Thursday, 29 September 2011

Work, Health and Poverty

The second volume in the Nineteenth Century British Society series has now been published on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poverty-Nineteenth-Century-British-ebook/dp/B005QAMP34/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_3

Kindle Volume 2

It looks at the effects that economic changes had on people’s lives. It explores the ways in which the nature of work was transformed, the character of urban growth, how the changing environment impacted on people’s health and the nature and extent of poverty in nineteenth century society. The problems caused by the changing nature of work, the need for housing, concerns about the public’s health and about the effects of poverty led to growing government intervention in people’s lives. This resulted in legislation to determine working conditions, standards of housing, public health and a new Poor Law system as well as voluntary action to improve the conditions in which people lived and worked.

The book is divided into five chapters:

  1. Working

  2. Urban growth and housing

  3. The public's health

  4. Poverty and the Poor Laws

  5. Voluntary action

Further Reading identifies the most valuable books on these subjects while the detailed notes provide a guide for further research.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

How was the Church reformed from within?

The  High  Church ‘party’ had been in the  vanguard  of  the Church’s  reaction to change since the 1790s and may well  have inhibited  reformist  tendencies before  1830. They distrusted their more evangelical colleagues, whose pastoral concerns seemed to threaten the unreformed Establishment, and were horrified by the structural and administrative reforms of Blomfield and Peel. But it was the problem of the Church of Ireland that led to the emergence of the Tractarian or Oxford movement. [1] The 1833 Church Temporalities Act imposed drastic reforms on the Church of Ireland, reducing its archbishops from four to two and its bishops by ten and creating a body of ecclesiastical commissioners to control a substantial part of the Church’s revenue. These reforms certainly did not spell disaster for Irish Anglicanism and it remained the religion of a socially advantaged but numerically weak minority. [2]  However, in the 1830s, many Anglicans were outraged by these reforms and it was the imminent passage of the Irish Temporalities Bill that prompted John Keble to preach his sermon on ‘National Apostasy’ on Sunday 14 July 1833.  It marked the formal beginnings of the Oxford movement.

The  Hadleigh  conference  in late July led to agreement over the principles of the new movement:  to  proclaim the doctrine of the apostolic succession;  the belief that it was sinful to  give the laity a say in church affairs;  the need  to make  the Church  more popular;  and,  to  protest against  any attempts to disestablish the Anglican  Church. [3] The Oxford movement was a reaction against prevailing religious attitudes. It was part of the general and widespread revival of the ‘corporate’ against the ‘individual’ evangelical spirit of the day.   It was a reaction against the Church as a department of state: as Keble said ‘let us give up a national Church and have a real one’. [4]  It was essentially a spiritual movement, concerned with the invisible world and was thus not only anti-liberal but also paradoxically intensely political. Newman opposed liberalism and erastianism as both struck at the spiritual dimension, the former by enslaving its spiritual guardian, the latter by destroying its dogmatic foundations.   The Tractarians diagnosed an age blighted by worldliness and that contemporary Protestantism was incapable of rescuing it from spiritual decay.

The principal objective of the Oxford movement was the defence of the Church of England as a divinely-founded institution, of the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession and of the Book of Common Prayer as a ‘rule of faith’. The movement postulated the Branch Theory, which states that Anglicanism along with Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism form three ‘branches’ of the one ‘Catholic Church’. Many in the movement argued for the inclusion of traditional aspects of liturgy from medieval religious practice, as they believed the church had become too ‘plain’. The method of the Tractarians was to concentrate on a single article of the Christian creed: ‘I believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church’, by which they meant the maintenance of apostolic order in the Church through the episcopacy.  They used Tracts for the Times to disseminate their views. The first was published in September 1833. By the end of 1833, 20 tracts had been published; 50 by the end of 1834 and 66 by July 1835. Tracts were nothing new: John Wesley had used tracts and the Evangelicals had their Religious Tract Society. What was novel about the Tracts of the Oxford movement was that they were products of the High Church, written and circulated by dons and addressed not to the poor but to educated minds.

