RepositoryChurch of England Record Centre
Alt Ref NoCBC
Extent27 linear feet (106 bound volumes, 174 manuscript and printed papers, 3 parchments with attached wax seals and one artefact)
TitleHM Commissioners for Building New Churches (Church Building Commission)
DescriptionThe Church Building Commission archive is made up of six thematic series of records, covering the period 1818 to 1856. Series CBC/1 consists of records relating to the foundation of the Church Building Commission, which includes the three letters patents appointing the Commissioners, a printed book containing the twenty-three Church Building Acts and extracts from one of the acts. Series CBC/2 contains records relating to the corporate governance of the Commission, including: the Minute Books of the Commission's Board, Building Committee and Division Committee; as well as details of the Rules & Regulations, Resolutions, Forms of Inquiry and Cases & Opinions. Series CBC/3 consists of the Commission's Parliamentary Papers and draft working papers including annual reports and returns. Series CBC/4 contains the Commission's corporate financial records including a Drawback Register, as well as a Summary of Grants register and a Register of Grants & Pew Rents. Series CBC/7 consists of the Commission's operational records including the Surveyor's Reports, details of Particular Districts & other legal matters, as well as details of parishes Divided and Districts Assigned. Series CBC/14 contains an artefact in the form of a Church Building Commissioners' Specimen Seal Impression.
AppraisalThe archive has been recently collected from various different locations within the Church of England Record Centre, where they have been stored in a fragmentary and unlisted state since the late 1980s. They have now been appraised and arranged in a way that best represents the original order. These records have been deemed important enough to be permanently retained.
ArrangementThe Church Building Commission archive is arranged into six thematic series of records, which best represent the form and function of the Commission: CBC/1 foundation; CBC/2 corporate governance; CBC/3 parliamentary papers; CBC/4 corporate financial; CBC/7 operational records and CBC/14 artefacts. Series CBC/2, CBC/3, CBC/4 and CBC/7 consist of both sub-series and file level descriptions, whereas series CBC/1 and CBC/14 only consists of file level descriptions.
FindingAidsOnly an original c. 19th century Ecclesiastical Commissioners' office index list relating to some of the records within the Church Building Commissioners collection, entitled 'Church Building Commissioners Minute Books, etc.'
PhysicalDescriptionMostly bound volumes, paper and parchment.
CreatorNameHM Commissioners for Building New Churches (1818-1856)
AdminHistoryHM Church Building Commission was founded by an Act of Parliament passed on 30 May 1818 (58. Geo. III. C. 45) for building and promoting the building of additional churches in populous parishes as a solution to the increasingly inadequate church accommodation found in the expanding cities and towns of England and Wales. In this the first of twenty three Church Building Acts the Crown was authorised to appoint Commissioners (who were appointed for fixed terms) to carry out the purposes of the act and to grant one million pounds in the form of Exchequer Bills, which could be used as credit with the Bank of England to enable the building of these new churches and chapels. However, there was some confusion over the wording of the original Act with reference to functions and duties and it took two further Acts of Parliament (59. Geo. III. C. 134, 1819 & 3. Geo. IV. C. 72, 1822) to improve the situation. The Commission received a further and final half million pounds to aid them in their church building activities by the fourth Building Act in 1824 (5. Geo. IV. C. 103). There were a further eighteen Church Building Acts, which amended and expanded the Church Building Commissioners' powers over the period 1827 to 1855.

Essentially the Commissioners' main functions included: inquiring into the state of the parishes to ascertain those needing extra church accommodation; granting money for building the extra churches and chapels; accepting the conveyance of sites for churches, chapels, burial grounds and parsonages, as well as houses for parsonages; approving the architectural plans, appraising and choosing the tenders, monitoring budgets and generally overseeing the building; dividing parishes into ecclesiastical districts for the new churches; establishing tables of pew rents for these churches and chapels; and church building repairs.

During the Church Building Commission's existence the Solicitor to the Treasury conducted the conveyancing of sites on their behalf.

Unfortunately, by the mid 1830s the grant money of one and half million pounds had been essentially used up, which curtailed any further extensive building of new churches and chapels.

