HL Deb 22 July 1902 vol 111 cc882-6

, in rising "To call the attention of the House to the estimate of the Diocesan Surveyor of St. Asaph of £1,586 for the repairs of the buildings of three farms of sixty, forty, and twenty acres respectively, belonging to the benefice of Trefor Traian, Denbighshire, now in course of sequestration, and to the action of other surveyors; and to move for Papers"—said: My Lords, I have felt it necessary to bring this case before the House, because it is one of great and undeserved hardship, and also because it shows the necessity of altering the plan upon which these surveyors are appointed, and how desirable it is that the glebe lands of farms should be sold as soon as possible. In the present state of agriculture, things are not as they were in former times. The Rev. H. F. Owen, the incumbent of Trefor Traian, is near seventy years of age, and has a wife and five children still dependent upon him. His only fault is that he is old, and has had as many as eleven children, one of whom is in the Denbigh Asylum; and that having had to bring them up upon £95 a year, and whatever he might get from tourists during the summer for showing Vale Crucis Abbey, which he rents from its lay owner, he has not been able to prevent three farms from becoming dilapidated. I have no doubt that the bishop thought he was too old, and that it would be a good thing to get rid of him. Still, he ought to have waited until, in the natural course of events, he died, instead of endeavouring to force him to resign. The three farms that are dilapidated are of sixty, forty, and twenty acres respectively, and give the incumbent a rent of £71. He also receives £24 per annum from the Bounty Office.

The bishop has sequestered the benefice, and offers the incumbent only £30 a year to live upon. If the incumbent will resign his cure, he offers him £70 a year, but that would be insufficient to live upon, especially as he has been deprived of some clerical charities amounting to about £50 a year; besides which, if he resigned his benefice, the creditors would take his pension. As far as I am aware, up to the present time, no attempt has been made to sell these farms, two of which adjoin the property of a large landowner, and the other that of another landowner. I know that in the case of the two farms no attempt has been made to approach the landowner, nor has the incumbent's suggestion been acted upon to let the farms as bye-takes or accommodation land, irrespective of buildings, to adjoining farmers. I know that the incumbent is correct in saying that if they were let in that way they would bring in nearly as good a rent, because my agent recently visited a church farm of forty-seven acres, without any house or buildings other than some old cow-sheds, which is let for £45—a good rent for Anglesey, especially as some of the land is on the shale. If the Trefor Traian farms could be let in the same way, there would be no need to trouble about rebuilding. In any case, however, speaking from my own experience in Anglesey, I say that £1,586 far exceeds what would be necessary for new farm houses and new buildings for three farms of the size of these. I have built a new house and buildings for a farm of 80 acres for £370, and others for farms under 40 acres for £280, so that £930 should have been sufficient for these three farms. But why did not the bishop wait until this incumbent disappeared in the course of nature? Why this precipitate haste, thereby incurring the accusation of tyranny, and of driving an old clergyman and his family into the workhouse? I should have thought that the Right Rev. Prelate would have wished to give some explanation with regard to these matters, but in reply to my inquiry when it would be convenient to his Lordship that I should put the Question—which has been for some time on the Minutes—he sent me a postcard to say he did not intend coming to London at present. I presume, therefore, that if he thinks any explanation necessary he will make it through the Press. I do not, however, believe that the undue pressure put upon the incumbent of Trefor Traian to induce him to resign his benefice is entirely owing to the Right Rev. Prelate. The diocesan officials, registrars, and surveyors are said to exercise too much influence—some say pressure—over the North Wales bishops, and I believe there are some similar cases on this side of the Dee. No good can be expected from these officials so long as they are paid by fees instead of by fixed salaries. This point was fully brought out before the Joint Committee; but no notice of this matter or of the question of dilapidations has been taken in the Bill brought in by Mr. Hanbury. The best test of the cost of repairs of dilapidations is what builders of good repute state in their tenders. A greater number of respectable builders, instead of architects, ought to be appointed as surveyors. If there were a sufficient number of surveyors, the bishops could control them by not again nominating for a survey a surveyor against whom a just complaint has been proved. Ten or eleven dioceses have only one surveyor. St. Alban's and Southwell have six; Lichfield and Lincoln, five; York, Ely, Exeter, and Ripon, four; Bath and Wells, Carlisle, Norwich, and Peterborough, three; London, Winchester, Hereford, Newcastle, Durham, Rochester, St. David's, Salisbury, Truro, Wakefield, Worcester and Bangor, two each.

I think that the right rev. prelate might have come here. I was told by a North Wales clergyman that he had recently made a voyage to Oporto. I must suppose that this was for the purpose of consulting Portuguese authorities on the treatment of clergy, and as to whether those lines of Camoen's do not apply even more to a bishop in his treatment of the clergy than to a commander in the field— More stanzas had the siren in the praise Of the illustrious Albuquerque sung; But she remembers one harsh act, which weighs Him down, though through the world his fame be rung. A great commander (who to crop bright bays On precipitious cliffs his fate hath hung) Should to his men a comrade rather be Than a judge made up of severitie.


I do not know whether the noble Lord gave any notice of his intention to bring this matter before the House to the Bishop of St. Asaph, but he appears to be the only Member of your Lordships' House who would be at all likely to be able to give any information on the subject. Certainly I have no knowledge of the circumstances to which the noble Lord has referred, and I do not believe it is within the functions of any member of the Government to have such knowledge. I understand that the proper course in cases of this description would be in the first instance to address the Bishop and invoke his assistance in the matter. Under certain contingencies the subject might then come before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, in which case it might become the duty of some member of the Government to make himself acquainted with the facts of the case. At present, however, neither I nor any of my colleagues on this Bench can give the noble Lord any information on the matter. I see by the Paper that the noble Lord has given notice of his intention to move for Papers. I was not able very accurately to follow the observations of the noble Lord, but I rather gathered that his concluding remarks were in the nature of the recitation of a piece of poetry, and not a Motion for Papers. I do not know what the Papers are for which the noble Lord intended to move, but if he puts a Motion on the Paper we will see whether it would be possible to give them.


I am much obliged to the noble Duke for the reply he has given. I may say that I have written several times to the Bishop, but without effect.