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Religion & Politics in England & Ireland 1820 - 1841

This document very kindly was sent to me by Roy Huggins, to whom I am most grateful. See also the PowerPoint presentation here.

This document contains a number of sections:

  1. The condition of the Church of England
  2. The Condition of the Church of England / Clerical Abuses
  3. The Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts 1828
  4. Catholic Emancipation 1829
  5. Pressure within Parliament for Reform
  6. Church Reforms in the 1830s
  7. The Position of the Established Church in the 1830s
  8. Dissenters' Grievances
  9. Nonconformist Grievances with the Church of England in the 1830s
  10. The Irish Church
  11. The Oxford Movement
  12. Pressure for reform from within the Anglican Church
  13. Analysis

1. The Condition of the Church of England

In the early 19th Century the Church of England as a conservative institution was opposed to reform. In October 1831, twenty-one Bishops voted against the Reform Bill. Radical writers like Richard Carlile, William Sherwin and the ex-Anglican London clergyman Robert Taylor characterised the Established Church as the corrupt and bloated lackey of the unreformed system. Their opposition to reform led to riots and attacks on the bishops’ palaces and calls for reform of the Church.

The fundamental problem with the Church of England was that it was overstocked with clergymen in the wrong places. In the new industrial towns and cities the non-conformist outnumbered the Anglican clergy. Wealth was also unevenly distributed throughout the Church. Far too many of its vicars did not live in their parishes and had to run at least two parishes [livings] at once in order to get enough money to live whilst at the same time, a large portion of the Church’s enormous income was redundant and in the hands of a few super rich clerical princes or bishops.

It is hardly surprising that the Whigs’ first move in 1832 was to establish an Ecclesiastical Revenues Commission. Its Report vindicated some of the radicals' complaints. Almost half the Church of England's livings were found to be worth less than £200 a year while just over 2% were worth over £1000. Non-resident clergymen held many of the wealthiest livings in plurality. Only half of the Church’s 10,000 benefices in 1835 had a resident vicar.

To add insult to injury the top jobs in the Church, which came with the largest incomes, were still distributed by political and social connections. For example, the Marquis of Bath bestowed all three livings in his gift to his son. The aristocracy and gentry had a vested interest in clerical abuses as it was a real money-spinner for their family. In Norfolk, a county with a large number of wealthy gentry and a powerful aristocratic presence, eleven families held the right to present to at least five Church livings each. This resulted in 84 percent of the eighty livings in the gift of these landowners ended up being held in plurality or by one office holder [vicar], in the early 1830s. Nepotism was the usual reason. Five of the eight Norfolk livings in the gift of Baron Wodehouse of Kimberley were bestowed or given to his sons, and one more on another relative. Many of the people living in these parishes felt that the rich landowners were creaming off the money that they gave generously to the Church.

However, in 1815 the Church of England was the dominant state religion. In order to hold public office a man had to be a communicating member of the Church of England. This angered many non-conformists and Roman Catholics who were excluded from participating in local or national government or from sitting as MPs in Parliament. However, the tide began flowing very strongly against the Church of England in the 1820s. Calls for repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and Catholic Emancipation in Ireland threatened the status and position of the Church. Many Anglican traditionalists were afraid these reforms were the thin edge of the wedge and that unless they opposed reform then the Church of England could be eventually disestablished. Some of the bishops dug their heels in and supported the Tories in the House of Lords in rejecting the Reform Bill, but the backlash led to fierce anti-clericalism during the Swing Riots and a strong desire amongst Whigs like Lord Grey to reform the Church of England.

The following sources offer an insight into the condition of the Church of England. The table at the end will help to summarise the status and position of the Church in 1820.

Source 1: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 502.

The established Church of England, richly endowed and privileged, had in 1815 at least the external support of almost the whole of the upper class, and, in most country districts, of the greater part of the population. There was a small Roman Catholic minority, denied full civil rights, but living quietly and without political importance. Irish immigration increased the number of Roman Catholics, but most of these immigrants were very poor people whose troubles were economic rather than political. There was a much larger minority of Protestant dissenters [Non-conformists] also without full civil rights, though less hampered in practice by disabilities [Laws] than the Roman Catholics.

Source 2: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 502.

In Wales, and in some parts of England, there were more dissenters than Churchmen; in Scotland Presbyterianism was far stronger than any other denomination [religion]. Except in the west of England and parts of East Anglia and the north, the nonconformists belonged mainly to the shop keeping and lower middle class of the towns. The poor, at least in the great towns, were largely pagan with a veneer of religious observance and much hidden superstition. The effect of religious belief upon conduct was most marked in the middle class.

Source 3: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 502-3.

It has been said that the consolidation of belief and the emotional character of protestant dissent in England saved the country from political revolution and that the atheism of English Jacobins [revolutionaries] lost them much support. There is some truth in these views, but the association of Jacobinism with foreigners, the belief that England was already the most free country in Europe, the interest of all classes in sport – the rough sport of the eighteenth century – and the common sense of the English magistrates were factors of equal importance in keeping the peace.

Source 4: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 503.

The danger-centres of revolution were in the great towns, and among a population least affected by religious sanctions, or diverted from immediate grievances by redress in another world. There was a large circulation of anti-clerical literature among politically minded working men, but Wellington’s judgement that the people of England were ‘very quiet’ may explain the character of English religion … On the other hand the democratic character of the nonconformists had an important political effect in training their members in administration, self-government, and public speaking. Radicalism,trade unionism, and, to a lesser extent, the Chartist movement owe much to this training. However, it is unsafe to regard it as diverting into religious channels of enthusiasm people who might have otherwise have turned to revolutionary politics. Chapel stewards and local preachers tended to be cautious minded men, of good standing in their own circles, and not the type of which revolutionaries were made.

Source 5: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 503-504.

The Church of England contained members of very different theological [religious] opinions. The Anglican settlement was, in intention, a compromise; it accepted authority, and tolerated considerable liberty of judgement. It required conformity, and left some doubt about the doctrines [beliefs] to which the faithful conformed… The division of the Church into parties was no sign of weakness; the strength of Anglicanism lay in the fact that these parties remained within the same communion [Church]. The exclusion of the Methodists a mistake for which the Church paid heavily was not due to the differences of opinions on matters of doctrines; the seceders did not carry with them all those who shared their views, and the evangelical movement within the Church reached its full development after the secession had taken place.

Source 6: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 503-4.

