§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, moved by the Lord Bishop of London on Thursday last, to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, be 2 presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I was so much interested in the speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London last Thursday that when I went home I provided myself with a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT and spent Sunday evening reading the speech. The right rev. Prelate on that occasion spoke with two voices. The first voice assured your Lordships that if there was one person in this world who was anxious to preserve the ancient churches of the City of London it was the right rev. Prelate himself. He loved them; he had assisted to restore them and it was a great mistake to suppose that he would do anything which would in any kind of way injure them. What he wanted to do was to protect them, supposing that in the future there should be a bold, bad Bishop of London. The right rev. Prelate supports this Measure in order to restrict the efforts of the bold, bad Bishop who may come after him. Lest it may be suggested that I in any way misrepresent the right rev. Prelate I have provided myself with a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT and I will read short extracts from his speech to show that what I have just said is absolutely accurate.
The right rev. Prelate began by saying:—My Lords, the first thing I want to remove from your Lordships' mind is that 3 this is a Bill for the destruction of a great many City churches. It is nothing of the kind.Later on he said:—This Bill is a Bill for stopping the Bishop of London being an iconoclast.That is the bold, bad Bishop who is to succeed him, I suppose—For myself it is the last thing I want to be. I love these City churches. I have restored many of them, I have opened them, and I would not have one of these monuments of beauty destroyed.… Therefore I say this particular Bill, instead of being a Bill for pulling down a number of churches, is a Bill to restrain the Bishop of London from being rash, foolish and iconoclastic.Why do we want to restrain a Bishop? That is the last thing I want to do. Why not leave the matter as it is? Why not leave in force the Act of 1860 under which, as my noble friend the Earl of Crawford told you, in the last sixty years, I think he said, thirty churches have been removed.
That is the voice of the right rev. Prelate at the commencement of his speech. But if you look a little further, you will see that after these opening remarks the voice changes, and it becomes a voice compared with which Lord Phillimore is a moderating agent. The right rev. Prelate says in effect, "There are forty-six churches in the City of London; twelve are quite sufficient." Now if you deduct twelve from forty-six that leaves thirty-four. Lord Phillimore desired to destroy nineteen, but, as I read the right rev. Prelate's speech, he desires to destroy thirty-four.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
I will read what he says:But do we want forty-six churches, forty-six organists, forty-six choirs to minister to them? About a dozen churches would be sufficient.If the English language means anything that means that a dozen churches would be sufficient and that therefore the difference between twelve and forty-six—thirty-four—are unnecessary. The right rev. Prelate went on to say—The men and women for whom the churches were built do not live in the City now. The people for whom they were built are in Dagenham, Tottenham and Edmon- 4 ton. We want to carry the ministrations of the Church down to those places. It is there that the people now live for whom the churches were built.I do not quite know how he arrived at that conclusion. Then he said:We have to consider that the Bishop of Southwark, who may not have time to speak, and the Bishop of Chelmsford have to build twenty-five churches almost at once and do not know where to turn for the money.That is the bottom of the whole thing. As my noble friend Lord Hunsdon said, £1,500,000—I think that was the amount of money—can be obtained for these churches. The Bishop of Southwark and the Bishop of Chelmsford have to build twenty-five churches and do not know where to turn for the money, so City churches are to be destroyed. That is what it comes to, because, unless they are destroyed, you cannot get the money and use it to build churches in places where the residents will not give a shilling. Therefore, because certain people will not give a shilling to provide churches for themselves, churches in the City of London, which in the old days did provide money for building churches, are to be destroyed in order that the money may be found.
The right rev. Prelate talked about a body of thirty ordinary members, of whom twenty are Church people who, if they all vote the same way, would be in a majority. It is very unlikely that twenty Church people would all vote the same way. Probably they will hold many different views. Why is it supposed that twenty Church people, unless they have some connection with the City of London or some love for the past, will vote against the destruction of these churches? Lord Hunsdon of Hunsdon is a Churchman. He is in favour of destruction. Lord Phillimore is a Churchman. He is in favour of destruction. Therefore I venture to say that if you refer the question of the preservation of City churches to twenty Church people selected from all sorts and kinds of people in the kingdom you will certainly not have a protective body. So far, I think, I have shown that the right rev. Prelate began as a dove but turned into a wolf, and that he did, as a matter of fact, speak with two voices.
5 Now I turn for a moment to the speech of my noble friend Lord Hunsdon of Hunsdon. My noble friend says:I imagine that your Lordships, like myself, will stand by the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee.I am a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee. Let us consider for a moment what happened with regard to this matter in the Ecclesiastical Committee. We met and considered whether or not we ought to go on with this Measure at all and we came to the conclusion that it was a Measure which we ought not to deal with, but which ought to be dealt with by a Joint Committee of both Houses. We passed that, and the Legislative Council, as I think they call themselves, sent it back to us and said: "Oh, no, we will not accept that. We think you are bound to give a decision one way or the other." So we had another meeting in order to give that decision. There are thirty members of the Ecclesiastical Committee. At the meeting at which this Measure was approved there were only thirteen present. Out of those thirteen only nine voted for it and four against. I think it will be seen that the Ecclesiastical Committee was not very anxious to pass the Measure or more than thirteen members would have been present; and they would not have said—as they did when a larger a lumber was present—that they really had no proper jurisdiction in this matter and that it ought to go before a Joint Committee of both Houses. The whole of the speech of my noble friend Lord Hunsdon was devoted to showing that there were too many churches on a small area and that about £1,500,000 would be obtained if this Measure was passed. That shows that the last voice of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London and the voice of my noble, friend below me are united in the hope of getting a considerable sum from these particular sites.
Lord Selborne said exactly the same thing. Lord Selborne went on to defend a rather curious provision in this particular Measure. On page 8 of the Union of Benefices and Disposal of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926, you will find this subsection:—If the Commission report to the Bishop that it is undesirable that a scheme under this Measure should be framed, no further proceedings shall be taken in pursuance of the report; but without prejudice to the 6 appointment of another Commission under this Measure in respect to the same proposals, if the Bishop shall think the appointment of such Commission desirable.Therefore the Bishop, being defeated before one Commission, can go on appointing various other Commissions until he gets one that will give a decision his way.
My noble friend Lord Selborne alluded to that point last Thursday. Referring to the constitution of the Commission, he said:—The Corporation has half, the diocese has half, and the Chairman, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, has the casting vote. Can your Lordships conceive a more independent or more impartial tribunal?And he went on to say:—'But,' say my noble friends and the critics of the Measure, 'the Bishop can again bring the matter forward, and he will bring it forward, again and again, until at last he gets a Commission that will recommend the demolition of the church.' What a travesty! What an absurd picture! Even if the Bishop of London were so unreasonable—here I would recall your Lordships' attention to the speech of the right rev. Prelate, who considers it necessary to bring in something to restrict the Bishop of London——or so absurd, is he likely to get his way by such methods as that? Are the two members of the Committee appointed by the Corporation of the City of London likely to change their minds because the Bishop plagues them again and again on the same subject? Is the Chairman of the Commission, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, likely to be so weak-minded that he will give way altogether, not because he is convinced, but merely because the Bishop of London, like the importunate widow, has come to him so often with the same question?The Commission will consist of two people appointed by the Corporation of London, two appointed by the other side and a Chairman, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, with a casting vote.
What does that mean? The two different parties are cancelled out and the whole thing is in the hands of the Chairman appointed by the Lord Chancellor. He will be the person who will decide. Lord Selborne asks if it is likely that the Commission would change their view. I think my noble friend is right in asking that. But what Lord Selborne has forgotten is that Lord Chancellors change. There may be a new Lord Chancellor—in fact, there will be. I do not know how 7 many Lord Chancellors we have had in the last five or six years, but there have been a number of changes. There will be a new Lord Chancellor, and the Bishop will go to him and say: "I want another Commission appointed. Will you appoint your man?" The new Lord Chancellor will appoint somebody else, and you cannot tell whether that new man will or will not have the same opinion as the original Chairman. Accordingly, I again come to the conclusion that, however they may attempt to disguise it, this is a Measure to provide money to build churches for people in other parts of the country who will not provide the money themselves.
Let me point out what has been spent on these churches by the City Corporation. I have here a letter from the Record Office in Guildhall, dated March 13, 1925, and addressed to Mr. Chamberlain. I will not trouble your Lordships with the whole of the letter, but it is to the effect that the Act of 1667 enabled the Mayor and Corporation to impose a coal duty, and the sum of £265,467 3s. was devoted to the re-building of parish churches. The letter went on to say that this sum—was worth very much more than the same sum to-day; moreover, it was a burden on every hearth and furnace in the City, and was borne by Nonconformists, Roman Catholics and Jews as well as by members of the Church of England.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
May I ask noble Lord a question? Was it levied on the hearth, or was it levied in the Port of London on every ton of coal that came in?
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
Let me quote from the letter in answer to that point:—The Act of 1667.… enabled the Mayor and Corporation to set an impost of 1s. on every chaldron of coals entering the Port of London, to assist them in re-building the conduits, aqueducts and other public works.…These people spent their money on building these churches. In the churches are the monuments and the bones of the people who in the past helped to build up the City of London and make it what it is to-day. Are these to be destroyed merely because, in some other place, there is not a great number of churches and the people are so indifferent as to whether there are churches or not that they will not put their hands in their pockets to provide them for themselves?
8 I have here an extract from a report which appeared in the Press on Saturday of an exhibition at St. Dunstan's in the East at which the Secretary of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings spoke, and at which the Rector, the Rev. Arthur G. B. West, said—and this is important to show what is done with the money at the present moment in these churches—that of the income of £6,000, £4,500 went to their ancient school of St. Dunstan's College at Catford and £1,000 a year, through the City Parochial Foundation, to the Bishop of London to be spent on other parts of the diocese. He went on to say that since the War he had held no Sunday services, but he contended that the churches should bring the daily inhabitants to church on the other days of the week, and he stated that there was an average of two hundred people in the church all the year round on week days. I hope that your Lordships will reject this Measure.
