Saturday, 29 December 2012

Chapter 19. 'The Queen, the Head of the Church'

Mr Barlow had now reached the age of fifty and the full implications of his situation had become unavoidable.

As a boy, he was
ambitious of distinction and learning … content with nothing if anything loftier stood forth for competition. 
As a man, he had an enormous interest in the outside world, and his leisure time was evidently spent in
the profitable perusal of scientific reasoning [1].  
One of his favourite books, referred to in his novel, was Alexander von Humboldt's Cosmos, on which he took copious notes:
The limit of perpetual snow depends not on the mean temperature of the year but of the summer which melts the snow … The Chinese had a waggon with a needle to direct them across the deserts 1000 years before Christ …
Humboldt was a traveller, explorer and mountaineer, father of the earth and life sciences we know today, who conceived of projects unimaginable in his time, such as the Panama Canal and a United Nations. 

Not far from Mr Barlow's own parish, men of enterprise were developing new industries.  People of his own acquaintance made epic journeys.

His brother James had lived in India and travelled around Europe, while their father's cousin Michael Hoy knew 18th century St Petersburg.  John Richard Digby Beste's latest account of his travels in America had just come into print.  Lord and Lady Falkland had now returned from Bombay, and within a couple of years Lady Falkland would produce an attractive and lively account of their travels taken from her journals.

The family occupying Linden Grove had known the wide world – Lieut. Col. Forbes MacBean of the Royal Artillery had been born in Nova Scotia in about 1790, while his wife and her sister were born in St Petersburg.  They may well have known of Michael Hoy and Mr Barlow's brother James – there must have been many interesting discussions and Mr Barlow will have had ample opportunity to hear their reminiscences before they moved on to live at Kirkleatham Old Hall.

Henry Sewell, whose family firm had managed James Barlow Hoy's affairs, was in New Zealand where he was briefly prime minister.  Even Faceby farm labourers could sail the Atlantic and cross the great plains in ox-drawn waggons.

Mr Barlow knew London – the only photograph we have of him was taken at a studio in the Euston Road in about 1865.  He seems to have travelled in the Swiss Alps, as there is a description of Lausanne in his novel that suggests he had visited the town himself.  He had certainly risen to the challenges of his parish.

Now, however, there were no great projects left to undertake in Hutton Rudby.  His income had dwindled, and he could not help but realise that once a clergyman took a rural parish he was "a shelved man" [2].

An incumbency was not part of a system of promotion – there was no reward for working a parish well.

The worldly successes of his neighbour, the Revd Charles Cator, who had become Rector of Stokesley in 1835, can only have increased his dissatisfaction.  Cator came from a not dissimilar background to his own – the family money had been made in recent generations, and there were connections with the East India Company and the Royal Navy – but prudent marriages and investment in land had brought wealth and influence to the family, which had property in Yorkshire and Kent.  Cator had published numerous works on tithes, pluralities, the Church and State, Ireland and church rates [3].  He had preached in St Paul's and been chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London.  As Rector of Stokesley, his income was considerable.

Robert Barlow had entered willingly into the career his mother had chosen for him and shared the rather naïve and unrealistic family dreams for his glittering future.  Now he had lost his wife of many years, and the future must have appeared very different.

He was the head of the family and responsible for his ageing sisters and his young nephew; he could not leave Yorkshire for wider horizons.  Rather than regret his mother's original decision or the choices he had made that had reduced his chances of advancement, he brooded on the failings of the system.  His mounting frustration needed an outlet, and in 1856 he dashed into print with An Appeal, entitled The Queen, the Head of the Church [4]
In putting these few pages together upon the spur of the moment,
he declared confidently,
for want of care, I may have done injury to the cause I have undertaken; yet the subject is in itself so stirring, it speaks so eloquently to the heart and feelings of every serious and reflecting mind, that I need scarcely imagine that the writer, or his style, or the arrangement of his ideas, will for a moment occupy any one's thoughts, engrossed as they will be with the all-absorbing subject, the interest of the Church.
This want of care can indeed be seen in some inaccuracy of detail, incoherence and a lack of order in his arguments.  There is also a certain amount of muddled thinking, which is unsurprising given the fact that Mr Barlow was arguing for patronage in the Church to be swept away, when he owed his own benefice to that very system. 

