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HER MAJESTY'S COMMISSIONERS
“ To inquire into the Practicability and Mode of subdividing into
“ distinct and independent Parishes, for all Ecclesiastical Pur
poses, all the densely-peopled Parishes in England and Wales, “ in such Manner that the Population of each, except in “ particular Cases, at our Discretion, shall not exceed Four “ thousand Souls.”
Presruted to both Hunses of Parliament by Command of Birr Majesty,
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET,
FOR HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.
SUBDIVISION OF PARISHES COMMISSIONERS.
TO THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
We, Your Majesty's Commissioners, appointed “ to inquire into the practicability " and mode of sub-dividing into distinct and independent parishes, for all ecclesi“astical purposes, all the densely-peopled parishes in England and Wales, in “such manner that the population of each, except in particular cases, at our “discretion, shall not exceed four thousand souls," have proceeded with our inquiries since the presentation of our First Report, and have now to submit some further suggestions tending to promote the object of the Commission.
In our former Report we stated that, we “expected to be able, shortly, to lay “ before Your Majesty a general view of the probable number of new parishes “and new churches required in all the dioceses in England and Wales.” Without personal inspection and much expense, it would not be possible to arrive at a very correct estimate of such requirements; but letters have been issued to incumbents of parishes containing a population of 3,000 souls and upwards, and to all the bishops of England and Wales, requesting both advice and information, which, we are bound to acknowledge with much gratitude, was in most cases readily afforded us. In some instances, the archdeacons or other parties have been applied to, and in all cases we have acted upon the best information within our reach. The result of our inquiry shows that there is an immediate and pressing demand for the erection of about 600 new churches. It is also desirable that these should, in most cases, have parishes assigned to them, and that many districts already formed should receive a distinctly parochial character. The above estimate is but an approximation to the truth, and is not so framed as to leave nothing further for Christian liberality to effect. It does not propose to supply every hamlet or township with a chapel, or to enlarge churches which are at present of insufficient size. It takes cognizance merely of such parishes of large population as clearly require a new church or churches to be built, and a new parish or parishes to be constituted.
To accomplish the erection of 600 churches, we believe that a sum not much exceeding 2,000,0001. would be sufficient. But it would not be desirable that the sum to be provided from any public source should be equal to the whole expenditure required. This would be to leave private philanthropy and Christian effort quite out of the calculation; and so to do, we believe would be neither reasonable nor expedient. We consider that it would be enough, to place at the disposal of the Church Building Commissioners, a fund sufficient to provide one-half of the cost of the proposed new churches; the other half, together with the site, to be provided by the parties applying for this public aid. Such aid would, Your Majesty's Commissioners believe, so effectually rouse and encourage the members of the Church to exertion, as to cause the building of as many new churches as appear to be, at least for the present, desirable.
We conceive that the proposed 600 new churches, some of which need not be of great capacity or expense, inight be estimated to cost on an average 3,5001. each, and that the total amount would not exceed 2,100,0001. If these calculations be correct, and if our expectation be well founded, a sum of rather more than 1,000,000l. sterling, applicable from some general fund, would probably effect the great object of causing the erection of such new churches as at the present moment appear to be required throughout the whole extent of England and Wales in parishes of large population.
We have felt it to be our duty to consider whether it would be possible, without impairing in the slightest degree the efficiency of the Establishment
, to derive the whole or any portion of the sum required from ecclesiastical sources. sensible that it would be useless to appeal to the liberality of Parliament, until it could be shown that the Church herself had made every effort to supply the
deficiency of spiritual instruction, and had exhausted all the means within her reach available for such a purpose; we also feel assured that the Church would strengthen her hold on the respect and affection of the people, if through her own independent exertions, encouraging and stimulating the liberality of her own members, she could effect an object of such inestimable importance as the erection of many hundred new places of worship in the districts in which there is the most pressing demand for increased spiritual instruction.
In the course of our consideration of a subject of such deep interest, our attention has been directed to that portion of Church patronage, which, although technically belonging to the Crown, is practically disposed of independently of the Crown by a public functionary appointed by and under the control of Your Majesty.
Before we advert more specially to this subject, we will briefly refer to the condition of the Chureh in reference to livings, the emoluments of which are inadequate to provide a sufficient maintenance for the incumbent, the dealing with which class of cases is necessarily, in some degree, involved in the scheme by which we hope to supply the greater deficiencies to which our attention has been more specially directed.
It is clearly impossible to secure the continued services of an efficient resident minister for 501., 80., or even 1001. a-year; and it appears to us, that in any augmentation which may be made, an income of at least 2001. a-year should, if possible, be secured for the maintenance of the incumbent of every separate cure of souls, the smallest benefice with the largest population or the most extensive area having the preference over those with a small charge.
The suggestion which we venture to offer in cases of this description, where the stipend is insufficient to procure, or at any rate to retain, the services of a clergy man well qualified for his office, unfortunately will not apply to cases where the private righis of patrons make it impossible in any way to interfere with the advowsons of such benefices.
In a large number of cases of small livings, however, we find the right of presentation vested in the Lord Chancellor. In these cases we conceive, that by a proeess which we will presently describe, the income of the benefice might be greatly improved, and the efficiency of the Church proportionately augmented.