§ LORD HANWORTH
My Lords, this matter appears to me so important and so difficult that I claim the indulgence of your Lordships in asking leave to break silence for the first time in your Lordships' House. I was one of those who gave what assistance I could to the passing of the Enabling Act. I am not sure whether I spoke, but I remember using all the influence, such as it was, that I possessed in favour of that measure, and as soon as it was passed I was appointed by Mr. Speaker to be a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee and I held my position upon that Committee until such time as I left the House of Commons. In these circumstances I approach the Measure that is before this House with every desire to see it passed if it is right that it should be passed, because I recognise to the full the difficulty in which the Church of England is placed in getting Measures which touch and concern it in its domestic affairs passed by a busy Legislature.
At the same time I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, will forgive me if I say that I do not take the same view that he took as to the powers and duties of the Ecclesiastical Committee. He said to your Lordships:—Was not the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament established for the very pur- 9 pose of safeguarding the rights of Parliament and the powers of Parliament and the public interest?I agree. But then he goes on to speak as if the matter was concluded once a Measure had been passed by the Ecclesiastical Committee. For my own part I do not accept that view. It appears to me that the Ecclesiastical Committee has duties of great importance to perform, but it cannot be said that its decision is intended to be irrevocably binding upon either House of the Legislature. Its duties are to draft a Report "stating the nature and legal effect of the Measure, and its views as to the expediency thereof, especially with relation to the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects." Testing this Measure by that standard, I will say at once that, if I had been a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee before whom this Measure had come, I should undoubtedly have joined with the minority and voted with the four and not with the nine. For my part I deeply regret that a Measure of such deep importance, arousing not unnaturally so much concern, should have been dealt with by a meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee who exceeded by one, and one only, the quorum necessary for dealing with the business at all.
May I explain what I mean by the ambit of matters which ought to be dealt with by a Measure? It appears to me that, if you examine the Enabling Act, and if you take the Preamble, it was to deal with matters touching and concerning the Church of England. It is true that it does not say the Church of England alone, but for my part—I may have been wrong—I thought the ambit of the Enabling Act was much narrower than appears to be contended for now. I can give an illustration of what I conceive to be the true powers, or true limits, of the Enabling Act. Last Thursday the most rev. Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, asked and received from your Lordships sanction to pass a Measure to get rid of some inequalities and some, I may almost say, absurdities, in reference to the collection of First Fruits. That is a matter from which the Church, and the Church only, has suffered for many generations. I may congratulate your Lordships on having passed that Measure, because I have observed that more than 520 years ago that system of collecting First Fruits was 10 described in language quite strong—so strong that, to use a phrase used in another place on certain occasions, have for greater accuracy obtained the exact words of the Act of Parliament. In the sixth regnal year of Henry IV, Cap. 1, an Act was passed which described the system as "a horrible mischief and a damnable custom." Five hundred and twenty years ago that was the description of it, and we may be glad to think that a Measure has passed this House to get rid of what was, undoubtedly, a real burden upon the Church of England.
But consider this present Measure. Does it concern the Church of England alone? It has two parts. I know that it deals with the question of the union of benefices, but it gives powers, wide and extensive, for the purpose of removing churches, and I will quote the lines of Mr. Gladstone's hymn when he speaks of those sacred placesWhere many a generation's prayerHath perfumed and hath blessed the air.Are these edifices and their preservation matters which concern the Church of England alone? The very interest and deep concern awakened in large numbers of His Majesty's subjects at the very thought that a number of churches may be pulled down at once shows that the preservation of churches is a matter which arouses keen interest and warm sympathy among many of those who are, perhaps, not regular adherents of the Church of England. They may not be constant in their attendance at the services in those churches, but, believe me, they have a regard, a respect, and a veneration for them which is, in itself, I believe, a part of the English character.
Those churches which have, lasted for so long a period, and which it is now possible may be removed, hold the bones of the great grandfathers of the present generation, and I believe it is to the credit and honour of the present generation that they are not comforted by the fact that they are told that the sites will be so valuable that, it may be, the compensation for the sites may be put upon the three per cent. tables, that you may quantify the value you obtain at so many pounds per foot super, and multiply that by terms of thirty years' purchase. I believe Englishmen, as a whole, would desire to reject any such attractive sug- 11 gestion when they come to think of what is the importance of these churches as a centre of their life and their religious life.
We are told, no doubt, that a number of these churches are but little used. I am not quite sure how far that goes. Some of the City churches have now become attached to one dominion or to one colony. Some offer facilities for private prayer and rest in the course of the day, and for my own part I should be very sorry to test the value of churches by considering whether or not they are well attended on a Sunday. Perhaps one of the remarkable features of the present day is the fact that in the midst of the busy turmoil of business life you will find so many who are ready, in the middle of the day, at all seasons of the year, to take some opportunity of resting awhile apart, and meditating, in the City churches. It appears to me, therefore, on this first point, that it is impossible to say that this Measure is one which so touches the Church of England and its domestic affairs as to be one which ought to be passed as a Measure through your Lordships' House.
I come to the next question, as to whether intrinsically it is a scheme which ought to be passed. Here I deeply regret that I shall have to vote against the Measure, because it bears the trace of the care, the careful drafting, and the accurate thought of Lord Phillimore.
§ LORD HANWORTH
I am sorry. I thought the noble and learned Lord had inspired it, because the Measure is a well-drawn Measure, and he will not think me impertinent if I associate with his name something like accurate thought and careful draftsmanship.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord, but I never had anything to do with the Measure. I never spoke on it, or voted on it, or had anything to do with it.
§ LORD HANWORTH
I am sorry that it has not that merit. But let me just 12 consider the Measure itself. The Second Schedule determines the bodies and persons, fourteen in number, upon whom notice of a scheme has to be served. To take one only of these bodies, notice of a scheme must be served upon the Commissioners of Works. Why? Because it is obviously a matter of such public concern that that public authority ought to have notice. When you regard the table it appears to me that intrinsically the scheme itself bears conclusive evidence of the fact that it does not touch or concern the Church of England alone. It appears to me of a far more wide-reaching character. I may point out one point which I think requires some amendment. I observe that all the documents, as I will call them, are to be disposed of under the scheme as may be thought right by those persons who frame it. I think the more modern way in which to deal with those parish registers and the like, is to put them in charge of those who have charge of public records, as has been done in the Law of Property Acts.
But we have either to pass this Measure or to reject it. It is not possible to meet the very important points which have been raised by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford. If it were possible under the Measure to offer some amendment it would be possible to reassure the public by indicating in a table or schedule that a certain number of churches were quite beyond the powers of those who are entrusted with the execution of the measure under the Act. We cannot amend it. We have to say whether this Measure should be passed or not and for my part, after having given grave and careful consideration, with every desire to meet the difficulties which beset the Church in getting its private Measures passed, I cannot find it right to vote for this Measure. It appears to me that the Enabling Act was intended for the passing of such Measures as would be more properly described as matters for Private Bill legislation—matters which are not usually dealt with by Public Bills. But if that be an insufficient test, even applying a wider and more liberal test to the legislation brought up from the Assembly, this Measure appears to me to have naturally aroused so much opposition that it is impossible to deal with the matters in it except by an Act 13 of Parliament. No other course would have the authority to compel the assent of people at large, and I can well believe that it is on that ground that so much concern is aroused. For these reasons I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I must vote against the Measure.
My Lords, my excuse for addressing you on this occasion is that for a long time I have taken rather a great interest in this subject. I quite realise that any one who comes forward here and ventures to suggest that any old building should be moved or, still worse, destroyed, comes as a suspect; he is looked upon as a mere empty-headed utilitarian who cares nothing for beauty and nothing for antiquity. He has, in fact, to fight sentiment, and when you come down to fight sentiment no argument, or even common sense, will prevail. I listened with very rapt attention to the charming and appealing speech made by my noble friend Lord Crawford. He is deservedly recognised as a great authority upon art, and his love for the antique was shown by the two stories he told us. But sometimes these very artistic people look at a thing from the way they want to see it: like the futurist, who complimented a host upon a lovely picture of his wife which he had seen, and to his dismay was told it was only a plan of the drains; like a case only a year ago in this House, when we discussed a small bit of asphalte about the size of an ordinary dining-room, which the City Corporation described as a "lung of London," 25 feet by 40 feet; like Ruskin, who described what is, I suppose, the most beautiful chapel in England, King's College Chapel, as a dining-room table turned upside down, with the four legs standing in the air; even like my noble friend Lord Crawford, who described one of our most respected, if not one of the oldest members of this House, Lord Phillimore, as blithe and debonair. Artists see what they want to see.
But let us come down to the common sense of this matter. If these churches are all so beautiful as they are described by the artists and by the City Corporation, why have the City Corporation never protested against their being obscured and built out of sight? It is impossible now to see many of them at 14 all. Walk down Cornhill: the whole of St. Michael's, Cornhill, is built out of sight. Seventy yards further up the stucco front of St. Peter's, Cornhill, is covered by a haberdasher's shop. All Hallows, Lombard Street, about which we have heard so much, can only be approached by a little alley. If there was ever anything beautiful in it it is impossible to see it now, because buildings are so close to it that the whole perspective of the architect is entirely destroyed. My noble friend Lord Hunsdon, who, as the son of his father, Lord Aldenham, has been brought up since his cradle with a knowledge of church architecture, has described to your Lordships the crowd of churches which are to be found in the area of nine acres of ground—an area, as he put it, about the size of an ordinary, good-sized garden. There are six churches so close that you call throw a cricket ball from one to the other.
But Lord Hunsdon is not the only love of beauty who has drawn attention to this. Pepys, in his "Diary" in 1667, after the Fire, wrote:—These churches which are being built are plainly not chosen with reference to the convenience of the City. They stand in a crowd round Cornhill.To that Lord Crawford replied that he did not mind the churches being huddled together; and then, with the artistic indignation of which he is such a master, he said:Are there too many masterpieces in the National Gallery? Are we too rich in statues in the British Museum?No, I do not say that we are. But he happens to be a trustee of both, and I am perfectly certain that if his old masters were hidden away so that they could not be seen, if they were hidden away so that they could not be enjoyed or used by the people, he would very soon move them somewhere else where they could be seen and enjoyed. He would enlarge his gallery or move his pictures to a larger one, and the same thing, of course, applies to the statues.