The reaction of many to the Oxford movement was to raise the spectre of Popery. [5] The papist and bigoted perceptions of the movement was partially confirmed by the Hampden case of 1835-1836 when leading Tractarians unsuccessfully opposed the appointment of Renn Dickson Hampden as Regius Professor of Divinity in 1836. [6]  Hampden symbolised both the liberal and erastian face of the Church of England. His liberal views had already attracted the attention of the leaders of the Oxford movement after his return to Oxford in 1829. In his Observations on Religious Dissent published in August 1834, he defended the right of non-Anglicans to attend Oxford and this led to a response from Newman in the Elucidations and an acrimonious debate persisted between the two scholars for two years. Newman’s attack had two strands: he opposed the appointment of a clergyman with what he saw as suspect rationalist views especially one who threatened the Anglican hegemony at Oxford, something Newman saw as a threat to Christianity itself and also opposed his appointment by the patronage of a Whig prime minister.  His nomination by Lord John Russell to the vacant see of Hereford in December 1847 was again the signal for organised opposition and his consecration in March 1848 took place despite a remonstrance by many of the bishops.

By the end of 1837, Newman in effect led a ‘party’ within the establishment and this gave anti-Catholic groups further evidence of the increasing Catholicity of the Tractarians. [7] In 1841, Newman published Tract 90, Remarks on Certain Passages in the Thirty-Nine Articles concluding that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, as defined by the Council of Trent, were compatible with the Thirty-Nine Articles of the sixteenth century Church of England. Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845, followed by that of Henry Edward Manning in 1851, had a profound effect upon the movement, strengthening the argument of opponents that the movement sought to ‘Romanise’ the Church but also pointing to its limitations. First, originating within Oxford University, its approach was academic, clerical and conservative. [8] Its appeal was restricted to the educated classes, not so much from deliberate intention as from the interests and sympathies of its protagonists.  It was not until after 1845 that the Anglo-Catholic revival reached out to the poor and got a footing in the slums. [9] Partly because bishops refused to give livings to Tractarian priests, many of them ended up working in the slums. From their new ministries they developed a critique of British social policy, both local and national. Secondly, it was predominantly clerical and, though it did acquire some support from eminent laymen, the Tracts were addressed to clergymen. [10] The movement had to be clerical because if the clergy did not accept its message it is certain no one else would.  Its success in interesting the country’s clergy in theological questions and church principles was one of its major achievements. Finally, it was inevitable that the standpoint of the movement was backward-looking. The problem for Newman started with the Reformation: ‘a limb badly set, it must be broken again in order to be righted’. [11] This retrospection could, and was, seen as conservatism if not reaction by many.

Newman left the Anglican Church for Rome because he concluded that secular interference had tarnished the Church of England’s apostolic character. The Gorham case in the late 1840s seemed to reinforce the claims being made by the movement. There were two distinct strands in the controversy. There was considerable anxiety in the Established Church over the breadth of views that members might hold and still remain members of the Church; how far was the Church of England a ‘broad’ church? The case also raised questions about the relationship between Church and State and particularly the extent to which the State could legitimately wield influence over doctrine and ritual that the Church maintained were its exclusive domain. To what extent could the Church maintain its independence from the political arm of the State? [12]

Despite concerns that some of his views were at odds with Anglican doctrine, George Gorham had been ordained in 1811and held curacies in several parishes and had been made vicar of St, Just in the Exeter diocese in 1846. The following year, Gorham was recommended for Brampford Speke. Upon examining him, Bishop Henry Phillpotts, who had the previous year instituted him at St. Just, took exception to Gorham’s attacks on Tractanianism and particularly his evangelical view that baptismal regeneration was conditional on a conscious experience to confirm the sacrament’s validity. Phillpotts decided that Gorham was unsuitable for the post. Gorham appealed to the ecclesiastical Court of Arches to compel the bishop to institute him but the court confirmed the bishop’s decision and awarded costs against Gorham. This reassured Tractarian fears that Anglican apostolicity was being corrupted by secular authority. But, Gorham then appealed to the Privy Council, which caused great controversy about whether a secular court should decide on the doctrine of the Church of England. Ecclesiastical lawyer Edward Badeley, a member of the Oxford movement, appeared before the Council to argue the Bishop’s cause but eventually on 9 March 1850, the Council in a split decision reversed the Bishop’s and the Arches’ decision declaring that, granting Gorham his institution. Bishop Phillpotts, a committed Tory, repudiated the judgment and threatened to excommunicate the Archbishop of Canterbury and anyone who dared to institute Gorham. Fourteen prominent Anglicans, including Badeley and Henry Edward Manning called upon the Church of England to repudiate the views that the Privy Council had expressed on baptism. Since there was no response from the Church, apart from Phillpotts’ protest, they left the Church of England and joined the Roman Catholic Church. Most Tractarians remained within the Church giving rise to the Anglo-Catholic party that stressed the role of ritual in fostering a sense of the Church as a distinctive, religious community.

