HL Deb 15 June 1875 vol 224 cc1880-91

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, their Lordships would remember that at an earlier period of the Session the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) had brought forward a Bill, the object of which was generally the increase of the Episcopate. He (Earl Beauchamp) was not an enthusiastic supporter of that proposal; but by reading that Bill a second time their Lordships committed themselves to the principle that some increase in the episcopacy was necessary. The measure now before their Lordships—which had come up from the other House—differed from the Bill of the noble Lord in respect that it had a distinct and definite object—that object being to amend the Acts relating to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, so as to enable them to carry into effect a proposal for the re-arrangement of the dioceses of London, Winchester, and Rochester, with the view to the erection of a new Bishopric of St. Albans. In fact, the object in view was to carve a new diocese out of the dioceses of London, Winchester, and Rochester. To a plan like this, which would transfer parishes from one diocese to another, which affected interests of long standing and touched old associations, it was not difficult to find objections; but it must be remembered that it was the existence of objections to the present arrangements which had given rise to this Bill, and it would be for their Lordships, as practical men, to consider what were the best means of remedying the evils it proposed to deal with. The question was whether a remedy for existing evils was not required, and whether that remedy would not be supplied in the least objectionable manner possible by the measure to which he asked their Lordships to give a second reading. The advantages proposed by the Bill were undoubtedly of a most substantial character, and he trusted their Lordships would not be deterred by any objections to "piecemeal legislation" from giving it full and fair consideration. The word "London" had received many and divers meanings in various Acts, such as the Police Acts, the Board of Works Acts, and others, and in like manner the Diocese of London had undergone several changes, and some even in our own time. That diocese in 1835 consisted of the whole of Middlesex, of Essex, and a portion of Hertford. The Bishopric of Rochester was at that time territorially the smallest in England, and the Bishop always acted as provincial chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1835 it was arranged that the diocese of Rochester should be entirely transformed. The city and deanery of Rochester was all that was left it of its old jurisdiction; but it received from London a part of Hertfordshire and the whole of Essex, and from Lincoln the remainder of Hertfordshire. The diocese of Winchester was geographically the ancient kingdom of Wessex, and it had undergone no change since the Conquest. It was abstractedly desirable that dioceses should have the same boundaries as the counties they contain—as in the case of Chichester, which was co-extensive with the whole county of Sussex. When, however, dioceses included such vast populations as the Metropolis and its suburbs, it was hopeless to sigh after an ideal state of things—they must be content to deal with things as they found them. In 1835, as he had said, there was a re-arrangement of the dioceses in the neighbourhood of London; but in 1863 the most rev. Prelate then the Bishop of London (Dr. Tait) held that a new distribution had become absolutely necessary. If it were necessary then, how much more was it necessary now, when the growth of population since those dates had been so enormous? In 1867, at the death of Dr. Wigram, nine parishes in Surrey and nine parishes in Kent were transferred to Rochester, under the arrangement agreed to in 1863. At the present moment the diocese of London contained 4,608,000 souls, Rochester about 1,000,000, and Winchester about 1,500,000. It was deemed that the only satisfactory way of dealing with the existing state of things was by the creation of a new bishopric on the north of the Thames. Accordingly, by this Bill it was provided that the new bishopric of St. Albans should be formed to the north of the Thames, and would consist of the counties of Hertford and Essex, which counties would be taken away from the diocese of Rochester. The diocese so created would have for its cathedral church the abbey church of St. Albans. Again, with the view of securing a more complete episcopal supervision for South London and the district south of the Thames, it was proposed to transfer to what would remain of the ancient diocese of Rochester, after the loss of Essex and Hertford, all those parishes situated in East and Mid-Surrey which now formed part of the diocese of Winchester, and all such parishes in Surrey which now formed part of the diocese of London. This would transfer to the new diocese the large and populous parishes of Deptford, Woolwich, and others from Winchester, and of Putney, Mortlake, Barnes, Newington, and others from London. The Prelate who presided over the latter diocese would still have under his pastoral supervision a vast population, more than sufficient to require his utmost exertions. As to the endowment of the new See, the right rev. Prelate who presided over the diocese of Winchester (Dr. Harold Browne) had generously offered to give up the episcopal residence in London attached to the Bishopric of Winchester, in order that it might be sold, and that the proceeds might create a basis for the endowment of the new bishopric of St. Albans. The Bill accordingly would empower the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to sell the episcopal residence, and also to receive contributions for the purposes of an endowment of the new Bishopric. Upon the Commissioners certifying to Her Majesty that this fund produced a net income of not less than £2,000 a-year, Her Majesty was empowered to fund the new bishopric. The endowment would be further increased at a future time, because under the provisions of Clause 6 of the Bill, but subject to the rights of the existing Bishops of Winchester and Rochester, there was to be transferred to the St. Albans Bishopric Endowment Fund such portion of the endowments or incomes of these bishoprics, as would in the case of each yield an annual sum of £500. The number of Lords Spiritual sitting in their Lordships' House was not to be increased by this Bill, but the occupant of the new See would succeed in the order of seniority to a seat in their Lordships' House. The formation of the new See and the appointment and income of the Bishop having been provided for, the Bill proceeded to provide for the constitution of a Dean and Chapter, and to assign to the Bishop all courts, officers, and jurisdictions belonging to a Bishop of the Church of England. For the former purpose the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were to hold in trust the St. Albans Bishopric Endowment Fund, for the purpose of paying to the Bishop an annual income of £4,500 a-year—the same amount as was now received by other Bishops—and next for the foundation of a Dean and Chapter, in such manner as may hereafter be provided by order of Her Majesty in Council. There was a further provision in respect of the See of Rochester, which it was right he should state to their Lordships. The present residence attached to that See was at Danbury, in Essex. This, always an inconvenient locality in respect of the diocese, had become useless now that the diocese would be entirely on the south of the Thames. The Commissioners wore, therefore, empowered, with the consent of the present Bishop, to sell Danbury, and out of the proceeds to provide in the county of Surrey a suitable episcopal residence for the Bishop of Rochester; carrying any surplus to the Endowment Fund of the Bishopric of St. Albans. These were the general provisions of the Bill. The details required some previous knowledge of the subject to make them intelligible to the lay mind, but they had been most carefully considered by those who were well competent to deal with them, and he trusted that on examination they would commend themselves to their Lordships' House.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Steward.)


