HL Deb 06 August 1896 vol 43 cc1557-9

On the Motion for the Third Reading of this Bill,


said it had been deputed to him, in the absence of someone worthier, to say a few words on this Bill. It appeared that the Bill had been mutilated in Committee, and that a protective clause, Clause 7, had been struck out and afresh clause substituted. The old clause would not have saved the structure and sacred nature of the edifice, but he was told the new clause would facilitate the sale of the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, a church immediately adjoining the Mansion House at the corner of Lombard Street. It was in a most conspicuous situation, and an edifice of architectural merit, built by a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren on the site of an old Roman or heathen temple. The church was attended by the Lord Mayors of London, and most of those who had occupied that exalted position in recent years were desirous of saving it. He was informed that some of the bishops did not much desire its preservation; but they should consider that the chancel was to be turned into a railway ticket office and a shaft was to be sunk through the centre of the church. Eminent members of the Court of Common Council and many past Lord Mayors felt strongly on the subject. He begged leave to move that Clause 7 be reinstated in the Bill as it came from the House of Commons, in the place of the new clause introduced by the Lords' Committee.


said he heartily agreed with the words that had fallen from his noble Friend. It would be a great pity if St. Mary Woolnoth's Church was destroyed. Sometimes it was absolutely necessary that old churches should be destroyed. Then they had to yield to necessity; but in this particular case, there was no reason why that church should be destroyed. The promoters of the Bill did not desire it. The clause authorising it had been inserted simply and solely at the request of the rector of the parish. It was an extraordinary thing. Why the Rector of the parish should desire his church to be destroyed and turned into a railway station it was not for him to say. It was, however, well the House should remember that if the church were destroyed a large sum of money would be paid for it. He did not wish to presuppose that anything wrong would be done; but the money would be there, and a pension would be given to the Rector. That, of course, would be right; but he was afraid that if such terms were offered to many clergymen throughout the land, a certain number of our churches would meet with destruction. The clause inserted was inserted at the request of the Rector, and the clause inserted in the House of Commons protecting the church was struck out. He hoped their Lordships would re-insert the clause as it came up from the other House, by which the church would remain. The promoters of the Bill could make the railway without destroying the church, and he was sure their Lordships would feel that if this could be done this church, which was an old and important one, and the church of the Lord Mayor of the City, ought to be preserved. There was much feeling on the subject in the City, and amongst all interested in old churches, and a large meeting was held on the 22nd January at the Mansion House to protest against the destruction of the Church, with the result that, in the House of Commons a clause was inserted protecting the Church. The House of Commons went the length of instructing the Committee to insert a clause to protect the Church, and that clause the Committee inserted. It was an extraordinary thing that, at the last moment, without warning to anyone, the Rector should come and ask for his own church to be destroyed. It was with great pleasure that he (Lord Meath) supported the Motion.


said he trusted the House would not assent to the Motion. This Bill was merely an extension of time Bill. The railway company had ample power, under an Act of 1892, to take away the church and sell it, and this Bill gave no new powers in that respect. The clause introduced in the House of Commons enabled a shaft 90 feet deep to be run through the bottom of the church, a hole to be made in the church wall to cart out rubbish, and there was to be a booking office in the crypt. The Committee of their Lordships' House to whom the subject was referred introduced another clause to enable the church and site to be sold, not at the request of the Rector, but, because the Committee thought it right. If the noble Lord had any ground for suspicion, he thought it would be met by the seventh clause (which he himself had introduced since the Bill passed through Committee), which provided that the purchase money was to be paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to be dealt with as Parliament might hereafter resolve. The amount was only to be determined with the approval of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He sincerely hoped the Bill would be allowed to go through in its present shape. If the Bill were lost, all the railway company would have to do would be to have recourse to the power under the Act of 1892, under which the supporters of the Motion would get less comfort, than they got now.


asked Lord Dorchester what was the meaning of Clause 7?

[Clause 7,—