Friday, 29 August 2008

Roman Catholicism 1800-1850

The period between 1780 and 1850 has been characterised by John Bossy as representing the ‘birth of a denomination’ for Catholicism.[1]   As with Protestant Dissent, Catholicism went through a period of growth in membership, conflict between lay and clerical influences and organisational change.   Bossy has called into question two ideas about nineteenth century English Catholicism. First,  he maintains that the notion propagated by Newman, Wiseman and others in mid-century of a ‘Second Spring’, a miraculous  rebirth of Catholicism dating from about 1840  is  a piece  of tendentious ecclesiastical propaganda. Secondly,  he argues  that,  though commonly accepted by historians, the  view that modern English Catholicism was ‘a  cutting  from  the  Catholicism of  Ireland  transplanted  by emigration  into  an  alien land that had long  ceased  to  have anything  worth mentioning to offer in the way of  an  indigenous Catholic tradition.’ This view is in  need  of  substantial modification  if  only  because it neglects the  evidence for  a vibrant,   if  not  always  successful,   tradition  of   English Catholicism that went back to the sixteenth century.

Numerical and geographical transformation

In 1770 there were about 80,000 Catholics in England.  By 1850 this had multiplied ten times to about three quarters of a million.  This represented a radical numerical transformation. Geographical distribution was also transformed, though less radically.   Catholicism developed in areas where it had been barren since the Reformation: in the industrial areas of the West Riding and south-east Lancashire, in the east Midlands, in south Wales and, to a certain extent, in London.   Its focus in  its areas  of  traditional strength -- the  rest  of  Lancashire, the north-east  and  west Midlands -- moved from  the  countryside to towns  and  manufacturing districts.   This numerical and local transformation brought about social transformation and congregations of labourers, artisans, tradesmen and the poor topped up with a stratum of business and professional families replaced congregations of gentry, farmers, agricultural labourers and rural craftsmen.

Bossy   argues   that  this  was  in  the  first   place   a transformation  of the English Catholic community and would  have occurred  had  no  Irish immigrants  arrived.   By 1770 English Catholicism was already expanding because of demographic growth and the efforts of Catholic clergy and its social structure was already in the process of change.   Irish immigration reinforced trends already evident.   By 1851 in urban Lancashire a ratio of three Irish-descended to one English-descended Catholic and though English Catholics were a minority in the movement they were a considerable minority. Irish immigrants and English Catholics were initially divided  to a certain extent by language,  by differing  economic status  -- this should not be over-exaggerated since  both groups contained  people of a wide range of incomes and  occupations  -- by  different  social  and  political  attitudes,   by  different attitudes to the clergy and by simple mutual dislike.  They were unified by intermarriage, by common schooling and by the process of assimilation. In some areas -- Cardiff and south Wales, in Cumberland and the West Riding -- purely Irish communities, with Irish priests and nationalistic self-consciousness did not have any real contact with English Catholicism until after 1851. They were, however, the exception and the norm especially in larger cities was a mixed and stratified community.

Towards clericalism

The numerical transformation upset the balance of power within the Catholic community.   In 1770 it was still dominated by its secular aristocracy and by 1850 it was dominated by its clergy. It was a paradox of the movement for   Catholic Emancipation  that  although the lay Catholics who conducted  the campaign went  to considerable  lengths  to  emphasise their detachment  from papal jurisdiction it was the clergy who  really gained in authority.   The appeals to Rome to decide on the acceptability of new oaths, the need for organisation and the emergence of a Catholic middle-class divorced from the old landed families. All tended to give the clergy an enhanced role and prepared the way for the centralisation of the Church in the mid-nineteenth century.

In 1820 the English Catholic clergy was a small body, only 400 strong.   There had been little increase in the number of priests since 1770, a consequence of the disintegration of the continental   training establishments. Three   secular-clergy seminaries, at Ware, Ushaw and Oscott were functioning by 1810 but they were unable to provide more that a trickle of new priests. The years after 1830 saw a new mood of self-confidence among Catholic seculars as they sought a return to ordinary government of the Church by canon law and territorial episcopate and some degree of independence from the rule of Rome. The first half of the century was marked by continued antipathy between the seculars and the regular orders, priests who were members of one of the Catholic religious orders.   In 1838  Rome  issued  two decrees that gave new privileges to the regular clergy operating in   England  and  allowed  them  to open  chapels  without  the permission of bishops.   Two years later the seculars petitioned Rome requesting that in future no regulars should be appointed as Vicars Apostolic.   There was a widespread belief among seculars that regular clergy were anti-episcopal.   The dispute between them was not resolved until 1881 when the regulars had to conduct their missions on the same basis of others and their chapels and schools were placed under episcopal control.

The movement towards the ‘restoration of a hierarchy’ in England can be seen, in part, as a secular attempt to gain full control over the English Church.  In 1837 the Vicars  Apostolic approached  Pope Gregory  XVI  but,  though he  was willing  to increase the number of Vicariates to increase efficiency, he was unwilling to re-establish a hierarchy for fear of Crown interference in appointments.  In 1840 the Eastern, Central, Welsh and Lancastrian Districts were established: the number of Vicariates was doubled.   Full restoration was still sought  by English bishops because of the need to bring Roman discipline and influence to bear on the centralising of missions and because  of the  need for additional armour against the regulars.   In 1847 Pius IX was persuaded of the case but it was not until 1850 that the hierarchy was restored.   The following year the government passed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act that reinforced the existing prohibition of Catholics assuming territorial titles held by the clergy of the Church of England. For ‘Old’ Catholics and the remnants of the Catholic gentry the restored hierarchy marked the final eclipse of their power over the Church.   It was the symbol of Roman hegemony.

[1] On Catholicism in the nineteenth century see E.R. Norman Roman Catholicism in England, OUP, 1985 and J. Bossy The English Catholic Community, London, 1975. E.R. Norman The English Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century, OUP, 1984 and his Anti-Catholicism in Victorian England, Allen and Unwin, 1968 are more detailed. D.G. Paz Popular Anti-Catholicism in Mid-Victorian England, Stanford, 1992 and W.L. Arnstein Protestant versus Catholic in mid-Victorian England, University of Missouri Press, 1982 are excellent on anti-popery.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Methodist ‘Pope’: repression and secession

Jabez Bunting was undoubtedly sincere in his own support for the  Methodist mission  at  home and abroad,  but  he  was  also convinced  that he was indispensable to that  mission’s  success. Though the formal basis of his power was not large, the control that he exerted over the direction that Methodism took after 1820 was both absolute and clerical. He was often called the ‘Pope of Methodism’.  He was secretary of the Methodist Conference after 1814 and of the missionary society that emerged on a nationwide scale.   He was president of the Conference for the first time in 1820 and again in 1828, 1836 and 1844. He was a member of every important committee, weighty speaker at every Conference, edited the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, and had a decisive influence on the ‘stationing’ of ministers.   He managed Conference because the majority supported his  policies,  because he  mastered  every subject,  because he was  more  moderate  in proposals  than  in  manner and because he  was  a realist.  He persuaded the Wesleyans to open a ‘theological institution’ with himself as active president in 1834. Bunting established both a spiritual ideal and a disciplinary system, ruthlessly punishing any who dared to criticise him.

Bunting redefined the government of the Connexion.  The Conference,  which consisted  of  the Legal Hundred and  other preachers,  had  to  some  extent been  reformed  in  1814.  But government remained under Bunting government by senior churchmen and Conference aimed at strong government as the only way of directing Methodist expansion.   The burden and responsibility over the local Methodist societies and chapels was carried by local laymen though Conference chose district committees to act during the year.   To overrule a decision by  determined  local officers  who controlled  the money  invited collision  between Conference  and  its  congregations,  between central and  local government,  between  high  clerics and  low  laymen.  Bunting’s control over the Stationing committee enabled him to press the authority of itinerant ministers and diminish that of congregations.   In 1818 preachers were authorised to entitle themselves ’the Reverend’.  In 1836 Conference approved the laying on of hands in all ordinations of ministers.  High Methodists preferred clerical costume but opposition from anti-ritualists in the northern congregations resulted in the 1842 Conference banning them.