The leaders of the evangelic movement lead a strict and pious life in an age of low moral standards. They maintained a serious and unselfish attitude towards public affairs. They used their wealth conscientiously, and, on the whole, to good and noble purpose. They cared nothing for popularity; their doctrines taught them a all times to save souls, and they preached by example as much by exhortation. Their weakness was on the intellectual side. They neglected theology and history; they believed in a narrow literal interpretation of the Bible, and too much of their zeal came from a belief in the external punishment of unconverted sinners. They took for granted the framework and organisation of the Church … Owing to their failure to understand the social significance of the Church as an institution the evangelicals did not give enough thought to the responsibility of Christians for the economic and social system from which clergy and laity drew their incomes. The evangelicals had one thing to impress upon the world of their time; a renewal of personal religion. Without this revival of personal religion the Oxford movement could not have taken place.

Source 7: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 506.

The High Church party differed little from the evangelicals in matters of ritual and ceremonies or in distrust of Roman Catholicism. The High Churchmen were orthodox followers of traditional Anglican divines, disliking the ‘enthusiasm’ common to the evangelicals and the dissenters... In politics they were inclined to extreme conservatism, and there was little reason for them to make a stir, since the Tory government suited their views. They played an important role in setting up the National Society, though their interests in education was not free from a fear that if Churchmen did not exert themselves dissenters would take their place. They wanted to build new churches in populous districts; here they had the support of the government, of the universities and of high persons in the state. In 1818, the year of the foundation of the Church Building Society, Parliament voted £1,00,0000, and in 1824 another £500,000, for Church building; before 1833 about £6,000,000 had been raised from all sources. Bishop Bloomfield warned that the building was a mater of political prudence as well as of charity. Few churchmen suggested that a better distribution of ecclesiastical property would have gone far to meet the need.

Source 8: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 506-7.

Between the High Churchmen and the evangelicals there was a smaller group of latitudinarians, for the most part scholars, whose influence was greater outside than inside the Church…. They were more prominent after 1830 because they took the liberal side in the agitation for administrative reform in the Church, while laymen who distrusted the Oxford movement welcomed their opinions on doctrinal questions. Two of their ablest members, Whately and Arnold, were fellows of Oriel College. Whately was a strong supporter of education and of reform of the penal system: his writings did much to create a public opinion in favour of abolishing transportation. Arnold’s views offended both low and high Church supporters. It was said of Arnold that ‘he woke up every morning with the conviction that everything was an open question’. He wanted the national Church to include all sects except Roman Catholics, Quakers and Unitarians.

Source 9: John W Derry, Reaction and Reform, p. 60.

It is often said that Methodism saved England from revolution; be that as it may, Christianity was certainly taken to masses of people who were untouched by the remote generalities of eighteenth century religion, especially in those industrial areas where the traditional forms of Anglican organisation had broken down and where a brutal paganism flourished amidst squalor and vice. The religious reawakening also stimulated a more sensitive awareness to social problems. Religious conviction inspired the reformation of manners, as well as the renovation of institutions. In their hymns the Methodists showed that common folk could express their faith in joyous song, and their unflinching emphasis on personal responsibility did much to create that close relationship between radicalism and nonconformity which has been so distinctive and so fortunate a feature of English politics. Methodism was a greater force for change than Karl Marx. [Communism]


High Church

Low Church





Members of the Church of England







Had civil rights in 1820







Supporters of the Tories / aristocracy







Supporters of the Whigs







Strong working class support in industrial cities







Supported radical reform in society







Wanted to reform the Church of England







Interested in education







Wanted to build more churches







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2. The Condition of the Church of England: Clerical Abuses

Source 10: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 508.

The liberal Churchmen were more concerned than high or low Church clergy with the reform of the administration and finances of the Church, because they were more in touch with lay opinion. To the ordinary layman [church-goer], and particularly to the increasing number of those wanting a thorough overhaul of every institution in the country, the Church was as full of abuses as the unreformed Parliament.

Source 11: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 508.

The highest authorities accepted pluralism and non-residence; even those who saw the need for change set a bad example. Blomfield was wise enough, after his promotion to See of London in 1828, to realise that unless the Church submitted to reform there might be a general confiscation of ecclesiastical property; yet from 1810 to 1828 he held more than one benefice. During part of this time he was also making a good income from private pupils; from 1820 to 1828 one his benefices was the living of Bishopsgate, with an income of £2100 a year, and between 1824 and 1828 he was bishop of Chester. If a reforming bishop could accumulate money and preferment in this way, the average prelate or well born incumbent might well go father. Bishop Sparke of Ely, his son, and his son in law enjoyed more than £30,000 a year of Church endowments. Archbishop Manners-Sutton, an active Churchman, presented seven of his relations to sixteen benefices; his predecessor in the See of Canterbury, who is said to have left a million pounds, provided his elder son with £12,000 a year and his younger son with £3,000 a year from benefices and other well paid offices.

Source 12: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 508.

The Extraordinary Black Book of 1831, which gave an account of the misappropriation of funds in the interests of the upper class, was directed as much against abuse of the Church preferment as against the scandal of pensions and secular places. The compilers of the book maintained that the ecclesiastical revenues of the whole of Europe were less than those of England; that the bishops and clergy generally voted against reforms, and that, even when they showed some interest in measures of public importance, such as education, their purpose was more to weaken nonconformity than to strengthen religion.

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3. Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, 1828

The Test Acts, passed in 1672, are a series of different pieces of legislation that made the holding of public office in Britain conditional on being a practising member of the Church of England. They were passed in England in 1673: the effect was that Catholics, Nonconformists, and non-Christians were excluded from office. In England candidates for public positions had to receive Holy Communion in accordance with Anglican rites; they also had to acknowledge the monarch as Head of the Church of England and repudiate the doctrine of transubstantiation.

After 1660, official policy to exclude Roman Catholics and the more extreme Protestant Nonconformists from holding official positions led to the Corporation Act of 1661. This was part of the Clarendon code; the legislation prohibited anyone who would not take the sacrament of Holy Communion according to Anglican rites from being elected to local government office in a city or corporation.

Between 1689 and 1702, the requirement to take the oaths and test was extended to beneficed clergy, members of the universities, lawyers, schoolteachers and preachers. The requirement for men attending or teaching at Oxford and Cambridge Universities was not lifted until the passing of the Universities Test Act in 1871.

However, in the 1820s there was a growing campaign among Dissenters for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, which were seen as discriminating against Protestants. At the same time there was a campaign for the lifting of discriminatory laws against Catholics: in 1823, Daniel O'Connell set up the Catholic Association in order to achieve Catholic Emancipation.

