RepositoryChurch of England Record Centre
LevelFonds
Alt Ref NoEDR
Extent0.3 linear meters.
TitleEcclesiastical Duties and Revenues Commission
Date1835-1837
DescriptionThe surviving records of the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenue Commission is only a small proportion of the records that were created and consists of the Letters Patent appointing the two Commissions during 1835; the minute book; two series of minutes of evidence based on the oral testimony given by witnesses subdivided into fair copies of the minutes and the amended copies of the minutes of evidence corrected by the witnesses themselves and three of the four published reports. However only a small proportion of the minutes of evidence survives and occasionally some of the documentation received by the Commission was subsequently filed on the appropriate file in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' main series of files [Refs. EC/7/1/1-]. The surviving minute book only relates to the period 9 February 1835 - 26 January 1836 and the minutes of the successor body the Ecclesiastical Commissioners start on 15 August 1836 [Ref. ECE/2/1/1/1] leaving seven months gap for which no minutes survive.

In the first few months of the Commission Sir Robert Peel as Prime Minster took an active part in the proceedings, however following the change of government on 8 April 1835 a new Commission was appointed on 6 June by the incoming Whig government led by Viscount Melbourne who took a much less active role in the Commission than his predecessor and the Bishops and the lawyers became most active part of its membership. Bishop Blomfield of London became particularly powerful figure in the Commission and caused the Archbishop of York to write: 'Till Blomfield comes we all sit and mend our pens, and talk about the weather.'['The Victorian Church Part 1', by Owen Chadwick, Ch. 2, Section 4, p. 133]. He drove much of the work of the Commission and whose work at this period focused on the diocesan bishops, revision of existing diocesan areas including the proposed creation of new dioceses and the management of the cathedral chapters and rather less on the work of the ordinary parish clergy.

The Commission's proceedings consisted of the Commission hearing witnesses, receiving reports and discussions leading to resolutions that recorded the Commission's conclusions. The Commission appointed a committee of its members who drafted sections of the report and submitted them for approval by the whole Commission before submitting them to Parliament and their subsequent publication. For example on 3 March 1835 the Commission considered two schemes proposing changes to the Diocese of Bristol hearing evidence from the Bishops of Bristol, Gloucester, Hereford and Llandaff and resolving that the Bristol portion of the Diocese should be united with Gloucester and the Dorset portion be united with the Diocese of Salisbury as the 'preferable' plan.

Both the Commission's minute book and the minutes of evidence often give general information about the ministry of the Church of England and across England and Wales. The way the Commission investigated the state of the Church is well illustrated by the business conducted by the Commission on 25 March 1835 [EDR/2/1/1, pages 57-61].

1. The Commission considered a report for the House of Lords.

2. Received Mr William Miles MP for Bristol presenting a petition of parishioners of Blagdon in Somerset for an enquiry into the financial circumstances of the parish and this document still survives on the relevant Ecclesiastical Commissioners' benefice file [Ref. ECE/7/1/644].

3. The minutes record the receipt of 3 letters received from the Bishop of Salisbury concerning the proposed changes to his diocese; Marquis of Bute respecting the proposed arrangements to the Welch dioceses and from Prebendary Warnford in relating to the St. Gabriel, Binbrook, Lincolnshire. However no further action is recorded in each relevant minute.

4. The Archdeacon of Canterbury gave evidence relating to the Diocese and Cathedral of Canterbury which were recorded in short hand and a fair copy of minutes of his evidence survives [Ref. EDR/5/1/1] as well the copy of the minutes of his evidence which he subsequently corrected within a few days of the hearing [Refs. EDR/5/2/1/1-2].

5. Immediately afterwards Mr Roberts, Secretary to the Church Revenue Commission was heard 'to explain the return as it relates to the Chapter of Canterbury'.

6. A further letter was read concerning a vacant stall at Canterbury Cathedral.

7. The Commission then resolved to defer discussion of the vacant stall at Canterbury until the next meeting, reappointed a committee to draft a report the concerning Cathedral Chapters and to fix the date and circulate notice of the next meeting.

Unfortunately most of the contemporary correspondence received by the Commission appears not to have survived and this makes if very difficult to identify any further information beyond that that can be found in the minute book and the surviving minutes of evidence.

The Commission's proceedings give information on a wide variety of subjects. Two witnesses who gave evidence on 22 April 1836 refer to the establishment of the University of Durham. Dr William Gilly gave evidence on the financial circumstances concerning the endowment of the university and gave his personal view that the resources would have been better invested in the establishment of a theological institute. In reply to a question in regarding the efficiency of the university he replied: I don't think it is in such favour as we hoped it would be, and deserves to be' [Ref. EDR/5/2/13]. Rt. Revd, Henry Philpotts, Bishop off Exeter and a former member of the Durham Chapter gave evidence on the same day and opined when asked should the university be kept up: 'My own notion is and has always been that the attempts to have a university in that part of England was utterly unlikely to succeed and that if it succeeded in point of numbers it was not likely to be advantageous to the Kingdom'. Expressing his concern that not all the students would find situations suited for their education and he feared leading to 'so many more persons who would be discontented with that state of things which would be found to exit in this country' [Ref. EDR/5/2/14].

