Skip to main content

Union Of Benefices And Disposal Of Churches (Metropolis) Measure, 1926

Volume 64: debated on Thursday 15 July 1926

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

had given Notice to move 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 presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right rev. Prelate said: My Lords, the first thing I want to remove from your Lordships' mind is that this is a Bill for the destruction of a great many City churches. It is nothing of the kind. I myself have been lampooned in many magazines and newspapers on the subject, and your Lordships may have seen a picture of the Bishop of London, on the occasion of the bi-centenary of Wren, represented as saying: "Good old Wren, let's pull down one of his churches to commemorate his memory." There have been worse lampoons than that which have not come before the public eye. One is a picture of the Bishop of London leaning on a pick-axe drinking tea while the death beetle does its work.

I do not mind all this chaff in the least, I thoroughly enjoy it, but when a responsible newspaper like The Times seems to take the same view it really is time to protest. This Bill is a Bill for stopping the Bishop of London being an iconoclast. 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. There are a great many I could mention which we have restored at great cost and not always with help from the City. We have done that, and therefore I repeat that the idea that this is a Bill in any sense to bring about the wholesale pulling down of City churches is entirely wrong.

On the contrary, if your Lordships will look at the Bill, you will see that the Bishop of London is hampered at every turn by the terms of the Bill. For instance, he has to consult the Fine Art Commission before he starts on any pulling down of churches. Then you will find a grand jury referred to in Clause 2 of no fewer than thirty-five people, who have got to be consulted and who must agree with him before a single church is touched. Then there is a Commission which he used to appoint himself, or rather he appointed two members of the Commission and the Dean of St. Paul's appointed a Chairman. Now he will not appoint a single one of the five Commissioners. He will write the appointment of them, but he will not select one of them. 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.

Some City churches have been removed with advantage in the past. They had no architectural beauty. There was St. Martin Outwich, which was one of the most hideous churches and was removed some years ago. As the result there is now a church with £600 a year in poor Dalston and another church with £600 a year in poor Stepney. Then, instead of another church which was pulled down, we have St. Benet Fink, Tottenham, which is full of people, instead of an empty church in the City. We carried down the furniture and the name and the tradition. We have also St. Bartholomew's, Stamford Rill, instead of an empty City church, and St. Katherine's, Hammersmith, now represents that hideous church, St. Katherine Coleman. I had 200 communicants there when I visited it.

I want your Lordships to realise that this Bill really is a Bill for putting together the parishes of the City and so enabling us to deal with surplus incomes and surplus man power. If you read the Bill you will see that is the real object of it. Have your Lordships really considered what is called the scandal of the City? I have a memorandum written by a well-known City incumbent. He says that the population of the City in 1911 was 19,657, and in 1921 it was only 13,709, a decrease of 30 per cent. The number of parish churches was forty-six and the number of clergy over sixty. The estimated number of Church worshippers in the City, added to those who come from a distance, is between 2,000 and 2,500, all told. Now the incumbents' incomes, as estimated by a former City incumbent who is now the Bishop of Plymouth, are £34,398. Nearly £35,000 a year is being paid in respect of these churches. The total cost of maintaining these forty-six churches under the present system is reckoned at between £50,000 and £60,000 a year.

Therefore you have forty-six churches, over sixty clergy, over forty organists, choirs, vergers, cleaners, etc., employed at a yearly cost of between £50,000 and £60,000 to minister to 2,500 people. I am leaving out of consideration for the moment what is done on week-days. I am constantly preaching in the City and certainly we want a number of churches for people in the City. But do we want forty-six churches, forty-six organists, forty-six choirs, to minister to them? About a dozen churches would be sufficient. We can only make real use of about a dozen churches. I have had to break the law in the case of a man whose congregation has been one verger. I quite admit it, and one reason why I want this Bill is to put myself right. I have had to let off this man to do some good in another church. By law I should have kept him reading Matins and Evensong every Sunday for one verger. Is that a state of things that we want to keep going?

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 Edmonton. 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. People there represent the old apprentices of the City. The urgency of the matter is that if you do not give people a church within ten years they do not want it in the next ten years. They have got accustomed to doing without it. I do not know whether your Lordships realise that in London we have built 260 churches in fifty years. We have not always been helped, as we might have been helped, by the City. 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. Even in our richer diocese I have been able to afford to build only one church during the seven years since the War. What I want your Lordships to realise is the enormous need of churches all round London for the very people who come up every day. That is the fact that we have to face. That really is my whole case for the Measure. I do not want to labour a point that must be obvious to everyone. This is not a Measure for pulling down City churches, except under the most tremendous restrictions. It is a Measure for putting parishes together and so saving £23,000 a year, which we ought to be able to do quite easily in this way.