Mr Barlow's subject was the structure of the Church.  He did not address the hotly debated issues of churchmanship and theological differences, nor the justifiable grievances of the Nonconformists.  In fact, his view seems to have been that everyone would belong to the Church of England, if earlier clergymen had not failed in their duties.

The state of the Diocese of York at about this time can be imagined from Archbishop Longley's description in 1861:
there are 184 benefices in the diocese of York (that is one third of the whole number) unprovided with parsonage houses.  There are 141 benefices in the diocese of York each with an income of less than £100 a year.  Then Sheffield has no more than one church for every 8,000 souls.  Hull has but one church for every 8,500 souls.  Middlesbrough has only one church for 10,000 souls.  Rotherham has 10,000 souls in the district of its parish church.  Masbro' [5] has no Church at all for a population of many thousands. [6]
In his pamphlet, Mr Barlow called for the church finances to be adjusted – all that was required to do this was "a deep sense of justice" and "an ordinary share of common sense".  He denounced political interference in clerical appointments, and excoriated the "blighting influence of the Minister over the throne":
In electioneering times the Premier gets some influential doctor of an University to support the Government candidate, and promises the first vacant mitre as a reward. 
He proposed a complicated system of appointment to senior positions.

The names of proposed candidates would be discussed by a convocation of deans, bishops and archbishops, who would exclude the unsuitable.  They would then create a shorter list by placing all the suitable names in a draw.  Three-quarters of the names would be drawn by lot and would be placed in order of draw before the Queen, for her to make her own choice:
Thus might we, with perfect security, have the Church and State united; an union in which all pious men might exult, for the shafts of slander would fall from it innocuous.
He evidently had no doubt but that the sovereign could make an unimpeachable choice without any outside advice; a quaint belief, it might be thought, in a man who had known the reigns of Georges III and IV and William IV.

Promotion would be by seniority throughout, as was done in the Royal Artillery – a subject on which Mr Barlow will have been further informed by Lieut. Col. MacBean.

Bishops would have no favours to repay and no future preferment to protect; Barlow's system would therefore "purify prelates' votes in Parliament" and "gain them credit for honesty of purpose".

He frankly dismissed the great reforming tool of the age, in words familiar to conservatives throughout the modern age:
In Commissions, I confess I have little faith … If they do any good, they usually leave an equivalent in evil; or if they make any retrenchment, three-fourths of the saving is swallowed in the expense of the machinery by which it has been effected.
Turning again to the perennial problem of how to select the most suitable candidate for a post, he declared
I fear it may be laid down as an incontrovertible truth, that, whatever is left to the disposal of mankind will be dispensed with favour and partiality, and that we shall rarely see merit noticed, unless supported by interest.
He briefly discussed the position in the army and navy, which had been the subject of severe criticism for several decades, and was hotly debated in the two years preceding his pamphlet [7]

Favouritism in the Church, he declared, caused "the very soul" to sicken.

The chief object of his scorn was not private patronage (which most commentators saw as the problem because livings which could have been used to reward virtue, learning or long service were not in the hands of the church) but the patronage wielded by church dignatories:
How can [the public] be expected to look on with patience while they see prelates thus neglecting men of merit …? … The public are very far from being satisfied with this state of things; every honest man boils with indignation, while the infidel and the enemies of the Church find occasion to blaspheme; one-half of our influence is lost; and the community are discontented at the inefficiency of a Church which has so much at her command.
For Mr Barlow, the question of church patronage rose above all other issues in this reforming age.  In a startling passage he compares it with the abolition of slavery, making this appeal:
This nation, – to its honour be it spoken, – magnanimously bestowed £20,000,000 for that holy work, the abolition of slavery.  And will not this same nation aid my efforts for the regeneration of the Church by petitioning the Crown and both Houses of Parliament to take the subject into their serious deliberation; and, as the first step towards attaining that object, to give up to the Church the patronage now unjustly held by the Lord Chancellor?
If they answered Barlow's call, the Sovereign would increase the lustre of her title of Defender of the Faith and the Premier would "live beyond his compeers in history's page", while the "private individual [would] win the thanks, the applause, the gratitude of his fellow men".

Indeed, he goes so far as to say that anyone seeking God's approbation must petition Parliament on the reform of Church patronage. 

