HL Deb 08 July 1867 vol 188 cc1163-7

House in Committee (according to Order).

Clause 1 (Power for Bishop to sign Instrument of consecration at Churchyard without presence of Chancellor, &c).


moved an Amendment, the object of which was to enable the Bishop to perform the acts necessary for opening a Churchyard without going personally to the ground.

Amendment moved to leave out ("at the Churchyard or in the Church to which it belongs.")—(The Lord Portman.)


said, that under the existing law the Bishop was required to perform certain acts on the ground set apart for burials, and in the presence of his Court, his Chancellor, and other officials. It was proposed by this Bill, in order to reduce the expense of the ceremony, to relieve the Bishop of the necessity of taking his Court with him, and to provide an inexpensive mode of witnessing his performance of the necessary acts. But it would be going too far to empower the Bishop to perform the acts not in the place itself, but at any distance from the place. His noble Friend did not usually propose to add thus largely to the powers of Bishops, and the promoters of the Bill did not propose that a Bishop sitting in his lodgings in London should be able to consecrate a churchyard in Cornwall. The service of consecration was one which addressed itself to all the better feelings of the people; and unquestionably consecration would become a mere piece of formalism if, instead of a Bishop going through the service and the people being affected by it, he was to consecrate a place at a distance of 150 miles. The whole purpose of the Bill was to diminish expense to parishes by rendering it unnecessary for a Bishop to be accompanied by his Court; but if the Amendment were adopted and the necessity for a Bishop's attendance dispensed with, the effect of the alteration would be to change the whole theory of consecration. As the Bishops were satisfied with the provision which imposed upon them the trouble of personal attendance, he trusted they would be allowed to undertake it.


said, that cases had arisen of a Bishop whose age and infirmities obliged him to delegate the duties of consecration to a stray Bishop who happened to be within the diocese, or to a Colonial Bishop. Now doubts had arisen as to the legality of consecrations so performed by Colonial Bishops, and, in consequence, the consecration of a cemetery had been deferred, and in one case burials had been performed by licence until the Bishop could attend to consecrate the ground. With the object of avoiding difficulties of this character, he cordially supported the Amendment of his noble Friend. The Archdeacon had the care and charge of churchyards and churches, and the question arose whether the Archdeacon's certificate of consecration might not be accepted as sufficient.


said, he fully concurred in the opinion that it was the practice of the Church that consecration should always take place on the spot; he believed it was the unwritten law of the Church; but this would be the first instance in which the requirement had been embodied in a statute. There was at present a certain degree of ambiguity as to whether the presence of the Bishop on the spot was absolutely required or not; and if the few words objected to were omitted from the Bill, there would still be no interference with the practice of consecration, and the Bishop would still usually be called upon to consecrate. If his presence was required by Ecclesiastical Law, of course he would be present, but as there was a doubt about it, although it was but a slight one, it seemed undesirable to de- cide by this Bill that he must be present—for the Bill would make it impossible for him to be absent—while at present there was a doubt whether his presence was absolutely required or not. As to the Colonial Bishops, he believed the doubt that had existed had been entirely removed. Indeed, unless he was mistaken, it referred only to one or two Indian Bishops, and it was now decided, with reference to Colonial Bishops generally, that consecration by them was perfectly valid. With regard to the necessity for re-consecration when a church had been enlarged, there was one point which seemed to be lost sight of. The effect of consecration, whatever else it was, was to hand over a place as property for a certain purpose. It was analogous to the legal act of taking possession. If you had a house and rebuilt it, you did not require to enter into possession of it again. But if you added twenty acres to an existing estate of twenty acres, in law you would be required to take possession of the new land. This fresh conveyance of additional land was analogous to the fresh consecration of a church when its area had been enlarged. If it were re-built on the same spot, there was no necessity for re-consecration, unless the position of the Communion Table had been changed by an advance of the building.


said, that the tendency of the Bill and of the argument in support of it was to convey the impression that some mysterious good was produced by the ceremony of consecration.