The   impact   of the Oxford movement on the Anglican Church was essentially ecclesiastical. [13] It led to the establishment of Anglican religious orders, both of men and women. It incorporated ideas and practices related to the practice of liturgy and ceremony in a move to bring more powerful emotional symbolism and energy to the church. Its effects were so widespread that the Eucharist gradually became more central to worship, vestments became common and numerous Catholic practices were re-introduced into worship. This led to controversies within churches that ended up in court, as in the dispute about ritualism. The Tractarians also played an important role in the provision of theological training for the clergy. Chichester (1839), Wells (1840), Cuddesdon (1854) and Salisbury (1860) were all founded on definite high church principles. [14] Before 1830, the role of clergymen within society can perhaps best be described as ‘social’ rather than ’spiritual’. The Oxford movement provided clergy with a new concept of their social role that was not quasi-political but profoundly spiritual. This new concept of priestly vocation goes a long way to explain clerical support for Tractarianism. Evangelical assertions that the laity was becoming priest-ridden were not without foundation. [15]


[1] Nockles, Peter B., The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship, 1760-1857, (Cambridge University Press), 1997, sets the context. On the Oxford movement, see Yates, N., The Oxford Movement and Anglican Ritualism, (The Historical Association), 1983, for a brief summary. Faber, G., Oxford Apostles, (Faber), 1933, and Church, R.W., The Oxford Movement: Twelve Years 1833-1845, 1891, a classic, loyalist account in a modern edition edited by G. F. A. Best in 1970, are both valuable. Skinner, Simon A., Tractarians and the ‘condition of England’: the social and political thought of the Oxford movement, (Oxford University Press), 2004, is an invaluable modern study but see also, Carter, Grayson, Anglican Evangelicals: Protestant secessions from the via media, c.1800-1850, (Oxford University Press), 2001, pp. 249-311. Chadwick, O., Newman, (Oxford University Press), 1983, is a brief biography focussing on his ideas and his The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, (Cambridge University Press), 1990, contains a collection of important essays. Ker, I., John Henry Newman, (Oxford University Press), 1990, is the definitive biography of a seminal figure in the development of the Oxford movement and Roman Catholicism.

[2] Kriegel, Abraham D., ‘The Irish Policy of Lord Grey’s Government’, English Historical Review, Vol. 86, (1971), pp. 22-45, Condon, Mary D., ‘The Irish Church and the Reform Ministries’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 3, (1964), pp. 140-162, and Davis, R. W., ‘The Whigs and religious issues, 1830-35’, in Davis, R. W., and Helmstadter, R.J., (eds.), Religion and Irreligion in Victorian Society: Essays in honour of R. K. Webb, (Routledge), 1992, pp. 29-50.

[3] Nockles, Peter B., ‘The Oxford Movement as Religious Revival and Resurgence’, Studies in Church History, Vol. 44, (2008), pp. 214-224.

[4] On attitudes to the state, see Nockles, P. B., ‘Pusey and the Question of Church and States’, in Butler, P., (ed.), Pusey Rediscovered, (SPCK), 1982, pp. 255-297, Rowlands, J. H. L., Church, State and Society: Ther Attitudes of John Keble, R. H. Froude and J. H. Newman, 1827-45, (Churchman Publishing), 1989.

[5] See, Freeman, Peter, ‘The response of Welsh nonconformity to the Oxford movement’, Welsh History Review, Vol. 20, (2001), pp. 435-465, and ‘The effect of the Oxford Movement on some election campaigns in Wales in the mid-nineteenth century’, National Library of Wales Journal, Vol. 31, (2000), pp. 369-380.