thought that the principle of the Bill was excellent, and that the details had been very well worked out. He wished, however, to draw attention to the clause which provided that there was to be no increase in the number of the Bishops who had seats in the House of Lords. In that clause—the 7th—it was provided that, except in the cases of the Sees of Canterbury, York, London, Durham, and Winchester, the seats in the House of Lords was to be supplied by seniority from those of the Bishops who had not previously been entitled to this writ of summons to Parliament. This was exactly in accordance with the precedent in the case of the newly-founded See of Manchester. In the case of only one or two new Bishops there might be no great objection, but if a further increase was in view, then he ventured to think that was not a desirable principle. Had it been in operation when the late Dr. Wilberforce was appointed Bishop of Oxford, and had there been four or five other Bishops before him in seniority, of how much power and eloquence would not their Lordships' House have been deprived for many years? He believed the sense of Parliament was against any increase in the number of the Lords Spiritual. That being so, he thought it would be better that the Bishops of the well-known Sees that had been in existence for ages should retain the right to sit in Parliament, and that the newly-founded Sees should not entitle their Bishops to any seat at any time in the House of Lords. This plan would also be in better accordance with the incomes. The new Bishopric of St. Albans would, no doubt, ultimately have an endowment equal to the older bishoprics; but that could not be so if many new bishoprics were founded. An income of £2,000 a-year was scarcely sufficient to enable a Bishop to bear the expenses of a residence in London or the other expenses incidental to a seat in that House. The question was not made very serious by the creation of one new bishopric; but the feeling seemed to be in favour of a considerable increase of the episcopate, and if this principle of seniority and rotation were to be introduced with respect to their seats in the House of Lords, he (Earl Stanhope) would feel it his duty to take the sense of the House on the question he had stated.


knew that in the county of Surrey there was, and had been for many years, a feeling that the diocese of Winchester was too large, and an Association had been in existence for 15 years to obtain a division. But he thought if it was at length to be divided some means should be devised to keep the county together as a whole in one diocese. An injury was done to it by placing it in two different dioceses. The people in his part of the county were glad that they were still to be within the diocese of Winchester; but they could imagine the feelings of those in another part of the county whom this Bill would transfer to another diocese. However, believing that the Bill was an honest attempt to obtain an increase of the episcopate, he should not offer it any opposition.