Now I turn to the memorandum sent round by my friends in the City—and they are my friends. I see present my noble friend Lord Marshall, an excellent

friend of mine, who is no doubt going to oppose the Measure. I do not wonder that when someone read this memorandum he said: "I was going to oppose the Measure, but after reading the memorandum from the City I am going to support it, because its arguments are so utterly ineffective." I agree that the arguments of this memorandum are such as to force anyone to vote for the Measure. Let us take the second paragraph of the memorandum. It runs—

"The churches in the City of London cannot be regarded solely from the point of view of their use for purposes of Church services; they are national memorials of the antiquity which renders the City a magnet of attraction to the world at large."

I absolutely agree with that, and that is why we safeguard in every possible way the touching of every one of these memorials. We are not touching any of them until we have had a decision from the Royal Fine Art Commission. Before we deal with them at all we have to get the proposal through a grand jury of thirty-five people. I am surprised that those who drafted this memorandum did not realise that their third argument is completely knocked out by their second.

The third paragraph includes the following statement:—

"In the procedure thus laid down is contained provision whereby the inhabitants of the parish concerned are able to adopt or oppose the scheme by resolution in vestry, and one of the avowed objects of the present Measure is to remove this power from the inhabitants."

It is just because the second argument is true and that these are national memorials that you want something more than a local body of people who happen to live in a particular parish. We want to appeal to a great public conscience. All we do is to prefer a public responsible jury to a little handful of people, whipped up in the vestry in the place itself. I have not time to touch upon all the arguments of this memorandum because I hope that others are going to speak afterwards, but I should like to refer to the eighth paragraph, which says—

"The general effect of the proposed Measure is contrary to the principles laid down by Parliament.… and is in conflict with the fundamental principle of English law, which provides that rights shall not be taken away without due consideration of all interests concerned…."

We have tried in the most meticulous way to pay regard to all the interests concerned.

They go on to say, in the next paragraph—

"The City of London, through the medium of the City Parochial Charities, already contributes some £45,000 a year for general Church purposes."

I feel bound to say that they do not do so; the Corporation does not ever give a penny of that £45,000. These are very ancient charities which are equally divided between secular and purely church purposes. The memorandum goes on to say, in paragraph 12—

"Under the procedure laid down by the Measure any proposals for a scheme for dealing with a church or churches are to emanate from the Bishop and are to be recommended by a Commission appointed by him. The Metropolitan Benefices Board may, if it thinks fit, advise the Bishop as to any limitation or condition to be observed in respect of the proposals and as to the general use of churches in the City and the Commission is to have regard to the advice given by the Board."

That ought to be an argument upon the other side. My Commission, which I appoint but do not nominate, is to be guided by the Board: and that is because we do not want to pull down anything unless these thirty-five people say that we may.

Let me quote the only part of this memorandum which seems to me to be of any substance. I refer to the fourteenth paragraph, which says—

"Of the 30 ordinary members, 20 are to be appointed by ecclesiastical bodies, 2 by the City clergy, and 1 by the Churchwardens of the City; only 7 are to be appointed by bodies which are independent of clerical influence. The interests of the general body of citizens and ratepayers are only represented by 5 additional members to be appointed by the Corporation and the London County Council…. It is obviously undesirable that a large majority of the members of the Board should be nominated by clerical bodies who are materially interested in the eventual disposal of the funds to be derived from the scheme under consideration."

That means that whereas fifteen members are almost bound to be against any destruction, twenty are Church people who, if they all vote the same way, will be in a majority. We have tried to obtain as fair a body as we possibly could.

The final point that I put before your Lordships is that here is something that is a real scandal in the spiritual life of London. We have heard a good deal about West Ham, but what would have happened to that one and a-half million people of London if they had not had built for them 260 churches in the last 50 years? We need churches in these great, growing districts. They do more to keep order than any police in the world, and if you are going to leave this great City without spiritual help you are going to lay up a very heavy store for yourselves in time to come. This Measure has been very carefully worked out. I think it does justice to everyone and I hope that it will be agreed to by your Lordships' House.

Moved 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 presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Bishop of London.)

who had given Notice to move, That the Measure be not presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent, said: My Lords, on behalf of the Corporation of the City of London I have submitted to your Lordships a Petition praying that this Measure be not presented for the Royal Assent. I have listened with very great attention to the eloquent and, I venture to say, the ingenious speech of the right rev. Prelate, the Bishop of London, and I would say in reply that the powers in this Measure are such as to enable the National Church Assembly to deal with any and every church in the City of London, not excluding St. Paul's Cathedral. The Corporation, as the custodians of the City, feel very desirous that such powers as these should be exercised only by Parliament. I would point out that the Union of Benefices Measure, 1923, which duly passed this House and received the Royal Assent, while it authorised the disposal of surplus churches and property in England, expressly excepted those wholly or partially within the City of London. I think it is evident that the framers of that Measure had found strong reason for excepting the City from its operation, and apprehended that your Lordships would appreciate the exceptional position of the City of London and would not be likely to approve that Measure had it included the City.