[6] Jebb, Richard, A report of the case of the Right Rev. R. D. Hampden, D.D., Lord Bishop elect of Hereford: in Hereford Cathedral, the ecclesiastical courts, and the Queen’s Bench, (William Benning and Co.), 1849, Cratchley, W. J., ‘The trials of R. D. Hampden’, Theology, Vol. 35, (1937), pp. 211-226, and Thomas, Stephen, Newman and Heresy: The Anglican Years, (Cambridge University Press), 1991, pp. 71-79.

[7] On Newman’s journey to Catholicism, see, Cameron, J. M., ‘John Henry Newman and the Tractarian movement’, in Smart, N., et al., (eds.), Nineteenth Century Religious Thought in the West, (Cambridge University Press), 1985, pp. 69-111, Ramsey, A. M., ‘John Henry Newman and the Oxford Movement’, Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 59, (1990), pp. 330-344, Blehl, Vincent Ferrer, Pilgrim journey: John Henry Newman, 1801-1845, (Burns & Oates), 2001, and Short, Edward, Newman and his Contemporaries, (Continuum), 2011.

[8] Nockles, Peter B., ‘“Lost causes and...impossible loyalties”: the Oxford Movement and the university’, in ibid, Brock, M. G., and Curthoys, Mark C., (eds.), The history of the University of Oxford, Vol. 6: nineteenth-century Oxford, part I, pp. 195-267.

[9] Simpson, W. J. S., The history of the Anglo-Catholic revival from 1845, (Allen & Unwin), 1932, and Reed, J. S., ‘“Ritualism rampant in East London”: Anglo-Catholicism and the urban poor’, Victorian Studies, Vol. 31, (1988), pp. 375-403.

[10] Hutchison, W. G., (ed.), The Oxford Movement, Being a selection from Tracts for the Times, (The Scott Library), 1906, and Fulweiler, H. W., ‘Tractarians and Philistines: the Tracts for the Times versus Victorian middle-class values’, Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Vol. 31, (1962), pp. 36-53.

[11] Froude, Richard H., Remains of the late Reverend Richard Hurrell Froude, 2 Vols., (J. G. & F. Rivington), 1838, Vol. 1, p. 433.

[12] Jordan, Andrew, ‘George Cornelius Gorham, Clerk v Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter: A Case of Anglican Anxieties’, Ecclesiastical Law Journal, Vol. 5, (1998), pp. 104-111. See also, Search, John, [Thomas Binney], The Great Gorham Case: A History in Five Books including Expositions of the Rival Baptismal Theories by a Looker-On, (Partridge and Oakey), 1850, and Nias, J. C. S., Gorham and the Bishop of Exeter, (SPCK), 1951.

[13] Knight, Frances, ‘The influence of the Oxford Movement in the parishes, c.1833-1860: a reassessment’, in Va├»ss, Paul, (ed.), From Oxford to the people: reconsidering Newman & the Oxford Movement, (Gracewing), 1996, pp. 127-140. Ibid, Chadwick, O., The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, pp. 289-306, and Yates, Nigel, The Oxford Movement and parish life: St Saviour’s, Leeds, 1839-1929, (St Anthony’s Hall Publications), 1975.

[14] See, Chapman, Mark D., (ed.), Ambassadors of Christ: commemorating 150 years of theological education in Cuddesdon, 1854-2004, (Ashgate), 2004.

[15] Toon, P., Evangelical Theology, 1833-1856: A Response to Tractarianism, (Marshall, Morgan & Scott), 1979, considers this issue.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nineteenth Century British Society: Volume 1 published

British Nineteenth Century Society is a series of e-books that seek to explain the major social developments that occurred during the nineteenth and early-twentieth century.

Kindle Opening Liverpool Manchester

Economy, Population and Transport provides the economic and demographic framework of Victorian society and the context for the other volumes in the series. It explores why Britain had become a heavily industrialised and urbanised society as a result of revolutions in the economy that began early in the eighteenth century and the nature of those changes. It examines how and why population increased considering fertility, mortality and migration providing case studies of infanticide, how women were represented and Irish migration to Britain. The challenges facing agriculture and industry in the decades after the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the impact of growing foreign competition forms an important feature of the volume. The chapter on communication considers the importance of road, water and rail as means of economic and social communication in a society in which horse-drawn transport, personified by the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’, the ubiquitous commuter retained an important place. The book ends with a chapter that reviews the end of the nineteenth century.