The final Church Building Act during the existence of the Church Building Commission (19 & 20. Vict. C. 55) dated July 1856, vested the Church Building Commission's powers, duties and functions in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England, who continued the unfinished work of the former Commission.

By the time the Church Building Commission was terminated in 1856 they contributed towards the construction of 615 completed churches and another 80 churches in progress.

Further information concerning the Church Building Commission can be found in Michael Port's 'Six Hundred New Churches: A Study of the Church Building Commission, 1818-1856, and its Church Building Activities', (London, S. P. C. K., London, 1961)
CustodialHistoryThese records were in the ownership of their creators the Church Building Commission from 1818 to 1856; except for the legal papers generated by the Treasury Solicitor (on behalf of the CBC), which went to the Public Record Office. However, since the Commission's termination on 31 December 1856 the records transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (1836 to 1947), who continued the unfinished work of the Church Building Commissioners under an Act of Parliament (19. & 20. Vict. C. 55). The Ecclesiastical Commissioners merged these records within their own filing systems (including many of the Treasury's Solicitor's papers, which were transferred back from the Public Record Office, in the 1860's). However, in 1947 the Church Commissioners Measure, amalgamated the corporate bodies of both the Queen Anne's Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners into the newly formed body of the Church Commissioners (1947 to present). Consequently the Church Building Commissioners' records transferred into the ownership of the Church Commissioners.

In the 1970s the Church Commissioners separated the Church Building Commissioners' plans and drawings from the original archive and transferred them to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The remainder of the archive has stayed together under the ownership of the Church Commissioners up to the present day. Since the late 1980s these records have been housed at the Church of England Record Centre.

However, the archive is somewhat fragmented in places due to the initial merging with the Ecclesiastical Commissioners records and also through some erratic storage arrangements over the years. Consequently, parts of the collection have not survived, including: some of the minute books; one of the surveyor's report books; a drawback register; all of the draft letter books; the building receipts book; and the letters from the Commissioners of Customs and Excise. The Solicitor to the Treasury's legal papers concerning site conveyancing (which were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the 1860s) have also not survived as a whole but some can be occasionally found within the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' five-figure files series pertaining to individual parishes (where the Church Building Commission had involvement with church sites). The collection has been unlisted up to now.
RelatedMaterialCBC/1: Foundation
CBC/2: Corporate Governance
CBC/3 Parliamentary Papers
CBC/4: Corporate Financial
CBC/7: Operational Records
CBC/14: Artefacts

From January 1857 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England took over the work of the defunct Church Building Commission. Therefore the following selected records within the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' five-figure files series are also of interest, they are as follows:

Consolidation and Amendment Bill file no. 9881
Drawbacks General file no. 12107
General file no. 12058
Accounts file no. 12131
Office Establishment 13 Great George Street, Westminster file no. 21507
Benefactions, Bequests &c. file no. 21750
Miscellaneous papers file no. 21744
Office Establishment, organisation &c. file no. 21745
Parliamentary Returns file no. 21746
Office Establishment supply of coal file no. 21747
Public Health Bill file no. 21748
Churches general file no. 21749
Legislative Enactments file no. 21751
Architectship [&] Surveyorship file no. 21819
Pew Rents file no. 21796

Other various five-figure files pertaining to individual parishes, where the Church Building Commissioners built or repaired churches and chapels are also of interest. All the above five-figure files are held at the Church of England Record Centre and are presently unlisted, although a 19th century index to the files exists.

The Church Building Commissioners' plans and drawings are held at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) as the CBC collection. The Church Commissioners transferred these to RIBA in 1972.

Also of relevance is the archive of the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) whose records are held at Lambeth Palace Library. The Library has digitised images of around 13,000 of the Incorporated Church Building Society's plans:
PublnNotePort, M., 'Six Hundred New Churches: A Study of the Church Building Commission, 1818-1856, and its Church Building Activities', (London, S. P. C. K., London, 1961)

Robinson, E. J., 'The Records of the Church Commissioners' in Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. III, no. 7, (April 1968)

Show related Persons records.

Related name records
GB/109/8481HM Commissioners for Building New Churches; 1818-18561818-1856
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