said, he was willing to omit from the clause the words "not elsewhere," but he could not give up the rest of the clause and must take the decision of their Lordships if the compromise he offered were not acceptable. The argument suggested by the noble Earl was one of which their Lordships ought to be specially cautious. Because there were persons who, in the judgment of the noble Earl, were endeavouring to introduce superstitious views into the Church, he would have them not only exclude those superstitious views, but go a great way on the other side and strike at existing customs with which no superstition whatever was connected. This was one of the worst arguments possible, and he was sure that the adoption of it would encourage superstitions instead of keeping them out of the Church. If that with which the Church was universally familiar and which contained no superstition should be swept away, the effect would be to enlist on the superstitious side the sympathies of whose who loved the present unsuperstitious use. In point of fact, there was no superstition whatever in consecrating a churchyard, any more than there was in saying grace before dinner, and no more mysterious power was exercised over the ground consecrated, than upon the meat over which grace was said. He was personally willing to leave out the words "but not elsewhere," though he must give his hearty opposition to the proposal to strike out the rest of the clause.

On Question, That the said Words stand Part of the Clause? their Lordships divided:—Contents 81; Not-Contents 35: Majority 46.

Canterbury, Archp. Chester, Bp.
Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.) Cork, &c., Bp.
Gloucester and Bristol, Bp.
Beaufort, D. London, Bp.
Buckingham and Chandos, D. Ossory, &c., Bp.
Oxford, Bp.
Marlborough, D.
Richmond, D. Abinger, L.
Rutland, D. Bagot, L.
Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Abercorn, M.
Bath, M. [Teller.] Cairns, L.
Carew, L.
Amherst, E. Churchill, L. [Teller.]
Bantry, E. Churston, L.
Bathurst, E. Clinton, L.
Belmore, E. Clonbrock, L.
Brooke and Warwick, E. Colonsay, L.
Carnarvon, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Dartmouth, E. Delamere, L.
Derby, E. Denman, L.
Devon, E. De Tabley, L.
Graham, E. (D. Montrose.) Feversham, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Harrowby, E.
Home, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Leven and Melville, E.
Lucan, E. Heytesbury, L.
Malmesbury, E. Hylton, L.
Nelson, E. Inchiquin, L.
Powis, E. Lyttelton, L.
Romney, E. Lyveden, L.
Shrewsbury, E. Overstone, L.
Sommers, E. Penrhyn, L.
Stanhope, E. Ravensworth, L.
Stradbroke, E. Redesdale, L.
Tankerville, E. Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)
Wilton, E.
Sherborne, L.
De Vesci, V. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Hawarden, V.
Sidmouth, V. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricard.)
Stratford de Redcliffe, V.
Sondes, L.
Bangor, Bp. Southampton, L.
Stratheden, L. Vernon, L.
Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.) Wrottesley, L.
Wynford, L.
Grafton, D. Carlisle, Bp.
Down, &c., Bp.
Camden, M.
Normanby, M. Aveland, L.
Westmeath, M. Charlemont, L. (E. Charlemont.)
Airlie, E. Clermont, L.
Camperdown, E. Foley, L.
Clarendon, E. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
De Grey, E. Monson, L.
Effingham, E. Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)
Ellenborough, E. Mostyn, L.
Granville, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Grey, E.
Kimberley, E. Portman, L. [Teller.]
Morley, E. Romilly, L.
Portsmouth, E. Seaton, L.
Shaftesbury, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Halifax, V. Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Sydney, V. [Teller.]
Taunton, L.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2 and 3, amended, and agreed to.

THE EARL OF DERBY moved the addition of the following clause:— And whereas Doubts are entertained whether in Cases where a Church or Chapel has been repaired or enlarged, and the external Walls have been partly destroyed, or the Position of the Communion Table altered, a Re-consecration or Reconciliation of such Church or Chapel be not necessary in order to the due and valid Administration of Divine Offices there: Be it declared and enacted, that all Marriages, Rites, and Ceremonies heretofore or hereafter celebrated or performed in a consecrated Church or Chapel, which may have been repaired or enlarged prior to such Celebration or Performance shall be valid and effectual for all Purposes, notwithstanding that upon such Repair or Enlargement the external Walls of such Church or Chapel may not have remained entire or the position of the Communion Table may have been altered, and notwithstanding that since such Repair or Enlargement neither a Re-consecration nor a Reconciliation of such Church or Chapel may have taken place.


assented to the clause.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 (Short Title).

Clause amended by altering Title of Bill to "Church and Churchyards Consecration Act, 1867."

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Friday next; and Bill to be printed as amended (No. 208.)