The Corporation feels that all the powers that are required can be exer- cised under the Act of 1860, which allows any church to be dealt with under the powers of Parliament. The statement of the Corporation which has been circulated to your Lordships lays great stress on the attempt of the Church Assembly to include in the Measure powers which the Corporation feel amount to confiscation of property. Their contention is that, while Parliament conferred on the Church Assembly power to deal with matters domestic to the Church of England, it was not the intention of Parliament to give them the right to confiscate valuable property, of which the citizens are the beneficiaries if not technically the legal owners. The City churches have been built by citizens of all denominations, taxed for that purpose, and although the churches may be vested legally in the incumbents, this vesting is expressly subject to their use for Divine worship, and it is obvious that if churches are pulled down and the sites sold there can be no Divine worship therein. This Measure, therefore, constitutes a clear breach of trust, to which I earnestly hope your Lordships will not assent. The interests of the general body of citizens, who are clearly concerned in this matter, are only represented by five additional members, to be appointed by the Corporation and the London County Council, and of the thirty ordinary members of the Board twenty are to be appointed by ecclesiastical bodies, two by the City clergy, one by the churchwardens of the City, and only seven by bodies independent of clerical influence.

I am aware that the Ecclesiastical Committee has considered the constitutional side of the Measure, and that it considers it expedient—it does not say just—that the Measure should become law. Your Lordships may not, however, be aware, and I especially want to emphasise this fact, that out of thirty members constituting the Ecclesiastical Committee only thirteen found it convenient to be present when the Report was decided upon. The voting was nine in favour and four against, a majority of only five in favour of the Report. A further objection to this Measure is that if a scheme for disposal is put forward, and is adversely reported upon by the Metropolitan Benefices Board (whose office it is to consider such a scheme, with power to veto it) then that decision is not in any way final, for the Bishop has power to appoint Commission after Commission until a favourable report is obtained. In the City of London, to-day, there are some fifty churches remaining. Of these, nine were in existence before the Great Fire, and thirty-two were built by Sir Christopher Wren. I do not propose to labour the architectural side of the case, because a noble Lord will make a statement to the House on that aspect who is far better able to deal with it than I am.

The exceptional position of the City is this: The cluster of churches therein were all, or almost all, built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. These churches were built under two Acts of Parliament passed in 1667 and 1670, which imposed a coal tax of 1 s. and 3 s. respectively on every chaldron of coal entering the port of London, which was to be expended as to part on the rebuilding of the parish churches, and as to part on the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. When those Acts expired £265,000 was allocated to the rebuilding of parish churches and £88,000 to the rebuilding of St. Paul's. Your Lordships will realise that these sums were worth very much more than the same sums are to-day. They were levied on every hearth and furnace in the City, and being a compulsory tax it was borne by Nonconformists, Roman Catholics and Jews, as well as by members of the Church of England. Therefore we may claim in the City that we have a right to these churches and we ask your Lordships to let us retain our churches.

The question may be asked: "When is a church redundant?" It has been proved that City churches which used to be regarded in that category have, under the control, and I say this advisedly, of the right kind of man, become highly useful and active in the purposes for which they were established. The cure for so-called redundancy may be not demolition or removal but a proper employment of opportunity among the hundreds of thousands of City workers. What is at the end of all this? These sites are valuable sites. If disposed of they will fetch large sums of money. Those sums of money are to be expended outside the area of the City of London. A City church sold in a favourable market may permit of one or more churches being built elsewhere. That is, perhaps, an easy way of providing churches for the suburbs. Is it the best way? Is it the way that should be pressed by the Church of England? I venture to say, No! I am not an enemy of the Church of England, although I am a Free Churchman, and I am sure my right reverend friend the Lord Bishop will bear me out when I say that in all their work I am glad to have the privilege and opportunity of being associated; but I do say: "Leave to us in the City of London our monuments. Let them be monuments of our faith." If the City of London, if the Corporation of the City of London, ask in these material days for that help and that assistance, I hope that they will not appeal to your Lordships' House in vain. As the Corporation's spokesman on this occasion I ask your Lordships to say that it is inexpedient that the proposed Measure should be presented for the Royal Assent.