The evidence of Revd Charles Philipps gives an insight into the parish ministry of St. David's Cathedral and the continuing importance of the Welsh language. He appeared before the Commission on 2 May 1836. In reply to a question whether the population of St. David's were 'within reach of the Cathedral for the purpose of Divine Worship? He replied: 'There is a small village near it, but I think the great majority of the people in it scarcely understand English." Consequently the congregation was not large: 'Some of the neighbouring English families come on a Sunday but at the daily duty scarcely any one attends' The Revd' Philipps evidence ranges from the physical condition of the Cathedral, the pattern of services for worship including one in Welsh, the remote location of the cathedral 'It is quite the Lands end of Wales', the linguistical division if the Pembrokeshire into English and Welsh speaking parts and the constitution and management of the Chapter [Ref. EDR/5/1/8].

Even more remote was the Isle of Man and the evidence of Revd. B. Philpot, Archdeacon of Man given on 7 June 1836 concerning the proposed amalgamation of the Diocese of Sodor and Man with the Diocese of Carlisle is a wide ranging source for the state of the island in the mid 1830's. The witness believed the abolition of the diocese 'would be injurious to the island and diocese'. He commented to the Commission that 'the State of Religion in the Diocese of Soder and Man which is at very low ebb.' The heavily annotated set of minutes of evidence commented on island's Methodist tradition: 'Mr Wesley himself was in the island for some time & the connection has existed ever since. The outward frame-work of Methodism is peculiarly agreeable to the people' and the original crossed out text referred to the 'republican character of Methodism', however the Archdeacon Philpot thought better of his initial evidence and his amendments to the draft minutes considerably toned down toned down their initially polemical character. Predictably he argued that a resident bishop was 'a considerable check to irregularity'. Evidence was also given in regard to the distribution of Bishop Barrow's Fund for educational purposes; the influence of the temperance movement in the island; the Bishop's place in Tynwald, the Crown's patronage of most of the benefices; the absence of any formal Poor Law on the English model and consequently the 'most necessitous of the poor' being relieved from church collections and 'interest on benefactions' and the operation of the island's ecclesiastical courts. [Ref. EDR/5/2/18].

The evidence of Revd. Edward Repton relates to his personal financial affairs and the impact of his loss of preferment indirectly due the work of the Commission. As a consequence of his services as Chaplain to the House of Commons he accepted an offer a stall at Westminster Abbey, which although the appointment was signed by the King was withdrawn before being published in the London Gazette due to the intervention of the Bishop of London, and consequently he felt very aggrieved. His evidence provides an insight into the different sources of income for a succcessful clergyman including 'Pupils who paid me £300 a year each, in consequence of my becoming chaplain to the House of Commons I was obliged to give them up and to take a house in Town'. He was Curate of St. Philip's Westminster enjoying an annual stipend of £400, which on his accepting the Abbey stall he placed in the 'hands of Mr Andrews till my son was of age to take the appointment'. This chapel was developed since 1820 to serve an 'increasing population at an expense of £16,000'' mostly raised through voluntary subscriptions. He was also Rector of Miningsby in Lincolnshire with an annual value of £377 [The Clerical Guide and Ecclesiastical Directory 1836, p. 143 and 214). He claimed his financial losses amounted £2-3000 and his evidence provides a glimpse into the common clerical practice of pluralism which is simultaneously enjoying the income of more than one preferment and the culture of regarding church office as part of the family property [Ref. EDR/5/2/16/1-2]. In 1838 Edward Repton received his aspiration and was appointed to a canon's stall at Westminster Abbey.

The records of the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenue Commission although incomplete still provide a very valuable source for the state of the Church England in 1835-1836 with information on the management of the cathedral chapters, the evolving structure diocesan structure, the local circumstances of the Church from the Isle of Man to central London; personal circumstances and views of witnesses concerning the state of the Church and an insight into the gradual reform of the Church of England during the 1830's.
AccrualsNo further accruals expected.
ArrangementThe archive consists of one volume of minutes and 2 boxes arranged into four series of records
LanguageEnglish
AdminHistoryOn 4th February 1835, a Royal Commission was appointed to consider the state of the revenues of dioceses in England and Wales, the more even distribution of Episcopal duties, investigate the state of cathedral and collegiate churches and the best means of improving parish ministry and in particular the providing for the clergy to reside in their benefices. The Ecclesiastical and Revenues Commission was known as the 'Ecclesiastical Commission' and sometimes was called the 'Church Enquiry Commission'. The Commission was later replaced by 'An Act for carrying into Effect the Reports of the Commissioners appointed to consider the State of the Established Church in England and Wales' (6 & 7 William IV, Ch. 77) which received Royal Assent on 13 August 1836. Section 1 of the Act incorporated 'The Ecclesiastical Commissioners' for England' and nominated a new Commission and this new organisation continued to operate with various changes until 1948 when it amalgamated with the Queen Anne's Bounty to form the Church Commissioners.

The Commission presented four reports to Parliament on 17 March 1835, 4 March, 20 May and 24 June 1836. A fifth report was prepared, but its completion was prevented by the death of William IV on 22 June 1837, however this as prepared by the Commission reconstituted by the 1836 Act and its contents were given to the government who used it when preparing subsequent legislation. Recommendations included the Unions of named parishes that reductions should be made in the incomes of certain Deans and Prebendaries, the jurisdictional transfer of certain estates to "poor" benefices and the revision of existing diocesan boundaries including the creation of new dioceses for Manchester and Ripon.
CustodialHistoryThe records were held at the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' 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.
PublnNoteBEST, G. F. A., Temporal Pillars: Queen Anne's Bounty, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Church of England.
CHADWICK, O., The Victorian Church Part 1.

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CodeNameDates
GB/109/21828Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Commission; 1835-18371835-1837
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