If this Measure passes it does not mean necessarily—and too much stress is put upon this—the destruction of a church or the destruction of anything that is beautiful. It is possible, and it has often been done, to move a building stone by stone and put it where it can be seen and where it 15 can be admired. Take, for instance, Crosby Hall. Crosby Hall is a beautiful building; but by degrees it was built out of sight and any one standing in Crosby Square could not see it at all. That building was moved stone by stone and is now a home for University women. Its beauty can be seen, its architecture can be seen, and it is now used instead of being disused. I saw a very memorable building only yesterday, when I was at Trinity College, Cambridge. That building was moved—that beautiful gateway leading into Bishop's Hostel, which stood at one time twenty yards further in the square, was moved back, I think, by Henry VIII into its present position. Over and over again beautiful buildings have been moved to places where they can be seen and used properly.
Did the Corporation of London protest against the moving of Crosby Hall, or are their protests limited to the moving of a church? I think the Corporation of London come to this House with a very ill grace when we think of their conduct in connection with Temple Bar. In all England I suppose there was hardly a building of greater historical importance and even of greater beauty than Temple Bar. But it got in the way of traffic, and was removed without all this screaming about beauty. It could have been re-erected on the Embankment. It could have been re-erected at the entrance to the Temple. But it was swept away, and the stones of Temple Bar lay in a dust heap on the Embankment until a private individual, Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux, was patriotic enough to collect them and erect them as an entrance to his own house. It seems very odd, therefore, that there is this indignation on the part of the Corporation at the idea, not necessarily of pulling down but of moving a church.
If I may state my own view, it is that any old building ought from its very antiquity to be protected. It would be perfectly lamentable if every generation were to destroy the buildings of the generation before it. The present generation is not at all necessarily a better judge of what is beautiful than the generation that went before it. Therefore, I should vote against this Measure if I thought it made it easier to pull down or to move a building without 16 proper protection. But no church can be moved, no church can be destroyed under this Measure until those who are the leading artists, the leading societies for the protection of buildings, the president of this and the president of that have expressed—I do not say necessarily their approval, but until their opinion has been heard. I think, therefore, we are secure that nothing shall be done that is likely to endanger any church in the City without, to put it vulgarly, such a row being made that it would soon become impossible. All these great authorities have the opportunity of making their voices heard and many of them are on the Committee which has to decide the question.
But, as I say, I think we have made too much of the pulling down. This Measure does a great deal more than that. It enables the benefices to be united. I will not repeat what the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of London said, but, speaking as a Bishop and as Bishop of London, his opinion, surely, carries a great deal of weight in this House. But, shortly, this state of things exists, and I wonder whether any one can think that it ought to go on. We have forty-seven parishes with forty-seven incumbents, and, after Lord Phillimore's Committee had taken evidence, it was decided that the whole of the work those incumbents do could be done by twelve men. In the whole of these forty-seven parishes there are only 11,000 residents. Many of them are only temporary residents, and there is no question of their having homes there. Many of them are only caretakers. Yet £40,000 a year net, it is much more gross, is paid to these incumbents for ministering to the religious wants of 11,000 people. The incumbents, of course, do not live in their parishes. Why should they? They live out at Wimbledon or Sutton or somewhere else. There is nothing for them to do, and they do not live in their parishes. Only last week one of them, as my noble friend Lord Banbury has already mentioned, said that he did not think that all the City churches need be open on Sunday: he had not had any Sunday service in his church since the War! Does it not make the blood of some of us boil when we hear of a man receiving £437 a year for doing nothing on Sundays? What is he doing on week-days? The right rev. 17 Prelate told us that he had also given leave to another clergyman not to hold the morning and evening services on week-days because he had to read the service to one verger.
I am sorry to detain your Lordships but I have been boiling over with this subject for a long time. What parish work can a clergyman do who has only 262 parishioners? What parish work can he do if he has only 215 parishioners and gets £900 a year for attending to them? What parish work can he do if he has only 85 parishioners and gets £845 a year for attending to them, or 120 parishioners and receives £900 for attending to them? I am giving your Lordships facts. I have had a very amusing correspondence with some of these gentlemen and they tell me that I attach too much value to parochial work. Well, they certainly take too much value for it. But they say: "Look at the work we do going in and out in the parish." I am seventy years of age. I have spent four or five days a week in the City during forty years of my life and never in all those, forty years have I seen a clergyman going in or out of any office with which I have been connected, though there have been hundreds of clerks in it, and I do not think he would have been welcomed if he did go in and out. The religious work, the religious life, the religious anchor of the people working in the City is in their homes, with the clergyman of their own parishes, not with a perambulating man who has nothing to do on Sundays and very little to do on week-days.
Your Lordships have been reminded by the noble Lord the Master of the Rolls of the luncheon hour services. I have been to many of them. You can count on your fingers the men and the women who attend those services. I am not sneering at the wish of any man or woman to go into a church in the luncheon hour, as one clergyman said, for rest and refreshment—I do not know where the refreshment comes in, but for rest—and it is a very nice and charming thought that men should care to do that, but we do not want forty-seven churches in a few acres of ground for that purpose. We do not want to pay £40,000 a year so that people can go and sit in churches. The incumbents may be in the churches during the luncheon hour, but it has not been my fortune to meet them there. I am often in these churches. The incum- 18 bent may be hidden away in the vestry but he is not seen. I do not wish it to be thought for a moment that I am trying to minimise the value of some churches for this purpose, but we do not want forty-seven.
Since the question has been raised frantic endeavours have been made to show how very attractive these churches are at mid-day. Concerts have been held, sacred concerts. There was a sermon on the devil, I remember, which I went to hear myself; I thought the preacher might be making personal allusions. There were lectures on poetry. One incumbent asked me to come and hear him play on the harp, practising, I suppose, for the future. But we do not want the clergy of the Church of England to receive £40,000 a year to get up concerts. It was not for that that the churches were built. The churches were built for the better service of God and they are not being used for that purpose. People do not use the churches for the purpose for which they were built. Does it not seem hard that they should come here and say: "We do not want them, we do not use them, but you shall not have them." That is a dog-in-the-manger policy which has never been very popular in this country up to now.
In conclusion—I am sorry I have been so long—I would say that here we have at long last the Church awake and alive to this scandal. I know, if I may say so, that the right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of London has had a very, very anxious time considering this matter. Here we have the Church of England coming to this House and saying: "Do give us the opportunity to unite these benefices. Do give us the opportunity to use our possessions for the purpose for which they were meant. Do not leave them where they are, useless. Give us the opportunity of using them for the benefit of the worshippers." Provided—and I use that word with intention—provided that protection is taken that the beautiful shall not be interfered with, I think we take a very great responsibility if we refuse the request of the Church.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, I will try, in reply to my noble friend who has just spoken, to attain to an average 19 degree of common sense and to indulge in as little sentiment as possible. I would pass by for a moment his criticisms of the City. I am not here to defend the City and if the City, as he said, has in the past been guilty of certain lâaches, surely all the more we ought to support them when they have done their duty, as they have on the present occasion.
I have two reasons, if I may say so, for addressing your Lordships on this subject. One is that I speak as a London citizen, who has had something to do with London Government, who knows his London and loves his London, and desires to make all the protest that he can before this Measure, fraught with such destruction to some of the great buildings of London, passes into law. My other reason is this. It has been my daily business during nearly two years to be made familiar with the growing extent to which not merely learned societies, which do a very good work, and highly qualified persons learned in architecture or in the spirit of the past, but also large and growing masses of His Majesty's subjects are becoming more and more sensitive in these matters, more and more devoted to ancient buildings and more and more determined to stand up for them from whatever quarter an attack may be made upon them. I get daily letters when, perhaps, some old dwelling-house is going to be taken away to America. The noble Viscount says, in effect: "What does it matter? Take it down, stone by stone, and set it up somewhere else." Yes, and lose the whole spirit and feeling associated with the locality in which it is placed.
I get these letters daily whenever there is some abbey or old building about to be removed. I am constantly asked to take them under the protection of the Government and I only regret that the powers that have been so far entrusted to the Government by Parliament are not strong enough to take them under a greater protection than can be offered now. In listening to the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London it seemed to me that he was almost insensitive to, and scarcely realised, the force and the strength of this feeling. What did he tell us? He said that he had been attacked as an 20 iconoclast, that he had been caricatured in papers with a pick-axe or a hammer destroying ancient buildings, and he treated it all as mere chaff and thought nothing of it. I can assure the right rev. Prelate—and I say so most earnestly—that he is deeply mistaken if he thinks that feeling which he so lightly passes over can be treated as chaff, or that it has not a very profound reaction in the hearts of many people both in London and in the country at large.
I was rather surprised in listening to the right rev. Prelate to note the curious view that he took of this Measure—that it was to restrain some iconoclastic Bishop from doing away with these churches in this country. I am rather surprised that before he made that statement he had not altered the Preamble to the Measure. What does it say?To facilitate the union of benefices and the disposal of churches.The very preface to the Measure says that it is to make more easy and not more difficult the disposal and the destruction of these City churches. I want to say that that Preamble is perfectly correct and that the right rev. Prelate is entirely wrong when he tries to suggest to your Lordships that it is going to put difficulties either in his own way or in the way of some subsequent Bishop when he wants to pull down one of these City churches.
I will be quite frank on this matter and I will say that if he wants to be restrained, if he represents himself as a sort of ravening wolf going about seeking how many churches he can devour, I would much rather he withdrew this Measure and that we should deal with the right rev. Prelate without this Measure at all, because I think we are strong enough to deal with the Bishop if he has not these curious conglomerate Committees to assist him. Our quarterstaves are, I think, strong enough to beat down the crozier of the Bishop and we will challenge him on that. I am afraid that if this Measure passes and if you have these committees with this sort of hunt-the-slipper business, you will never know where the Church is. The matter is handed on from Board to Commission, from Commission back to Board, and public opinion is harassed by this complication of Committees. It does not know to what point 21 it should direct its attack. On the contrary, these matters complicate and confuse public opinion.
As I shall show in a moment, some of the statements of the right rev. Prelate upon these Committees and how they work are—I can only say so with great respect—somewhat misleading. The right rev. Prelate first of all told us that none of these churches are to be destroyed until we have a decision from the Fine Art Commission. That is a most extraordinary statement. If it were true I would not get up in this House and oppose this Measure. I do so because that statement is not true and because all that the Fine Art Commission can do is to make recommendations and, if in its discretion it thinks fit, pass them on to the Bishop. That is what the right rev. Prelate calls a decision of the Fine Art Commission. It is all the more curious because some correspondence passed between my office—before I was there—and those who were engaged in drawing up this Measure, urging that the Fine Art Commission should be the arbiter of the pulling down of any of these churches. That was refused, but the right rev. Prelate now comes here and tells us that this recommendation is to be the decision of the Fine Art Commission.
