RepositoryChurch of England Record Centre
Alt Ref NoECC
Extent2 volumes
TitleEcclesiastical Courts Commission
DescriptionThe records consist of a volume of original minutes (Ref. ECC/2/1/1) and a further volume of copy minutes (Ref. ECC/2/1/2). In addition some of the Commission's documentation survives in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' files concerning the Ecclesiastical Courts [Ref. ECE/7/1/7968]. Also a there is series of files of copies of patents of appointment for ecclesiastical judges and court officials which were probably collected by the Commissioners' in 1831as the date of the appointments are before 1831 [Refs. ECE/7/1/7969/1-4]. The Commission resolved on 28 June 1831 to send a circular 'to the acting Registrars of the Diocesan Courts requesting a Return of the names of all the Surrogates within their several jurisdictions, with an account of their respective stations' [Resolution No. 5].
PhysicalDescription2 bound minutebooks.
AdminHistoryThe Royal Commission was appointed by Letters Patent, dated 28 January 1830 to enquire into the procedures and operations of the Ecclesiastical Courts. The members of the Commission included the Bishops of London, Durham, Lincoln, Exeter and Gloucester, the Chief Justice of the Court of Kings Bench, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, Chief Baron of the Court of the Exchequer and other prominent lawyers such as Dr. Stephen Lushington (1782-1873) who played a major part in the Commissioners' deliberations. The Commission met between 4 February 1830 and 13 February 1832. Following the death of George IV on 26 June 1830, appointments to office under the Crown fell made under the previous reign became vacant and on the succession of William IV the Commission was reappointed by new Letters Patent, dated 5 July 1830.

The Commission on 6 February appointed George Whitehouse as Clerk and Samuel Farr as a Messenger and initially met in a Committee Room in the House of Lords. The provision of an office for the Commission proved difficult and on 30th April it met at the home of one of its members, Dr. Stephen Lushington's and finally from the 3 May it was accommodated in a house in Middle Scotland Yard. The first phase of the Commissioners' work between February and July 1830 appears to have been to collect evidence by a combination of hearing expert witnesses and collecting information from circulars sent to the officials of the various ecclesiastical courts requesting specific information and this was largely completed by 13 July when the Secretary reported 'the greater part of the evidence has been printed and circulated among the Commissioners'. The second phase between July 1831 and February 1832 of the Commissioners' work was to draft their report and to hear further expert witnesses and the final draft of the report was approved on 7 February 1832 and was received by the Lord Chancellor on 16 February 1832.

The Commission's recommendations included the abolition of the High Court of Delegates, with its functions transferred to a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, that all ecclesiastical courts below provincial level be abolished and for the introduction of trial by jury including the admissibility of oral evidence. The major recommendation of the Commission to abolish the High Court of Delegates and transfer the jurisdiction to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were enacted by Statute in 1832 [2 & 3 Will 4 c.92). Other recommendations many of which were not implemented included the appointment and payment of ecclesiastical judges by the Crown, amendments to the law concerning wills, transfer of cases concerning Church Rates to secular courts, the transfer of clergy discipline to the personal jurisdiction of bishops and the abolition of the criminal and defamation jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts.

An account of the Commission's work can be found in the 'Law Politics And The Church of England The Career of Stephen Lushington 1782-1873 by A. M. Waddams,. see publication note for further details.
CustodialHistoryThe records of the Ecclesiastical Courts Commission passed to the custody of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' and were held at their first offices at No. 5 Whitehall Place, Westminster and in 1855 the offices were moved to 11 Whitehall Place where a set of new muniment rooms were constructed. In 1905 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' moved into new offices at No. 1 Millbank, Westminster which were equipped with a set of basement and attic muniment rooms. The records were transferred to the Church of England Record Centre at Bermondsey following its establishment in 1988.
PublnNote'Law Politics And The Church of England The Career of Stephen Lushington 1782-1873' by A. M. Waddams, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 14-22.

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GB/109/21826Ecclesiastical Courts Commission; 1830-18321830-1832
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