The book is available from Kindle stores on Amazon worldwide.  In the UK it’s available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Economy-Population-Transport-Nineteenth-ebook/dp/B005NZKZ8O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1316508954&sr=1-1

Monday, 19 September 2011

Nineteenth Century British Society

Over the past years I have written a series of blogs on Nineteenth century British Society and these will continue.  During that time I have been asked on several occasions whether the blogs would be published as a book.  This is always an appealing request for an author but the material is too substantial for an established publisher to expend its resources on the publication of the material as a single volume.  As a result I decided that the best way to address the requests was to publish the material myself. 

Kindle Volume 2

The result is a series of five volumes on Nineteenth Century British Society  that will be published over the next six months:

Volume 1: Economy, Population and Transport
Volume 2: Work, Health and Poverty
Volume 3: Education, Crime and Leisure
Volume 4: Class
Volume 5: Government and Religion

Each volume will consist of between four and six chapters and will provide a detailed, up-to-date discussion of key developments in nineteenth and early-twentieth century Britain.

  • The key features of each volume:
  • Clear account of key developments
  • Most sections posed as questions
  • Widespread use of contemporary sources and illustrations
  • Kindle format allowing for easy updating
  • Low cost

The volumes will be available via Amazon

Kindle Volume 3

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

In what ways did the Church of England reform itself?

By the early 1830s, despite the work of these individuals and groups, there was a feeling that the Church was faced with the alternatives of thorough reform or ‘complete destruction’. [1] This fear was sufficient to remove the obstacles to organisational change and pastoral renewal that had long prevented its adjustment to industrial and urban society. The ecclesiastical and political crises of 1828-1832 were closely connected. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828, though they had little impact on the daily lives of Anglicans and Nonconformists, gave legitimacy to the ‘de facto’ situation. Catholic Emancipation in 1829 ended the civil disabilities against Catholics even if it had little impact on anti-Catholic sentiments and arguably may have increased them. This dramatically symbolised the failure of the old monopolistic and exclusive conception of the Establishment and its replacement by a pluralistic conception of religion. The blind  conservatism of the  Church of England’s leadership during the reform agitation,  a conservatism motivated by a fear that the country was near revolution and that the  church faced disestablishment,  the 1832 Reform Act and  the Whig  electoral landslide meant that moderate reform  could  no longer  be avoided. [2]   The State increasingly took control of this ‘metamorphosis’ and the initiative for reform.  The restructuring of the Establishment was something imposed by a Parliament that could not afford to wait for some consensus on reform to emerge within the Church itself. [3]

In June 1832, an Ecclesiastical Revenues Commission was established, but for two and a half years it had achieved little concrete. It investigated the financial structure of the Establishment but, as the debate about the Church intensified outside Parliament, proposals for reform were either defeated or allowed to lapse.   The breakthrough came with the setting up of a new Commission to ‘consider the State of the Established Church’ in early 1835 during the minority Peel administration.  It consisted of senior churchmen and Anglican politicians, including Peel, whose task was to prepare bills ready to present to Parliament to tackle the abuses that had been shown to be widespread in the Church of England. For Peel, it was essential for there to be ‘judicious reform’ to give ‘real stability to the Church in its spiritual character…I believe enlarged political interests will be best promoted by strengthening the hold of the Church of England upon the love and veneration of the community’. [4] Peel recognised that unless something was done quickly church reform might fall into the hands of politicians less sympathetic to the Anglican cause and possibly jeopardise the position of the Church as an Established body. By establishing a permanent body that involved the Church of England in initiating its own reform, Peel sought to encourage a greater sense of responsibility among Anglican leaders and hopefully shield the Church against further damaging attacks. [5]