He also tells us that nothing of this kind can be done without the assent of thirty-five men on the Board. If these thirty-five gentlemen have to be unanimous I would not take the trouble of speaking on this Measure. I should feel perfectly secure, first of all because there is a representative of the office of the First Commissioner of Works on this body and, also, because it includes representatives of the Society of Antiquaries and one or two other bodies. It is because a large majority of the people on this Board are not only—I say respectfully—under the influence of the Bishop of London but that many of them are interested parties in the sense that they want to have some of this money to build churches in their own district, that I say it is not fair to come to the House of Lords and say that nothing can be done without the assent of this Commission.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
May I ask the noble Viscount where does he find in my speech anything about the decision of the Commission? I said the 22 Bishop has to consult the Fine Art Commission; but there is nothing about a decision.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will read the sentence.We are not touching any of them until we have had a decision from the Royal Fine Art Commission.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
That means their decision as to what were their views on the subject; it did not mean that they were to decide the question finally.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I read that as a final decision of the Fine Art Commission. If the right rev. Prelate only meant their recommendation I am quite satisfied. I think that though the right rev. Prelate did not feel fully the weight of the hostility of public opinion to the destruction of these churches, yet he has recognised it to some extent because of the very complexity of the machinery of these Committees which gives an opportunity to some of these persons to be heard. But whatever they say, whatever their recommendations, whatever their views, can be overruled by the Bishop himself. Now, I wish to make this proposition, which I believe to be true, that this Measure is of no use and means nothing unless it is a general attack on the great majority of the churches in the City of London. I know it is said that it is not so.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The machinery and salaries are redundant, not the fabrics of the buildings.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will deal with that in a moment. The point I am dealing with now is that of getting money from the sale of these sites. I would not rise to attack this Measure if I thought it was merely one for making a certain number of persons do a little more work. If it was a Measure for taking some of their stipends, and using the money in other ways, I would not say a word about it. But the whole value of this Measure is the value you will get from the sale of the sites on which these churches stand. I believe that in other places the right rev. Prelate has put the position in this way. He has said, in effect, "It is very difficult for me to raise money for the building of 23 these churches"—which I have no doubt are badly wanted—"in Walthamstow and other places, because I am always told the Church must realise its assets and so we are going to realise these assets by selling the sites of these churches." That is part of my fear of this Measure. Suppose they only dealt with three or four churches and sold the sites: the same argument would be applicable and the same gentlemen who said "Realise your assets," would say "You cannot expect us to contribute to the building of these churches in other parts of London until you have realised more of your assets." I foresee a great danger that under the pressure of that kind of opinion the right rev. Prelate might very well be forced to the destruction and absorption of these churches. He told us, and I have no doubt with perfect truth, that he has an affection for these ancient buildings, but he made a statement, which I thought extraordinary, that there were too many organists and ministers and so on in these churches and that about a dozen would be sufficient.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
I am sorry to have to interrupt again. What I said was that twelve churches would be sufficient for the week-day services. That does not mean that we should pull down the churches. We should have one parish church for the services, but we should leave the other buildings, and if we could have a service in the one church only we should get the money, £23,000 a year, from the other incumbents. That is what I said.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I am drawing what seems a plain inference from what the right rev. Prelate said. I dare say he does not mean it, but I am saying that in asking for subscriptions he will be driven to that action by public opinion. If he has publicly stated that for this purpose twelve churches are sufficient. I am bound to say that I think the position of the other thirty-four churches will be one of great jeopardy. He will have given an argument which will be fastened upon, that for this purpose it is not necessary to have more than a dozen churches. We have been told that some of these churches are redundant, but there are redundant churches in other parts of the country. For instance, there are a number of redundant churches in the City of Norwich, but no one ever complains of 24 that redundancy because the site values would not realise very much. You have in the City of Norwich thirty-three churches. That is the great glory of Norwich. It is not said that because they are redundant the land should be disposed of, partly because the sites have not a very large value as compared with the City of London, and partly because in the Bishop of Norwich we have a man devoted to these ancient buildings.
I should like to remind the right rev. Prelate—I think it is worth a little serious consideration—that in the year 1913, when a Committee was sitting to consider what powers should be granted in the case of ancient buildings and monuments, the Committee actually voted for including churches in occupation in the Bill. It was only when the Bill was actually being drafted that pressure from the Bishops resulted in that part being withdrawn on an undertaking—or a promise, I do not think it was an undertaking—that they should appoint advisory committees in the different dioceses who should advise them when something of that sort arose. After all, no considerable funds for the building of churches will be raised except by the sales of the sites on which these churches stand.
Let us think for a moment what these churches are. The great bulk of them, as your Lordships know, were built after the Great Fire, when an opportunity was given to the greatest architect and one of the greatest men that we have ever had in this country to re-build these churches on a settled plan. One would have thought that in many countries they would have sacrificed almost anything before destroying the unique work of the greatest architect that the country had ever possessed. We are always trying to retain our great pictures and our great sculptures, and I do not see why this invidious distinction should be drawn between the sister arts, why we should try to retain pictures and statues and should be indifferent, if money has to be raised for other churches, to the work of our greatest architect. I should have thought—I say this as a layman, with very great respect to the Episcopal Bench—that these feelings of love for ancient buildings and love for history, the æsthetic feelings excited by these buildings, were themselves the hand- 25 maiden and the assistant of the religious sentiment and were not to be lightly undervalued.
Again, several of your Lordships who have spoken of churches being pulled down in other parts of the country do not seem to me to have fully realised the unique position in this respect of the City of London. I have seen, as have many of your Lordships, every city in Europe, and I say that there is no city in the whole of Europe where you have this extraordinary combination of businesses, merchants' offices, insurance offices and banks, and at the same time these churches built in with them, living with them, making, if you like, a sort of appeal from the material side to the spiritual side of the City of London. This is the unique glory of the City of London, and I am afraid that this glory is being jeopardised by the attacks in this Measure. The other day I was having a discussion with a distinguished Indian on our civilisation, and he was pressing the point that we were very materialistic compared with the idealists in India. I took him for a walk in the City of London and pointed out to hint the great offices, the great banks and business houses. But he was not interested in those; he was interested in the churches, and he was immensely impressed by the testimony that these churches, sandwiched in, if you like, crowded into the City of London among the business houses, bore to the more spiritual and ideal side of our British civilisation.
I believe that, along with a good deal of indifference, there is in our British hearts a very deep and profound affection for these ancient and beautiful monuments of the past. In this House there are, many of your Lordships who have had to part, with a pang, with some house with which you and your families have been connected for centuries past, and many of your Lordships are yourselves the faithful guardians of many ancient buildings and ancient monuments. I trust, therefore, that you will join with those who are attempting to preserve for another generation this unique position of the City of London. Let us wait, if you please, for another five years. Possibly in another five years the site value of these churches will have further appreciated and their value will be still greater for conversion and for the building of 26 churches in other parts of London. But for the moment respect a great and deep force of public opinion; for the moment, my Lords, I urge you to let the churches stand.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
My Lords, as I ventured to tell your Lordships a little while ago, I had no part or share in the preparation or passing of this Measure. It is not the product of the wicked Phillimore Commission; it is the product of a noble Lord whom we all esteem and whose words the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, quoted with such unction—it is the product of Lord Hugh Cecil. But, though I had no part in it, I venture to ask your Lordships to listen to me for a few minutes while I give you reasons for supporting this Measure. Its only advantage is the advantage that it substitutes a better tribunal for the narrow veto of a minute vestry and possibly an interested patron. Otherwise the law remains as it stands, except that the absence of those vetos is counterbalanced by a system of checks upon which I propose to dwell a little later. It is in these circumstances that it seems to me that the claim of the City is unwarrantable, one might, almost say arrogant. They desire to be treated differently from every other city and town in the kingdom.
I have a great respect for the City of London, but is it greater than Liverpool plus Birmingham plus Manchester plus Leeds plus Bristol plus all the towns and counties and cities of this kingdom? Have not Exeter, Canterbury, York, Norwich (to which the noble Viscount who has just spoken referred), Winchester and Oxford beautiful and interesting churches? But your Lordships made no difficulty, and the other House made no difficulty, in passing a Measure for the union of benefices which gives the same power of disposing of churches with far less safeguards than this Measure proposes. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hanworth, raises the constitutional question and talks of Private Bills being passed, I am afraid it means that he has not studied any of them. There is a Union of Benefices Measure which covers every other place in the country except the Metropolis, and your Lordships and the other House passed that Measure without hesitation.
27 It is remarkable that the point should be raised that it is, as it were, ultra vires to have a Union of Benefices Measure touching the City churches, for this is the very instance that was given by Lord Hugh Cecil in the discussion on the Enabling Act in the House of Commons. It was proposed to make an Amendment restricting the action of the Assembly to measures touching the Church of England, and Lord Hugh Cecil said this:—Who is going to decide whether a particular Measure is or is not prejudicial to the interests of a person who is not a member of the Church of England? Obviously all Measures which directly or indirectly affect the general rights of property of the community might come within the scope of this Amendment. Supposing we deal, as I hope we are going to deal, with the City churches. We shall have to deal with ancient lights when we destroy a church and sell the site. That affects the rights of property of everybody all round, and some of those affected may not be members of the Church of England.It will be seen that Lord Hugh Cecil gave as an example this very possibility of dealing with the City churches.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, speaks of what happened before the Ecclesiastical Committee. The noble Lord is a member of that Committee, as I am, but I think he was not present at, or has forgotten, the most important meeting of that Committee—the meeting which, no doubt, led to the small attendance at the last meeting. We did in the first instance suggest that the Measure should be considered by a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons. When we found that that would not do we had a discussion as to whether we should hear the Lord Mayor or his representatives in person, as they desired. After discussion and debate we said we would hear the Lord Mayor or anybody he sent to us, and the Corporation sent two eminent and respectable members of the Corporation. I am afraid I do not remember their names, but they spoke very kindly and nicely to us, and we listened to them and to every objection that they put forward. Those objections, however, were so flimsy and frivolous that nobody attended any more, except those who wished to have it passed.