The Dissenters tended to be Whig in their politics and so were supported by more radical Whigs like Lord John Russell. In 1828 in a speech to parliament, he said

The great principle, involved in the numerous petitions before the House ... signed by the whole body of Dissenters, by Roman Catholics, and by many members of the established church ... is, that every man ... should be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience, without being subjected to any penalty or disqualification whatsoever... History will not justify you in maintaining these acts... The Dissenters of the present day feel nothing but loyalty towards the House of Hanover... All ground of necessity fails, the acts having been suspended for more than three quarters of a century... The abrogation of such laws ... will be more consonant to the tone and spirit of the age... (Parliamentary Debates, 2nd Series)

The Test and Corporation Acts were repealed in 1828, almost without a fight. Lord John Russell moved his resolutions in favour of a repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts on 26 February 1828 and carried a motion by 237 votes to 193.

While a Bill founded on Russell's proposals received its first and second readings, Peel held conferences with the two archbishops and other members of the Episcopal bench. A form of oath binding the taker not to injure or subvert the Established Church was agreed on as a substitute for the sacramental test and on 18 March when the House of Commons went into committee on the Bill, Peel secured the insertion of this declaration to be obligatory for holders of offices in corporations and at the discretion of the Crown for holders of civil offices.

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4. Catholic Emancipation

Catholics were treated as second-class citizens in both England and Ireland and were denied full civil rights. There interests were largely ignored.

Source 13: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 95.

It should be remember that at this time the Catholic population was small. Catholics numbered no more than 60,000, and the faith was the religion of a handful of old families who lived in quiet retirement. Only as Irish immigration gained momentum in the late 1840s did the Catholic population of the cities increase. When Englishmen thought of Catholicism they called to mind the peasants of Ireland ignorant, brutalised, superstitious, disloyal.

Catholics in Ireland had been promised emancipation when they agreed to the Act of Union in 1800, which abolished the Irish parliament and transferred her MPs to Westminster. Due to opposition in Parliament, this Bill was never passed and the interests of Catholics continued to be ignored.

Source 14: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 95.

To men reared in the eighteenth century the supremacy of the Anglican Church was more than an ecclesiastical preference. The Protestant ascendancy was part of the Constitution: one might say that without it the Constitution would never have existed. The Coronation Oath pledged the monarch to maintain the Protestant religion as by law established, while the Act of Settlement ensured a Protestant succession. Both the landed gentry and the commercial classes as well as the urban mob believed that if the Protestant ascendancy went the gates were open to unimaginable horrors.

Until 1823 the campaign for Catholic Emancipation in Ireland was mainly the preserve of an intellectual minority and there was no informed public opinion on the subject.

In 1823 Catholic Emancipation was taken to the people by Daniel O'Connell as their concern and as a popular campaign when he established the Catholic Association. O'Connell was a democrat and a Dublin lawyer who had close contact with the social and economic problems of the Irish through his work in the minor courts. He had seen the effects of English rule on the Irish. He decided to crusade to liberate the Irish socially, economically and politically by taking one step at a time within the system. His ultimate aim was Home Rule. Catholic Emancipation was the first step because it already had support in the House of Commons. O'Connell thought that once there were Catholic MPs in the Commons they could use their influence for Home Rule.

His tactics were adopted from American and French examples of agitation and pressure from the majority towards a single objective. His organisation was so successful that later English movements used the Catholic Association as their model. The Political Unions of the early 1830s and the Anti-Corn-Law League of the late 1830s and early 1840s both asked O'Connell for advice and help.

In 1828 William Huskisson, the President of the Board of Trade, proposed a new sliding scale on corn and after a disagreement with Wellington, resigned. This disagreement had nothing to do with Ireland but its results were startling. Wellington appointed Vesey Fitzgerald as his new President of the Board of Trade, but Fitzgerald had to stand for re-election because the post carried a salary. This precipitated the County Clare election. Catholic freeholders were allowed to vote, but not sit as MPs at Westminster. O'Connell, who was a Catholic, decided to stand against Fitzgerald: he could do so, but would not be allowed to take his seat if he won. Fitzgerald was an English Anglican who happened to be in favour of emancipation. O'Connell's aim was to provoke a crisis and force parliament to do something. He was elected in what Peel called "an avalanche."

Source 15: by John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 98.

With the masses behind him, he could threaten to throw the whole country into turmoil. The by-election was a triumph. The peasants marched to the polls with their priests at their head, and on the fifth day of the contest Fitzgerald conceded victory to his opponent. It seemed that Ireland was on the verge of revolution, for O'Connell's victory inspired the Irish with new hope and new determination. They were demanding emancipation as the price of peace.

After the Clare election, Wellington had two choices. Either he could pass a Catholic Emancipation Act and let O'Connell take his seat or he could declare the election null and void. Here he ran the risk of violence in Ireland, and possible civil war. Wellington did want to avoid bloodshed. He knew the majority of MPs favoured emancipation and that they were against the use of force in Ireland. He could not resign because that was no solution, and only a Tory ministry could get the Bill through the Lords and get George IV's consent. The crisis was provoked; the threat of violence existed and the Irish got their way.

Source 16: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 98.

Wellington temporised. He despised the Irish peasants and loathed all the arts of demagogy which O'Connell practiced so ably, but he had no wish to see the country engulfed in civil war: 'I have passed a longer period of my life in war than most men, and principally in civil are, and must say this, that if I could avert by any sacrifice even one months civil war in the country to which I am attached, I would give my life to it.' Though he wished to preserve the ascendancy, he realised that there were limits, which bound his desire. With aristocratic pessimism he was prepared to give way.

In April 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act was put through parliament by Wellington's ministry with a great deal of support from Lord John Russell and the Whigs. Peel put it to the House of Commons, and arguably spent the rest of his political career attempting to live down his 'ratting' on the Constitution in 1829. The Act said that

O'Connell accepted the Act although the majority of members of the Catholic Association were 40/- freeholders. It was political reality - he had achieved his aim. However, the peasants saw O'Connell as a traitor.

Source 17: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 96.

There were no doubts that the Church of England was a Protestant Church. The old Constitution had given the country a century and a half of civil peace, but, once it had been altered in so important a particular, where would the innovation end? The Catholic claim to full citizenship would mean the disturbance of that magical balance in Church and State which had proved its worth. Faithful Anglicans such as Robert Peel were simply and sincerely convinced on this point. Peel and Wellington changed their minds because that civil peace which they valued so highly was more threatened by the stubborn refusal to grant emancipation than by its accomplishment.

