HL Deb 17 February 1888 vol 322 cc698-706

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, its object was to provide, annually, a fund for the repair and services of the Cathedral Church of Truro by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners out of the income of certain estates in their hands. The sum which the Bill asked for was £3,000, and it was to be applied for the maintenance of the fabric of the Cathedral, and the defraying the stipends and expenses of the minor canons, Missioners, preachers, organists, choir, sexton, officers, and servants of or belonging to the cathedral, and all other expenses incident to the performance of Divine Service therein, and such sum should be vested in and administered by the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral. The money, he might say, was sorely needed, and might fairly be claimed. The Commissioners had more than once recommended such a proposition, and the application was justified by the past action of Parliament. Comparing the resources available for the Cathedral with those which the Legislature had sanctioned for the use of Exeter Cathedral, he would state that Exeter received from the Common Fund £15,000, which sum did not include all the revenues of the Cathedral, while Truro received only £1,800 from the same source. Of the sum received by Truro £800 went to the Bishop to make up the voluntary endowment, and the remaining £1,000 was distributed between the Archdeacon of Cornwall, the Precentor, and the Chancellor. There was absolutely not one penny available for the expenses of heating, lighting, maintaining the fabric and the services, preachers, missioners, repairs, or even for sweeping out the building. With the exception of the rectory there were no buildings for the clergy, and the Bishop of Truro himself had to pay a considerable sum annually for the house in which he resided. He felt justified in pressing the claim for the Cathedral of Truro on the principle that those had the best right to assistance who had shown their willingness to help themselves. Cornwall had raised for that Cathedral £113,000, besides £70,000 contributed for the endowment of the bishopric, making together £183,000 from voluntary sources. He thought that principle of granting funds in response to benefactions was one which was universally adopted in regard to church grants; and it was only fair to consider that the large sum of £183,000 derived from voluntary sources as giving the county of Cornwall some claim to such aid. As far back as 1855 the Cathedral Commissioners reported that a diocese of Cornwall was urgently needed. In 1883 they recommended that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners be empowered and instructed to provide such allowances out of the late capitular estates of Exeter, which were situated in Cornwall, as might secure the usual performance of Divine Service. In 1885 they said that the intention of the Legislature was obvious in the Act of 1866; they gave a list of claims of Cornwall founded upon it, and concluded by earnestly pressing the importance of cathedral organization and influence in these days. The action of Parliament in sanctioning the formation of the Diocese of Truro also gave them a strong claim. One-third of the population—and that the poorest portion—of the former Diocese of Exeter had, by the action of Parliament, been cut off from a share which it had enjoyed for centuries in the benefits of Diocesan organization without any provision for re-establishing that organization. They now asked for less than one-third of what was now enjoyed for those purposes in the other portions of the old Diocese of Exeter, and far less than would be required. He was aware of the depression of agriculture, the distress of the clergy, and the many claims on the funds of the Commissioners; and if he did not think that the Cathedral of Truro had already become, and would become still more, a centre of spiritual life, and that agencies were there at work by which the highest interests of the clergy, the laity, and the Church at large would be promoted, he would not have introduced that Bill. No one who had taken part in the work of the last seven years, while the Cathedral was building, or had been present at the services connected with its consecration, could fail to see that the influence of that work and those services was real and widespread; and it did seem hard that just at the time when the energies of the Bishop and of his very small staff were specially needed to take advantage of that influence, they should have to remain ecclesiastical beggars for the rest of their lives because they had not the means of carrying out the organization that was necessary for their work. It was not intended to call on the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to pay over the full amount of £3,000 a-year to the cathedral of Truro at once, but only from time to time, as circumstances might permit. The words originally contained in the 1st clause said that they should appropriate such sums "forthwith;" but that had been altered, and he was ready to modify the clause in any way which would make the intention clear. He was prepared also to postpone the further stages of the Bill, including the second reading itself, if necessary, so as not to commit the House to the principle, if the whole question should be referred to a Select Committee. If his noble Friend who was connected with the Commission would approve that course, he should be glad to allow the Order to remain as a dropped Order, without, if possible, withdrawing or negativing the Bill; and he would propose that a Committee should be appointed to consider the best means of making provision for the maintenance and the services of the Cathedral of Truro. If it was consistent, he would now move the second reading, as he would like to hear what his noble Friend might have to say on the subject.