My Lords, I am sure your Lordships have listened with interest and respect to the views of the Corporation on this matter, so ably put before you by the noble Lord, but I should like to point out, with regard to the constitutional question which the noble Lord raised, that the Joint Ecclesiastical Committee have considered those things and reported against him. I imagine that your Lordships, like myself, will stand by the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I must say that I think your Lordships may have been slightly confused by the speech of the noble Lord with regard to the position, power and influence which the Corporation of London exercises, or would exercise, under this Measure. There is a small Committee of five, as the right rev. Prelate has told your Lordships, without whose approval nothing can be done, and the Corporation has the nomination of forty per cent. of that Committee. If the Corporation feel that they are not likely to get their way unless they have a stronger representation on that Committee I leave your Lordships to judge what strength their case has.

The noble Lord has put forward many other arguments, but the motive—and it is a most respectable one—at the back of all these constitutional arguments and others is that the Corporation of London desire to protect the ancient monuments of the City. I have the greatest respect for that motive, and I am sure your Lordships have also. The only question, I think, that your Lordships have to decide to-night is whether the opponents of this Measure do not look at it from one point of view only, or, if they look at it from the general point of view, whether they really have a due sense of proportion, because, so far as I have read the opponents' views on this Measure, the interest, of the Church of England is almost entirely disregarded, and I submit that, in a matter of churches, the Church of England at least should have some consideration.

As I think this matter really turns upon the question of ancient monuments I should like to inform your Lordships that my justification for addressing you to-night is that I was a member of the Committee presided over by Lord Phillimore which reported in 1919, and also that I visited and carefully examined every tingle City church. With the exception of the right rev. Prelate and myself, I think there are very few members of your Lordships' House who can say the same thing. I do not, of course, ask you on that account to accept my opinion of the City churches before that of any other person in this House or out of it who has examined the churches, but I think it might carry some weight as against those who have not done so. If I may continue in this egotistical manner, I am not an iconoclast. I have been interested in ecclesiastical architecture all my life, and I have just got that amount of education that visiting and examining beautiful things gives one.

Of the City churches some are, if not unsurpassed, at all events splendid examples of archaeology and architecture, and of the more modern ones by Wren and his followers or contemporaries, some, such as, we will say, the spire of St. Mary-le-Bow is, in my opinion at least, unsurpassed as an architectural composition in any part of the world. With regard to St. Stephen's, Walbrook, I believe that Palladio, who, I suppose, knew something about Renaissance architecture, said that there were only two things that were worth coming back to England to see, and one was St. Stephen's, Walbrook.

I cannot conceive anybody in his senses wishing to destroy monuments of that description, but among these—not forty- six but fifty-three—churches in the City some are of very slight, if any, architectural merit. That is a very strong expression to use, in view of the very influentially signed Memorial which we have all received to-day but which, I must say, has left me completely cold. These very well known experts, when they get together, will really say almost anything. I should be much more impressed by any one of these gentlemen—take Sir Reginald Blomfield, who is the greatest authority on Renaissance architecture in the country—I should be more impressed if Sir Reginald Blomfield told you: "I have visited and seen these churches, and I consider that there is not one of them which should be destroyed, for any reason whatever.' Then I should say we ought to take that into consideration.

If your Lordships think I have expressed myself too strongly, perhaps I may read a paragraph in this document—
"We submit that the City churches"—
not some of the City churches but "the City churches," all of them—
"are unique. …. architecturally in regard to their design. …."
this is the gem—
"they are regarded with affection not only by the inhabitants of London, but by all the English-speaking race, and that they should be hold as an inalienable trust for future generations."
I am speaking now of, we will say, a dozen of these churches whose merit is very slight architecturally, and if they are regarded by the inhabitants of London and by all the English-speaking race with affection I may quote the expression "Laudatur et alget"; which I may paraphrase by saying that they are regarded with affection and admiration by all the inhabitants of London and all the English-speaking race, but hardly a soul has seen them and hardly a soul even knows their names.

That expression "the City churches" represents the tactics of the opponents of this Measure. I have followed this matter since 1899. I have read all the criticisms that I have seen, but never, except in one case, do they point to one single church which we condemn and say: "You ought not to condemn that church, for this reason." They talk of "the City churches" and speak in dithyrambic phrases about them. It is really not fair. The exception to which I referred is the note by Lord Hugh Cecil to the Report of the Phillimore Commission, in which he said that he considered that it would be barbarous to pull down St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary's, Aldermanbury. He may be perfectly right, I do not in the least say ho is not. But I went and stepped the distance between those two churches. It was thirty-seven of my paces. We will call it forty yards. They are in the same street. I took clown a map of the churches and I found that these two churches are surrounded by six other churches, the farthest away being less than 250 yards in a straight line. St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary's, Aldermanbury, may be, and I think are, of interest, and they may be of sufficient interest to preserve, but why do you make the Church of England preserve them? Why do you make the Church of England carry on what appears to the public as the scandal of having eight churches in a little circle which is about five hundred yards across?