Source 18: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 94.

Wellington thought that the English constitution was perfect, and dismissed pleas for Parliamentary reform as little more than devious manoeuvres on the part of ambitious rogues who sought power. His speeches were those of a High Tory. Yet he never shrank from changing his policy in order to bring it into line with a new situation. For all his stubborn insolence, he retained the tactical sense of a general. He valued political peace more than intellectual consistency. His unbending attitude provoked Radicals to wrath, but he always knew when the time had come to give way… He took the lead in solving the Catholic problem, and the unity, which the remnants of Lord Liverpool's Tory party shared in common, was wreaked by the bitter dispute over Catholic relief (Emancipation)… Peel and Wellington had both opposed relief. Though they believed that their tactics saved Ireland from civil war…

Source 19: John W Derry, Reaction & Reform, p. 96.

The arguments on the other side were clear. The age of religious strife was over. Distrust of Catholics as potential traitors was outmoded. The Irish problem could not be solved without emancipation. Fears of the domination of the United Kingdom by the Irish Catholics were unfounded, for they would be swamped in the imperial Parliament by Protestants. Yet it could be asserted that emancipation would result in the destruction, not the stabilisation of the Union, and whatever the rights and wrongs of the question, events showed that the misgivings of the Tories were not without foundation. Emancipation was just and necessary, but men who thought that the established Constitution in Church and State was the greatest bulwark (protection) of order in an increasingly unstable world were not entirely unjustified in claiming that to tamper with the Old Order on one respect was to expose it to more far reaching attacks.

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5. Pressure Within Parliament for Reform

Source 20: Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement, p. 282.

The early reforming zeal of the Whigs, their alliance with the Dissenters in the cause of religious freedom, their dislike of the attitude of the majority of the bishops in the House of Lords during the Reform bill debates, and their tampering with the Irish Church made many staunch supporters of the Church of England fear that a reformed Parliament would end by reforming not only the State but the Church. The sense of danger was communicated in Whig speeches. If the Lords opposed the Whig government on any vital matter, Macaulay wrote in 1833, 'he would not give sixpence for a coronet or a penny for a mitre'.

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6. Church Reforms in the 1830s

The ecclesiastical reforms of the Whig government in the 1830s were motivated partly by their desire for progressive reform in line with Benthamite thinking, partly by the need to win the support of non-conformist voters and Irish radicals in Parliament. However, despite their desire to woo the dissenters, there was no move to disestablish the Anglican Church.

There are three aspects to the Whig church reforms:

Whig attitudes towards politics and religion proved to be very similar to the Tories. Whatever the views of their radical and dissenting supporters, most Whigs saw the Church of England not only as a buttress against rash change but also as a reliable educator of the nation's poor. As in politics, they were pragmatists; they did not encourage Churchmen to believe that a continuation of the status quo was either desirable or possible. Earl Grey, a conservative reformer if ever there was one, was the natural friend of the Church, but he informed the long serving and anti-reforming Archbishop of York, Edward Vernon Harcourt, in 1834 that he was only prepared to countenance an Established Church prepared for the ‘removal of some of some of the causes of complaint’. Fortunately for the Church of England, its other leaders, William Howley of Canterbury and CJ Blomfield of London, were not so averse to change.

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7. The Position of the Established Church in the 1830s

The position of the Church of England had been weakened by the concessions to non-conformists in 1828 with the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, by Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and by the 1832 Reform Act which the Church opposed. Norman Gash, Reaction and Reconstruction in English Politics, says the Church as an institution was 'politically unpopular socially exclusive, administratively corrupt'.

In 1833 the Whigs planned a Bill to create new Sees to reflect population changes and to redistribute the wealth of the Church from the richest to the poorest bishoprics. This proposal was lost when the Whigs lost office in 1834. William IV’s belief that the Whigs were unsound on the Church was an important factor in his decision to dismiss Melbourne in November 1834 and install a Tory administration in his place.

Peel, the incoming Conservative Prime Minister, was concerned to strengthen the Church as a established institution and appointed an Ecclesiastical Commission to look into Church revenues. This Commission, which provided an opening for the progressive forces within the Anglican Church, suggested the same reforms as the Whigs - the creation of new Sees and the redistribution of Church income.

Peel’s initiative to Church reform was what Grey’s had been to the political system. Both men were fundamentally conservative; both believed that temperate reform was the best defence of established institutions. As Peel had hinted in his famous Tamworth Manifesto of December 1834, his Tory party would be no haven of reaction on ecclesiastical or other questions where there were proven abuses.

Peel was careful to move slowly with the approval of Archbishop Howley and Bishop Blomfield. The Ecclesiastical Commission consisted of leading politicians – Peel and Goulburn both sat on it and were replaced by Melbourne and Russell when the government changed hands – the two archbishops and three senior bishops.

The Commission saw the need to eliminate plurality and non-residence as far as possible, to reduce the disparities in beneficed income and to create a more modern ecclesiastical structure by redrawing the map of Episcopal boundaries. It also felt that it was vitally important to increase the Churches presence in the towns. Not only must more churches be built, but also sufficient money should be made available to fund these new churches. Between 1831 and 1851 the Commission supervised a programme of church building which managed the impressive feat of more than matching the rate of population growth in the major industrial areas of England. In this period the number of Anglican churches in Lancashire increased from 292 to 521 and in the West Riding of Yorkshire from 287 to 556. In the whole country 2,029 new churches were built, overwhelmingly with money from the Church rather than the State. The rate of church building was approximately three times that during the twelve years after the passage of the Church Buildings Act in 1818.

When the Whigs returned to office they passed the Established Church Act in 1836, which made the Ecclesiastical Commission permanent and empowered it to prepare reforms for parliamentary legislation and to implement them. Beginning with the equalisation of diocesan incomes, the Commission went on to deal with the question of pluralism. There was no move to disestablish the Church and in the long run it was strengthened by progressive reform.

Source 21: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 509.

After the passing of the Reform Bill, the Whigs turned to the question of Church property. They prepared a draft scheme for the appointment of a body of commissioners to manage Episcopal and cathedral endowments. They proposed to forbid non-residence [plurality], to create new Sees, and to cut down the incomes of the richest bishoprics in order to apply the surplus revenues to poor parishes. They could not put their scheme into effect before they went out of office in 1834, but Peel did not intend to fight public opinion on behalf of clerical abuses. He accepted the principles of the Whig plan, and appointed a commission to enquire into the state of the Church in England and Wales.