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


said, that if he had consulted his own feelings he would rather have been silent. He was aware that in many minds the idea still lingered that there was very little vitality connected with a cathedral. He remembered a lecturer many years ago describing a man who, as he said, had nothing particular to do, and whom Nature had admirably fitted for that position; and then, looking up to the gallery, certain that he would bring down cheers, the lecturer added that the man was of that sort whom they generally found in a cathedral close. Now nobody, at any rate at his time of life, liked to stand up as the representative of what was regarded as the abode of indolence and incapacity; but he felt that it would not be respectful to their Lordships if he remained entirely silent as a Bishop of the National Church when a Bill was being discussed in that House in which, to a large extent—and he used the words with a deep sense of responsibility—to a very large extent the national as well as the ecclesiastical life of Cornwall in the future, and the very near future, depended. Therefore, in the briefest possible manner he would ask their Lordships to bear with him while he endorsed some of the points which had just been so clearly brought before them by the noble Earl. He endorsed what the noble Earl had said with reference to the 1st clause. The draftsman proposed to insert the word "forthwith," but he refused to allow it to be inserted. He was a Member of the Ecclesiastical Commission, and he knew the difficulties by which that body was at present surrounded on every side to provide for the many pressing claims made upon their funds. He took care, with the concurrence of the noble Earl, to fix the modest sum of £3,000, which was not at all adequate to the needs of the diocese. In addition to his being an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, he was also a clergyman, and he knew the distress of his brethren at the present time. Many a parsonage in England silently and without a word of complaint had endured hardships of which probably few in that House had any idea. A clergyman and his wife had sometimes to rear and educate a family on £100, £ 120, and £ 150 a-year, having even to deprive themselves of meat for some days in the week. He would never have allowed the Bill to be presented to their Lordships had he not been satisfied that, with the help of the noble Earl and that body of laymen who had rallied to the Church in the days of his Predecessor in Cornwall, there would soon be developed such an amount of activity and spiritual life as would in a very short time tend to the augmentation of the poor livings, and relief of the many forms of distress by which the Church was afflicted in his diocese. He had merely been the instrument of carrying out the plans of a far greater mind than his own. It was the Archbishop of Canterbury who planned and developed the work. Everywhere the enthusiasm felt for the Cathedral was simply wonderful, not by Church people alone, but by Nonconformists as well, who were as proud of the edifice as Church people. This enthusiasm was not of that kind which consisted in singing hymns and coming to the services. The Cornish people were a practical people. Ten years of toil had resulted in the collection of £113,000. The helpless and the poor had contributed what sums they could spare; and it was gratifying to know that the enthusiasm was real. It was a recognized principle, he believed, in every Department of the Public Service, certainly in the Ecclesiastical Department, to help those who help themselves. He asked, therefore, whether a county which had so helped itself had not some claim upon the funds of that great Church which he represented? They had no fear, if only a nucleus were given, of gathering all that was required.


said, that while entirely sympathizing with the object contemplated by the Bill, he trusted that the noble Earl in charge of it might be induced to discharge the Order for the second reading, and that a Select Committee, strongly constituted, would be appointed to inquire into the whole question, and see what could be done. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners felt bound to oppose this measure on the sole ground of want of funds for carry- ing it into effect. In 1884 the Commissioners had been able to expend £25,000 per annum, or a capital sum of £750,000 each year in augmenting small livings and in meeting the spiritual needs of populous places; but, owing to the agricultural and commercial depression of recent years, the amount at their disposal for such purposes had been reduced by one-half, with a still further reduction of their income being in prospect. This last year the Commissioners were only able to vote £12,500 per annum in perpetuity; in the present year they had been obliged to reduce this amount to £6,000 in perpetuity; next year it would probably fall to £3.000. In these circumstances, if this measure were to pass, the amount they devoted to such grants would be swallowed up for a whole year, and they would be compelled to suspend all their ordinary grants from their Common Fund for a whole year. He fully admitted the claims of the diocese in question to consideration, inasmuch as it had subscribed the sum of £180,000 towards the cost of founding the new cathedral. But some of the old Chapters were seriously effected, and were unable to pay the statutable incomes to their Deans and Chapters, and they might fairly insist on their right to be considered before the newly-created dioceses. He was willing to move that the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Bill be read and discharged, with the view to the whole subject being referred to a Select Committee.