May I give another instance? I took the ordnance map and I measured an equilateral triangle 300 yards in length on each side. It is, that is to say, roughly nine acres, the size of a reasonably sized garden and it is bounded by Gracechurch Street on one side, King William Street on another, and Cornhill on the other (which faces the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England) and it is bisected almost exactly by Lombard Street, of which you have heard. In that nine acres, which, with hardly any exaggeration at all, I may call the financial centre of the world, there are six churches where one can do the work easily.

I do not want to detain your Lordships but I should like to say that when I sat on the Committee I went very carefully into the question of finance. The result of my inquiry is not in the Report, but my estimate, with the help of a surveyor, was that the nett site value of the churches recommended for removal was about £1,500,000, and there was, of course, a very large saving of money and a certain amount of income to be derived from the emoluments of the churches proposed to be removed. Those things, of course, affected me. I thought that great good could be done with the money and with the income. But what affected me even more was the fact that, in the public view, the Church of England had ready to its hands £1,500,000 and a large income from these churches and yet there were insufficient spiritual advantages among masses of the population, and even worse that the country clergy, who, in my opinion at least and I think in the opinion of your Lordships, are a great asset to this country in every village throughout the land, should be in financial straits. These things rightly or wrongly affect the opinion of the public and weaken the power for good of the Church of England. It is for that reason that I ask your Lordships to support this Measure.

My Lords, I take it that this Measure is substantially based upon the Report of the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Phillimore, in 1920. That impression is borne out by the speech just delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Hunsdon, which in effect treats this Measure as though it were no more than a money measure to supplement the in comes of the clergy and to provide for the erection of structures elsewhere. Although the City of London is not mentioned in it the Measure is essentially a measure to destroy City churches.

At any rate it is only in the City of London that the money, the £1,600,000 or £1,700,000 to which Lord Hunsdon referred, can be found. Lord Phillimore's Committee dealt entirely and solely with the City of London. It also outlined a large scheme of reform for arranging and re-arranging ecclesiastical duties there. Incidentally, it recommended certain churches within the City which ought to be destroyed and of which the sites ought to be sold. This Measure, so far as I can see, disregards the large measure of reform proposed by Lord Phillimore's Committee, and, as I say, though it does not mention the City of London, it applies to every church from Fulham to Walthamstow. Let us make no concealment about it; the only interest in this Measure is these churches in the City of London, and if that part of London was cut out the disposal of church sites would be entirely negligible. I, therefore, test this Bill by the Report of the Phillimore Committee.

That Committee scheduled 19 churches which were recommended for removal. The Report is accompanied by a map, and in a thoughtful way the doomed churches are marked on Lord Phillimore's map by black spots. What are they? There is All Hallows, Lombard Street, which was built by Wren, and there are twelve more churches in the black spot list built by Wren. There is St. Dunstan in the West. Lord Hunsdon said that he doubted if hardly a soul had ever seen any of those churches. Does he apply that to St. Dunstan in the West? Of course not. St. Mary Woolnoth is in the condemned list. That church showed how great a man Nicholas Hawksmoor, the architect, was. He really deserves much credit for the, work attributed to Vanbrugh at Blenheim, at Oxford, at Castle Howard and elsewhere. As I say, St. Mary Woolnoth is one of the condemned churches and as to that church the Commission was equally divided and the recommendation for its removal was carried by the casting vote, of the Chairman, Lord Phillimore. There he sits, blithe, learned and debonair, and yet on his shoulders must rest the responsibility that as Chairman he voted for the destruction of this incomparable church.

I should like to quote to your Lordships the list of these condemned churches. It will not take a moment. Even their fine resounding names are worthy of quotation. They are All Hallows, Lombard Street, All Hallows, London Wall, St. Botolph, Aldgate, St. Katherine Coleman,—the Church which the right rev. Prelate called a hideous place just now—St. Clement, Eastcheap, St. Dunstan in the East, St. Magnus the Martyr,—many of your Lordships must know that wonderful church by the water's edge down below London Bridge—St. Mary-at-Hill, St. Mary Woolnoth, St. Michael, Cornhill, St. Alban, Wood Street, St. Anne and St. Agnes, St. Botolph, Aldersgate, St. Dunstan in the West—the Church that Lord Hunsdon says nobody ever sees—St. Mary, Aldermanbury, St. Michael Royal, St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, St. Stephen, Cole- man Street, and St. Vedast, except the tower Lord Phillimore and his friends thought to make a compromise, I suppose, by saying: "We will destroy the church, we will sell the site, but we will leave the tower as a memorial of the mutilation of the church."