Work of the Ecclesiastical Commission

Source 22: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 509.

The first report of the commission, issued in 1835, recommended the creation of newSees at Ripon and Manchester and the rearrangement of other dioceses, including the enormous diocese of Lincoln. The commissioners suggested large reductions in the incomes of the richer Sees. Durham, which had revenue of £17,000 - £20,000, was cut down to £7,000 and Canterbury from about £18,000 to £15,000. A second report, published in 1836, advised the limitation of cathedral chapters to a Dean and four residential Canons, and the use of revenues for the augmentation of poor livings [parish priests].

Source 23: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 510.

The Whigs were back in office before the publication of the second report. They accepted most of the recommendations, and setup a permanent board of ecclesiastical commissioners to administer property taken for new uses. They also passed a Church Pluralities Act forbidding a clergyman to hold more than two livings; they allowed the subdivision of parishes, and settled at least for the time being the troublesome question of tithes in England and Wales.


Source 24: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 510.

The Whigs proposed in 1833 and 1834 that tithes should be commuted [replaced] for a rent charge based upon a septennial valuation made by special commissioners. The House of Lords would not accept the details of the Whig Bill; Peel was not in office long enough to settle the matter, and in 1836 Russell introduced a Bill based to a large extent on the earlier proposals. Henceforward all tithes were paid in money; the basis of valuation was the average market price of wheat, barley, and oats over a seven year period.

Church Rates

Source 25: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 511.

The Whigs also tried to settle the problem of Church rates levied for the repair of the fabric of parish churches. As late as 1811 there was little opposition to these rates, but the dissenters, especially in the towns, began to refuse to pay for the upkeep of the churches, which they did not attend… In 1834 the Whigs proposed to abolish Church rates in return for a charge of £250,000 on the land tax. The Churchmen thought the sum too small and the dissenters thought that it was too large. The matter was left unsettled, and remained as a source of local disputes and bitterness until Gladstone in 1868 abolished compulsory Church rates.

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8. Dissenters’ Grievances

Non-conformists pressed the Whig government for removal of several disabilities and grievances. They objected to financial levies like Church Rates and the Tithe, and to the Anglican monopoly on marriages and funeral services. They complained that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were closed to non-Anglicans and that in many areas education could only be obtained in Anglican schools.

These grievances were stated in May 1833 by the United Committee of Dissenters. (See Non Conformist Grievances) The Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne was prepared to do something in the Church Rates Bill of 1834 but was dismissed by the King before it became law.

Peel also gave some attention to dissenters’ grievances in a Dissenters’ Marriage Bill, which allowed for a civil marriage before a magistrate, but he too lost office before the Bill became law.

When the Whigs returned, they were able to pass a number of measures, which had been virtually agreed with the Opposition.

However, admission of dissenters to the ancient universities was not achieved. A bill introduced by the Unitarian George Wood in 1834, and supported by some Cabinet members, passed the Commons before being thrown out in the Lords. The Commons also rejected a Church Rates Bill, which transferred the cost of upkeep of the churches from parishioners to church funds. In both cases opposition came from the Whig gentry as much as from the Tories led by Peel.

Source 26: The Whig Reformers, 1830 - 41

The 1830s saw a great interest in the subject of Church reform. The United Committee of Dissenters was looking for concessions. Dissenters felt that hey suffered from the privileged position of the Anglicans, and had backed the establishment of a Royal Commission into the financing of the Church. As a result of this and other enquiries the Established Church Act was passed in 1836. It defined the territorial responsibilities of the bishops, and laid down new regulations concerning financial administration – in particular, it did something to supplement the stipend [salary] of poorer parish priests. Ecclesiastical Commissioners were appointed to supervise the implementation of the changes.

Source 27: The Whig Reformers, 1830 - 41

A number of Radicals were unhappy with what had been done, for they wanted to see the disestablishment of the Church of England; they saw it as privileged, affluent and corrupt. Many Dissenters were less concerned about these failings than about achieving parity of esteem. They wanted to see their religious disabilities removed, and welcomed the measures above as they did the replacement of the tithe by a money payment and the opening of London University as a non-sectarian body, both in 1836.

Source 28: Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement, p. 284.

The main Whig measures of the 1830s were far from paltry or little, although they did not go as far as Nonconformists wished. They included the commutation of tithes (1836), the Marriage Act of the same year which allowed Dissenters to be married in their own chapels, the legalization of civil marriage with local registration of births, weddings and deaths, and, most important of all, the setting up of a permanent Ecclesiastical Commission in 1836 to redraw the boundaries and redistribute the income of dioceses. The House of Lords opposed much of this legislation, qualifying, for instance, the Marriage Act so that Nonconformists had to have their marriages announced before the Poor Law Guardians.

Source 29: Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement, p. 284.

The Ecclesiastical Commission, however, was strongly supported by Peel, who as a stalwart Churchman was responsible in his short ministry for appointing a committee of enquiry into Church revenues which he hoped would strengthen rather than weaken the position of the Establishment. The practical reforms, which the Commission made possible the ban on holding of plural benefices over two miles apart, the augmentation of the stipend of many poor parish priests, and the diminution [reduction] of enormous Episcopal incomes were as important to the survival of the Church of England as an institution in a new age as any of the movements of reform from within her own ranks.

Source 30: Asa Briggs, The Age of Improvement, p. 285.

The hopes of the militant Dissenters in the mid 1830s that the Church rates would be abolished and the 'disgraceful connection between Church and State' dissolved were dashed long before the general election of 1837, when the Whigs made it finally clear that they intended to carry their ecclesiastical reforms no further. Their last proposal to abolish Church rates and to raise an equivalent amount of revenue, £250,000 annually, from the better management of Church lands and from additional pew rents was carried by only 273 votes to 250 and was killed in the House of Lords. By 1840 they were modifying the constitution of the Ecclesiastical Commission so that all bishops became automatic commissioners.

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9. Nonconformist Grievances with the Church of England in the 1830s

In March 1833 the Deputies of the Three Denominations, otherwise known as the Protestant Dissenting Deputies (a London Committee which looked after the national interests of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists), set up a United Committee 'to consider the grievances under which Dissenters now labour, with a view to their Redress'.

In May the United Committee, consisting of the Committee of Deputies, delegates from the Body of Ministers, the Protestant Society and others, drew up a list of six specific grievances on which they wished the government to take action. But a deputation to the Prime Minister failed to secure satisfaction and it was clear that pressure would have to be exerted if results were to be obtained.