The Ecclesiastical Commission survived the change in government in April 1835 and in 1836,  Melbourne  established it on a  permanent  basis  as  the Ecclesiastical Commission and, under the chairmanship of Charles James Blomfield,  bishop of London,  it quickly became the  main instrument of organisational improvement in the Church. [6] It never became a government department answerable to Parliament through a minister and retained a degree of independence thought necessary if reform was to triumph over the opposition of vested interests in the House of Lords and in the Church at large. But, since the Church possessed no effective assembly or courts of its own, the initiative at the most vital points in the development of this body had to come from government. Major reforms of the Church’s structure occurred in the second half of the 1830s and during Peel’s ministry (1841-1846). The boundaries of existing dioceses were modified and new dioceses created in 1836; severe restrictions were placed on pluralism in 1838 and in 1840, excess revenues were distributed from cathedrals to those with greater needs. The Whigs also introduced the Registration Act in 1836 placing   the registration of births, marriages and deaths in the hands of civil officials and not the Church and in 1838 the Dissenters’ Marriage Act ended the obligation of nonconformists to marry in an Anglican church. [7] A Populous Parishes Act was passed in 1843 empowering the Ecclesiastical Commission to create new parishes and providing the necessary stipends (payment for the vicar or curate) out of Church funds but it was clear to Peel that the cost of building new churches would have to be covered by the more efficient use of the Church’s existing resources and charitable contributions. [8] An impressive fund-raising campaign resulted in £25 million being spent on building and restoration work between 1840 and 1876. Improving the quality of the clergy proved a gradual process and the ideal of a fully-resident clergy remained difficult to put into practice and pluralism and non-residence remained relatively common until the 1870s. It should not be assumed that this necessarily resulting in poor standards of clerical attention to their parochial duties. Many of the rural clergy lived only a short distance from their parishes and were as efficient as they would have been had they been technically resident.

Of crucial importance in attempting to re-establish the popular position of the Church was resolving its financial grievances caused by the unpopularity of church rates and tithes. Though compulsory church rates were not abolished until 1868, legal judgements made it clear that they could only be collected where authorised by the churchwardens and a majority of the vestry. As Dissenters were eligible to vote for both, in some towns such as Birmingham the rate lapsed.  This was preferable to Nonconformists than the scheme that the House of Commons seriously considered for repairing all parish churches from publiv funds. [9] The Tithe Commutation Act 1836 ended tithes in kind replacing them with money payments based on the average prices of corn, oats and barley over the previous seven years. [10]

The approach of the Commission was both radical and realistic.  The decision to use excessive endowments to help poorer parishes resulted in 5,300 parishes being assisted in this way between 1840 and 1855.   By 1850, the numbers of non-resident clergy had fallen significantly strengthening the work of the Anglican ministry. The increase in the pastoral efficiency of the clergy was accompanied by a decline in their status relative to other professions.   The number of clergymen on the County Bench fell. The Church was saved in the 1830s and 1840s by giving up some of its social and secular administrative functions and by a further surrendering of its autonomy to the State. The religious dimension of the priestly office had become paramount. However, these initiatives did little to stem the numerical slide of the Church of England in urban and increasingly rural areas.


[1] On the problem of church reform see, Virgin, P., The Church in an Age of Negligence: ecclesiastical structure and the problems of church reform, (Cambridge University Press), 1989.

[2] Burns, R. Arthur, ‘The authority of the church’, in Mandler, Peter, (ed.), Liberty and authority in Victorian Britain, (Oxford University Press), 2006, pp. 179-200.

[3] For the role of the state see Brose, O., Church and Parliament: The Reshaping of the Church of England 1828-1860, (Cambridge University Press), 1959, Thompson, K. A., Bureaucracy and Church Reform: A Study of the Church of England 1800-1965, (Oxford University Press), 1970, and Machin, G. I. T., Politics and the Churches in Great Britain 1832 to 1868, (Oxford University Press), 1977.

[4] Parker, C. S., (ed.), Sir Robert Peel: from his private papers, 3 Vols., (John Murray), 1899, Vol. 2, p. 266.

[5] Dibdin, L. T., and Downing, S. E., The Ecclesiastical Commission: a sketch of its history and work, (Macmillan), 1919. See also, Manning, H. E., The Principle of the Ecclesiastical Commission examined, (J. G. & F. Rivington), 1838.

[6] Blomfield, Alfred, (ed.), A memoir of Charles James Blomfield, Bishop of London [1828-56], with selections from his correspondence, 2 Vols. (John Murray), 1863, and Johnson, Malcolm, Bustling intermeddler? The life and work of Charles James Blomfield, (Gracewing), 2001.