The Lord Chancellor at present administers the patronage of no less than 754 livings, having an annual value of about 190,000l. ; he has likewise the alternate presentation of 23 benefices, of which the annual value is 7,8771.; making a total of 777 benefices, with an aggregate annual value of nearly 200,0001.
The income, however, of a great portion of these benefices is very small, too small to be desirable as preferment, and insufficient to secure the services of a resident pastor. We find, so far as it is in our power to ascertain, that there are 6 of less than 501, annual value, 56 above 501. but under 1001., 124 above 1001. but under 1501., and 144 above 150l, but under 2001., making a total of 330 insufficiently endowed.
It is obvious, that the advowsons of benefices of this description can have no value as patronage, in the ordinary sense of the word. It is difficult to find persons willing to undertake the charge of cures which entail more than the responsibility, but yield less, than the salary of a curacy. Speaking generally, they are not and cannot be sufficiently served, and the spiritual interests of their population are almost necessarily neglected.
We are of opinion that these evils might be greatly diminished, so far as the benefices in the gift of the Lord Chancellor are concerned, by offering the right of presentation to persons interested in the welfare of the population resident within these cures, on the condition that the whole purchase money, or so much of it as would suffice to raise the annual value of the benefice to 2001., should be applied to that purpose. This additional endowment would of course increase the value of the advowson, and the sum which would be given for it.
The marked and growing interest felt by the wealthier : classes in the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of the people, would, we believe, under the circumstances and conditions we have described, induce many persons to give for the advowsons of these insufficiently endowed benefices.a sum far exceeding their mere market value; and if the example s0-set were, as is not improbable, to be followed to the extent of selling the next presentation by public bodies and private patrons, a vast number of parishes now almost without religious instruction for
want of an adequate endowment might be brought within the regular ministrations of the Church. The direct effect
, however, of this proposal would be, to place nearly 330 cures of souls now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, but which are almost useless for spiritual purposes from the insufficiency of their endowment, on a footing to secure to the people resident within their limits all the advantages to be derived from the ministrations of a resident pastor.
The remaining benefices in the gift of the Lord Chancellor are 447 in number, and vary in value from 2001. to 1,2071. per annum.
Before, however, we proceed to state what proceeding we should recommend, with regard to the advowsons of these larger benefices, with a view to the creation of a fund by means of which, aided by private contribution, the 600 new churches might be erected, it is important to state the result of our inquiries into the origin of the appropriation of so vast an amount of Church patronage to the Keeper of the Great Seal. It appears that until the reign of Henry VIII., when Sir Thomas More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor, the Great Seal had been generally committed to the care of ecclesiastical persons. And even still later, under Edward VI., the Bishop of Ely was Lord Chancellor, and in the next reign the Bishop of Worcester, and after him the Archbishop of York, and in Charles the First's time, Bishop Williams was Lord Keeper.
Apparently, also, the subordinate business of the Court of Chancery was conducted chiefly by ecclesiastics; and the patronage of church benefices was intrusted to the Chancellor for the purpose of being employed in rewarding them for their services in that Court. Hence the Church patronage still held by the Chancellor. In the fourth year of King Edward III., a petition was presented, praying that “the Chancellor may in future bestow Crown benefices of 20 “ marks value upon the clerks in Chancery, as had been heretofore accustomed,” which petition was recommended by the Council to be granted. This state of things having now entirely passed away, there is no reason, as far as the origin of the custom is concerned, for its retention; and we think it well worthy of consideration whether any other reasons exist for its continuance, sufficient to counterbalance the great advantages which, as it appears to us, may be gained by the adoption of the proposition which we are about to submit to Your Majesty.
The selection of proper persons to fill so large a number of benefices, a number greater than has been entrusted to any six prelates of the Church, must impose a heavy burden upon any one by whom the duty is conscientiously and efficiently discharged. The minute inquiries which should be instituted into the character for piety, learning, zeal, and discretion of every candidate for preferment, before he is entrusted with functions so sacred and important as those involved in the cure of souls, must demand a sacrifice of time and attention incompatible with the many laborious duties of the Lord Chancellor.
We submit, therefore, to Your Majesty, that so many of these advowsons should gradually, and in the course of a few years, be disposed of by private tender, as would produce a sum equal to the amount which would be necessary to insure the erection of 600 churches, the Church Building Commissioners being empowered to regulate the order in which the advowsons to be so dealt with should be offered to purchasers, in whom the perpetual patronage of such benefices shall be vested.
If the annual income of the 777 benefices be estimated at 200,0001., and the value of the advowsons at from seven to ten years' purchase of the net value after making the deductions necessary to such a calculation the sum ultimately raised, were all the advowsons to be sold, would probably be more than sufficient for both the objects in contemplation, namely, the augmentation of the smaller benefices, and the erection of 600 new churches.
Our proposal, therefore, does not necessarily alienate from the Great Seal all the Church patronage now by law attached to it, but is perfectly compatible with the reservation to the Lord Chancellor, if it is thought fit, of a certain amount of Church patronage. Were, however, all the advowsons ceded, a fund might also be created to assist in the erection of parsonage houses ; thus completing all the requirements of a new benefice.
We consider that by the adoption of the proposal which we have ventured to submit to Your Majesty, not only would an ample fund be supplied, without any Parliamentary grant, for the erection of 600 new churches in populous parishes now lamentably deficient in religious teaching, but the ministrations of the