There was the further fear that the royal commission set up in 1832 to enquire into ecclesiastical revenues might result in legislation to reform the Church, leaving the question of Dissenting grievances on one side. The Congregationalist George Hadfield, writer of the following letter, was an author and politician, later MP for Sheffield 1852-74:


It is a matter of the deepest regret and surprise that no steps are taking by the Dissenters in England, at this critical juncture, to assert their principles and claim their just rights, when it is generally understood that his Majesty's ministers, or at least the majority of them, will concede nothing to us which they can possibly avoid; and that they intend to bring forward, next session, their plan of church reform, the tendency of which will be decidedly unfavourable to our interests, and will consolidate the political power and influence of one dominant sect.…

If, then, we owed Earl Grey and his colleagues any debt of gratitude, for doing us an act of justice before they took office, in getting the Test Laws repealed, we have now paid it; and it is time to look to our own interests, in which are involved the best interests of the country.

We are required to submit to the domination of a corrupt state church; to be governed by bishops; to see £3,5000,000 at the least (but more likely £5,00,000) annually expended in the maintenance of a clergy, of whom a vast majority do not preach the gospel; to see the cure of souls bought and sold in open market; to have the Universities closed against us, and all the iniquities of those degraded places continued; to be taxed, tithed, and rated to the support of a system which we abjure; to be compelled to submit to objectionable rites and ceremonies at marriage, baptism, and burial; – in one word, to be left out of the social compact, and degraded.…

We have hitherto demanded too little; and, consequently, we have been refused everything worth caring about. The bill for relieving places of worship from the poor rates, which was the fruit of the labours of the last session of Parliament, is no boon to us. It applies to churches in the establishment more than to ourselves, and I doubt much whether it will save the Dissenters £50 a year. I fear we have even misled the Government itself by asking for trifles, when we ought to have been contending for great principles. What signifies a small church-rate, when we should be contending against a corrupt state church? What is the trifling amount of procreates levied upon a very few of our chapels, in comparison of millions of pounds annually expended on a secular and dominant clergy? - and all this is done in a country burdened with a debt which grinds all! The real points at issue between the Government and us are very few, and may soon be stated. They are chiefly as follow, viz: –

1st. A total disconnection between church and state, leaving the details consequent thereupon to be dealt with by Parliament.
2nd.The repeal of the Act of Charles II., which enables bishops to sit in the House of Lords.
3rd. The repeal of all laws, which grant compulsory powers to raise money for the support of any church whatever.
4th. The reformation of the Universities, the repeal of all religious tests, and a grant of equal rights in them.
5th. A reformation of the laws relating to marriage and registration with equal rights in places of public burial.

No Government whatever could long resist any of these just and reasonable requirements, if perseveringly demanded; and it is well known that several members of the present administration would gladly and promptly grant all of them.… Our political power is far more justly estimated by our opponents than by ourselves, and few of the members of Parliament would venture to be indifferent or opposed to our wishes. Lord Durham knows us well, and his advice is particularly applicable to us: 'The power rests with yourselves, now, to instruct your representatives as to the measures which you, the respectability and intelligence of the country, have set your hearts on, and they will inevitably be carried.'

I am, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
George Hadfield

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10. The Irish Church


The Anglican Church of Ireland presented the Whigs with major problems. After the General Election of 1835, the Whigs depended upon the support of Irish MPs under the leadership of the nationalist Daniel O’Connell. All Church questions turned on the uncomfortable fact that less than 7% of Irishmen were members of its Established Church, the Church of Ireland, while both the Catholic majority and the non-conformist Presbyterian minority were compelled to pay tithes to support the Church of Ireland’s ministers [vicars]. The predominantly Catholic peasantry, on whom the burden of maintaining this alien and foreign institution fell, resented all the large landholdings of the Church, the inflated clergy and the tithe. In the west of Ireland, parishes could be found without a single communicant member of the Church of Ireland, but the people were still expected to pay the tithe. In Parliament the government was under pressure to act from the Irish radicals led by Daniel O’Connell.

The Irish Church Act of 1833 abolished the Church Rate, or cess, and replaced it with a tax on clerical incomes. Ten of the twenty-two Protestant bishoprics were suppressed and parish clergy with no parishioners were removed. Church tenants were given leases in perpetuity. The Irish Tithe Act of 1838 transferred responsibility for payment from tenant to landlord.

However, the Whigs were unsuccessful in their attempt to appropriate the surplus income of the Church for secular purposes like education. Opposition in the Lords in 1833 led to the abandonment of Clause 147 of the Irish Church Bill. The Lords' opposition in 1835, 1836 and 1837 to appropriation of the tithe for education led to its omission from the 1838 Act. The Whigs were not successful in removing the burden of the tithe from the peasantry. In 1833 they passed a Coercion Act giving wide powers to the authorities in Ireland in an effort to overcome the refusal of Catholic tenants to pay the tithe. When the Tithe Act was passed landlords merely passed the burden of the tithe to the peasants through increased rents.


The implications of Catholic Emancipation for the establishment principle of the Anglican Church was felt most pressingly in Ireland, where Emancipation was followed almost immediately by the ‘tithe war’.

The Emancipation campaign had raised high hopes in the Catholic population. Cooke told the House of Lords Committee that Emancipation was popularly thought to mean redistribution of land. Magee, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, complained to the Committee on the State of Ireland that ‘The real aim of the agitation was to establish the Catholic religion as the religion of the country.’

After Emancipation had been achieved, O'Connell used the machinery he had created to agitate for Repeal of the Act of Union, and therefore the establishment of a Roman Catholic government. In order to whip up support for Repeal of the Act of Union he decided to press for reform of the tithes that were paid to the Church of Ireland. These tithes were a symbol of subjection to a foreign church, and he was able to harness the hatred many Irish Catholics felt towards tithes to get them to support the broader political question of Repeal of the Act of Union, though his attempts to do so resulted in his imprisonment early in 1831.

As a result of the Tithe War there was a widespread refusal through the South of Ireland to pay tithes, accompanied by an intensification of agrarian terrorism. Rural secret societies proliferated; tithe cattle were maimed or branded so that they could not be sold. In an affray over tithe cattle in Newtonbarry the local yeomanry killed twelve Catholic peasants. Anglican ministers were reduced to penury [poverty] where the tithe was their main source of income. The Church of Ireland, obviously unpopular, was forced to resort to draconian measures to collect the dues to which its position as a state church entitled it. The government passed a Coercion Act early in 1833, which put certain areas of Ireland under martial law, but it recognised the need for reform.