[7] Cullen, M. J., ‘The making of the Civil Registration Act of 1836’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 25, (1974), pp. 39-60, and Ambler, R. W., ‘Civil registration and baptism: popular perceptions of the 1836 act for registering births, deaths and marriages’, Local Population Studies, Vol. 39, (1987), pp. 24-31.

[8] Welch, P. J., ‘Blomfield and Peel: a study in cooperation between Church and State, 1841-6’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 12, (1961), 71-84.

[9] Brent, Richard, ‘The Whigs and Protestant dissent in the decade of reform: the case of church rates, 1833-1841’, English Historical Review, Vol. 102, (1987), pp. 887-910.

[10] At first this commutation reduced problems to the ultimate payers by folding tithes in with rents (however it could cause transitional money supply problems by raising the transaction demand for money). Later the decline of large landowners resulted in many tenants becoming freeholders and having to pay directly; this also led to renewed objections of principle by non-Anglicans. In 1936, the rent charges paid to landowners were converted by the Tithe Commutation Act to annuities paid to the state through the Tithe Redemption Commission. These payments were transferred to the Board of Inland Revenue in 1960 and finally ended by the Finance Act 1977. In Ireland, tithes were abolished in 1869 when the Church of Ireland was disestablished. In Scotland, teinds were not finally abolished until 2000.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

What role did individuals play in Anglican church reform?

The Church could not resist the pressures for reform since it was not united in maintaining its authoritarian and conservative position. Critical opinion from evangelicals and from the laity led to concentration on the reform and reinvigoration of the parish. The Church of England and the Church of Ireland had been joined by the Act of Union. It became increasingly necessary to reform the gross abuses  and alter  the political position of the Church of Ireland and  this, by  extension,  raised  the  same  question in relation  to  the Anglican Church. Since it had no governing body of its own, the Church had to depend on Parliament and party politicians for support in its reactionary attitudes. The Church might claim to be aloof from public opinion, but after 1832 politicians could not afford to be.

Initially, reform of the Church was left to individuals. The Church of England still commanded considerable support among lay people who remained willing to donate large sums of their money and, in some cases their time and skill, to maintaining and extending its fabric. Charles Simeon, the Vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, sought to improve the quality of those entering the Church. [1]   There was little professional training for clergymen in the late eighteenth century and Simeon supplied the need in Cambridge with instruction to improve the quality and delivery of sermons. His example probably encouraged the establishment of the first specialist theological colleges at St Bees in 1816 and Lampeter in 1828. Simeon maintained that good evangelical clergymen were necessary but he also believed in the need to ensure that there was continuity of ‘gospel ministers’ in livings if the work of the Church was to be maintained.   The idea of a corporation or trust to secure advowsons had already been operated but in 1817, Simeon began his trust with the purchase of the patronage of Cheltenham. Simeon was perhaps more aware than many of his contemporaries of the need to secure a foothold in the growing industrial towns. His most important successes came as a result of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 that compelled corporations to give up their patronage. He and, after his death in  1836, his  successors secured  Bath,  Derby, Macclesfield, Bridlington, Beverley and two parishes in Liverpool. He was very conscious of the need to operate within the framework of the Church of England and disliked the insistence of evangelicals who believed that their commission to preach the gospels meant that they could override parochial boundaries.  He insisted on church order and this probably deterred many Anglican Evangelicals leaving the Church of England.

Lay influence on the Church of England was felt from the systematic nationwide penetration of the Anglican evangelicals associated loosely with William Wilberforce. The British and Foreign Bible Society [2] and the Church Missionary Society, [3] founded in 1803 and 1811, independently of the success they enjoyed abroad, played a major part in extending evangelical influence in Britain.   The Bible Society sought to disseminate copies of the Bible without note or comment; by 1825 it had issued over four million.   Many non-evangelical clergymen disliked this since they emphasised the importance of the Book of Common Prayer as well as the Bible and were suspicious of the co-operation with Dissenters that the Society encouraged. The Evangelical campaign sought to bring the working population within the orbit of the Established Church with the aim of keeping them in their place.  