said, he thought that the noble Earl who had just sat down, and who represented the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, had scarcely done justice to his own case. It was perfectly true that the Diocese of Truro had subscribed a large sum of money to build its cathedral; but others of the new dioceses had subscribed quite as much during the last 20 years, and one a great deal more, for the far more necessary purpose of saving old ones from ruin and adapting them for service. Not only that, but Truro had already got, through the management of Bishop Philpotts, an endowment of £1,000 a-year from a fifth Canonry of Exeter reserved for this purpose, which no other of the new cathedrals did. So its only exceptional position was that it alone had got a capitular endowment, and now wanted to make it four times as much. If the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were to subscribe the sum asked for to the support of the Truro Diocese, they would be bound to subscribe equal sums towards the maintenance of the other new cathedrals; to which they would truly reply that they could not, because Truro had got their last farthing. And yet it had very much the smallest population of all the new dioceses, and not half as many benefices as either Southwell or St. Albans; and the Commissioners certainly had estates in both those dioceses, as well as in Cornwall. The Bill proposed to devote £3,000 a-year to the maintenance of choral services in Truro Cathedral, and to founding what were called in the Bill missioners, functionaries unknown to the law of England, and mere intruders, whom the Bishop could not legally authorize to preach in any pulpit or even in any street without the leave of the incumbent. He knew that they had been foisted into the two Acts of last year, but without any attempt to endow them. That Act and this Bill together would enable the Bishop to complete the Chapter by calling two of the honorary Canons missioners and endowing them out of this fund. He was in favour of choral services, but not when the money had, as in this case, to be taken away from the parochial clergy. If people wanted choral services—fancy services—they ought to pay for them. It was originally provided by Act of Parliament that there should be no Dean and Chapter of Truro until there was an endowment fund of £1,000 a-year for the Dean and £300 a-year for each of the four Canons. Somehow or other they had shot past this, and, without any express repeal of that Act, there was now a Dean and Chapter, the Bishop being the Dean. He did not know what was the use of new Deans and Chapters. They got on very well without them at St. Albans. The frequent Cathedral Commissions and Cathedral Statute Bills proved that they were puzzled to know what to do with Deans and Chapters; their chief function was now said to be to quarrel with the Bishop. Every Act that had been passed, and all of them by the political Predecessors of the present Government, contained an express prohibition against diverting any of the common or parochial fund of the Commission to capitular purposes; and that prohibition had been repeated twice over in the variety of Acts which Truro alone had been continually getting by the pertinacity of its Bishops, and now with the significant assistance of the Cornish Member of Her Majesty's Government. That clause of the General Act of 1866 which was recited in the Bill, and relied on by its advocates, told exactly the other way; for everyone who was capable of reading Acts of Parliament must see that the words "the Cathedral or Collegiate Church" at the end of it, meant the old cathedral or church, such as Southwell, for instance, which had been robbed of every bit of its old capitular endowment, besides being torn away from its old Province of York; and now £3,000 a-year of that endowment was simply to be translated to Truro, besides the previous £1,000. And yet all the Bishops were either absent or sat still and left the defence of the parochial funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission to the noble Earl who spoke just now, and to the chance of any stranger such as himself. If the subject was referred to a Select Committee, the whole question of the new cathedrals ought to be referred, and not merely this attempt of one of them to steal a march upon the others.


said, that it was somewhat singular that the noble and learned Lord who had so munificently restored the Cathedral of St. Albans should have provided the splendid casket with so much indifference as to the jewels which it might contain. The peculiarity of the case of Truro seemed to be that it differed from the other cathedrals spoken of by him, inasmuch as within the limits of the diocese there were large estates given for cathedral purposes which came within the spirit and meaning of the Act passed by the Archbishop of York, which provided that where any estates existed belonging to a dean and chapter the Ecclesiastical Commissioners might use the money produced by them for purposes enumerated. With regard to Truro that provision did not apply, the estates having belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, and it required legislation to bring Truro within the clause. Various matters to which allusion had been made were fit questions to be discussed in Committee. Since the institution of the new Bishopric of Newcastle not less than £243,000 had been collected for Church purposes in that diocese. That was quite a new fund, as it were, coming into the Church. They all sympathized very much with what had been said with regard to the distress of the clergy, and the necessity of extending assistance to them; but he believed that the clergy were much more likely to gain by the new agencies than by any small increases in their stipends that were continually added by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He thought his noble Friend (Lord Stanhope) would much rather have a contest with regard to one particular diocese, in the first instance, instead of having the circumstances of all the new dioceses brought under the consideration of the Select Committee. These were great questions, which had arisen in consequence of the changed state of things in the Church of England. Distress had fallen upon many cathedrals. It was notorious that not only the canons of some cathedrals, but the minor officers also, were, in consequence of the hard pressure of the times, deprived of the income which they expected, and he thought it might be only just that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners should be called upon to review what they had done for certain cathedrals. In point of fact, those cathedrals which received money instead of land were in a perfectly good condition, while those which received lands instead of money found those lands so depreciated in value that they were deprived of the incomes which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners intended to assign. For his own part, he fully believed that the course which had been taken with regard to Truro and the other dioceses was beneficial to the Church at large, and that these funds which were devoted to cathedral purposes in the diocese of Truro ought to receive some consideration from that House. Under the circumstances, he would support the Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe). Their Lordships could do no harm in allowing the Bill to go to a second reading, and, ultimately, to a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly.