HL Deb 04 March 1867 vol 185 cc1300-5

presented a Petion of Inhabitants of Cornwall, praying for the establishment of a Bishopric in that county. The noble Earl said, that the large population and great area of the county, and the distance of the petitioners from the residence of the Bishop, who at present presided over their clergy, justified their prayer, in his opinion, and he trusted the petition would meet with the favourable consideration of their Lordships.


said, there were several arguments besides those employed by the noble Earl (the Earl of Devon) in favour of the division of the diocese. The difficulty of managing a diocese like that of Exeter did not arise solely from its size and population, but was also to be found in the number of its clergy and the extent of its area. The population was nearly 1,000,000, and was, in fact, by far the largest contained in any agricultural diocese. It was more than one-sixth of the whole population of Ireland, and yet Ireland had ten Bishops; it was more than one-third that of Scotland, and as large as that of the whole of Wales, which, with a nearly equal population, had four Bishops. The population of the diocese of Exeter is as nearly as possible equal to that of the four dioceses of Carlisle, Hereford, Bangor, and St. Asaph put together. Therefore, comparing the population of the diocese of Exeter with other populations, their Lordships must arrive at the conclusion that it was most inadequately represented by one Bishop. The diocese of Exeter, too, contained nearly 1,000 clergy, more than were to be found in any diocese except London and, possibly, Norwich. The acreage was far larger than that of any other See, Durham, the next largest, containing less by 500,000 acres. Its acreage was about equal to that of South Wales, which possessed two Bishops, and he felt certain that those Bishops had as much work as they could manage. Another consideration was to be found in the difficulty of access to many of the Cornish parishes, the nature of the two counties being exceedingly unfavourable to locomotion. Devon and Cornwall were particularly rugged, and, though not so mountainous as Wales, travelling was more difficult, because in a mountainous country the roads were generally formed in such a manner as to avoid or go round any difficulty that might be in the way—whereas in Devonshire and Cornwall the roads were cut straight through the country. But, in fact, railways afforded very little facility to Bishops in visiting the parishes in their dioceses, for Bishops on such occasions were obliged to go to villages long distances out of the way of railroads. The populations of the two counties were, too, entirely different in character and race. The population of Cornwall was Celtic, self-reliant, and much inclined to the Wesleyan form of worship; and, having himself been a Cornish clergyman, he could, from experience, bear testimony to the fact that clergymen in Cornwall felt that a Bishop residing at Exeter, 150 miles from many parishes in his diocese, could enter but little into the feelings and wants of the population of Cornwall. He might add, that the division of the diocese, as proposed by the petitioners, would amount merely to the restoration of the ancient order of things, for there used formerly to be a See at St. Germans. Objection had been made, and probably would still be made, to any increase of the Bishops, on the ground that they possessed no power. He was, unfortunately, compelled to acknowledge that their coercive power was very small—so small, indeed, that a Bishop was frequently not only unable to remove a clergyman guilty of gross immorality, but was compelled to suffer heavy pecuniary loss, simply because he endeavoured to perform his duty. Still, however, Bishops possessed very large powers. The correspondence of a Bishop formed a very large part of his duties—he received on an average, he believed he might say, little short of 5,000 letters a year from the clergymen and laity in his diocese, asking for advice and assistance; and when these letters were responded to, it was very rarely that the advice of the Bishop failed to meet with a hearty and cordial concurrence. Another objection sometimes urged is, that the creation of a bishopric for Cornwall would be like an aggression on the Wesleyans, who now preponderate so much in that county. Although the Cornish people were so far alienated from the Church as to be to a great extent Wesleyan Methodists, he denied that they had any strong hostile feeling against the Church. The Wesleyanism of Cornwall was not the same as the Wesleyanism of many other parts of the kingdom; and he could testify from his own personal experience that, on the contrary, they had a strong feeling of attachment and adhesion to the Church, and that they frequently expressed a desire to see a Bishop in Cornwall. Wesleyanism had at one time exercised, with most beneficial effect, a great deal of influence over the poorer classes in Cornwall and in the northwestern counties; and many of those who were alienated from the Church were saved from immorality and infidelity by the benign influence of the Wesleyan Methodists. He was sorry to say that, especially in the northern counties of England, that influence was gradually waning, and that in towns, like Leeds and Liverpool, it was giving place, not, he was sorry to say, to the influence of the Church, but to irreligion and open infidelity. He acknowledged with thankfulness that the Wesleyans had done a noble work; but as their influence was fading away, was there any reason why a Bishop should not be created, whose presence would add to the strength of the Church in Cornwall, and to the cause of morality and good order?