What are the objections which the Corporation raised? It was the claim, which at one time would have been called outrecuidance, of the Corporation to be 28 separate from every other part of the Kingdom. Beyond that, the noble Lord, Lord Marshall, who also opposed this Measure, said that these churches were built out of the coal dues levied on everybody for the purposes of the City, and that it would be a breach of trust to pull them down. The Legislature settled that years ago. It passed a temporary Act in 1855, and a permanent Act in 1860, under which twenty of these churches have been pulled down. Was it a breach of trust to pull them down? The Legislature sanctioned it. Did not Lord Marshall speak with complacency of the existing Acts, under which, if necessary, churches could still be pulled down? Where is the breach of trust? When they speak of the coal dues being levied on Roman Catholics and Jews, and so forth, they forget that at the time when the coal dues were imposed everybody, in theory of law, belonged to the Church of England. It was before the days of the Toleration Act. Every church, except a few built out of national money, has been built or has been repaired out of local rates or private benefaction, and to remove any church from any place involves interfering with the original destination of the church. If that is a breach of trust. Heaven help us! for we have been doing it under the several Union of Benefices Acts ever since the beginning of the late Sovereign's reign.
Then there were what I will call the technical objections, and one has been repeated by Lord Banbury to-day. It is the power of the Bishop to come again and again if rebuffed once. If he did, I suppose, to apply the old legal phrase, he would be rebuffed toties quoties. I will tell your Lordships why I imagine that provision was inserted. In common with the Lord Chancellor, and with others whom your Lordships are accustomed to call Law Lords, I have sat in the judicial Committee of the Privy Council on appeals under the Union of Benefices Act for the rest of the country. Such appeals are made in the last resort to His Majesty in Council. There have been a great number of unions, amounting almost to a hundred, made under that Act, but not many where a church has been pulled down. That is the confusion of thought—that this is a Measure for pulling down churches and not for uniting 29 benefices. Under the Union of Benefices Acts, however, a great many have been united, and in some dozen cases, possibly, people who were not anxious to have union have appealed to the Privy Council. On at least two occasions we have come to the conclusion that the union would be right, but that the way in which it was going to be worked was wrong. We have said: "Go back and amend your scheme," and of course this power which is given to the Bishop is a power, if the scheme is in general good but wants amendment, to bring up a fresh scheme.
The other objection was that the Benefices Board was called in twice. It is called in the first, time to make observations and comments upon a scheme, and I can imagine it saying, "You ought to unite St. Antholin and St. Bridget, but not pull down the church, or you ought to unite three benefices and only pull down one church." The Bishop then sends the matter to the Commission, and the Commission, remember, consists of two representatives of the City of London, two representatives of the Diocesan Conference, not necessarily clergy, and a Chairman with a casting vote, appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Suppose it does not comply with the suggestion of the Benefices Board: if anybody appeals the Benefices Board has its revenge. The Benefices Board says: "Now we are sitting in appeal upon you, and we turn down your scheme," because the Benefices Board is to come in twice. No other objection to the scheme was raised by the two gentlemen who came before us. But the two gentlemen who came said something more. They said: "We do not deny that we believe there are five or six churches that ought to be pulled down." Those were the representatives of the City who came to us against this Measure. They frankly said or one said and the other assented—"We believe there are five or six which ought to be pulled down." I think I heard the right rev. Prelate say that five or six was about the number which he expected might be pulled down.
Let me pass from the City with this observation. Your Lordships have not been told of the third Act of Parliament already passed with regard to the union of benefices in the City. There was an Act of 1855, a temporary measure. There 30 was an Act of 1860. What did the latter provide? It provided that if a church was pulled down another should be erected in the Metropolis or in its vicinity. In the year 1898, I think it was, Parliament thought those words too narrow. I am afraid I have mislaid my copy of the actual words but their effect is this: If any benefice is wholly or partly within the Metropolitan Police District it is to be accounted as within the vicinity of the City. I do not know if your Lordships are aware how far the Metropolitan Police District goes. I know it in the Hertfordshire direction, where it extends to Elstree and I think possibly beyond. So, as late as 1898, the Legislature thought that the extended way in which people were living out of London and working in London required that their churches should be placed where they lived outside the limits of the City of London.
About two years ago I was asked to speak at a meeting about the League of Nations in what, I think, is one of the finest halls in London, though it is not generally known. It is called the Palmadium, and is in the North of London. I had never heard of the district, and I am ashamed to say I have forgotten it. I said to someone who knew that part of London: "What is that district, and what sort of people am I going to speak to? "He said: "It is a dormitory." The City of London at this moment is ringed round with dormitories, that is to say, with places to which the true citizens of London, who do their work in London, who earn the wealth of London, who make the character of London, either working in the City of London or in the adjacent City of Westminster, after they have done their day's work return to their homes and their families, and spend their evenings and their Saturday half-holidays, and also spend their Sundays. Those are the true citizens of London, for whom you should have churches built, and for whom you cannot have churches built unless you do something of this kind.
Is my Lord Marshall a citizen of London? Is my Lord Banbury a citizen of London? Do they live in London? Did Lord Marshall, except when he filled the high and honoured office of Lord Mayor, ever live in London? Do any of these people who come here and speak live in London? Not they. They are only 31 citizens of London, partly because they belong to one of the City Guilds, but really because they work and do their business in London. They want their churches outside. Why should not these other people have their churches outside? Heaven forbid that people should not go to daily service or at any rate Saints Day services! Heaven forbid that they should not turn into churches and say their prayers! But, after all, do you want 47 churches, and two within a few yards of each other, in order that people may attend a daily service or say their prayers?
Now I come to the scope of the Measure itself and to the much-abused Phillimore Commission. I do not think when the Lord Bishop asked me to be Chairman, that he was conscious—certainly I was not conscious—of the iconoclastic tiger within my bosom which seems to have been descried by some people who have spoken. But I had worked on the Bishop of London's Fund, the fund founded by the late Archbishop Tait when he was Bishop of London, and continued ever since, for providing for the spiritual destitution in the Metropolis, and that, I suppose, was the reason why I was asked to take the chair. But I was only one of many. The next on the Commission was probably the greatest archæologist in England, a man who has the greatest sympathy for archæology in England, who has been in your Lordships' House, though he has now retired, the venerable Bishop Browne, the first Bishop of Stepney, and therefore the first Suffragan of East London and Canon of St. Paul's. It included also Lord Hugh Cecil, whom your Lordships have heard quoted with approval, Sir William Collins—who did not go so far as the rest of us in wishing to have so many churches pulled down, and who dissented on another point with regard to the persons who ought to have the custody of the monies; all the others agreed and they were honoured City names—Sir Rowland Blades, Mr. Buxton, the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon, who has addressed you, Sir Francis Green and Sir Lulham Pound, the son of a previous Lord Mayor. They were all citizens of London; they all knew what London wanted, and they were also religious men and Church people.
I am afraid that the noble Viscount the First Commissioner of Works has left 32 the House. I wish he were here, because I have several things to say about him. What struck us was the great spiritual waste, the number of incumbents who were doing no work. It was not their fault; they were almost broken-hearted because of the little they had to do. I think there are fourteen parishes in the City of London in which the population is under 200. There are only four in which it is over 1,000. It was my duty to attend many of these churches on weekdays and on Sundays. One I never could get into at all, it was always locked up, Sundays and weekdays. But on one occasion I went to a church served by an old Oxford acquaintance of mine, who, like so many of my contemporaries has by this time gone to his rest and his reward, a good man, not in the least likely to offend people—one of those whom Lord Marshall would call of the right sort. This was the congregation at morning prayer: my friend, his curate, four men in surplices, paid of course, six or eight choir boys in surplices, paid of course, a pew opener or verger, paid of course, my wife, who went with me, and one other woman. That was the congregation in a beautiful church served by an excellent and attractive man. That, of course, is perhaps an extreme case, but you heard the Bishop of London say, and we have heard it read out by the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, that there are churches now in which the Bishop is obliged to say to the clergyman: "I dispense you of your duty of reading Sunday service, because I know it is a mockery: there will be nobody there."
It was that spiritual and temporal waste which struck us. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, has evidently never read the Report of our Commission and, I should have said, has neglected many sources of information which might have been open to him. I think I am right in saying that, after providing for all whom we thought ought to be provided for, after making four large parishes and starting each of them with five or six clergy there was to be saved £24,000 a year in the incomes of clergy and the sites of parsonage houses—that is, without touching the churches at all. What struck us was that the first thing to be done was to save that amount of income for church purposes elsewhere.
Nobody will ever pull down the nineteen churches which we had the courage of our opinions to recommend. I am 33 quite sure of that. The opposition we raised was enough to show that is impossible, and I dare say it is extremely undesirable. But that some churches ought to be pulled down, some churches with no merits, was conceded by those two gentlemen who came to us, and I think would be obvious to anybody who studied the City. But we were in this position. The previous Bishop of London had appointed a Commission in 1899 on the same subject. I do not remember all the members of the Commission, but the Chairman was Archdeacon Sinclair. There must be still people in the City of London old enough to remember him and to remember that he was a great Conservative light in the City of London—I think he took rather an active part in Conservative politics. That Commission recommended the union of seventeen benefices and the pulling down of ten churches. When we came to our Commission we found that only four had been pulled down. One, St. Katherine, Coleman Street, which we included in our nineteen because it was not entirely finished, was in process of being united and pulled down, as it has been since.
From 1899 to the publication of the Report of our Commission two or three years ago, in spite of all these powers and the recommendations of the previous Commission that seventeen benefices should be united and ten churches pulled down, only four unions had been made and only four churches pulled down. Why? Not because of their intrinsic merit, but because of the little local feeling of the small vestries in whose power Parliament has up to this time put the veto. Your Lordships may imagine what a vestry in one of these parishes would be. As your Lordships know, limited companies and corporations are not represented as ratepayers on vestries or on parochial church councils; I am not sure that I can tell your Lordships which body now exercises the functions for this purpose. The greater number of the buildings in the City belong, of course, to limited companies. The vestrymen must be very few. Those who take any interest in church matters must be fewer still. Naturally and properly, they have local patriotism. Two of them will have been elected churchwardens, and magnify their office, as every good Englishman always does and makes the best of it. And to that little body is to be given 34 the power of saying that a great public improvement shall not be made. Remember that you cannot have a union of parishes—not the pulling down of the church—unless you have the consent of this vestry.