He contrived to imply that he alone had contemplated these problems in the church:
In matters … which are purely temporal, long experience seems to have reconciled the public, in some measure, to the hopelessness of finding a remedy for this abuse of patronage. 
In fact, there had been a strong desire for reform in both Church and state for decades.

Sales of patronage were an easy target for Dissenters' criticism (and Hutton Rudby had many Dissenters), and became steadily less defensible over the years.  They were often accompanied by shady dealings over resignations and exchanges, which the Bishops were powerless to prevent.  Other clergymen were outright in their condemnation of private patronage [8], which was seen as contrary to the spirit of the age and the practice in other professions.  Indeed, use of patronage dwindled over the years until in 1879 it was said that many fathers who would once have bought their sons a living now preferred them to work until they attracted the attention of their bishop or some other patron. [9]

Mr Barlow's fundamental solution is promotion by seniority – often called elsewhere "waiting for dead men's shoes".

This had been used frequently over the centuries as an alternative to promotion by patronage – for example, in the case of the East India Company army, it guaranteed to each man an equal chance of making his fortune if he survived the climate.

It was not universally seen as desirable, especially as it resulted in elderly time-servers achieving influential positions.  As early as 1816 reforms of the Admiralty had hoped to make promotion by seniority unnecessary, and it was intended that "merit and capacity" should be the basis for promotions in the Home Office [10].

A new method was being proposed, not mentioned by Mr Barlow – competitive examination.  This was not welcomed by everybody, and it is interesting to note that the Dublin University Magazine carried an article by Anthony Trollope in 1855,
intended to be very savage in its denunciation, … on an official blue-book just then brought out, preparatory to the introduction of competitive examinations for the Civil Service [11].
Mr Barlow made several interesting suggestions, which show that he was in agreement with many reforming ideas of the time.

He suggested a scale of income for the clergy, with curates beginning at £100, all livings to be at least £300, and the Archbishop of Canterbury to receive £10,000 a year.  This would be paid for by abolishing prebendal stalls, most canonries, all chancellorships and vicars-general, and all sinecures.

Recent church building had suffered from problems over ambitious plans – he suggested that to save money, churches should be built to
one uniform plan … solid, church-like, easily enlarged, free from idle ornament, unless the parishioners would pay extra for it.  
Rectors and curates who found they were unable to work together should be able to make exchanges.

Retirement on an income was becoming popular with middle-class professionals, but would not be possible for the clergy for many decades to come, unless they could afford to pay a curate to take their place.  This was the year that the Clerical Fund and Poor Clergy Relief Society was established to help poor clergymen buy annuities to provide for themselves and their families, and assist them with grants of money and gifts of clothing – Mr Barlow called for the old, infirm or worn-out clergy to be paid a pension by the Church. 

Three of his minor suggestions evidently had the approval of one of his readers – the copy of the pamphlet held in the Cambridge University Library has three underlinings in pencil:
I feel persuaded that it would be to the advantage of the community if clergymen were moved or had the choice of moving once or twice
The problem of clergy becoming stale in isolated rural livings grew more acute during the course of the century.

Another passage deals with
the employment of a class of men known as Scripture readers.  
These were particularly favoured by the Evangelicals.

Lord Shaftesbury's first action on inheriting his father's estates was to have the local tap-room closed at 9 o'clock at night, and his second to appoint a scripture-reader [12].  William Thomson (1810-79) of Darlington, joint-owner with his brother of the Darlington & Stockton Times, paid for missionaries to preach the temperance message and for scripture readers to tour the area reading the Bible aloud [13].  The Church sanctioned their use because of the shortage of clergymen.  Mr Barlow questioned whether they could be any cheaper than "the regular well-educated curates", and wondered about
the prudence of employing a set of men, who form no part of the Church, and, therefore, over whom the Church can have no sufficient control; men who, professedly illiterate, under the strong temptation to display their little learning, to increase their importance, may be induced to expound Scripture and to propound doctrines, although they may have promised their employers not to do so … men who … might set up for themselves, and thus dividing the community, cause a schism in the Church…
Perhaps memories of the Faceby Mormons are detectable here.  Naïve reading of the Bible was often ascribed to Mormon converts . 

Another suggestion was the more systematic use of "the order of Deacons" as a first step to becoming a curate and in place of Scripture readers.