anxiously hoped that their Lordships would not accede to the prayer of the petition. The petition purported to have been signed by 1,600 persons; but, in his opinion, a far greater number of signatures might easily have been obtained against its prayer. He could not see what advantage Cornwall was to obtain from the creation of this bishopric. Although the diocese, which included the county, was presided over by an aged and infirm Bishop, yet still, under ordinary circumstances, the railways and high roads afforded great facilities for the performance of the duties which that Prelate had to discharge. He trusted that if money was to be expended upon the spiritual welfare of the county it would be given to the poorer clergy of the diocese, many of whom wanted and deserved assistance, instead of it being expended upon the salary of a Bishop. He was not a Wesleyan, but a Churchman, and he thought that in Cornwall they were better without a Bishop than they would be with one.


said, that last year he was in Cornwall and officiated at a confirmation in the remotest part of the county. On that occasion he had had an opportunity of conversing with very many of the clergy and of the laity of Cornwall on the subject now under discussion, and he must say simply and frankly that he found among them a warmth of feeling, a heartiness of expression, and a depth of desire that did them very great credit. He had, of course, alluded in those conversations to the present state of things, and had pointed out that the present venerable Bishop was in a great degree precluded from making those visitations which were necessary to the performance of the duties of the diocese; and he put the case whether, in the event of the Bishop being middle-aged, and in possession of his full powers, they would still desire a Bishop for Cornwall. The reply was, "We desire a Bishop for Corn- wall above all things; we feel that we are separated in a great degree from the neighbouring county of Devon, and we desire to have a Bishop to dwell among us, to sympathize with us, and to guide us; one who will gather up the strong Church feeling which exists in Cornwall, and who will at the same time conciliate those who do not conform." He had seen none of the feeling of antagonism to the Church to which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Vivian) had alluded; and from the experience he had obtained elsewhere he believed that the Wesleyans, who were earnest and true-hearted men, desired that the Church should be efficiently managed. He had never seen any hostility on the part of the Wesleyans to the Church, but rather the Christian desire that all things should be built up and well ordered. He must still maintain the opinion that were a discreet, kind, and considerate man to be appointed Bishop of Cornwall, not only would there be no opposition on the part of the Nonconformist, but he would be welcomed with all heartiness. Having travelled to the most distant parts of that county, he found communication to be exceedingly difficult. He trusted that their Lordships' favourable attention would be given to the prayer of the petition; and in asking that, he might say that he had no ulterior views, thoughts, or projects for turning their decision in the present instance into a precedent for the creation of more bishoprics in other parts of the kingdom; but only desired to speak honestly and heartily in favour of this part of our country having the presence and guidance of a Bishop among them.


said, that as he was a landed proprietor in Cornwall, and as he had never heard a word of such a petition as this being in contemplation, he inferred that no pressure had been used to obtain signatures to it. He thought that the Government were bound to take the matter in hand, and to determine whether or not there was such a necessity for the creation of the bishopric for Cornwall, severed from the bishopric of Exeter, as was set forth in the prayer of the petition. The presence of a Bishop, and his kindly intercourse, especially with the poor, in the county of Cornwall, would, he believed, produce a most decided re-action among the population favourable to the Church of England. He therefore did hope their Lordships would seriously entertain the prayer of the petition, and that the Government, if they saw their way to ap- point another Bishop, would not hesitate to do so.


regretted that the right rev. Prelate who spoke first after the noble Earl who presented the petition (the Bishop of Ely) had thought it necessary to fortify his argument by reference to the alleged decline of Wesleyan Methodism. Living, as he did, in a large manufacturing district, and seeing the extensive prevalence of that body, he could not let pass the assertion of the right rev. Prelate that its influence had declined. He believed the Church had a great deal of real sympathy from the Wesleyan body. He remembered that it was the saying of Dr. Hook that Wesleyanism was the Establishmentism of the West Riding, and he believed he was very willing to accept their assistance in that character. With reference to this petition he would make one remark. He was very glad the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol) treated it as a special case. It was, indeed, a very special case; because from the unfortunate state of the present Diocesan's health the whole diocese of Exeter was actually without the administration of a Bishop. It was therefore a most unfortunate moment to bring forward the special case, when the venerable Prelate who presided over the diocese was weighed down with age and sickness; but who yet, even under these circumstances, showed great intelligence and activity of mind. He hoped the Government would pause before taking action on the petition. He saw great difficulty in increasing the number of the Episcopal Bench, and the Government would have to consider, not only the individual case, but also the great political question involved.


was disposed to give the proposal his most hearty concurrence, though he might prefer some more general measure; and he ventured to say unless such a measure as his noble Friend advocated, if brought into the House, met with more formidable opposition than had been indicated to-night, he should have very little apprehension of the result.

Petition ordered to lie on the table.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.