The worst of this list is that it is only an indication of what may occur and is by no means all that was contemplated by this Committee. If your Lordships refer to page 14 of the Report you will see that these words occur:
"It is, indeed, possible that as time goes on, and with bettor rearrangement, even the number which we have left may be further reduced."
Those are ominous words, and in the actual turn of the phrase there is almost a ferocious eagerness for still further destruction. I can see nowhere in this Report any real regret shown that it should be necessary to make this clean sweep of City churches. They say, on page 7:
"We have gone carefully into the question of the architectural merits, the historical associations and the topographical advantages of the several churches, and we have come to the conclusion that those named in the list which follows might well be removed."
I submit to the House that this is a complete misapprehension and a complete misconception of the value and the nature, of the duty of these City churches.

This is not a Money Bill. It ought not to be treated as a Money Bill. As for saying that the interest of the Church of England is entirely disregarded if this Bill is not accepted by your Lordships, I beg leave to offer to that view a most emphatic repudiation. These churches are said to be without any great architectural merit or special antiquarian associations. Lord Hunsdon has quoted the opinion of Lord Hugh Cecil on two of these churches. Lord Hugh Cecil mentions St. Mary, Aldermanbury, and St. Alban, Wood Street, and says, in a dissenting note to this Report, that he thinks it would be barbarous to pull them down. Those are two of the doomed churches. "Oh," says Lord Hunsdon, "I went there this morning. Those churches are only fifty yards apart." That is quite true. Are there too many masterpieces in the National Gallery? Are we too rich in statues in the British Museum? Are there too many banks in Lombard Street? The fact is that these historical monuments do get crowded into small areas. It is the same in the historic towns of the world, and most of all in London—at any rate more in London than in most towns—and the fact that there are two fine churches cheek by jowl in the City of London does not really affect me quite so much as it affects my noble friend Lord Hunsdon.

Lord Hugh Cecil said it would be barbarous to destroy two of them. I must be frank with your Lordships. Lord Hugh Cecil now supports this Measure, but he appended to the Report of the Committee four years ago a crushing and drastic note of dissent, which applies equally to-day, to the effect that the scheme of reform should operate before the churches are destroyed. When the reforms are in operation, consider them and see if it really be necessary to destroy the churches. Destruction can then be considered. I think that is a very reasonable view to take.

I return for a moment or two, with your Lordships' permission, to the value of these buildings as buildings. I know that the Committee is very scornful about it. The Lord Bishop of London was rather scornful about it. Let me at least say this of the City churches, that the church is at any rate the finest building in its street. Your Lordships will remember the very old story about the fashionable tailor in the Nevsky Prospect in St. Petersburg, who put over his shop: So-and-So "the best tailor in the world." Lower down the street his rival put over his shop front: "The best tailor in St. Petersburg." A tailor a little further on excelled them both by putting over his shop: "The best tailor in this street." Although these churches may not compare with Westminster Abbey or with St. Paul's, they are a precious heritage, partly for a reason not connected with their own special intrinsic merit, but largely because, as time goes on, these churches are becoming such rarities.

Their value is enhanced by that very fact. A second-class church in the City of London to-day is worth more to us than a first-class church was worth to the city of London a century ago. And as time goes on these churches are disappearing regularly. Is there no facility for getting rid of churches now? Let me put this point. Under the present Act—that is the Act of 1860—no less than twenty City churches have been destroyed. That is to say, one City church has gone every third year. Is not that speed quick enough? I ask any of your Lordships who are mathematicians—perhaps I might put it to Lord Phillimore himself—how long would it take at that rate before all the remaining churches in the City of London disappear altogether? For sixty years, we have lost a church in the City of London every third year.

I come now to a very important question, the most important point that issued from the speech of the right rev. Prelate. The Ecclesiastical Committee made a Report upon this Measure. I wish to read four or five lines from page 3, which refer to two Petitions against the Measure:—
"…. in so far as they represent that the Measure is one likely to result in the disposal or demolition of buildings of architectural or historical importance, the Committee desire to express their view that the alteration effected by the Measure in the procedure for sanctioning schemes of union and disposal is not likely to have this result. On the contrary, their view is that in some respects the safeguards for the preservation of such buildings are more satisfactory under this Measure than under the existing law."
The right rev. Prelate went further and said: "This is a Bill to restrict the powers of the Bishop." May we compromise on that? Withdraw this Bill and let the destruction of these churches proceed upon the old constitutional method. I would rather incur that risk of losing one church in three years than the wholesale demolition, which I am afraid of, as recommended by the Phillimore Committee.