The other person who has the right to consent is the patron. Does the church exist for the patrons or do the patrons exist for the church? Is it possible to say that the veto of patrons and the veto of a narrow little vestry shall prevent a great public improvement? What is substituted for it? A Commission, so chosen that it will be most fairly chosen; an appeal to a Benefices Board which, no doubt, contains a great number of Church representatives but on which all these great, art bodies are represented and which, if the matter passes through the crucible of the Commission, will still have the power of stopping it; and, finally, there is an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Are these not, safeguards enough?
Now I come to the last class of people whose sympathies I think ought to be respected as much as any—the people who have the religious feeling. It is too late to say that because a church has once been consecrated it can never be pulled down. I have here a very charming book by Miss Margaret Tabor, which was my companion when I visited the City churches. From it I learn that only eight, of the twenty-one churches which survived the Great Fire are standing today; thirteen of them have been pulled down. I learn also that twenty Christopher Wren churches have been pulled down. Great man as he was, Sir Christopher Wren was always making experiments and most of his experiments are great and good; but some are not worthy, I take it, of being preserved. However, that will be for this Commission to decide and for this Commission to veto. Lastly, is there not something much more important than the consecrated clod of earth or the walls and stones of the building—the soul of man? As the great Greek historian once said: "It is men that make the city, not empty walls or ships devoid of crews."
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTH-WARK
My Lords, I cannot help feeling that some of the speakers who have criticised this Measure have had in their 35 minds a scheme which is not embodied in this Measure or intended by the promoters. It is not a Measure for the destruction of City churches. The main purpose of the Measure is to unite a number of City parishes which should not exist as separate and distinct parishes. The right rev. Prelate the Lord Bishop of London pointed out in his opening speech that there are no fewer than forty-six churches, with forty-six choirs, and forty-six organists, and over sixty clergy ministering to a resident population of something like 13,000 people. It would be perfectly possible to reduce the number of these parishes by uniting them and so to save large sums of money and manpower without destroying a single church. One of the main desires of those who wish to secure the passing of this Measure is that they may be able to deal adequately with what has been regarded by many people as something like a real scandal. Some of your Lordships will remember that in the days of the agitation for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England the extravagance and luxury of the City churches with small congregations were mentioned again and again on Liberationist platforms.
There is another practical difficulty which is caused by the present ecclesiastical position in the City. When some of us are appealing for money we are told again and again, especially by City men, that they are not prepared to subscribe largely to our funds until we have dealt with the wastefulness which is found in the provision for the spiritual needs of the City. It is perfectly true that if this Measure is carried through, as we hope it will be, a certain number of City churches will be dealt with by the method of removal, and their sites sold. I would not touch one of those churches which had any historical value or any artistic beauty; but I think it is generally admitted that there are five or six which are of no historical interest and have no artistic value. We desire to see those churches dealt with as part of a larger scheme so that the money obtained from the sale of the sites may be used for the building of churches in those new districts which are so rapidly springing up in Greater London.
I wonder whether your Lordships realise the urgent problem which we have 36 to meet in the poorer dioceses. During the last few years new towns have been springing into existence. There is a district I know which had a population of 1,000 people only five years ago. Within that one poor district a town has grown up—Bellingham—with a population of 12,000. On the Downham Estate the London County Council are building in the same parish houses for 35,000 people. In another district where there are now only fields with no church near, the London County Council have purchased 1,000 acres of land on which they propose in the next few years to build houses for something like 35,000 to 45,000 people. Without any exaggeration it has been calculated that in Greater London south of the Thames houses will be built in the next few years to accommodate a population as large as that of the City of Hull, the City of Bradford, or the City of Newcastle-on-Tyne.
We are told that the people in these districts ought to build churches for themselves, and we are sometimes told that temporary churches might perfectly well be built to meet their spiritual needs. I am prepared to admit that there are some districts in which temporary churches might well be built. I have worked and worshipped for many years in one of these temporary churches myself. But I am convinced that if you build a temporary church in a well-to-do suburban district it will become after a short time so uncomfortable, so hot in the summer, so cold in the winter, and so mean in appearance, that the people will raise money as soon as they can and build part, at any rate, of a permanent church. But most of these new districts are of a totally different nature socially. The people who are moving into these new districts are coming from the poorest parts of London. They are moving into those districts from Bermondsey and Rotherhithe and other districts equally poor, and it would be perfectly impossible for those people, when they have moved into these new districts, to do more than provide for the actual upkeep and expenses of their church.
Year after year will pass and they will be unable to save money for the building of a permanent church. The temporary church will become more and more dilapidated, more and more uncomfortable, and round about it there will be 37 splendid schools, magnificent cinemas and great licensed houses, but the one public building which will be utterly mean will be the church which ought to be a witness to all that is beautiful and true and dignified. It is for this reason that we desire, if possible, to obtain some money from the sale of some few churches which, I think it is universally agreed, are not beautiful, are not of historical interest and are not used to any extent from one end of the year to the other. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will pass this Measure.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, it is most unfortunate that a Measure nineteen-twentieths of which your Lordships would desire to support should be embarrassed by this clause with regard to the destruction of churches. The rest of the Bill, with regard to which Lord Phillimore gave a full account, is, I think, entirely non-controversial and would have the support of the whole of this House. The Bill is blocked by what we consider to be the proposals of the Lord Bishop who has framed this Measure for safeguarding the fabric of the City churches. On that aspect of the question I was going to endeavour to answer some arguments that were used by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, but these have been to some extent dealt with by the First Commissioner of Works. I want, therefore, to take the House back to the very forcible statement of the basis of the case which was put by the noble Lord, Lord Marshall of Chipstead.
In the first place the noble Lord and Lord Banbury of Southam pointed out that the fabric of these churches was built by the citizens of the City of London and that the churches were put in trust for religious purposes. Those noble Lords did not go further, as I should have done, and point out to your Lordships that whereas these churches now have very much less value for religious purposes than they originally had, they have their value, which is estimated not on their value as buildings, not on their value as places for religious worship, but on their value as sites. Now to that value, neither the Church of England nor religious activities have contributed one farthing. The money value of the sites of these churches has been created by the citizens of London who have established businesses in the City. Consequently, 38 when the City of London say: "We desire in the interest of our citizens to retain these churches as monuments," they ate not really depriving the Church of England of anything to which it has an equitable claim or of anything which it has done something to create. The whole of the site value equitably belongs to the citizens of London, or, I would rather say, to the community generally. The citizens of London have a right to that, but the noble Lord, Lord Marshall, said that so far as the City were concerned they entirely waive any financial interest in the sites.
We come then to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, and it is a point which was also dealt with by the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London. He said, in effect: "So long as we have this asset of £1,500,000 we are subject to continual attacks and solicitations." What we want to do is to relieve the Bishop of London from that kind of perpetual solicitation and to put him in a position to say: "Really you are quite mistaken; this £1,500,000 does not belong to us." If the Church of England wishes to have buildings for its use it must do as the Church of England did in times past and its congregations must build those churches. We want to deliver the Church authorities from this nightmare, from this chimerical idea that they have a claim to this £1,500,000 in any way—a claim to take it out of the sites of these churches and to spend it elsewhere—because that £1,500,000 does not really exist as an equitable property of their own.
It has been stated again and again that only four or five churches are required and that those are very ugly ones. We ask: Why, then, do you want a power of appointing perpetual Commissions to dispose of churches? It may be that the application in respect of one church will be turned down and that an application will not be made again in respect of that particular church, but the fact that you establish a permanent Commission, or give power to appoint a Commission whenever a question of destroying a church is raised, perpetually exposes you to that attack and solicitation to which reference has been made. You will be appealed to in this way: "Please let us have another church." When you have taken four or five 39 churches you will still be exposed to the same argument on behalf of congregations. You will be asked: "Why do you not sell a few more?" The Commission, on the whole, is fairly plausibly constituted, with representatives of the City of London and a Chairman to be appointed by the First Commissioner of Works, but we are distrustful of Commissions. We have had the example of a Commission presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillimore, with regard to which he has disclaimed so vehemently the motives alleged against him.
We know that that Commission actually scheduled, in the list of churches which they thought might be destroyed, such a church as that referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, the church of St. Magnus the Martyr. I know there is no chance now of St. Magnus the Martyr being destroyed, because there was recently put in it a new organ and it was reconditioned. But that is one of the churches which was scheduled to be destroyed. I do not know whether your Lordships have read a recent poem called "The Waste Land," by one of our modern poets, dealing with the ghastly aspect of our modern civilisation. One of the little oases of that civilisation is in Thames Street—Where the walls of Magnus Martyr hold Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.The splendour and effect of these architectural works of art are inexplicable and cannot be reproduced.
Another church mentioned by the Commission as one that could be scrapped was St. Dunstan's in the East. It has been mentioned as a church not used for public worship but for daily meetings. If any one of your Lordships will turn in out of the mean and dreadful commercial streets that surround it you will feel an immediate temperamental revulsion at the mere effect of the delicacy and grace of the interior; and it is not so distinguished a church as are many other churches.
We do not trust any permanent Commission that may be set up to act whenever the Bishop wants to say: "Now let us set up this Commission again." I would much rather, if it be possible to do it, come to some kind of concordat. Let 40 us have a final Commission and let the Bishop say: "Those are the four or five churches that we want to scrap, and no more." Let us have finality in this matter and let us agree what churches are not wanted. There must be finality and not this perpetual encroachment and solicitation in regard to works of art which cannot be restored. The City has again and again told you that it intends to oppose to its utmost this destruction of its churches.
I think we should have great regard to the argument used by the noble Viscount the First Commissioner of Works. The noble Viscount, Lord Knutsford, has taunted the City with having been neglectful of works of art in times past and with having scrapped Temple Bar, and with having possibly put up some ugly buildings, but the fact is that at the present time the whole community is immensely more sensitive to this kind of desecration than it has ever been before. You have an immense body of public opinion behind the City at the present time in its attempt to save these works of art, and the City, knowing that there is this feeling behind it, is opposing the establishment of any tribunal that will enable this destruction of City churches to go on. I suggest that a modus vivendi might be arrived at in order to bring about finality in this matter. It is most distressing to those of us who are going to vote against this Measure that we should have to hang up the operation of the Benefices Measure in other respects than that of which we complain.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee I venture to rise because so many of those who have opposed the Measure have made statements representing it as something totally different from the Measure which was passed by the Ecclesiastical Committee. The Measure is, in the first place, one for the union of benefices, but I think I am right in saying that hardly one speaker against the Measure has said a single word on the question of the union of benefices by which it is possible to save £23,000 without affecting one of the churches which have been made the subject of so much discussion and oratory to-night.