As Conference met for only a few days a year and most of the preachers who attended lacked experience of business, real power lay with a permanent executive dominated by Bunting.  When Bunting was absent from sessions of the Conference it was found that it could not conduct sensible business.   The problem with this control was that it allowed little room for opposition or independence. Conference tended to agree with what the executive proposed. The consequence of this was a growing conflict between central government and local initiative.   In any local  dispute Bunting  upheld  the  right  of ministers  to  instruct  and  to discipline their members. In 1827, for example, he insisted that the Brunswick Chapel in Leeds should have an organ, though most of the Methodists there considered it a symbol of clericalism, if not Popery, and in protest formed their own denomination, the Protestant Methodists.   In 1835 one of his opponents, Samuel Warren of Manchester, was expelled by the Conference and the Lord Chancellor upheld that decision.   Warren and  his supporters wanted local societies to be given more  independence, Methodist  money  to  be controlled  by  laymen,  no  legislation without  the consent of a majority of the local societies and the theological institution to be abandoned. These two groups joined and the Wesley Methodist Association was the consequence. For those who did not wish to be expelled from Methodism it seemed safer to let Bunting dominate and define Wesleyanism. Teetotalism posed a further threat to the unity of the Connexion in the late 1830s and early 1840s.  In England it was usually led by Methodists and old dissenters and in Cornwall it resulted in members deserting ministers who would not sign the pledge and give the sacraments with unfermented wine.   Conference in 1841 prohibited unfermented wine but a prudent Cornish superintendent prevented worse schism by turning a blind eye to some usage of the banned wine.   In 1842, however, a group of about 600 separated from Conference and organised as the Teetotal Wesleyan Methodists.

Ways of worship within Methodism were as diverse as those in the Established Church by the 1840s. At one extreme some chapels were solemn and liturgical and used the Book of Common Prayer. At the other end the worship was revivalist. Irrespective, women did not become eminent as local preachers in Wesleyan, though they did in Primitive Methodism.  Bunting, though he stood for order, recognised the rightfulness of revivals.  It was the extent of revivalism that, by the 1840s, he questioned. He disapproved of ranting and sought to repress it and was careful to disassociate himself from the emotionalism of Primitive Methodists. The most serious opposition to Bunting and the most serious secession came in the 1840s.  Both the Wesleyan Times and anonymous pamphlets or Fly Sheets attacked Bunting’s personality and policies furiously. Though he never acknowledged authorship, James Everett, a disgruntled preacher and satirist, was accused and in 1849 was expelled along with two contributors to the Wesleyan Times.   The venom of the dispute between Conference and Everett was intense and was a reflection of discontent with Bunting’s regime.  The result was the formation of the Wesleyan Reformers and led to up to a third of Wesleyan Methodists leaving the Conference. Some  seceders formed the Wesleyan Congregationalist churches, other gravitated towards the Primitive  Methodists and in 1857 Everett succeeded  in  joining with  those who had walked out with Warren in forming the United Methodist Free Church,  Liberal in politics and lay in emphasis. Everett became the first president of almost 40,000 members.

The Wesleyan splits left the seceders more radical and those who remained more conservative.   But they also aroused many feelings of bitterness and disillusionment.   Wearmouth called it a ‘spiritual earthquake that shook the very foundations’.  They may  also  have  diverted Methodism  from evangelism among  the working  population,  though  even at the nadir of  the  reaction against  Bunting in  1855 there were still  some  260,000  adult Wesleyans who accepted his control of their national life and the local rule of ministers acceptable to him. Bunting’s policies of establishing Wesleyan Methodism as a religious grouping between dissent and the Established Church had been bought at the cost of theological repression and expulsion but in the Methodism he had refashioned many people found an acceptable spiritual home.

The situation in 1851

Methodism accounted for nearly a quarter of the total attendance in the 1851 Religious Census.   It was most dominant in the belt of open arable country stretching from the south Midlands into Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, and in Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.   Its influence was least felt  in  three regions:  everywhere  south-east  of a line from  Bournemouth  to Great Yarmouth; in the three northern counties of Northumberland, Westmoreland and Cumberland; and, in the counties bordering the Bristol Channel (Devon, Somerset and Gloucestershire)  and extending north across the Welsh Marches. The south-eastern counties of Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and large parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire were devoid of Wesleyan Methodism in 1851 and no sustained effort was made to introduce it till 1865.   Why was this area a ‘Methodist Desert’? In part this was a result of Wesley’s policy of concentrating  on urban  areas  where  the  Church of England was  failing  in  its functions  and in areas that would readily accept  his  message. The south-east was unresponsive since the Anglican parochial system had not broken down as it had in the north.   By contrast, Methodism was highly successful in the Isle of Wight after 1800 when it stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the Church of England. A similar situation existed in Cornwall that Methodism capitalised on.  By 1851 Methodist influence was at its height and all the various branches of the original Connexion were represented. Wesley also paid frequent visits to Devon but it was not until after 1850 that Methodism took off but never to the same extent as Cornwall. The strong position of Dissent in Devon before 1740 helps to explain this compared to the existence of fewer Dissenting chapels in Cornwall.

Methodism was not a monolithic denomination and the period between 1790 and 1850 saw it split internally in ways that mirrored divisions in society. During Wesley’s lifetime the only division within Methodism was between those who subscribed to a Calvinist theology led by Whitefield and the Arminian Wesleyans. The nineteenth century saw its progressive decline as individual churches either rejoined mainstream Methodism or became Congregational churches. In England there was one concentration of Calvinistic Methodists in a belt from Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, south through London into Kent. The Methodist New Connexion, formed into a separate denomination in 1797, was virtually identical to the parent body, except for the power it gave to the laity.   It drew its membership almost exclusively from north of the Severn-Wash line and in 1851 there were only nine churches south of that line: five in London, three in Cornwall and one in Norfolk.   The New Connexion was essentially a phenomenon of the Midlands and the north and its greatest strength lay in the complex of counties formed by Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, and the West Riding and into the north-east.

Primitive Methodism arose as a result of attempts to stifle enthusiasm that were taking place in the main body of Methodism. Originating in Staffordshire, it spread quickly between 1810 and 1850.   From its original home it expanded along the line of  the River  Trent,  encountering  considerable  success  in the  East Riding,  and  then  it  spread northwards into Durham  and  south through Lincolnshire  into Norfolk.    On reaching the Bible Christian strongholds in south-east and south-west England Primitive Methodism lost its impetus.   By 1851 it was firmly established as a denomination accounting for over 20 per cent of all Methodists, and the second largest Methodist group. Primitive Methodism was largely rural in character and, with the exception of Durham and the Potteries; its main strength was in the predominantly agricultural counties of England. It was not until after 1850 that its appeal to the urban worker became obvious.  Primitive Methodism was used, to a certain extent, by nineteenth century agricultural labourers as a means through that they could fight for social and economic recognition and the Primitive Methodist chapels provided the rural worker with a symbol of independence and defiance of the established social order.

The Bible Christians were a product of the West Country and, unlike the other branches of Methodism they were not a breakaway body.   Though they adopted features similar to Methodism when they applied for membership of the Wesleyan Connexion this was rejected because of the independent character of its charismatic leader William O’Bryan.   The Bible Christians opened their first chapel at Shebbear in north Devon in 1815 and four years later held their first Conference.   In the early 1820s the leaders of the movement sent a mission to Kent and London and also accepted an invitation to take their cause to Somerset.   By 1851 there were small groups of Bible Christians all along the south coast from Cornwall to Kent.   However, over large parts of England there was little success. The appeal of Bible Christianity, like Primitive  Methodism,  was  in  rural  society   and  provided  a religious position  from  which to attack  the  economic  system symbolised by the Church of England and Anglican landowners.  It is no surprise that the Bible Christians found industrial towns difficult to evangelise. Both Primitive Methodism and Bible Christianity arose in response to the need to fill the religious vacuum left by the Church of England among rural workers.   The south and westward spread of the Primitive Methodists was halted when they reached the Bible Christian strongholds and the converse was true.  The similarities between them made it unlikely that both groups could flourish in the same locality.   Only in Hampshire and Cornwall did this occur.

The Protestant Methodists, formed in 1827, united with the followers of Samuel Warren to make the Wesley   Methodist Association in the 1830s. It was, with the exception of Cornwall, weak everywhere south of the Severn-Wash line.  The main concentrations were in the north-western counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmoreland, with eastern extensions into Durham and Yorkshire and then south in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. It made little headway in the strongly revivalist counties of the east:  Norfolk, Lincolnshire, the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire. The Wesleyan Methodist Reformers, formed when James Everett was expelled in 1849, was barely organised by 1851.   To a large extent the Reformers complemented the Association in geographical distribution and in 1857 they joined with the Association to form the United Free Methodist Church with an initial membership of around 40,000.