However, any proposed changes to the Church of Ireland, also intimately affected the Church of England. There were calls both sides of the Irish Sea for the disestablishment of the Established Church. Many leading Churchmen and Tories saw an attack on the Church of Ireland as the prelude to an attack by the Whigs on the Church of England so the debates in Parliament over what to do with the Irish Church were hotly debated.

The Bill to reform the Church of Ireland was introduced by the new government as one of its first measures in February 1833, and it became law in August as the Irish Church Temporalities Act. Grey’s Irish temporalities Bill of 1833 proposed extensive ecclesiastical reorganisation. It barely touched the question of tithes and was a rationalisation of the structure of the Church, involving redistribution rather than a reduction in endowments and the suppression of ten sees, including two archbishoprics. For example, the two richest sees Armagh and Derry were reduced. Parishes with no practical function would not receive any ministers who would be redeployed elsewhere.

The most contentious issue centred on what to do with the ‘surplus revenues’ to be released by these reforms. O’Connell’s Irish MPs argued that the money should be paid as an annual stipend to Catholic priests. The Whigs wanted to spend the money on educational and social projects. However, the principle of the state appropriating church revenues for secular purposes stirred up passions in both Houses of Parliament. Most bishops argued that if the state were allowed to get away with doing this in Ireland then it would only be a matter of time before they tried to do exactly the same thing in England. Many Whigs and Tories agreed with the bishops, including Edward Stanley, the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The government was in crisis, it could either give in on an issue which offered some hope for peace in Ireland or it pawned its future still more heavily on O’Connell and his radical MPs who ultimately wanted home Rule for Ireland. Not surprisingly, the former course was chosen and the ‘Appropriation clause’, which dealt with the surplus revenues, was deleted from the bill to preserve the reforms.

In May 1834, Lord John Russell declared in support of O'Connell's attack on church endowments in opposition to Stanley. Four members of the cabinet, including Stanley, resigned when the issue was brought forward for debate. Grey himself resigned a few weeks later, now seventy years old and anxious to lay down the burdens of office, but the arguments amongst his colleagues over the Irish church questions and behind the scenes negotiation with O’Connell were the critical factors that finally made up his mind. Melbourne, his successor, was not in such secure control of his reconstituted Whig government. Many former Whig MPs who supported the Established Church defected to the Tories. King William IV was swayed by the Anglican propaganda about the inseparability of Church and State and sacked Melbourne as Prime Minister and asked Peel to form a government.

Amongst the English dissenters or non-conformists, the crisis seemed to suggest for the first time that disestablishment of the Church of England could be a political possibility. The secularisation of the state was already part of the Benthamite radical programme, and O'Connell announced himself in favour of disestablishment of the Anglican Church in his reply to the King's Speech in February. During the debates, he and Joseph Hume were - unsuccessfully - anxious to establish the principle that the State had the right to apply church endowments to secular purposes. In the wake of the act, the English dissenters took up the separation of Church and State as a general principle underpinning their political campaigns for the redress of practical grievances. Resolutions in favour of disestablishment were passed at meetings in December 1833 and January 1834 in Leeds, Nottingham, throughout the Midlands, Lancashire and Glasgow. The United Committee, which had been formed to fight the Test and Corporation Acts, declared in favour of the separation of church and state in response to the Leeds meeting's call for a convention on dissenting grievances. So it would appear that the fears of the bishops and many Whig and Tory politicians were right in opposing some of the reforms of the Church of Ireland.

It was O'Connell's strength in Parliament that gave strength to the radicals. But the interests of O'Connell and the radicals were different. The radicals supported the attack on the Church of Ireland as a means of establishing the principle that church endowments were derived from secular society and could be reclaimed or spent by the government for socially useful projects. The most ambitious of them envisaged the complete separation of church and state. In this, they had sporadic support from English dissent.

O'Connell was interested in establishing the principle that in a country whose population was mainly Catholic, the Catholic interest should predominate. This did not require the formal establishment of the Roman Catholic Church. O'Connell was an early advocate of the 'liberal ultramontane' ideal advocated in France after the July Revolution of the separation of church and state.

Irish Church reform foundered on the rock of appropriation and what should happen to the money that was originally collected for the Established Church. In order to press his case and apply political pressure O'Connell called for an all-out tithe strike when tithes fell due in November. Russell, its most fervent government supporter, revived the question in 1835 in the context of tithe reform but a weaken Whig government could not carry it.

Lord John Russell had proposed that, prior to November, Parliament should hold a special session for the further reform of the Church of Ireland. By an Act of February 1834, the government, which had now taken on responsibility for tithe collection, had agreed to pay tithes not received between 1831 and 1832 out of its own revenue. Russell proposed that this money should be paid out of the endowments of the church and, further, that all benefices serving parishes in which less than one tenth of the population were members of the Church of Ireland, should be abolished. If this was put through, the Church of Ireland would lose even the small appearance it had of being a 'national' church, and Ireland would lose the slight appearance it retained of being a 'Protestant' country.

In the end the Irish, much to O’Connell’s disgust, had to make do with a Tithe Act in 1838, which converted the hated impost to a money payment fluctuating with the price of grain and calculated at only three-quarters of its nominal value. Ina feeble attempt to keep the Irish farmers happy, payment was to be made by the landlord rather than the tenant. Arrears, which were very substantial as a result of the Tithes wars, were also cancelled.

Russell believed that the Tithes Act was the most important legislative contribution to peace in Ireland during his lifetime. However, it still left Catholics to contribute to the Church of Ireland maintenance. The Whigs were ultimately unable to push through their more radical reforms of the Church of Ireland due to not only lack of cross party support from the Tories, but also lack of support amongst their own party. William IV’s belief that the Whigs were unsound on the Church was an important factor in his decision to dismiss Melbourne in November 1834 and install a Tory administration under Peel. Peel’s minority government lasted barely four months, but his proposal to set up the Ecclesiastical Commission, provided an acceptable programme and mechanism for some reform of the Anglican Church.