I would like also, with great respect to Lord Marshall of Chipstead and to Lord Banbury, to say that I think the argument 41 advanced on behalf of the City Corporation—who are always heard by your Lordships' House with great respect—rests upon an absolutely false foundation. The argument put before the Ecclesiastical Committee was the same argument as has been advanced this evening—that the City, after the great Fire of London, charged itself with a duty of 1s. per ton on coal and that, out of every 3s. so raised, 1s. 6d. was devoted to secular buildings and ls. 6d. to the churches now under discussion, including St. Paul's. That assumption I believe to be absolutely erroneous. I interrupted Lord Banbury in order to ask whether the expression he used that the duty was levied on every hearth and furnace was correct. He then had to admit that the duty raised was 1s. on every ton of coal landed in the Port of London. What was landed in the Port of London was used over an area, perhaps, of 50 miles, so that the money was not paid entirely by the City. It was paid largely by districts in Surrey and Essex and by other districts whose people, apparently, are to have no advantage from it or control over it at this moment because the City has had the advantage of it for 250 years. If I may carry the argument a step further, I would say that if benefactions given 250 years ago for a particular purpose are not merely not to be diverted from that purpose but are only to be allowed to be used for that purpose in the very place in which they have been used in the past, then in that case Charterhouse School would never have been moved, the Bluecoat School would never have been moved, and the endowments of various hospitals would fall. We should be in a state of hopeless confusion if such an argument prevailed. I do not think such a claim as that would hold good for one moment.
I wish to say one word with regard to the speech of my noble friend the Earl of Crawford, who was fortified by two or three other speakers and by the noble Viscount who sits below me. The noble Earl speaks with great authority on this question and he has the sympathy of every man who wishes to see higher and artistic feelings given full weight in a particularly material age. But I do think that those who have spoken against the Measure would have much more weight with your Lordships if they had spoken against the actual provisions of the 42 Measure and not against a bogey of their own which they have set up and which is not in the Measure at all. Lord Crawford said he tested this Measure by the Report of Lord Phillimore's Commission, but the Report of Lord Phillimore's Commission has been considered and a totally different scheme adopted. He read out the names of 19 churches as if they were all threatened; whereas it is a question of 6 not of 19. I am sure that he, with his keen and critical mind, would not hold that all these churches were of equal merit and that the destruction of them would be as galling to an artistic man as the destruction of the very best.
The Lord Bishop of London, speaking solely of that union of benefices which is the main object of the Bill and has been so much ignored, said he could carry on the work of the forty-six churches in twelve churches, and he could therefore save and use for Greater London a considerable revenue. Not only did Lord Banbury assert that in those circumstances what he was really seeking to do was to destroy thirty-four churches, but when the right rev. Prelate had interrupted Lord Peel and pointed out the mistake into which he had fallen, Lord Peel—as I thought most ungenerously—retorted that he would probably be carried away in the long run and destroy the whole lot, although he had pledged himself that such a course was not in contemplation.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
There is one other remark I would like to make, and that is that I wish your Lordships before the Division could be wafted for five minutes into one of these churches which it is thought might well be pulled down. I have taken the trouble to attend service in some of these churches. It is nothing less than a scandal to see the clergymen, choir and officials of the church, with a congregation of perhaps half-a-dozen charwomen, who could equally well have walked one hundred yards to another church. If your Lordships went to see some of these churches—I am speaking of four or five—you would find them entirely concealed by large adjacent buildings, and with the interiors so darkened that one can scarcely read at mid- 43 day. You would find they contained enormous galleries which are not an ornament, which were probably put up in times of stress long after the erection of the church, which are never used by anybody, but which cannot be pulled down. They would find windows, in some cases put up to the memory of some deceased City fathers, which are entirely out of character with the church. There is no good element in some of these churches and to say that they must be sacrosanct seems extremely hard in face of the decision of the large majority of the Church Assembly and the considered Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. There seems some idea that the Ecclesiastical Committee is too ecclesiastical in its composition. It consists entirely of members of your Lordships' House and of the House of Commons, who are not even necessarily members of the Church of England. Unless we consider the presence of Lord Hugh Cecil on the Committee as giving it an ecclesiastical tinge, I do not think that there is anything which differentiates it from any other Committee of your Lordships' House.
I should like before I sit down to ask whether your Lordships are going to leave the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Southwark in the dilemma which will be caused to them if this Measure is rejected to-night. You cannot get away from the fact that a large population outside the City considers itself aggrieved by this great scandal of unemployed clergy at a time when they have no place in which to worship and when 10,000 or 12,000 of them find it difficult to raise £200 or £300 a year for a clergyman. I cannot help feeling that, if we by our vote to-night show that we have no sympathy except with the status quo, it will be widely felt that the great power and influence of the City has been successfully used in this House in order to check the proper aspirations of the poverty-stricken and teeming masses outside but within gunshot of the City. This is a moment when I believe that every sound Churchman who wishes for peace, order and good government desires to see the strengthening rather than the weakening not only of the Church of England but of all other religious denominations. It is because I believe that the rejection of this Measure will not merely be a weakening of the Church but will perpetuate what is 44 really a scandal that I urge your Lordships to pass this Resolution.
§ LORD WRENBURY
My Lords, I came down here this afternoon without any intention of taking part in this debate, and I rise now only because I think that there are some considerations that your Lordships ought to bear in mind in determining how you will vote upon this Resolution. I believe I am historically right in saying that the Enabling Act originated in the following set of circumstances. It was found that there were measures affecting the Church for which time could not be found owing to the pressure upon Parliament, and this very peculiar form of legislation was devised in order to give the Church a proper means of carrying measures affecting the Church. I think that primâ facie it was intended that Measures which were passed under this scheme should be Measures affecting the Church, and the Church alone. I have sat on the Ecclesiastical Committee for some years and I have always approached these Measures upon the footing that, if a Measure is one which affects the Church and the Church only, the Church is the authority that can best determine what is desirable for the benefit of the Church; and accordingly I have always wished to send such a Measure through unless, of course, I could see any real objection to it That view was always confined to Measures which really affected the Church alone. It is our duty on the Ecclesiastical Committee to advise, among other things, whether—I forgot the exact words—the interests of those of His Majesty's subjects—
§ LORD WRENBURY
—the constitutional rights of other subjects of the Crown were affected; and of course we do that. But it appears to me that we really ought not to send on to Parliament a Measure which, in the circumstances which I am going to describe, never could be properly sifted and examined. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that on the Ecclesiastical Committee we have no power to amend. Here in this House this afternoon your Lordships have no power to amend. We have to deal with a Resolution approving the Measure as presented to Parliament. The Church simply 45 sends up its Measure and the Ecclesiastical Committee and either House of Parliament must either accept it or reject it, and can do nothing else with it.
To my mind one of the most valuable stages in a Bill is the Committee Stage. Upon the Second Reading the principle of the Bill can be either approved or disapproved. On the Committee Stage it is competent to a man who considers that the principle of the Measure is sound to move Amendments for the purpose of altering its particular scope and effect. There is no such machinery under this scheme. This is a very peculiar form of legislation. The Church Assembly passes the Measure in such form as it thinks right, and the authorities to whom it subsequently comes cannot amend it, but must simply pass it or reject it. Suppose you have a Measure which, like this Measure as it appears to me, affects very largely His Majesty's subjects. We know that in this case, through the discussion that has taken place here and through all that has appeared in the newspapers, many people pay great attention to this matter. If this were a Bill which came before Parliament in the usual way I cannot suppose that it would be allowed to go through without Amendments being moved to it by parties who take one view or another. That is not possible under this procedure.
Your Lordships will see that I am really arguing that this is not such a Measure as ought to be passed through in this form of legislation, and that, I confess, is my view of it. I may add that, when the matter was first before the Ecclesiastical Committee, I do not think that I am going too far when I say that such was the opinion of the Committee. For that reason they prepared a Report in which they did not express, as under the Act of Parliament they are bound to express, a view either for or against, the Measure. They recommended that it should be brought before the House simply for the purpose of asking the House to appoint a Select Committee or a Committee of both Houses, which could take evidence upon it, hear the parties interested and determine the matter one way or the other. We sent that Report to the Church Assembly, and the Church Assembly replied, quite rightly, as it seemed to me, that we had not finished our work, that we had not neither accepted or rejected the Measure. They 46 called upon us to finish our work, and accept or reject it.
It is in these circumstances that the Report was made which now comes before your Lordships' House. In that state of things there was no power to amend the Measure and there was no power to hear those interested in it—at least we so decided. The Act of Parliament provides that the Ecclesiastical Committee may determine its own procedure, but the Committee have taken the view—in my view erroneously—that they have no power to hear evidence. If this were a Bill, introduced in the ordinary course, it would be competent to the House, if it thought proper, to send it to a Committee which would take evidence upon it. We cannot do that under this procedure. In this form of legislation there is no means whereby any person can come forward and challenge a Measure by moving Amendments, as can be done in the ordinary course of procedure on a Bill.
Whether the scheme of this Measure is right or wrong, I do put it to your Lordships that this is not a matter that ought ever to be sent up for the Royal Assent in the form in which it is presented to Parliament. The matter has never been thoroughly sifted, and under this form of procedure it never could be thoroughly sifted. An appeal was made to us to hear the Corporation of the City of London and the artistic societies. We yielded to the extent of hearing the Corporation of London—that was with some difficulty—and we declined to hear anybody else. The Committee took the view that they could hear no evidence upon the matter. In these circumstances the Measure, whether it be right or wrong, affects a large number of His Majesty's subjects who take a very great interest in it and have not had the opportunity, which would be given in the ordinary passage of a Bill through Parliament, of airing their views, or putting them forward by way of Amendment or of giving evidence if necessary, so that the whole matter could be sifted. No previous speaker has dwelt upon this view of the matter, and it is for that reason that I rose to address your Lordships. I ask your Lordships to take the view that, whatever you may think of the merits of the Measure, under this procedure, by which a Measure cannot be sifted in the way that I have 47 described, it ought not to go forward under a Resolution of this House.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHELMSFORD
My Lords, I desire to say a few words—they shall be very few at this hour of the evening—mainly by way of illustration concerning some of the considerations that have been set before us. I should like to say a word about the scheme of the Corporation of the City of London to retain these churches, as one noble Lord put it, as monuments. They are monuments, and they are much more. They exist for the benefit of the spiritual welfare of the City of London. The Corporation of the City of London would maintain them within the borders of the square mile over which they directly exercise control, but the Corporation of the City of London, a body of which we are all extraordinarily proud, and for whose example of civic patriotism we are very thankful, very often looks outside its own borders in the interests of people who work within its borders.