I want to say this further. Public-opinion is changing very much on this question. Public opinion is assumng a very strong and decided attitude about the destruction of older buildings. The fact is our losses have been so great and have been so little realised while they were going on, that we are now only just beginning to estimate the real measure of our loss. I am glad that the attitude of the City is considered by Lord Hunsdon to arise from respectable motives. They realise their past losses and they shrink from these further assaults. I have no hesitation in saying that I think the Petition and the altitude adopted by the City of London in this matter are a splendid example of City patriotism. They know very well that the greatness of their historic City is at stake. The City of London is no longer a mere aggregation of counting-houses. To me, for one, at any rate, it is not a grievance in the least that there should be six churches in eight acres of which Lombard Street is the centre. I, and obviously the City of London too, value this evidence of the great past of the City. Mediæval London was swept away, was devastated by the Great Fire. These churches are memorials of our second Renaissance, the achievements and growth of the new City.

Now I do not wish it to be said for a moment that I in the very least desire to hinder the bigger work of the Church of England. I do not. I sympathise deeply with the Diocesans of Greater London. They suddenly wake up to find that a huge town is in process of springing from the soil and in four or five years that town may be a place with an enormous population. The Church, indeed, has a very hard fight to maintain its position in such places. But I am going again, apropos of that, to quote some words from the remarkable Minority Report of Lord Hugh Cecil. He says it ought to be possible to raise sufficient funds in these places for a temporary church, and he goes on to say:
"Such a temporary church ought doubtless eventually to give place to a more permanent and more beautiful structure. But delay in building such a permanent church is not entirely mischievous. In some respects temporary buildings attract congregations better than more formal and beautiful edifices: and special value comes to be attached to a church which is long looked forward to, slowly provided for, and at last felt to be the achievement of much self-sacrifice and religious devotion."
There is really a profound truth underlying these remarks, and one is confident that, as in the past, notwithstanding the increased difficulties by which the rapid growth of London faces the Church authorities, the Church will be able to keep abreast of her responsibility and therefore that the operation of this Measure, which contemplates the destruction of historic churches in the City of London, should not be passed by your Lordships' House.

My Lords, my noble friend, being the consummate artist he is, has made great play with the words "doomed churches." He has told you about the Report of Lord Phillimore's Committee, and he has made a speech with the general purpose and tenour of which all your Lordships will agree, whether they are supporters of this Measure or not. But I would ask your Lordships to observe that he has hardly said anything at all about the Measure itself. The question really which your Lordships have to decide is whether under the terms of this Measure there is any probability of any church being lost that ought to be saved. In the very few moments during which I shall address your Lordships I want to draw your attention particularly to that point, but before doing so I must, in my great respect for the Corporation of the City of London, allude to their argument that this Measure is ultra vires—that it goes beyond the intention of the Enabling Act.

Can anybody seriously contend that the House of Commons has time to legislate about the union of benefices or the demolition of a church? Was it not exactly to enable the Church to tell Parliament what she wanted in these matters that the Enabling Act was passed? Was not the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament established for the very purpose of safeguarding the rights of Parliament and the powers of Parliament and the public interest? The Corporation pleaded this question of ultra vires before the Ecclesiastical Committee, and the Ecclesiastical Committee were not convinced by the argument. I really think that disposes altogether of the question that this Measure is in any sense ultra vires. I entirely agree with the Corporation in one thing. This is not a matter only for the Church of England, but neither is it a matter only for the Corporation of the City of London, nor is it only a matter for the Art world as championed by my noble friend. This is really a simple matter for the common sense of Parliament. It will be my endeavour to show your Lordships that you may quite safely give your sanction to this Measure.

Everyone admits that there are too many separate churches and incumbents in the City for the needs of the population. This Measure makes the union of benefices easier, and far the most important part of this Measure is concerned with the union of benefices; that is to say, getting rid, not of the churches but of the clergymen. I ask your Lordships most particularly to note that point. Far the most important part of this Measure is that part which enables a great reduction to be made in the clergy of the City of London, which, without touching the fabric of the church in any way at all, frees the revenues which now go to pay incumbents who are not over-worked. That is far the most important part of the Measure and no serious objection is taken to it. As there is no hostility to that part of the Measure I merely note it and pass on.

But in some cases the Bishop may want to go further. He may want to pull down a church and sell the site, and the whole struggle in this matter is between those who, like myself, think there is not the slightest danger of that power being abused and those who, like Lord Marshall and the Earl of Crawford, think there is such a danger. Your Lordships, if I may say so, are the jury who have to decide between them. Before I come to examine the machinery of the Bill, let me very briefly remind your Lordships why the Bishop may want to pull down a church and sell the site. It is not only that there is a need for churches elsewhere in his diocese. It is not only that there are vast populations springing up with no churches and that in the City of London you have churches with no population.