The 1851 Religious Census appeared to show a resurgent Nonconformity and a defensive Anglicanism. Most contemporaries accepted this but it is deceptively simple.   By the 1840s Nonconformity was beginning to enter a phase of decelerating growth that eventually led to decline.    The economic, demographic and cultural conditions of the previous one hundred years had been highly receptive to Nonconformist recruitment. But three separate circumstances began to alter this situation. First, effective Anglican competition emerged with the resurgence of the Church of England after 1832. Secondly, society was changing in ways unfavourable to Nonconformity. The decline of traditional supporters like the urban artisan and the tenant farmers and agricultural labourers  meant   that   Victorian Nonconformity  depended  heavily for  support  on  those  social groups,  like the middle-classes, least  insulated  from  the influence of the religious Establishment. Finally, Nonconformist religious culture was evolving institutional and denominational priorities that slowed down the rate of growth. By 1851 Nonconformity was just passed the zenith of its power.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Methodism: Towards ‘respectability’

Between 1800 and 1830 Wesleyan Methodism faced threats from outside and from within as it sought to find ‘respectability’ and acceptance throughout British society.[1] Three problems dominated discussions: first, the problem of Methodist loyalty; secondly, how and where should Methodism grow; and finally, how should Methodism respond to popular radicalism.

The   problem   was that Methodism seemed particularly revolutionary.   Enthusiasm and evangelism tapped strong emotions and were believed to have genuinely dangerous potential. Methodists were therefore suspected of radical tendencies, even when their leaders went to great pains to demonstrate their support for the Tory establishment. Within Methodism the struggle was between conservative and broadly ’liberal’ wings both convinced they were being faithful to Wesley’s principles and intentions.  On his death in 1791 ‘Church Methodism’ was still an option and those who advocated it could use Wesley’s refusal to separate himself from the Church of England as a conclusive argument.  Though theoretically an option it was soon replaced by the determination to build a church more strongly organised than the Church of England.   The Methodist Conference  of  preachers only   was  to  be  the ‘living’ Wesley, entitled to govern autocratically as he had governed but delegating its power to local superintendent  ministers appointed  by  it.   With this hierarchical conception of church government went a ‘no politics’ rule that in practice meant no radical politics.   A  ‘liberal’ wing opposed this conception of government arguing that they were faithful  to  Wesley’s own impatience with rules,  loyal  to  his appeal  to  the  poor over the heads  of the  existing  dominant aristocratic  elite. Ministers were regarded as servants rather than masters and laymen had to be included at every level of government from national to local level. The minister’s function was to evangelise and bring new recruits into the Christian family where all were equal. Implied in this alternative  view  of Methodism  was  a  revolutionary vision of Britain  not,  as  the conservatives maintained,  an acceptance of the existing  social structure.

Between the 1790s and 1820s the aristocracy suffered from a growing paranoia and political radicalism and widespread   economic   distress   caused government to be apprehensive. This was also the period when Methodism, that was about 100,000 strong in 1791, reached its point of organisational take-off. Methodists claimed, though probably with some exaggeration, that there were 200,000 members by 1802, 270,000 by 1806 and 367,000 by 1812.   A more moderate, and more reliable, claim saw 167,000 members in England alone in 1815 with 631 preachers and 1,355 chapels, with over half a million members and hearers combined.   Figures  apart,  there  is evidence  of  the Connexion moving boldly into the more settled towns and villages of  rural  England  and a direct challenge  to  the  Established Church.

For many, Methodism seemed a great threat to stability and Anglican clergy were especially disconcerted by ’levelling principles’.  Popular religious feeling was, to those who governed, synonymous with fanaticism and fanaticism was an enemy to stability.  The response from the Connexion was twofold. First, the Methodists continued, following Wesley, to insist that their religious beliefs made loyalty to the established order as a spiritual imperative. Methodist sermons, conference resolutions and tracts continually emphasised loyalty, for conscience sake, to the government and the Crown.   Secondly, the preachers of the Connexion   proclaimed  that  Methodism  served  to  dampen   the discontent of  the  lower  orders and  that  its  influence  was consciously exerted to bring about ‘peace and good  order’.  By 1830 these arguments that corresponded with Wilberforce’s views as to the practical, political effects of ‘vital Christianity’ were becoming more widely accepted outside Methodism but it was a slow process.

The  second  problem  that Methodists faced  was  how  they could  increase  the number of members and what  direction  that growth  should take.   There was a fine line between acceptable mass evangelism and revivalist excesses that had on occasions worried Wesley and increasingly concerned Wesleyan preachers in the early decades of the nineteenth century.   Though some expressed theological doubts about revivalism, more important was the political pressure from government and the Church of England about growing Methodist extremism. The problem was made worse by two things. First, American Methodism that was trying to introduce frontier-style revivalism into eastern cities was introduced into England by Lorenzo Dow. Secondly, Methodist revivalist offshoots in Britain began to organise themselves into some kind of connectional system. Arriving in England in late 1805 Dow soon made contact with revivalist Methodists in Lancashire, Cheshire and the Potteries. Under his influence Hugh Bourne and William Clowes adapted the ‘camp-meeting’ technique of the American frontier. Camp meetings were condemned by the Methodist Conference and many chapels were closed to Dow and his followers but they won considerable support.   The result, in 1811, was the formation of the Primitive Methodists that seceded from the parent body.  It spread quickly through the Midlands and its membership of 7,842 in 1819 quadrupled to 33,507 by 1824. A roughly similar movement -- the Bible Christians -- flourished in Devon and Cornwall with revival meetings that lasted several days and nights and its application to join the Wesleyan Connexion was refused.

Foremost among those opposed to revivalism was Jabez Bunting.  What Bunting wanted was a marriage between vital religion and educated opinion, because in his view revivalism was not only divisive but also silly and degrading. In  their opposition to revivalism Bunting and others failed to distinguish between  the  temporary outbreaks of zealous revivalism  in  some northern  towns and the massive rural support for the  brand  of Methodism  offered by Bourne and Clowes.   Revivalism was not the monolithic entity that Bunting perceived but was something that had within it degrees of acceptability and unacceptability.  As in 1797 the Wesleyan leadership decided that the best method of control was expulsion. Bunting dominated Wesleyan Methodism until his death in 1858. In 1813, Bunting, then only 34 years old, was stationed at Leeds as a itinerant preacher serving under the superintendency of George Morley; stationed nearby was Richard Watson.   There was no doubting Bunting’s orthodoxy.  But Richard Watson,   born in 1781,   though briefly a Wesleyan itinerant, had joined the New Connexion in 1804.   Watson met Bunting in 1811 when the latter was helping organise opposition to Sidmouth’s bill.   They formed a close friendship and Bunting urged Watson to apply for readmission to the Old Connection that, because of Bunting’s considerable exertions, occurred in 1812. Bunting, Watson and Morley planned the organisation of the Leeds Missionary Society as a model for the Connection.  The usefulness of this initiative in its appeal to the  rank-and-file was recognised at the 1814 Conference and led to the introduction of  a new rule in relation to the Legal Hundred,  the 100  senior ministers  who  could  veto  the  decisions of  the  Conference. Previously  ministers were received into that body by a system of strict  seniority  but  from  1814, though  three  of  out  four vacancies were filled by seniority, the fourth would be a nominee of  all the preachers of the Conference.   Bunting was the  first minister  to  benefit from the new system and the extent  of  his success  may  be seen  in  his  election  as  Secretary of  the Conference as well.

The   final problem that Methodism faced was popular radicalism.   The Conference and the Committee of Privileges were vocal in their support for the existing social order, but the number of circulars they issued testifies to their ineffectiveness among rank-and-file members.   In 1812 preachers, including Bunting fought a hard and potentially dangerous campaign against Luddites, refusing to conduct Luddite funerals and closing chapels to Luddite orators.   The ineffectiveness of institutional solutions came home to Bunting when six Luddites, whose fathers  were Methodists,  were hanged at York  in  1813. Throughout the Midlands and the north Methodism faced competition from, and was influenced by, the new generation of political clubs.   Also in 1812 Wesleyans in the hosiery districts of the East Midlands became involved in the anti-war petitioning of the Friends of Peace.  The changing fortunes of war in late 1812 and 1813 spared the Conference from further embarrassment.

