so dealt with the answer was that it could not be taken up in detail, but as a whole. This was an unsatisfactory mode of proceeding, and he thought would create dissatisfaction out of doors. How was it possible to deal with the great subject; before them as a whole? The difficulties which were to be overcome existed in particular cases, and à fortiori difficulties would be found besetting the question as a whole, he believed he was correct in saying that the funds in the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were forestalled by reason of the great amount of parochial destitution existing throughout the country, which rendered it almost impossible to provide an adequate fund to be applied to the endowment of new sees; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might render a proportion of aid to such funds as might be provided by the liberality and Christian feeling of the people. He was informed only the other day of the munificent amount of the offers now in the ecclesiastical office, of funds in aid of the endowment of parishes. There was an amount of liberality existing in the country which, if it could be drawn forth, would be amply sufficient to provide the necessary endowments. All that he asked was that facilities should be placed within the reach of such persons for carrying out their intentions. By the course they were following they were putting a damper upon the Christian liberality of the country. In the case of this particular diocese there had long been a strong desire that it should be divided, and if encouragement were given he had no doubt funds would be forthcoming. He hoped the Government would give their attention to the matter, and act in accordance with the importance of the subject.


wished to know from the noble Duke whether they were to understand that some steps would be immediately taken with a view to the increase of the episcopate. He believed it would conduce to the real economy of the revenues of the Church if additional bishops were appointed in many places; for by such means the true action of the Church might be put into more effective working. Was there, he would ask, any serious intention to take steps by which the episcopate might be increased?


said, he was not then in a position to answer the question of the noble Lord.


said, there was a great necessity for the provision of increased ecclesiastical superintendence in many parts of the country.