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11. The Oxford Movement

However necessary the reforms in the Anglican Church, there was no denying that their implementation represented a massive interference by the State. This led to a backlash from within the Church known as the Oxford Movement. This movement grew out of the Whig reforms of the early 1830s, particularly the 1832 Reform Act and the alliance of the Whigs with the Dissenters in the cause of religious freedom. The Whigs clearly disliked the attitude of a majority of bishops in the House of Lords during the Reform Bill debates, and their tampering with the Irish Church made many staunch supporters of the Anglican Church fear that a reformed parliament would end by reforming not only the State but the Church. Many High Churchmen were alarmed at the Whig attitude towards the Anglican Church - which explains why Gladstone was a member of the Oxford Movement.

The ideas of the Oxford Movement were confined largely to the intellectual elite of Oxford University, which concerned itself hardly at all with the problems of industrial Britain. The movement began in 1833, in protest against improper state interference in church affairs. In addition to Newman himself, John Keble, Edward Pusey and Hurrell Froude were all Fellows of Oriel College; and had opposed Peel when he unsuccessfully sought re-election as Member for Oxford University after the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.

All those involved in the movement agreed that the Anglican Church was in danger of final spiritual decay because it had forgotten the doctrines of the apostolic succession, the priesthood and the sacramental system. They dated the decisive backsliding on essential church principles to the disastrous years of Tory government immediately after the death of Lord Liverpool.

In July 1833 Keble preached a famous sermon, National Apostasy Considered, as a blast against the Irish Church Temporalities bill. The government he alleged, had ‘virtually usurped the commission of those whom our Saviour entrusted with at least one voice in making ecclesiastical laws … The same Legislature has also ratified … that the Apostolical Church in this realm is henceforth only to stand, in the eye of the State, as one sect among many.’

This speech was a rallying cry to the supporters of the Established Church, who viewed the Whig reforms as an attempt to disestablish the Church of England. This caused splits in the Whig party and later resignations from the cabinet as the debate on what to do with the Church of Ireland continued in 1835.

Source 31: Asa Briggs: The Age of Improvement, p. 283.

Newman and the leaders of what soon became the Oxford Movement were anxious to distinguish their position from that of Tory critics of all reform proposals and from the 'Church party'… Nurtured in Oxford, the Tractarians sought an older and a more abiding authority than the Established Church. Keble's famous sermon in 1833 on 'National Apostasy', and his fervent protests against the proposal to secularise a portion of the revenues of the Irish bishoprics, talked not of temporal abuses but of Parliament's 'direct disavowal of the sovereignty of God'. It was the spiritual force unleashed by Keble, Newman, and Edward Pusey rather than the strength of their urgent protest against parliamentary reform of the Church of England, which ensured their survival.

The leaders of the Oxford Movement were sober, serious scholars. They sought to purify from within. They emphasized High Church traditions – authority, ritual and apostolic succession – and the need to re-establish the inner vitality of the Anglican Communion. In the search for self-respect in the Church they opposed State involvement precisely because they thought it essential for clerics to put their own house in order. Pusey saw the Ecclesiastical Commission as a standing threat: ‘It will absorb our Episcopate; the Prime minister will be our Protestant Pope’.

Edward Pusey then joined the Tractarians (as they were now called) - he was a professor and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He taught that the Anglican Church belonged to the wider Catholic [universal] church, and encouraged a greater care for external order and ceremonial in services. The revival of interest in church architecture and ritual was part of the broader revival of historical studies. The Anglican Church returned to its original roots, concentrating much more on the 'beauty of holiness'. As a result of the work of the Oxford Movement, the Church of England became much more sacramental; ritual returned; vestments were used once more.

The Oxford Movement, despite its political storms, was one of the many agencies which stiffened the sinews of Anglicanism and made its clergy more dutiful, devotional and self confident. Politically, they swam against the rising tide of lay interference. Peel led a resurgent Tory party faithful as ever to the Established Church, but determined to see the link between Church and State as reciprocal, mutually reinforcing partnership. If bishops played their legislative role in the Lords, so Parliament, via the Ecclesiastical Commission, must help to direct the course of its Church by law established.

Tories a well as Whigs condemned the Tractarians (Oxford Movement) in 1836 for creating such a fuss against the appointment of a liberal Churchman, Dr RD Hampden, to the Regius Chair of Divinity at Oxford. Many saw more than a doctrinal objection. The Tractarians were attacking State involvement in the senior appointment in both academic and the religious worlds. Leading Tories did not trust the Church to put its own affairs to rights and by the time that Peel won the 1841 election, nearly all were convinced that the Tractarian way would lead to the destruction or salvation of the Church. The Church of England, revived and renewed as it undoubtedly was in the 1830s and 1840s, would remain securely, and subordinately, yoked to the State as the Established Church.

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12. Pressure for Reform Within the Anglican Church

Source 32: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 509.

Practical men in the church wished to remedy a state of things, which they could not defend, and the public would no longer tolerate. At the same time a number of churchmen who disliked the liberalism of their time began to ask whether the attack upon the church was due to a cause deeper than irritation over the misapplication of endowments; the church had lost the support of a nation which at least nominally Christian because the clergy and laity had forgotten the meaning of institutional religion. Thus two movements, one for administrative reform and the other for a rival of the conception of the church as a divinely appointed society, worked simultaneously to change the outward form and internal character of the Church of England.

Source 33: Sir Llewellyn Woodward, The Age of Reform, p. 509.

The administrative reforms enforced a more careful performance of spiritual duties, the revival of belief in the sacred mission of their office made the clergy more anxious to observe outward forms, to avoid scandal, to attend to the upkeep and repair of the churches, and to look upon the church as something more than a department of state.

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The Ecclesiastical Commission’s work bore legislative fruit between 1836 and 1840 with the Established Church Act, The Pluralities Act and the Ecclesiastical Duties and Revenues Act. These solved the most glaring abuses and helped the Church to meet the challenges of urban society. Perhaps their psychological impact was even more important. The Commission proved that the Church could do what its enemies thought impossible – reform itself in generally efficient ways. The overwhelmingly Tory clergy improved enthusiasm and morale between 1830 and 1860 as they assimilated the e essentially Whig message that constructive change was the best defence against radical reconstruction. The calls of the non-conformists to disestablish the Church of England disappeared after 1860.

As a result if these reforms the clergy were better paid, some were working in the 2029 new churches built by the Ecclesiastical Commission and promotion was now largely based upon merit. The new reforms empowered the Church of England to meet some of the needs of the new growing industrial cities. Now that many of the former complaints that had made it unpopular in the past were removed it began to grow. This along with the confidence and attention to detail in ceremonies and doctrine of the Oxford Movement helped to revive the Church of England. However, the reforms of the Church of Ireland did not go far enough to satisfy the demands of the Catholic majority in Ireland.

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