After 1815 Methodism came under attack from two fronts. The radical press claimed it was too reactionary, while the government accused it of harbouring radicals.   Wesleyan leaders transferred responsibilities to local preachers and the result was a squeeze on membership as individuals were expelled for radical actions. Growth in the northern manufacturing districts came to a halt and even went into temporary decline in 1819 and 1820. In Rochdale, for example, there was a 15 per cent decrease in members between 1818 and 1820. Events between 1800 and 1830 had led to a closer definition of Methodism in both a denominational and social   sense. Government pressure, revivalism and radicalism and administrative and financial difficulties led to changes in the structure and organisation of the Methodist movement.  Wesleyan conservatism was now well rooted, at least among those with influence. Methodism was becoming respectable.

[1] Methodism  between  1820 and 1914 can be approached in  the following general works: R.E. Davies, A.S. George and E.G. Rupp (eds.), A  History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, volume  2, Epworth Press, 1978, volume 3, Epworth Press, 1980 and the documentary volume 4, Epworth Press, 1987,  B. Semmel The Methodist Revolution, Heinemann, 1974, the brief study by D. Bebbington Victorian Nonconformity, Bangor, 1992 and D. Hempton  Methodism  and Politics in British Society  1750-1850, Hutchinson,  1984. More specific older studies include M. Edwards After Wesley: a study of the social and political influence of Methodism in the middle period, 1791-1849, 1948, E.R. Taylor Methodism and Politics 1791-1851, CUP, 1935 and R.F. Wearmouth Methodism and the Working Class Movements of England 1800-1850, 1937.  R. Currie Methodism Divided, London, 1968 gives full weight to the secessions.  H.B. Kendall The Origins and History of the Primitive Methodist Church,  2 volumes,  London revised edition,  1919 and J.T. Wilkinson Henry Bourne 1772-1852,  London,  1952 examine  the major secession, T. Shaw The Bible Christians, London, 1975 a less important one. J. Vickers Thomas Coke: An Apostle of Methodism, 1969 is a good biography of a neglected figure.  W.R. Ward has edited The Early Correspondence of Jabez Bunting, London, 1972 and Early Victorian Methodism:  The Correspondence of Jabez Bunting 1830-1858, Oxford, 1976. J.H.S. Kent Jabez Bunting: The Last Wesleyan, London, 1955 and his defence of Bunting in The Age of Disunity, London, 1966 puts one side of this leading figure while R. Currie is more hostile. J.C. Bowmer Pastor and People: A Study of  Church  and  People in  Wesleyan  Methodism,   London,  1975 recognises Bunting’s arrogance but regards him as essentially  a defender  of  ’classical’ Wesleyan church order.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Older Nonconformist sects

The  diversity  of  Nonconformity makes  it  difficult  to generalise  about its development and some consideration of  each of  the  major groupings is necessary[1].  


This had slowly moved away from the doctrine of the Trinity and by 1830, a majority of its members were Unitarian in creed.  Unitarianism had  developed from  the ‘rational theology’ of  the  eighteenth century  but  its association with free thought,  radicalism  in politics  and its  defence of people like Richard  Carlile  made orthodox Dissent suspicious. Increasingly the doctrinal differences between Unitarians and Trinitarians mattered.

In 1816, the minister of the Wolverhampton Unitarian chapel was discovered to be a Trinitarian and his congregation dismissed him. In the ensuing legal case the vice-chancellor held that the chapel  was built when it was illegal to be a Unitarian and  that the  law  could  therefore have upheld no  endowment  to  support Unitarian  worship.   The Wolverhampton case put in jeopardy the chapel and endowment of every Unitarian congregation founded before 1813, when Unitarian opinion ceased to be illegal.  A similar decision in favour of Trinitarians occurred over the fund left by Lady Hewley in 1704 to provide endowments in the six northern English counties. The vice-chancellor’s court confirmed that only  Trinitarians were eligible for endowments  from  the fund  in  1833  and  this judgement was maintained  by  the  Lord Chancellor and   the   House  of  Lords  in   1836 and  1842 respectively. These cases divided English dissenters and in March 1836, a majority of Unitarian congregations in London separated themselves from the Protestant dissenting deputies, splitting the alliance of ‘Old’ dissent.

The legal uncertainty for Unitarians created by the Lady Hewley case was exacerbated by a suit over the richly endowed Eustace Street chapel in Dublin in 1843-4 when Irish Trinitarians sought to acquire the chapels and endowments of Irish Unitarians. The result, that followed the 1836 precedent, meant that every Unitarian chapel might now become the subject of litigation. Peel attempted to resolve the problem by introducing a Dissenters Chapels Bill. This said that where there was no trust deed determining doctrine or usage that the usage of a certain number of years (twenty five was agreed on) should be taken as conclusive evidence of the right of any congregation to possess a chapel and its endowments and that any suits pending should have the benefit of the act. Peel was surprised by the depth of opposition from   Wesleyan and orthodox nonconformists   and   the evangelical clergy of the Church of England.   Its passage was important as a further extension of the 1813 Toleration Act to others besides orthodox Trinitarians.

The   few  surviving  Trinitarian  congregations  looked  to Scotland  for  aid but the established Church of  Scotland  was reluctant  and  in  1839 the General  Assembly  acknowledged  the independence  of the  Presbyterian  Church of England. The Unitarians were not an expanding religious grouping but the Trinitarians, their numbers swelled by Scottish immigration into England, were.   In 1836 the congregations of Lancashire and the north-west agreed to form a synod of two presbyteries and adopted the Westminster confession of faith. The synod expanded during the late 1830s and 1840s:  London and Newcastle were brought in 1839; Berwick in 1840; Northumberland in 1842 and Birmingham in 1848. The changing attitude of the synod was reflected in the change of name: in 1839, it was the ’Presbyterian Church of England in connection with the Church of Scotland’ and in 1849 the ‘Presbyterian Church in England’.   Not until 1876 did it become the Presbyterian Church of England.

The 1851 Religious Census showed that the distribution of Presbyterianism was almost entirely a reflection of Scottish immigration into England.   Half of total number of attendances was recorded in the three northern counties of Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland.   Lancashire and London each accounted for about 20 per cent each and the remaining 10 per cent were made up of isolated congregations in Westmoreland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.


Between 1830 and 1860, the Congregationalists turned from a loose federation into something like a modern denomination. This was a major achievement since a denomination meant some form of central authority and Independents had always held that each chapel was sovereign. The force that moved Independents towards some form of  central  authority  was  the  recognition   that dissenters’  rights over marriage or burial or church rates  were better protected by county associations than by small  sovereign units and the need for central support to support colleges and to make stipends adequate for ministers. An attempted union in 1811 failed but in 1831 a Congregation Union was tentatively established.

During the 1830s, the Union survived uneasily. County associations joined slowly: Oxford and West Berkshire in 1841, Cornwall in 1846 and Hampshire in 1848 were among the latest to join, but they sent no money. The union was saved by the skill of Algernon Wells, secretary from 1837 until his death in 1850. He put the Union on a sound financial and organisational footing with profits from its publications.   After 1845, the Union ran into problems occasioned by the problems within Wesleyan Methodism that brought central government into question.  Many Independents sided with Bunting’s opponents and the death of Algernon Wells in 1850 removed an important force for moderation within the Union.

Though the Union diminished the variety of uses in chapels, the pressure had always been towards free worship and the breadth of Independent doctrine.   Congregational churches were faithful to  Calvinism  but could not observe the advances  of  Methodism without  adopting  some  of  its  devices  and  its   missionary enthusiasm. They   gained from  Sunday  schools  and  village preaching  but  there was a thinning in the  upper  and  educated ranks  of society.   The political disputes between church and dissent in the 1830s and 1840s raised fears that Independents were natural allies of Irish and radicals and this meant that by 1850, Congregational churches had a more broadly lower middle-class composition than they had in 1800, though they housed more worshippers.

The 1851 Religious Census revealed the same basic geographical pattern as was operative at the end of the seventeenth century.  Congregationalism was highest in a line of counties stretching eastward from Devon to Essex and Suffolk. The Census shows that whatever hold Dissent had in the largest urban complexes was due largely to the Wesleyan Methodists.  The exception was London where Congregationalists took the leading role.   But even here the picture was patchy.   There were few congregations in Kensington, Chelsea and Bayswater where Anglicanism was dominant.  The East End also proved poor soil and apart from a number of missions supported by wealthy suburban congregations there were few Congregational chapels.   In  the ordinary  lower middle-class suburbs,  especially south of  the Thames,  the  field  was  left clear for the  Baptists  and  the Methodists.   It was in the prosperous and expanding suburbs like Hampstead, Brixton, Highbury and Clapham that Congregationalism had its real base.