said, that when the diocese of Winchester was first offered to him, he felt that the weight of such a diocese must be very great indeed, and he entertained doubt as to whether he could accept the responsibility, and when he was translated, and found the necessity of looking the facts fairly in the face, he found that he had become Bishop of the largest diocese in England, and the largest that had ever existed in England. It was true it was not the largest in point of population, for the population of the diocese of London was one-third larger, and the population of the diocese of Manchester was by 300,000 larger than that of his diocese, the numbers being 2,650,000, and 1,893,000, and Winchester 1,560,000, now nearly 2,000,000; but, in respect of area, the difference was much greater; the area of the diocese of London not exceeding 250,000 acres; while Manchester had 850,000 acres, Winchester had 1,570,000 acres. Therefore, taken as a whole, the diocese of Winchester was the largest and most laborious in the United Kingdom. Then in population all the diocese, but signally Surrey, had largely increased—especially of late years; for while in Middlesex there had been an increase of 15 per cent. in Surrey the increase had been 31 per cent. Not only was the diocese one of great extent and including a very large and increasing population, but at one end of it there was a very large town—South London—of 700,000 inhabitants. He felt it was not right that South London should be attached to a diocese extending from the Thames to the coast of Normandy. The London portion of the diocese had a very large poor population, and required constant episcopal supervision. Well, attached to his diocese was an episcopal residence in London, which, he was informed, would sell for about £70,000; and he asked himself why should he live in a house worth £3,000 a-year, when by selling it, it would almost provide an endowment for a new bishopric? His original wish was that there should be a Bishop of South London, and that he should be a kind of missionary Bishop. It did not seem to him to be important whether that Bishop should be a Member of their Lordships' House or not. However, on his talking the matter over to members of the Episcopacy and lay friends of the Church, it was suggested to him that it would not be desirable to have a poor Bishop among a poor clergy in a poor diocese; and, on the whole, it appeared that the scheme before their Lordships was the best that could be devised to meet the particular object in view. Of course, it was impossible in forming only one new diocese to do all that was desirable, and all that might be done by a general re-distribution of diocese; but, on the whole, the plan before their Lordships seemed to be the most hopeful. He admitted the force of what the noble Viscount (Viscount Midleton) had said about placing one county like that of Surrey in two different dioceses; but at present different portions of Surrey were in several different dioceses—it was distributed among the dioceses of Canterbury, London, Rochester, and Winchester. If the whole of Surrey could be placed in one diocese, and several new bishoprics could be founded, that would be so much the better; but the necessary endowments could not be found. The present plan would constitute these manageable, but still large dioceses. Even with the proposed alteration, the diocese of Winchester would have a larger population than that of Lincoln, which had been frequently referred to as an overworked diocese. There was, undoubtedly, something anomalous in the Bishop of one diocese having ecclesiastical patronage in another; but still, if in Committee an Amendment was moved to authorize the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to transfer from Winchester to Rochester the patronage of certain parishes, he should not object. His only wish was that everything should be done that was for the general interest of the Church. In conclusion, he could assure the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton) that this Bill had not been brought forward in any opposition to his scheme for an increase of the Episcopate; but he believed that this Bill was only the carrying into effect in a particular case the general principle enunciated in the Bill of the noble Lord.


said, that when he was first appointed to the see of Rochester he received from the most rev. Prelate below him, who was then Bishop of London, a large accession to his diocese—an accession which was almost as large as another diocese. The most rev. Prelate handed over to him a population of 300,000, which since then had become, perhaps, 400,000. He could see by the aspect of those who were first introduced to him that they did not much relish finding themselves transferred from the one diocese to the other; but by this time they had almost forgotten that they had ever belonged to the diocese of London. It would be the same with the people who were to be transferred from Winchester to Rochester, and the other transfers it was proposed to make, and he trusted that these alterations would be found to tend to the benefit of the Church. That accession from the diocese of London to his own diocese had made him feel that some re-arrangement of the diocese of Rochester must be made. Considering its whole configuration and arrangement, and the large population it contained, it was impossible that that diocese could be managed by a single Bishop, and he was therefore glad that this Bill had been introduced. They must all acknowledge the perseverance, the energy, and the zeal with which, notwithstanding the lukewarmness of its friends, the opposition of its adversaries, and the vexation to which he had been exposed, the noble Lord (Lord Lyttelton), who had introduced another Bill for the increase of the Episcopate, had endeavoured to carry it through Parliament. He hoped that the present Bill would be amended with regard to the distribution of patronage. The large diocese of Rochester would be left with only 10 livings, or 14 benefices, as rewards for zealous service in the Church. Unless, therefore, something was done to assist the Bishopric of Rochester in that respect, he was afraid the present scheme might be deemed faulty indeed. Then, as regarded Rochester, the cathedral church would still be at one extremity of the diocese; and, as regarded St. Albans, if the diocese were constituted as now proposed, the same remark would apply to the new cathedral. But he concurred entirely in the hope that the Government before the Bill passed into law would make those changes in it which were necessary for its real usefulness. He trusted that that measure would be the precursor of other measures of a like character before very long. He believed that a fair and moderate increase of the Episcopate was necessary for the due development of the system of the Church of England. Many of the evils that had crept in among them had been owing to the isolation of the clergy and the want of episcopal superintendence. On the Bishops devolved the settlement of disputes and controversies which arose from time to time in their dioceses, and which sprung sometimes very much from the increased energy and devotion with which their parishes were worked. Many of those disputes, he believed, might have been avoided if the Bishops had been near at hand. The Bishops felt a deep personal interest in the work, and desired to bear their part in the increased spirit of piety and devotion which was spreading throughout the land. Those were his own sentiments, and the sentiments also, he was sure, of the order to which he belonged. And yet they were held up continually in public prints—which might not have a wide general circulation, but which were largely circulated among the clergy—to obloquy as men who only made use of their high office to quench the flame of piety and devotion, which, in truth, it was their highest hope to see spread throughout the length and breadth of the land. In conclusion, he rejoiced greatly that their Lordships were disposed to give a second reading to that Bill.


cordially supported the second reading of the measure.