Developments in such matters can be seen, for example, in the Revd Patrick Brontë's letter to the Leeds Intelligencer on 20 September 1847 regarding promotion in the Church and supporting the Bishop of Ripon's recent initiative in appointing subdeacons [14].

Barlow believed his reforms could be affected with
no vested interest disturbed … no feeling shocked or outraged; no private individual aggrieved. 
He ends with an exhortation
to the clergy and the laity, as they value the true interests of religion; as they desire the spiritual welfare of the community
to petition the Queen and Parliament to carry out his reforms.

Repeatedly within the pamphlet, Mr Barlow referred in less than complimentary terms to the current Archbishop of York and his predecessor. 

On his first page he referred (without mentioning names) to the Hampden controversy of 1847, in which "a point of doctrine" was "referred for decision to a lay tribunal".  He then expatiated on the case for nearly two pages.

This is certainly a veiled criticism of Archbishop Thomas Musgrave of York.  At the time of the controversy he was bishop of Hereford, and had not joined with the majority of his fellow bishops in remonstrating with the prime minister against the appointment of Hampden [15].

Mr Barlow's references to political influence and the effect of elections on clerical appointments is another jibe at the Archbishop, at whose appointment in 1848 The Record newspaper [16] commented,
what has caused him to be preferred to many other older and equally respectable prelates no one can imagine, 
while The Morning Post [17] remarked that he had
abilities of a certain kind which it is understood were found useful to the Whigs in electioneering affairs.  
Musgrave was a Whig appointment, nominated by Lord John Russell in 1847.  He had earlier been bursar of Trinity College, Cambridge and had been made dean of Bristol in 1837 by a previous Whig administration under Lord Melbourne.  For Mr Barlow, such appointments caused the Church to be "held up to derision". 

Even Barlow's reference to convocation in his proposed system of appointments is a sideways swipe at Archbishop Musgrave.

The church had long ago been governed by convocations and diocesan assemblies, but since the last convocation in 1717 the power of the state over the church had steadily increased.  The Convocation of Canterbury had been revived in 1852, but Musgrave would not permit a Convocation of York, and its revival was only possible after his death.

Similarly, Mr Barlow's distrust of commissions has a reference to Archbishop Musgrave.  He and other clergymen sat on the Ecclesiastical Commission, together with politicians – the Lord Chancellor and the principal officers of state.  The dealings of the Commission with Bishop Maltby of Durham (1836 to 1856) come in for particular criticism by Mr Barlow, even though the matter in question had occurred nearly twenty years earlier. 

He illustrated his argument with accounts of local nepotism:  one man a "zealous, intelligent man, of good education" who remained a curate for 24 years before being given, eight years before his death, a living worth £120 a year; the other, a rector who had taken an income of £600 from a parish he had hardly visited for the last 30 years, in which he had placed a vicar on a small income.

The force of his argument is somewhat dissipated by his admission that
neither of these cases occurred whilst the present Archbishop held the see of York.  
Musgrave had by then been in office for eight years, and his predecessor Archbishop Harcourt was a particular favourite of George III and would presumably have been appointed by the King under Barlow's own system. 

Oblique references to Mr Barlow's own patron are also discernable.

Twice he called for the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to
enforce the law, which obliges lay patrons to increase the stipend of the livings in their gift.  
As matters stood, bishops had no inclination to force their landowning friends to pay their clergy more, and in due course "livings became starvings".

He called for the stipend to be "in some degree in proportion to the current value of those tithes": 
I know of an instance of a living thus plundered, the tithes of which cannot be worth less than £1,000 a-year; and yet the patron pays, in lieu of them, a fixed stipend of only £40 a-year. 
This is probably a reference to Hutton Rudby, where the stipend for Rudby was £40 a year.  He hoped for the end of the
traffic in Church preferment, which is now carried on to such an extent, that patrons are found actually to sell livings, the incomes of which are almost solely derived from Queen Anne's Bounty. 
This suggests that he and his friends did not look sufficiently into his future income as vicar of Rudby, where the stipend made up only about one-fifth of the total sum, the rest deriving from Queen Anne's Bounty and the Parliamentary grants. 

At several points in the pamphlet, a tone of personal distress is clearly to be heard.

He calls for patronage in the hands of the Crown and Lord Chancellor to be used "to give men of education some little chance of getting even one step before they die":
Let a man only think that he is buried for life in some retired corner, and the learning, that once lit up his mind, will soon be neglected and forgotten as useless.