They were Independent congregations that practised the baptism of believers and there was little to distinguish them from Congregationalists. But this outward harmony concealed a considerable diversity. Congregational chapels contained few labourers, while many Baptist chapels were composed of people from the lower levels of society. Baptist congregations had less educated pastors, more illiterate members, held their Calvinism more rigidly, were doctrinally more conservative and held to their notion of independence more vehemently. Congregationalists were  moderate  Calvinists but Baptists were divided  into  three groups:  General  or Arminian Baptists;  Particular Baptists  who were  moderate Calvinists and Strict and Particular Baptists  who were  Calvinist but not moderate.   Most of the General Baptist congregations went back to the seventeenth century and had faded into Unitarian belief but since 1770 a small group, the General Baptists of the New Connexion, preserved the orthodox Arminian faith.

The  nineteenth  century  was marked by a period  of  coming together among Baptists and as early as 1813 a Baptist Union  was created  to  provide a common meeting ground for  Particular  and General Baptists. To create a ‘union’ proved more difficult than among  Congregationalists  even though the same needs  for  union existed  -- a missionary society in need of money  and direction, training of ministers,  stipends for pastors and chapels in debt. The General Baptists were only lukewarm in their support for the 1813 union and, though it was reorganised in 1832, support for it grew more slowly than that for the contemporary Congregational Union.

The 1851 Religious Census showed that about 366,000 Baptists attended services. Particular Baptists had 1,491 chapels in England and 456 in Wales.   New Connexion of General Baptists had 179 chapels in England and three in Wales.   Old General Baptists had 93 chapels.   The Baptists’ main strength lay in the block of counties stretching from the East Midlands to the coast of East Anglia.   Except in Dorset and Methodist Cornwall, Baptists increased in all the southern counties of England after 1800. By contrast, there were few Baptists in the northern counties apart from the West Riding.

The Quakers

The major expansion of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) took place in the eighteenth century and they were numerically strongest in the north (Lancashire, Yorkshire and Westmoreland), in the south-west and in London, Bristol and Norwich. Most Quakers came   from the rural and urban ’petite bourgeoisie’ with correspondingly few among the upper-classes or the lower orders. But this trend was reversed in the first half of the nineteenth century. Contemporaries identified three major causes of this. First, the evangelical revival had the effect of dividing  Quakers into those who adopted an evangelical  approach to  their  belief and those for whom discussion of the  Bible (its reading aloud  at  meetings  did  not  occur  until 1860)   was unthinkable.   The dispute came to a head in 1835-1837 and led to about 300 Friends of Lancashire and Kendal leaving the Society. For a time they maintained a separate denomination as Evangelical Friends  but  soon  found little  to  divide  them  from   other denominations  and  some joined the Church of England and  others the Plymouth Brethren. Secondly, Quaker religious education was extremely poor. It was seen as secondary to simply waiting upon the word and was consequently undeveloped.  Quaker Sunday schools were not begun until the 1840s. Thirdly, marriage discipline was strict and it was broken then the individual was bound to be expelled.  John Bright’s brother and two sisters were expelled for marrying outside the Society.   Perhaps a third of the Friends who married between 1809 and 1859 had, according to one contemporary, been expelled for marrying outside the Society.   The conservatism  of the  Quakers  led to decline and this was not arrested until  the 1860s when marriage discipline became less draconian,  religious education was  improved  and  there was  a  recognition  of  the positive value of evangelism.

The Mormons

During   the nineteenth century a number of religious movements grew up in the United States and that were brought to Britain.   Before 1850, only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or the Mormons was of any significance.   Founded in the 1820s, the Mormons claimed to be the only true and valid church and first appeared on the English religious kaleidoscope in 1837 when seven Mormon missionaries landed at Liverpool.  A second mission in 1840, led by the leader Brigham Young, proved equally successful.   Based on Liverpool, Mormon missions were sent round the country and it is small wonder that many of the early converts were the poor for whom the 1840s were a period of intense hardship.   Furthermore the Mormons organised a very efficient emigration system out of Liverpool.   Between 1841 and 1843 nearly 3,000 emigrants left Liverpool and, despite the suspension of all emigration in 1846 and 1847, by 1850 the number of emigrants had risen to nearly 17,000.

In the 1851 Religious Census 16,628 Mormons attended the evening service of Sunday. The 1850s saw Mormonism is decline throughout Britain. In part this was the result of improved conditions for the working population. More important was the announcement by Brigham Young in 1852 that polygamy was God’s will. Outside the Mormon mission house in Soham (Cambridgeshire) 1,200 people watched as village youths enacted a Mormon wedding, to which seven brides rode on donkeys. Polygamy exposed Mormonism to charges of immorality and vice and was fatal to evangelism in Britain.   The number of Mormons sank back slowly to 2,000 by the 1860s.

[1] On   Nonconformity  apart  from  Methodism  see  I. Sellers Nineteenth Century  Nonconformity,  Edward Arnold,  1977  for  a general  survey and D.M. Thompson Nonconformity in the  Nineteenth Century, Routledge, 1972 and J.H.Y. Briggs and I. Sellers Victorian Nonconformity,  Edward  Arnold,  1973  for documentary  studies. R. Jones Congregationalism in England 1662-1962, A.C. Underwood A History of the English Baptists, 1947, C.G. Bolan et al The English Presbyterians, 1968 and E. Isichei Victorian Quakers, OUP, 1970 cover the major groups.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Nonconformity 1800-1850: The denominational thrust

The metamorphosis within the Established Church was bound to have significant effects on the Dissenting churches after 1830. But  Anglicanism  was  not the only form  of  organised  religion undergoing  fundamental changes  in  the first  half  of the nineteenth century.  There was a shift within Methodist, Congregational and Baptist communities away from the sect-type religious culture of the eighteenth century towards a new and patently denominational orientation to the wider society. Methodism in particular ceased to be a movement and became an organisation. The term ‘Dissent’ was gradually replaced by ‘Nonconformity’ and ‘dissenters’ by ‘nonconformists.’[1]

The movement towards denominationalism among the nonconformist churches had its origins in the late eighteenth century.  It was both organisational and   ‘clerical’. Denominational organisation was the result of the need and desire to pursue new goals.   It arose out of the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century and was not a reaction to it.   The  new goal  was evangelism -- missionary activities both abroad  and at home  --  and was possible because of the theological  shift away from  the Calvinist doctrine of the elect (people are either  born to  go to heaven or not) that would have rendered such  activity pointless. In this situation the church could and should be open to all.   The formation of the Northamptonshire Association in 1764 among Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists marked a turning point.  In 1797, the (Baptist) Home Mission Society was formed in London. County or Area Associations of Churches were formed among the  Independents,  but generally later than  among Baptist,  in Warwickshire  in  1793,  Wiltshire and East  Somerset  in  1797, Hampshire in 1797, Lancashire in 1806 and Hertfordshire in 1810. In due course a (Congregational) Home Missionary Society was formed in 1819 working mainly in those areas where County Associations were weak or non-existent. Village preaching depended on support from elsewhere and united action by a number of churches was an obvious way of doing this.[2] Itinerancy challenged isolationism and undenominationalism and, during the second and third decades of the nineteenth century,   the freedom enjoyed by the early itinerants succumbed to the process of institutionalisation. Evangelism came increasingly to be seen as a denominational rather than a local responsibility.Despite this positive development, the 1820s saw the first signs of formalism and stagnation, forces that later sapped the dynamic strength and recruiting power of English Nonconformity.