It did so a few years ago. On all hands the communities of the country were being called upon to build houses for people who had no houses. The Corporation of the City of London, I think, had no very grave housing difficulties within its own borders, but with that patriotism which it has always shown it went outside its own borders and bought a very large estate at Ilford in the diocese which I represent, and upon that estate it made a housing scheme. The whole rationale of the scheme was to help the citizens of London. Only last week I held in my hands the deed of conveyance of a piece of land in the middle of that estate, by which the Church in Essex purchased a bit of that land at about three times the price given for it by the City Corporation. It was not really the fault of the Corporation, because Parliament compels the City Corporation to obtain the highest price, and the Church of England was not going to allow church people in this locality to be without churches merely because of the price which had to be paid for the land. If the City churches were built for City people, and if on the showing of the Corporation the City is interested in Ilford, eight miles outside its borders, is there any real reason why these churches, which are not being adequately and properly used, and why these men and officials, 48 who are not being provided with sufficient work, should not be transferred, as on the showing and example of the City itself the citizens of London must be transferred, to the housing estate of the City Corporation?
The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, asks—and that more than anything made me feel that I should not keep my mouth shut this afternoon—why were these churches to be taken away and given to people who will not give a shilling? I think he said it twice. I am going to ask him to envisage the situation. Most of the members of this House were born in parishes where they found parish churches and parsons and all the luxuries of religious worship. Will you pass to the great housing estate of the London County Council at Beconfield? A few years ago there were only three hundred people on the estate. To-day there are between forty and fifty thousand. Within three years there will be probably 150,000. There is no church, no parsonage house, no parson, no wardens, no anything. I started a mission in the district last November. We borrowed a choir and wardens for the opening service and even had to borrow offertory bags, in order to give the district a start.
How can anyone accuse those people, who are without any of the advantages of other parishes, of being in a position in which they say they will not give a shilling? Give them a chance, and I am confident that they will maintain what you have given them, but in their present circumstances it is impossible for them to initiate. When you compare the City of London and its forty-seven churches with these great housing estates, which we find springing up all over our dioceses, is there any good reason why some effort should not be made to use these churches and endowments for the purpose for which, I believe, in the first instance they were intended? The argument against that is that we shall pull down beautiful churches. As the law stands, outside the Metropolitan area it is perfectly possible to pull down redundant churches.
Again, may I be allowed to illustrate? In the parish of East Ham, the largest parish in this country, with its 56,000 people, there is an old parish church, built 600 years ago, which holds just one hundred people. There is also a modern 49 church capable of holding 350 people, and one of the ugliest buildings you ever saw. A little while ago a very large church was built in close proximity to these two churches, and it became obvious that one or other was useless, and two years ago, under the law of the land, it was decided to pull down one of them. There was no need to consult artistic societies as to which should be pulled down. From the merely utilitarian point of view the modern church, which held about 400, would have been more advantageous to us, but we, of course, pulled it down because most folk who are keen upon the spiritual calibre of this country are interested in those great and valuable things represented by art and antiquity. Of course we pulled the modern church down, because public opinion would have been against us to such an extent that it would have been impossible to do anything else.
If the conflict which arises between us to-night were a conflict between ancient buildings and the building of character those who went into the Division Lobby to-night for ancient buildings would be a very small crowd indeed. Of course we should put character first. If the character of the British people were at stake we should sacrifice even Westminster Abbey. Some people seem to think we are anxious to sacrifice such buildings for utilitarian considerations, but that is not the conflict. Westminster Abbey is British character done in stone. So are some of these ancient buildings in the City of London, but if you let British character pass, and allow great towns to grow up around London, untended and uncared for, never given a chance, amid pagan surroundings, no Act of Parliament, no Royal Commission or House of Lords will be able to make these buildings safe. If you want illustrations go to Russia and you will find there. Practically there is no such conflict here. This Measure does not permit it. It is a reasonable and guarded Measure to enable the Bishops of the London area to fulfil tasks of tremendous responsibility in seeing that whole populations shall not be allowed to grow up without those spiritual values impinging upon their lives which by any test help in the building of character. This Measure is not a Measure for pulling down churches, though it may happen that one or two insignificant buildings 50 will disappear, but it is a Measure for conserving and using our resources in the best interests of the community. It is for that reason that some of us are exceedingly anxious that this Measure should pass.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I should not have spoken but for one or two things that have been said in the debate, and also because I find there is a feeling that if I did not speak I might be supposed to be lukewarm or half-hearted in the matter. I should like to refer to the very weighty and important speech which we listened to from Lord Wrenbury. I am not now able to discuss the general question of the range and importance of the Enabling Act, and of the procedure which that Act brought into force, and which is now operative, but I must correct what is, I think, one misapprehension which might arise from some words that Lord Wrenbury used. If I understood him aright, he said that the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee, once it had this matter before it, had no choice, no means of discussing its provisions with anybody, except within its own borders, and that they must therefore accept or decline it.
§ LORD WRENBURY
No, I do not think I said that. I said that the Act of Parliament provided that the Committee should fix its own code of procedure, and in my view it was competent to hear any one, and to hear witnesses if it liked, but unfortunately it had not taken that course.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I certainly misunderstood the noble and learned Lord. I thought he was objecting to the condition of matters under which the Ecclesiastical Committee was bound to do its work, that it could not get the proper opportunities—
§ LORD WRENBURY
In the view of the majority of the Committee that is probably so; in my own view it is not.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I can only say that when we send a Measure from the Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee we not only hope that the Ecclesiastical Committee will, if it thinks it desirable, confer with us upon 51 points of detail which seem to it to need amendment but we actually ask that in sending up their Report they will do so if they feel any difficulty. Therefore it cannot be said that the Ecclesiastical Committee is barred from informing itself on particular details which may be obscure in the form in which it is sent up.
That, however, is by the way. All I want to say is that I do believe we have been largely proceeding in the debate of these two evenings upon a false issue. It began at the beginning, and it has been carried on all through. I listened with the greatest admiration and respect to the eloquent, forcible, and moving speech of the noble Earl, Lord Crawford. I should like to say that I think I could go with him almost entirely in every word he said. Throughout my public life and before it I have been one of the keenest advocates of keeping up and supporting all our old buildings, even at the risk of great disadvantage, great cost, even great public inconvenience. I could give examples to your Lordships if it were necessary. But what I do object to is that in the speeches which have been made any reader from outside would have imagined that the speakers had before them as a thing to opposed what is called the Phillimore Report of so many years ago. We talk about 19 churches being pulled down. That Phillimore Report is as dead as any document of antiquity could be in a matter of this kind. I say it with affection for my noble friend, who has himself admitted to-night that he does not in the least believe that there is any light left in that Report.
Therefore what you are contending against is not a Report which recommended the pulling down of a number of churches; it is a Report which has recommended—and the Measure has been passed on that Report—a procedure whereby a great deal of money can be set free for such purposes as we have just heard described in the speech to which your Lordships gave close attention by my brother the Bishop of Chelmsford. What you are asked to do is to say whether you will pass a Measure which allows money to be forthcoming
§ out of the endowments, machinery and activities—if you can call them so, they are activities without the possibility of making them really active—belonging to the City churches, and, by uniting some of the parishes and therefore being empowered to close some of the churches, you should be enabled to use that money for the needs of other parts of London.
§ It is heart-breaking for those who have responsibility for collecting money and for those who have responsibility for administering Church affairs to find the argument brought up time after time: "Look at the City of London; see what is going on there," and to be told, "That is the way you want things to continue." You find there little churches where excellent men are quite unable, from the mere lack of people, to find congregations. I have a friend, an extremely good man, a very good preacher and a very capable man, who told me that after five years incumbency of a City church he was obliged to give it up "notwithstanding the fact," he said, "that while I have been there I have doubled the congregation. When I went there, there were three; now there are six." That is heartbreaking to a man and it is a terrible responsibility and anxiety to the Bishop and others who are concerned. We therefore ask that by a Measure of this kind money may be set free. Incidentally it is said: "You may pull down some of these churches if you wish." Nobody believes that that can or will be done now in any case, except that there may be three or four churches where, by common consent, there is no value in retaining them for any purpose. Beyond that I believe those churches are as safe as they could possibly be—quite as safe as they are under the existing law. I do not believe you are imperilling them in passing this Bill, but you would be taking a great responsibility if you withheld it from those who want to administer in a different way the vast funds which are locked up in the City of London as it is to-day.
§ On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 71; Not-Contents, 54.53
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Northumberland, D.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Ullswater, V.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon.[Teller]|
|Dartmouth, E.||Chelmsford; L. Bp.||Lamington, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||London, L. Bp.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Grey, E. [Teller.]||Southwark, L. Bp.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Worcester, L. Bp.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Muir-Mackenzie, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Annaly, L.||Newton, L.|
|Powis, E.||Arnold, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Oranmore and Browne L.(L. Mereworth.)|
|Spencer, E.||Charnwood, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Darling, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Daryngton, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||de Mauley, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Desborough, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Cross, V.||Dynevor, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Doverdale, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Emmott, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Forester, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Forres, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Leverhulme, V.||Gainford, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Novar, V.||Marshall of Chipstead, L. [Teller.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Merrivale, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Askwith, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Olivier, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.(L. Steward.)||Ponsonby, L.(E. Bessborough.)|
|Bathurst, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Blythswood, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Ernle, L.||Riddell, L.|
|Morton, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Faringdon, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Strafford, E.||Farrer, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Yarborough, E.||Gisborough, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Hanworth, L.||Waring, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Hemphill, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Kylsant, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Lawrence, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Incheape, V.||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.||Wyfold.|
|Lee of Fareham, V.||Leigh, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.54
§ House adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.