It is not only that, but because again, again and again those who try to raise money for the Church are met with this criticism: "What do you mean by coming and asking us for fresh money when you have all these great reserves which you allow to go to waste?" Those who have the responsibility—and I Have had in part that responsibility—of trying to raise large sums for Church finance are continually met by that argument: "Do not come to us and ask us to give you subscriptions until you have shown that you are business men and can better use the funds already at your disposal." Every one agrees that no church of great artistic merit shall be pulled down. Does anybody deny, does my noble friend Lord Crawford deny, that there are some churches in the City that could be spared? He does not.

What I said—if I am being challenged—was that I preferred running my risk once every third year, and having a case put up for a church to be destroyed, to the scheme proposed by this Bill.

That was not my question. I asked if the noble Earl would deny that there are some churches—opinion may differ as to which —that have not sufficient artistic merit to make their retention a matter of national necessity. I say that nobody really asserts that. My noble friend asks why the present machinery is not sufficient, and Lord Marshall has put the same question. It is because this is not a parochial question but a national question. The inhabitants of a parish in vestry are a very small handful of people and really are not a fit body to decide whether a church in the City shall be pulled down or not.

I come to the actual machinery of the Measure. The Bishop has to move, and he gives notice in respect of some particular church to the Royal Fine Art Commission and to the Metropolitan Benefices Board. Having given that notice he appoints a Commission, but he does not nominate the members of that Commission. I want your Lordships, if you will bear with me, to give particular attention to the importance and the composition of this Commission, because everything really turns upon its competence and independence. The Commission consists of five persons, of whom two are nominated by the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Conference of the diocese affected—that is, by the Standing Committee of the Diocesan Conference of London in a case where the Bishop of London is concerned—two are appointed by the Common Council, that is by the Corporation of the City of London, and the fifth, who must be the Chairman, is appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Is that a Church body, an ecclesiastical body? 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? Without the recommendation of that Commission nothing can be done. Unless that Commission recommend that the scheme proceed, the Bishop can do nothing more.

"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 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 idea of the Bishop raising the same question about the same church again and again is perfectly absurd. When once the Commission has turned a proposal down, of course the Bishop is not likely to revive that proposal for a considerable time. But it would be quite unreasonable to say that, because it had been turned down once, he should never be able to move in the matter again. I ask your Lordships, therefore, to note how tremendously strong is the safeguard of this Commission and its constitution.

What happens if the Commission recommend that the proposal go forward? If the Commission so recommend, then the Bishop asks the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to frame a scheme, and when the scheme is framed he has to give notice of the fact to an immense number of public bodies—in fact, to everybody who by any possibility can be interested in the matter. If your Lordships will turn to the Second Schedule of the Measure you will see that every possible body that could be interested in the Measure is to receive notice of the proposed scheme. If any one of those interests object, then the scheme stands referred to the Metropolitan Benefices Board and, if the Metropolitan Benefices Board does not support the scheme, the scheme is stopped. Accordingly, even if the scheme passes the Commission it can be stopped by the Metropolitan Benefices Board. My noble friend says that the Metropolitan Benefices Board is an ecclesiastical body. That is a perfectly absurd description of it. Out of thirty-five members only nine are appointed by the dioceses interested, five are appointed by bodies specially interested in ancient buildings and art, seven are appointed by bodies immediately connected with the City and fourteen members are independent. It is perfectly absurd to say that this is in any sense a body wholly under the control of the Bishop or of those who wish to have a church demolished.

Accordingly the sole question that your Lordships have to consider—admitting, as we all do, on the one hand the great artistic merit of the hereditary possession of the City churches and on the other hand the great necessity that exists for the Church to economise her finances and the fact that some of these churches are not of equal merit with others—is whether the provisions of this Measure are good and secure for seeing that a reasonable course is taken. My only fear is that the provisions are so drastic to prevent a church being pulled down that ought not to be pulled down that a church that ought to be pulled down will not be pulled down. There are beautiful churches elsewhere than in the City of London and the machinery for dealing with them is far less safeguarded than in this Measure, though nobody made any objection when the proposals for dealing with them came forward. Accordingly I would contend that this Measure, which is not the Report of Lord Phillimore's Committee but the result of many years' careful work and of much consideration by Committees, is worthy of your support. I think I have made out my case that the safeguards are sufficient, that the demand for the reduction of clergymen is very urgent and that there ought to be some better machinery than at present to deal with the very rare occasions when a church itself ought to be removed.

I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned till Monday next.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned till Monday next.—( Lord Banbury of Southam.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.