HL Deb 09 August 1875 vol 226 cc725-7

rose to ask the Lord President of the Council, Whether any scheme has been prepared by the Charity Commissioners for diverting to other objects the funds at present available for a French Protestant Service in Canterbury Cathedral? His Question divided itself into three branches. He wished to know whether there was any such scheme; whether the Charity Commissioners had the power, without control from any higher authority, to carry such a scheme into effect; and whether, if such a scheme was intended to be prepared, an opportunity would be given to those who felt an interest in the subject to make known their sentiments on the subject. Prom the time of the Reformation downwards there had been in the Canterbury Cathedral a service for French Protestants conducted in the French language, and it had continued up to the present time. This had been under the superintendence of the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral, and with the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. A large number of French Protestants sought refuge here during the reign of Edward VI., and subsequently in the reign of Elizabeth, when the Massacre of St. Bartholomew occurred. In the reign of the latter Monarch provision was made for the performance of a French Service in the crypt of the Cathedral. While he granted that the number of persons attending that service was now very small, and while he granted that the number of French Protestants residing at Canterbury had very much diminished since the service was founded, yet the service was an institution which kept up a connection between the French Protestant Church and the Church of England, and therefore it appeared to many persons to be very undesirable that the service should be unnecessarily interfered with. The numbers which attended the service were very few; but the same might be said in respect of the services in many of the churches of the City of London. Again, it might be urged that the clergyman did not reside in Canterbury, but came there to perform the service; but he did not know that the same objection might not be urged in the case of some parish churches. In these days, when there was a widespread desire to preserve any old building which was a link of connection between the past and the present, it did seem undesirable that there should be any unnecessary interference with the French Service in Canterbury Cathedral. He had said so much in explanation of the Question which he begged to put to the noble Duke.


said, he had to state that no scheme such as that referred to by the most rev. Prelate had been prepared, but one was under consideration; and he thought the most rev. Prelate would admit that the subject was one which did require to be inquired into. The Charity Commissioners had asked the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury to assist them in the matter, and he was sure they would pay every attention to any representation coming from the most rev. Prelate. The need of inquiry was shown by some facts elicited in 1872, when it appeared that the English afternoon service was read in French by an English layman, who received £40 a-year. The number of worshippers who attended was seven; of whom one spoke French, another spoke it imperfectly, and the remainder were entirely ignorant of that language. The French pastor attended once a month, when the congregation was larger. That reverend gentleman received £60 a-year. He thought after that the necessity of something being done would be admitted; but he could assure the most rev. Prelate that nothing would be proposed without full consideration.