*My Lords, as a clergyman, I wish to say a few words on the Bill. Good reasons have been given for it. There are 5,000,000 of people in the three dioceses. Are three Bishops enough for them? I by no means wish to ignore the great work carried on by Nonconformists. As a Churchman, I desire to promote the efficiency of my own Church; but still I rejoice in the labours of thousands and tens of thousands who, though not wearing the same uniform, are allies in the same great war against vice and sin and human misery. Nor can I forget that there are more than 7,000 chapels in England and Wales, and more than 1,700,000 members of those communions. Nor have I any sympathy with those who would brand their ministers as "chiefs among schismatics, to be lamented over "rather than treated with reverence and respect. Still, in this million-peopled city, there is a vast multitude of persons as ignorant of the things which are of the highest importance as the people of Nineveh. This Bill is a step in the right direction, but I think there are weak points in it. Thus it takes away three-fourths of a million of a people from Winchester and transfers them to Rochester; but almost all the valuable patronage is retained by the former See, and only £500 a-year out of £7,000 is to be given up, though the population in the new diocese will be so much diminished. Another complaint is, that it allows the Bishop of Rochester—for whose character I have a very high regard—to take St. Albans with the whole of his present income, leaving Rochester, which the new Bill will make one of the most populous dioceses in England, with perhaps at present only £2,000 or £3,000 a-year. This measure has been much discussed out-of-doors and by the public Press. I am indebted to one of the morning papers for the heads of another plan, which I think is worth bringing under your Lordships' notice. The three Bishoprics of London, Winchester, and Rochester, comprise five entire counties and part of another, including London. There are 2,000 churches, 2,500 clergy, and 5,000,000 of people. The whole income of these Sees is £22,000 a-year. There are two palaces, one castle, and two town houses. It is urged that £22,000 a-year is enough to pay four Bishops. Danbury House and Winchester House would realize large sums: £75,000 is asked for Winchester House. Liberal voluntary contributions may also be expected from the nobility and gentry. The suggestion thrown out is that this immense area ought to have at least five Bishops—one for the Metropolis, one for Herts, one for Winchester and Hants, one for Surrey and South wark, and one for Rochester. Is the plan feasible? Can the money be found? We start with £22,000 a-year, and the five residences named. Take the case of the Bishop of London—£10,000 a-year, with Fulham Palace and London House. If both are necessary, then £10,000 a-year is not too much. But the question is asked out-of-doors, is a London house necessary when Fulham is so near town? For business purposes commodious chambers might be provided. I am disposed myself to think that a London house is requisite. However, according to the plan proposed £2,000 a-year would be gained, and the proceeds of London House, towards another Bishopric. The Bishop of Winchester, who has now £7,000 a-year, might be relieved of the charge of the whole of Surrey, including Southwark, in which case £6,000 a-year would amply suffice. This would give £1,000 a-year and Winchester House towards another See. There would then be five dioceses instead of three. £4,000 a-year each would be enough for St. Albans and Rochester, the smaller dioceses. The Bishop of Manchester, with nearly 2,000,000 of people has only £4,200 a-year, and Ripon with nearly 1,500,000 has only £4,500. The new See of Southwark should have £5,000 a-year. The whole needed for the five dioceses would be £27,000 a-year, leaving only £5,000 a-year to be made up. Danbury Palace, Winchester House, and London House, and after the next avoidance, Ely House, in Dover Street, might be sold. The income of that See is already £5,500. I do not expect your Lordships to adopt this scheme now. I believe you are in favour of the second reading of the Bill, to which I do not object, but I hope for some alterations in Committee.


expressed a hope that the passing of the Increase of the Episcopate Bill would not be endangered by the views of the noble Earl (Earl Stanhope) who had spoken in the early part of the discussion. He thought the endowment provided was a fair one, and nothing more; but he did not object that the new Bishop was not to take his seat in the House except in due seniority. He believed it would be of great advantage to have a larger number of Bishops out of Parliament, who would be able to devote their attention exclusively to their dioceses for a few years before taking part in legislative duties.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.