It  was  possible  for the central organisations  of  the different  churches to  exert,   if  they  chose, control  and discipline. Denominationalism also had expression in an increasingly ‘clerical’ approach. Jabez Bunting and his colleagues gradually strengthened   the  distinction  between  travelling  and   local preachers,  not  only by developing the doctrine of the ‘pastoral office’ but  also  by  enforcing  the commitment  to  permanent itinerancy   and corporate discipline  among   the   travelling preachers.   Excessive spontaneity -- too much lay initiative -- was seen as a threat to the integrity of Wesleyanism and a theological basis for the differentiation of roles and functions between ministers and laymen was elaborated. This redirection of the  Methodist  movement  under  ministerial  initiative  imposed immense  strains  on it and the result was a prolonged period  of conflict and schism,  beginning with the New Connexion  breakaway in  1797  and ending with the major disruptions and  realignments between 1849-57. ‘Primitive Methodists’, ‘Bible  Christians’, Tent Methodists’ and ‘Wesleyan Reformers’ all contained sectarian overtones  in  their names and were significant in  capturing  an element of protest against consolidation and institutionalisation that underpinned  the fragmentation of the Methodist strain  of evangelical Nonconformity.   Other nonconformists lacked both the will and the machinery to sharpen the clerical-lay distinction in this way.

The movement from undenominationalism to denominationalism, from a ‘unity of experience’ to a ‘unity of organisation’, can be seen as a response to the need for some form of social control. In this view, denominationalism has been seen as a failure of Nonconformity to respond to popular religion and of the anxiety and potential dangers to the country if it got out of control. This view seems to draw too stark a distinction between lay/undenominational and clerical/denominational.  It seems more likely that the move to denominationalism was occasioned by the need to maintain the constituencies of the different nonconformist groups.  Between 1780 and 1815, Nonconformity was marked by its preoccupation with rural society.  County associations among Congregationalists and regional bodies among Baptists devoted their energies to the hinterlands rather than the larger centres of population.   Even national bodies pursued similar aims.   By 1823, the Baptist Western Association numbered 78 member churches, an increase of 44 since 1780. With the spread of urban awareness came recognition of the problems involved in establishing effective contact with urban populations.  Neither the individualism of the pioneering preachers or the rudimentary organisation of the regional societies could cope with the scale of the problem.   The result was a move to national networks of evangelism under the control of denominational bodies that were, alone, capable of integrating planning and direction. Denominationalism was a consequence of the need to mobilise resources effectively to deal with the urban problem.

The impetus for structural definition stemmed from the need for more efficiency and a growing sense of denominational identity accompanied the return to peace after 1815.  There was a increasing  demand for religious accommodation, a  preoccupation displayed  in  most  of  the  surviving  records,  and  with  the attendant  financial problems of their provision and maintenance. By  the 1830s this material interest had combined  with  rising ministerial status  to accentuate  contemporary  concerns   for ‘respectability’   and  to  hasten  the change  from  individual spontaneity  to  a more formal assumption of responsibility  for further expansion. By 1840 the shape of the movement had visibly altered with the old emphasis on free-ranging, outdoor evangelism supplanted by indoor, more controlled, gatherings.

[1]   D.M. Thompson Denominationalism and Dissent 1795-1835: a question of identity, Friends of Dr William’s Library, 1985.

[2] On itinerancy D.W. Lovegrove Established Church, Sectarian People: Itinerancy and the Transformation of Dissent 1780-1830, CUP, 1988, especially pp. 142-165 is valuable.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Church of England: Evangelicalism within Anglicanism

The Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century was partly a consequence of the increasing frustration felt by individuals like the Wesleys with the intense conservatism of Anglican high churchmen.[1] Not all of those who supported Wesleyan Methodism followed them out of the Church of England in the 1790s. From the mid-eighteenth century another group of rather more Evangelical clergy and laity also began to   attack   the conservatism of the established church from within.   They took a considerable initiative in missionary work and campaigns for social and ‘moral’ reform and by the 1820s were beginning to establish a foothold in the parishes of some larger towns.  By 1830, three Evangelicals had been made bishops.   Despite their emphasis on spiritual conversion and the absolute supremacy of Scripture over the traditions of the Church, they were not anti-sacramental encouraging more frequent communion services. Theirs was a simple and unmysterious form of worship. People are all in a state of natural depravity, weighed down by sin and life is an arena of moral trial in which people are tempted, tested and ultimately sorted into saints and sinners.   There is a sort of spiritual contract between each soul and God in which intermediaries like the clergy are of relatively little importance. Redemption comes through the faith of the individual in Christ’s Atonement on the Cross. This was an evangelical ‘scheme of salvation’. Within  the Anglican  middle  classes evangelicalism spread rapidly from the mid  1820s  because  of economic  alarms,  Catholic Emancipation, constitutional crises, cholera and other signs of an impending divine intervention.

By the 1820s, Anglicans were speaking about Anglican Evangelicals as ‘the Evangelicals’ as if they were the only ones. This division between Anglican and non-Anglican evangelicals had not been the case during the first phase of evangelicalism before the 1780s when people moved freely across the formal boundaries between denominations. The reason why this division grew up was in  part a result of Wesleyan Methodists not staying  within  the Established Church  after  the 1790s and in part because the Anglican Evangelicals were the only ones who  mattered  socially and politically.

The   second  phase  of  establishment  Evangelicalism was inaugurated  by the conversion of William Wilberforce and  Hannah More  in  the  1780s  and these individuals  brought  a  social distinction  and respectability  that had not previously  been enjoyed.  Under  their  banner of the ‘Evangelical  Party’, in itself a somewhat ambiguous term given the diversity of  Anglican Evangelicalism, this  group became  the  most   dynamic and ambitious element  in  the Established  Church.   Evangelical Anglican clergy worked within the Establishment claiming, much to the annoyance of bishops during the early nineteenth century that they represented the central Anglican tradition established during the mid sixteenth century.   By the 1830s  Evangelicals were  in  control  of most of the national  and  local  religious societies, though the latter were more interdenominational  than their  national headquarters. They  published the bulk of  the popular  Christian  literature of the period:  the Bible  in  all languages; classics  of the Evangelical point of view like The Pilgrim’s  Progress;  soul-arousing  works of  every kind,  and, periodicals  like The Christian Observer and The Eclectic Review. It was developing, through the work of Charles Simeon, parochial organisation designed to maintain an intense religious life and to channel the charitable impulse to promote social and religious discipline.  By the 1830s its national leadership   was consolidated among peers, MPs, bishops and the leading figures of the ecclesiastical and business world.

This diffusion of Anglican Evangelicalism was not achieved without some loss of vigour. This process has been called one of ‘accommodation’ making Evangelicalism palatable and manageable for the cultivated classes, an attractive and exemplary model for a combination of piety and social position. It is difficult to estimate the extent to which this was a conscious aim of Wilberforce and his supporters or the level of its success.  But there is little doubting its influence throughout British society touching those who were not evangelically-minded and who may not have liked its theology:  for example,   Sunday observance, the enforcement of the blasphemy laws, especially in the 1820s, and the encouragement of Sunday and day schools. The moral revolution was accomplished and overt sexuality was driven into private or underworld or into lower-class life. Victorian respectability predates the accession of the Queen in 1837.[2]

Changing evangelicalism

The existence of the Establishment meant that the relation between   the Anglican and non-Anglican evangelicals became increasingly difficulty after 1820. During the 1820s and 1830s the Dissenters moved from a reluctant acceptance of Establishment to an attitude of general dislike of it.  By the 1840s disestablishment  was  raised  as a major issue  with  Dissenters wishing to reduce the Church of England to an equality of  status with  their own denominations,  competing  freely  in  an  open ‘religious’ market.   This view of the Establishment was known as ‘voluntarism’  and was an attitude increased sympathised with  by Methodists  of  every kind,  by many Presbyterians in England as well as  Scotland  and by Irish  Roman  Catholics.  Though  some Evangelicals like Lord Shaftesbury never hesitated to  co-operate with Dissenters and  a  few  left  the  Church,  most  Anglican Evangelicals persisted  in looking on the Establishment  as  an advantageous and necessary condition.

While the existence of an Establishment was a ground of division within evangelicalism, the principle of ‘No Popery’ was a ground of union.   This has been seen as one of the causes of the lowering of the tone of evangelicalism and a resurgence of anti-Catholic feelings in the 1840s and 1850s. Some change in the relationship between public men and public opinion may partially explain what happened to Evangelicalism after 1830. Post-reform politics saw the emergence of a more politically conscious public with worries, real or imaginary, about which that public wanted something done.   By 1836, Wilberforce, Hannah More and Charles Simeon had all died.   The successors to the Clapham leaders, Shaftesbury and Fowell Buxton were not personally inferior but Evangelicalism seems to have moved into a lower gear. Best argues that ‘It  is  almost as if its greatest contribution had by then  been made  and  as  if it was felt to lack the breadth  and  tone  of distinction  that  could satisfy many of its natural leaders in the post-revolutionary age.’