Some time ago a Government official requested of me that, in future, all correspondence should be written upon foolscap.  I made him the following reply:  Your request, that all communications be made on foolscap, should be cheerfully complied with, but for the following reason.  Unfortunately one-half of the clergy are so miserably poor, that the only fool's-cap they can afford to keep, is the one they are obliged to wear, as emblematic of men whose education alone costs the fee simple in perpetuity of all they ever get, without the least chance of promotion, be their zeal or ability what they may. 
In many a sequestered village lies buried more talent than is possessed by one-half of the authors whose writings inundate the press [18]; men who would blush to offend the good sense of the public, by putting into their hands books in which, if there be one bright idea, it is expected to set off an insufferable quantity of trash. 
A bitter cry against the unfairness of it all reverberates throughout the pamphlet, carrying a note of pathos.

The world had changed, and Mr Barlow was no longer a young man.  His ordination came just before a great surge in the number of men entering the church – by this time, the majority of clergyman had been ordained after the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 [19].

It was all too late, and he had been overtaken by the young and enthusiastic.  His mother had made the quixotic choice of profession for him, and the family had believed he would make progress in his profession.  But he had not chosen the routes which would have made advancement  possible, and had compounded his difficulties by marrying early and taking an obscure rural parish, purchased for him in possibly slightly shady circumstances.  It was too late for advancement now – so nothing could be lost by flinging insults at the Archbishop.

Mr Barlow had the pamphlet printed in London in 1856 – not for him the Stokesley printers – and it was sold at the price of one shilling.  He had a copy sent to each Member of the Houses of Parliament, and certainly achieved some success with his work, as it went into a third edition the following year.


[1]  Remarkable but still True, 1872

[2]  Augustus Jessopp’s essays The Trials of a Country Parson 1890 stressed the problem of immobility:  "the rule in country parishes is that where a man is put down at first, there he dies at last" "he is a shelved man". Quoted by Alan Haig in The Victorian Clergy

[3]  the British Library catalogue lists forty-one; of these some are to be found in the Minster Library, and most in the Cambridge University Library

[4]  The Queen, the Head of the Church by the Rev R J Barlow, M A, Vicar of Rudby, Yorkshire. Printed by Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, Fleet Street 1856. Copies exist in the British Library and Cambridge University Library

[5]  Masbrough, half a mile from Rotherham, WRY

[6]  quoted by Archbishop Thomson in his 'Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese of York' Oct 1870:  William Thomson the People's Archbishop and other items, by Bullock. York Library

[7]  for example, a letter to The Times on 24 Jan 1855 from 'A Regimental Captain' in the Crimea:  "I would ask you to consider whether promotion … is fairly distributed … This monopoly of promotion is a most depressing and distasteful thing to us, who are the great majority of the officers of the army". Purchase of rank was finally abolished in the Cardwell reforms in 1871.

[8]  eg Promotion by Merit Essential to the Progress of the Church by Edward Bartrum 1866, discussed by Haig.

[9]  Archbishop Ady, quoted by Haig

[10]  1848 Committee into the Home Office

[11]  An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope

[12]  Lord Shaftesbury by Georgina Battiscombe, p236

[13]  A Walk in the Park: the history of South Park, Darlington by Chris Lloyd, at

[14]  "converts are not made from the lowest ranks" but "are mechanics and tradesmen who have saved a little money, who are remarkable for their moral character, but who are exposed to the delusion from having, as Archbishop Sharpe expressed it, 'studied the Bible with an ill-regulated mind'":  The Athenaeum 1841 

[15]  The Brontës by Juliet Barker, p519

[16]  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

[17]  later incorporated with The Church of England Newspaper. It was an extreme Evangelical paper: Shaftesbury: a biography of the 7th Earl by Georgina Battiscombe 1974

[18]  The Morning Post was a Tory newspaper

[19]  he may here have been thinking of the Roman Catholic husband of his former sister-in-law, the author John Richard Digby Beste. Another prolific writer with connections to the Barlow family was Elizabeth Missing Sewell

[20]  In 1851, 55% of clergy were aged 45 and under, and 22% were over 55 years old. Leslie Paul The Deployment and Payment of the Clergy 1964, discussed by Haig in The Victorian Clergy

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