Serving Two Masters
Parish Patronage in the Church
of England since 1714

By Bernard Palmer
September 2003
Book Guild
ISBN: 1-85776-776-4
224 pages, 5 3/4" x 8 3/4"
$39.95 hardcover

For centuries the Church of England was dogged by the controversial issue of patronage. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in particular, the system allowed politicians to manipulate parish appointments to their own ends; and patrons such as bishops, the aristocracy and the landed gentry would appoint their friends and relatives to lucrative livings, often in preference to more worthy candidates.

This book is the first comprehensive account of parish patronage in the Church of England. Drawing on numerous contemporary accounts, it traces the long and sorry history of the system, against the abuses of which (to begin with) only a handful of churchmen spoke out. The 'ecclesiastical lottery' was how Bishop Warburton of Gloucester referred to the system. It was a corrupt and ungodly state of affairs, where 'the cure of souls is knocked down to the highest bidder like a bale of damaged wool.'

Nevertheless, reform was agonizingly slow in coming, with no firm legislation making it to the statute book until 1898, and this in a watered-down and unsatisfactory form. Reformers would have to wait many years for further improvement, the most recent of which was the Patronage (Benefices) Measure of 1986.

Return to main page of Trans-Atlantic Publications