Evangelicalism was a religion of duty placing service above doctrine and appealed particularly to women.  Wilberforce argued in A Practical View that women were more favourably disposed to religion and good works than men. The activities and restrictions of nineteenth century family life and female education tended to focus the affections and raise philanthropy to the level of obedience to God.   Though some women found Christianity restrictive, most female reformers saw it as an emancipatory influence heightening women’s self-esteem and giving them a sense of place and direction. Christianity confirmed that women had a rightful and important place in the charitable world; a place that particularly to men was a subordinate one.  Female Evangelical piety did not threaten the social order.  Clare Lucas Balfour wrote in 1849 that ‘the  history  of every religious and benevolent society  in  the civilised world shows the female sex pre-eminent in numbers, zeal and  usefulness, thus  attesting  the  interest  women  take  in Christian labours for the welfare of society.’ [3]

Historians acknowledge the role of evangelicalism in shaping the mentality of the first half of the nineteenth century but recognise the difficulty of defining that role precisely. Evangelicalism’s middle-class piety fostered concepts of public probity and national honour based on the ideals of economy, professionalism and ’respectability’. Though many prominent Evangelicals were paternalists and bitterly opposed to the prevailing ‘laissez-faire’ ethos of the period, many contemporaries thought of evangelicalism as synonymous with philanthropy.   Boyd Hilton argues that Evangelicals helped to create and to buttress the very capitalist philosophy that was under attack. They  wanted  society to operate as  closely  to ‘nature’  as  possible by repealing interventionist laws  leaving people  to work out their own salvation and spiritual life in the course  of  their  ordinary lives.   In that evangelical ethos, suffering seemed to be part of God’s plan and governments took a harsh attitude to social underdogs in order not to interfere with such dispensations of providence.  ’Self-help’ was both an economic and spiritual means of achieving salvation.

Metamorphosis not reformation

While unreformed the Anglican Church claimed the allegiance of the whole society.   It was thoroughly integrated with the mainstream culture and social structure and monopolistic in its attitude to religious rivals.   As long as political sanctions against religious deviance were firmly upheld widespread, support for alternative religious perspectives could be held in check but from 1689 onwards British society moved gradually towards a pluralist, religious voluntarism. By the 1830s, Britain was well on the way to becoming a pluralistic society containing not one but a plurality of cultural systems. The reforms of the 1830s and 1840s represented a decisive turning point for Anglicanism. Though  still  the  Established  Church  in  England,  Wales  and Ireland  it had accommodated itself to the reality  of  permanent competition with  other ‘churches’ within its  boundaries.  The State might intervene to support the Establishment but there was no   chance   that   it   would restore the Church to   its constitutionally prescribed role as a monopolistic religion. Like the landed elite, the Church, though it fought a skilled rearguard action throughout the remainder of the century, was increasingly prepared to compromise to preserve its remaining privileges.    The change was one of metamorphosis,   not restoration.   The result was a change in the character of the Church to being one denomination among several.

[1] On  evangelicalism  see  G. Best  ’Evangelicalism  and  the Victorians’ in  A. Symondson (ed.), The Victorian Crisis  of  Faith, SPCK,  1970,  pp. 37-56  and C. Smyth ‘The evangelical movement  in perspective’,  Cambridge Historical Journal,  7 (1941-3),  pp. 160-174.   Boyd Hilton The Age of Atonement. The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought 1785-1865, OUP, 1988 is fundamental. D.W. Bebbington Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, Unwin Hyman, 1987 covers the whole of the period.

[2] On  the  moral  revolution see  M. Jaeger  Before  Victoria: Changing Standards and Behaviour 1787-1837,  Chatto and  Windus, 1956.

[3] C.L. Balfour Women and the Temperance Reformation, London, 1849, page 6.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Church of England: Reform

The nature of individual action

The Church could not resist the pressures for reform. 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. Charles Simeon, the evangelical Vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, sought to improve the quality of those entering the Church. [1]   Professional training for clergymen was non-existent in the late eighteenth century and Simeon supplied the need at 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. Good evangelical clergymen were necessary, Simeon maintained, but he also believed in the need to ensure that there was a 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. His most important successes came as a result of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 that compelled the 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 perhaps more conscious than many of his contemporaries of the need to secure a foothold in the growing industrial towns. Simeon was very conscious of the need to operate within the framework of the Church of England.   He disliked the insistence of evangelicals who argued that the commission to preach the gospels meant that they could override parochial boundaries.  He insisted on church order and this, probably averted 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 and the Church Missionary Society, 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 -- by 1825 it had issued over four million --without note or comment.   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.[2] In 1795 she started the Cheap Repository Tracts in response to cheap radical literature especially Paine’s Rights of Man.  All the 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. 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 and 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. The society was not supported by the state until the government introduced annual 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, Lord Liverpool established an official commission with a grant of £1 million with a further £0.5 million added in 1824.  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.   The Commission had then built 612 new churches accommodating 600,000 people and this figure does not exhaust the total number of churches built. Many were built or rebuilt by private means.

Institutional reform

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’. This   was sufficient to break through the obstacles to organisational change and pastoral renewal that had long prevented its adjustment to industrial and urban society.[3] The ecclesiastical and political crises of 1828-32 were closely connected.   The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, though they altered the daily lives of Anglicans and Nonconformists little, gave legitimacy to the ‘de facto’ situation.  However, combined with Catholic Emancipation, they symbolised dramatically the failure of the old monopolistic conception of the Establishment.   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.   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.

In  June  1832  an Ecclesiastical  Revenues  Commission  was established,  but for  two  and  a half years little  concrete occurred.   The  Commission investigated  the  entire  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’ during Peel’s minority administration.  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. 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 (1841-6). The boundaries  of existing dioceses were modified and  new  dioceses created in 1836;  severe restrictions were placed on pluralism in 1838  and  excess  revenues from cathedrals were distributed  to those  with  greater  needs  in  1840.   In addition  the  Whigs introduced   the Registration  Act in  1836  that   put   the registration of births,  marriages and deaths in the hands of  a civil  official and not the Church and in 1838  the  Dissenters’ Marriage  Act ended the obligation of nonconformists to marry  in an Anglican church. Of   crucial importance in re-establishing the   popular position of the Church was the need to resolve its financial grievances. Both church rates and tithes were unpopular. Though compulsory church rates were not abolished until 1868, legal judgements made it clear that they could only be collected unless authorised by the churchwardens and a majority of the vestry. As Dissenters were eligible to vote for both, in some towns, like Birmingham, the rate lapsed.  This was preferable to Nonconformists than the scheme that the House of Commons seriously considered repairing all parish churches out of taxes.  Over tithes, the Whigs did something. The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 ended tithes in kind and replaced them with money payments based on the average prices of corn, oats and barley over the previous seven years.

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.   Church building and renovation increased after 1835 and by 1850 the numbers of non-resident clergy had fallen significantly strengthening greatly 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.

Reform from within

The  High  Church ‘party’ had been in the  vanguard  of  the Church’s  reaction to change since the 1790’s and may well  have inhibited  reformist  tendencies before  1830.   They distrusted their more evangelical colleagues, whose pastoral concerns seemed to threaten the norms of 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.[4] The 1833 Church Temporalities Act imposed drastic reforms on the Church of Ireland, reducing the archbishops from four to two and the number of 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.   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.[5]

The  so-called  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. 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’.   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 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. 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 and simple but to educated minds.

The reaction of many to the Oxford movement was to raise the spectre of Popery. The papist and bigoted nature of the movement was partially confirmed by the Hampden case of 1835 when leading Tractarians opposed the appointment of Hampden as Regius Professor of Divinity.   Their attack had two strands:  their opposition to the appointment of a clergyman with what they saw as suspect rationalist views and their opposition to his appointment by the patronage of a Whig prime minister.  Hampden symbolised both the liberal and erastian face of the Church of England.   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.

The movement had several limitations. First, it was the Oxford movement, academic, clerical and conservative. 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. Secondly, it was predominantly clerical and, though it did acquire some support from eminent laymen, the Tracts were addressed to clergymen. 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.   For Newman the problem started with the Reformation: ‘a limb badly set, it must be broken again in order to be righted’. This retrospection could, and was, seen as conservatism if not reaction by many.

The   impact   of the Oxford movement was essentially ecclesiastical.   The Tractarians 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. 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.