Evangelicalism was seen as an antidote to revolution from the 1790s.   Hannah More (1745-1833) and her sister Martha played a considerable role in educating people for their place in society. [4] In 1795, she started the Cheap Repository Tracts in response to cheap radical literature especially Paine’s Rights of Man.  All 114 tracts had the same evangelical and conservative intention and an annual circulation of over two million copies. By 1830, the evangelicals had directed their attention at all sections of society. Wealth, social and political contacts, and the crisis occasioned by the French Revolution, helped them to spread their ideas among the aristocratic elite. The anti-slavery campaigns mobilised middle-class opinion and the Cheap Repository Tracts provided ‘proper’ reading for the working population.

Joshua Watson (1771-1855) was concerned to improve the ability of the Church to appeal to the growing urban population. [5] A wine merchant with wide commercial and financial interests, he retired from business in 1814 to devote himself to good works. He appealed to High Churchmen, in contrast to the Evangelicals, and the group that gathered at his house in Hackney became known as the Hackney Phalanx that publicise their activities through the British Critic. Watson was prominent in the formation of the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in 1811.   Its purpose was to encourage parishes to start their own schools and within three years it had raised sufficient contributions to establish 360 schools in that there were 60,000 pupils and nearly a million twenty years later. It was not supported by the state until the government introduced grants in 1833. Though the 1839 Whig educational proposals were mangled by Anglican opposition, a committee of the Privy Council did take over the supervision of education and Watson’s resignation in 1842 coincided with the assertion of the authority of the State in education.

The  other  charitable  effort  that  Watson  led  was  the movement  to  build new churches.   There was little point in educating children into the Anglican faith if, when they grew up, they could not become regular churchgoers.   This was a very difficulty enterprise for private charity, even if money could be found.   Until 1818, a new parish had to be created by Parliament and to build a new church in an existing parish required the consent of the patron and the incumbent, either of whom might feel their rights were being infringed. In 1818, Watson formed an Incorporated Church Building Society and in the same year, the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool established an official commission with a grant of £1 million with a further £0.5 million added in 1824. [6]  Parliamentary grants were virtually used up by 1828 and were not renewed, but such was the stimulus given to private subscribers that the commission did not finish its work until 1857. By then it had built 612 new churches accommodating 600,000 people. This figure does not exhaust the total number of churches built as many were built or rebuilt by private means.


[1] Carus, William, (ed.), Memoirs of the life of... Charles Simeon...with a selection from his writings and correspondence, (Hatchard and Son), 1847, is an essential if partial source. Moule, H. C. G., Charles Simeon, (Methuen), 1892, and Hopkins, H. E., Charles Simeon of Cambridge, (Hodder & Stoughton), 1977, remain good studies of his life. Piper, John, Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce, (Crossway Books), 2006, is a more recent study placing Simeon in his evangelical context.

[2] Canton, William, The History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 5 Vols., (Murray), 1904-1910, Howsam, Leslie, Cheap bibles: nineteenth-century publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society, (Cambridge University Press), 1991, and Batalden, Stephen, Cann, Kathleen, and Dean, John, (eds.), Sowing the word: the cultural impact of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1804-2004, (Sheffield Phoenix), 2004.

[3] Elbourne, Elizabeth, ‘The foundation of the Church Missionary Society: the Anglican missionary impulse’, in ibid, Walsh, John, Haydon, Colin, and Taylor, Stephen, (eds.), The Church of England, c.1689-c.1833: from toleration to Tractarianism, pp. 247-264, and Stock, Eugene, The History of the Church Missionary Society: its Environment, its Men and its Work, 4 Vols., (Church Missionary Society), 1899-1916.

[4] Stott, Anne, Hannah More: The First Victorian, (Oxford University Press), 2003, is an excellent biography; pp. 169-190, consider the Cheap Repository Tracts. See also, Pedersen, Susan, ‘Hannah More meets Simple Simon: tracts, chapbooks, and popular culture in late eighteenth-century England’, Journal of British Studies, Vol. 25, (1986), pp. 84-113.

[5] Churton, Edward, Memoir of Joshua Watson, 2 Vols., (J. H. and J. Parker), 1861, and Webster, A. B., Joshua Watson: the story of a layman, 1771-1855, (SPCK), 1954.

[6] Port, M. H., 600 New Churches: the Church Building Commission, 1818-1856, 1961, rev. ed., (Spire Books), 2006.