[1] H.C.G. Moule Charles Simeon, Methuen, 1892 remains a good study of his life. John Piper 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] Anne Stott Hannah More: The First Victorian, Oxford University Press, 2003 is an excellent biography; pages 169-190 consider the Cheap Repository Tracts.

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

[4] On the Oxford Movement N. Yates The Oxford Movement and Anglican Ritualism, The Historical Association, 1983 is a brief summary. G. Faber Oxford Apostles, Faber, 1933 and R.W. Church The Oxford Movement, 1891,  a classic in a modern edition edited by G.F.A. Best in 1970, are both valuable.  O. Chadwick Newman, OUP, 1983 is a brief biography focussing on his ideas and his The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, CUP, 1990 contains a collection of important essays. I. Ker John Henry Newman, OUP, 1990 is the definitive biography of a seminal figure in the development of the Oxford movement and Roman Catholicism.

[5] For a full discussion of the development of the Oxford movement up to the 1850s, see Richard Brown Church and State in Modern Britain 1700-1850, Routledge, 1991.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Religion: Introduction

‘The Church of England system is ripe for dissolution.  The service provided by it is of a bad sort: inefficient with respect to the ends or objects professed to be aimed at by it:  efficient with respect to the divers effects which, being pernicious, are too flagrantly so to be professed to be aimed at.’[1] So, in the nineteenth century religion was itself a major source of conflict in west-European societies; it also reflected the other fundamental lines of division. The battles between the official churches and their opponents initially brought together coalitions of those from different social classes.’[2]

In  the  first  half of the nineteenth  century  British  society became increasingly  polarised  and religious adherence played  an important  part in that process. British  society  was undoubtedly religious in  1830  and, despite the  somewhat pessimistic  conclusions contemporaries read into  the  Religious Census of 1851,  it remained so. This did not mean that religion found itself unpressurised. The two state religions, Presbyterianism in Scotland and Anglicanism in England, Wales and Ireland, were under pressure from within and from without and sought to broaden their popular appeal and strengthen their defences against hostile forces. The eighteenth century had seen the beginnings of a popular Protestantism grounded in evangelicalism.  This revitalised both Anglicanism and the existing Dissenting sects and, after 1800, led to the emergence of Nonconformity.  The third type of religion was grounded in Catholicism. All these types of religion made absolute claims for themselves  and  attempted  to  mark  out sharp  and  clear boundaries  between their  own communities and the  world  beyond. This was, as Hugh McLeod has rightly said, ‘the age of self-built ideological  ghettos’  that were able to maintain over several generations a network of institutions, a body of collective memories,  particular rites, hymns and legendary heroes. As the authority of the state churches was challenged, these groups sought to impose the same degree of control within their own sphere of influence that the state churches had once exercised. This section is concerned with the pressures that each kind of religion faced, how they responded to these pressures and what effects this had.[3]


The Church of England 1800-1851

The Church of England found itself in an uncomfortable position at the turn of the nineteenth century.[4] It had been fully integrated into the social environment of the eighteenth century with village and parish normally being coterminous.  Its great strength lay in southern England as it was there the bulk of the population and wealth was located.   Every settlement had its own church and so the population of each parish was of a manageable size.   The situation in northern England was less favourable.   Parishes were large and they were badly endowed and consequently attracted few clergy and many livings were held in plurality or by non-resident incumbents. For example, in 1831 Leeds, with a population of over 70,000 people, had only three places of Anglican worship. The Anglican Church  was  slow  to  recognise  the   full significance  of the  changes  taking place  in the  population structure  of  the country.   The elaborate legal procedure for creating new parishes further hindered its ability to cope with the changing situation.   The diocesan system of the north was equally inflexible and unable to meet the new situation.  Until 1836 the  whole  of Lancashire,  large parts of  Cumberland  and Westmoreland,  and the  north-west  part of  Yorkshire  were  all included in the unwieldy Diocese of Chester. There was no bishop based in Lancashire and the West Riding until the Dioceses of Ripon and Manchester were established in 1836 and 1847.

It was not just in the large towns that the Anglican Church’s position was serious.   Excessive emphasis has been placed on the alienation of urban society and this has tended to deflect attention away from the situation in the countryside. W.R. Ward argues that the real tragedy for the Church was not the failure to meet the needs of people in the growing cities but rather the failure in the countryside where all her resources were concentrated. Absenteeism and pluralism were rife and many church buildings were in disrepair. Where Dissent could establish a foothold in a village, the competition from the Church was often minimal.   Enclosure had the effect of reducing the popularity of the Church. Improvements in farming led to the commutation of tithes for land and many contemporaries believed that the increase in the clergy’s land was at the expense of the small tenant farmer. An even worse reaction against the Church of England resulted from the collection of the tithe in kind.[5] It was generally regarded as the ideal way of alienating the parson from his flock.

An   unresponsive   and  inefficient  pastoral  system   was exacerbated  by  a widespread belief that  the Church  must  be defended  at  all costs.   Like the unreformed Parliament, the unreformed Church had its own elaborate defence of the status quo. The French Revolution had deeply frightened the propertied classes and strengthened their belief that the society under their control must be defended as a divinely ordained hierarchy. In  this situation suggested reforms,  including those of  modest dimensions,  could easily  be  identified  with  revolution  and revolution with the destruction of Christianity. Even those who avoided the extremes of reaction felt it was their religious duty to preserve the constitution, the social order and the morality now under threat.   In 1834 a fifth of the magistrates in England were Anglican clergymen, embodying an enormous investment in social stability.

To critics like the journalist John Wade, whose polemic the Black Book appeared in 1820 and in a revised form as The Extraordinary Black Book in 1831, the abuses of the Church, its ineffective organisation and its conservative views were in need of reform.   This was not the view of the Church: its property rights had to be defended; it was not accountable to the public; it had, as an established institution, a prescriptive right to authority.   By a series of instinctive, but ill-judged actions, the Church identified itself with extreme Toryism and alienated opinion further in the 1820s and early 1830s. Abused by the radicals from outside Parliament, the events of 1828-1829 showed how little the Church could expect from its political friends. The repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and Catholic Emancipation ended the special relationship between the Church and Parliament. Dissenters and Catholics would now participate in legislation affecting the Church.   The attitude of the bishops during the reform agitation of 1830-32 further tarnished the reputation of the Church and completed its identification in the eyes of the public with reaction.

[1] Jeremy Bentham Church of Englandism and the Catechism Examined, 1818, pp.198-199, quoted in D.L. Edwards Christian England, volume 3, Collins, 1984, page 102.

[2] H. McLeod Religion and the People of Western Europe 1789-1970, OUP, 1981, page 22.

[3] J.D. Gay The Geography of Religion in England, Duckworth, 1971, valuable especially for its maps,  A.D. Gilbert Religion  and Society in Industrial England  1740-1914,  Longman, 1976 and W.R. Ward Religion and Society 1790-1850, Batsford, 1972. R.R. Currie, A.D. Gilbert and L.S. Horsley Churches and Churchgoers: Patterns of Church Growth in the British Isles since 1700, OUP, 1977 provides a statistical treatment of national religious trends but does little on trends for regions and localities. The four volumes of Religion in Victorian Britain, Manchester University Press, 1988: volume 1 Traditions, volume 2 Controversies and volume 4 Interpretations all edited by Gerald Parsons and volume 3 Sources edited by J.R. Moore is of immense value for detailed analysis. Nigel Yates Eighteenth Century Britain: Religion and Politics 1714-1815, Longman, 2007 and Stewart Brown Providence and Empire 1815-1914, Longman 2008 provide a recent summary of developments. Stewart Brown and Timothy Tackett (eds.) Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 7, Enlightenment, Reawakening and Revolution 1660-1815, Cambridge University Press, 2006 and Sheridan Gilley and Brian Stanley (eds.) Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 8, World Christianities c.1815-c.1914, Cambridge University Press, 2005 give a global perspective.

[4] On the Church of England see A. Smith The Established Church and Popular Religion 1750-1850, Longman, 1971 and E.R. Norman Church and Society in England 1770-1970, OUP, 1976. On social attitudes, see R.A. Soloway Prelates and People:  Ecclesiastical Social Thought in England 1783-1852, Routledge, 1969 and G. Kitson Clark Churchmen and the Condition of England, London, 1973.

[5] On this issue see E.J. Evans The Contentious Tithe: The Tithe Problem and English Agriculture 1750-1830, Routledge, 1976, especially pp. 16-41 and 94-114.