Archbishops’ Commissions on Church and State

Lambeth Palace Library holds the records of many of the commissions set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. These were groups which played a vital role in shaping the direction of church policy and organisation. In the case of the commissions on church and state they made suggestions which have shaped the relationship between the Church of England and Government and considered the role of the Church in English life.

The 1914 Archbishops’ Committee on Church and State was created after a resolution was passed at the July 1913 meeting of the Representative Church Council that the Archbishops should consider “what changes are advisable in order to secure in the relations of Church and State a fuller expression of the spiritual independence of the Church as well as of the national recognition of religion.” Their report (H5157.A7A7 1916) lead to the creation of the National Assembly, later Church Assembly. The library holds the full minutes of this committee showing the thinking behind their recommendations.

The Hon Ruth Buckley, a witness to the Second Commission ACCS2/MS/2

When the Church Assembly passed a motion it was then sent to parliament where a somewhat unofficial process would get it proposed and hopefully approved by both Houses. Parliament was supposed to give members of the laity a voice in the decisions of the church. However, parliament could not make amendments to motions so their power was limited to vetoing measures. This system was accepted until parliament blocked the 1928 revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

This apparent interference in the spiritual matters by a secular organisation sent shockwaves through the church. In an address to the Church Assembly, Archbishop Davidson said “it is a fundamental principle that the Church … must in the last resort … retain its inalienable right … to formulate its faith in Him and to arrange the expression of that Holy Faith in its form of worship.” The 1929 Archbishops’ Commission on Church and State was established to ascertain what changes would need to be made to ensure this principle. It went beyond this and opinions were sought from all across the church and from members of other protestant churches on topics of ensuring conformity, ecclesiastical courts and disestablishment.

The report produced in 1935 by this second commission made a number of recommendations. It suggested that a more democratic Church Assembly was needed to ensure that the whole church agreed on new doctrinal measures and once this was established parliament should pass control of such measure to the assembly. Further adding to the power of the Church they suggested that the church be given the power to refuse bishops proposed by the sovereign and full control over the conditions for people getting married in church.

Professor Norman Sykes, a witness to the Second Commission  ACCS2/MS/2

Most of these recommendations were not acted upon and the subjects considered by the Commission remained contentious. Multiple further commissions considered aspects of the relationship between Church and State. The Howick Commission or Archbishops’ Commission on Crown Appointments unanimously suggested that the Prime Minister should retain control of the appointment of Bishops. A position which was not well supported by the Church Assembly.

gave the Church temporary powers to approve forms of worship outside of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This was seen as a trial period for increasing the control the Church had over forms of worship and would require the drafting of new measures for when the trial finished. These issues led to the formation of the third Archbishops’ Commission on Church and State.

As with the second commission the third sought the opinions of members of other Christian churches in England and Anglican clergy abroad. Additionally, they carried out social research to establish the general opinion of the English public on the importance of establishment.

Leslie Paul, witness to the third Commission, [CIO/PHO/NEG/369]

The final report avoided explicit questions of establishment due to the ”confusion” about its definition. Their solution would give more control to the church but parliament would retain the final say in the appointment of bishops and approval of measures. This solution was not accepted unanimously. There were dissenters. Valerie Pitt, Denis Coe and Peter Cornwell suggested that the recommendations did not go far enough, merely making it less public when the parliamentary veto was used to block changes. They believed that disestablishment was the only workable solution. Sit Timothy Hoare only dissented to the chapter about the church’s relationship to parliament. He worried that General Synod had been established too recently for the Commission to conclude whether it was adequately representing the laity and that “[i]t may not be right to jettison the whole of the old pattern before the new has established its effectiveness.”

The Commission was conscious of the privileged position that the Church of England was in compared to other religious organisations. To counteract this they suggested that bishops of other Christian denominations should be added to the House of Lords to sit alongside the Anglican Lords Spiritual.

The minutes of the first committee and the documents, minutes and correspondence of the second and third commissions are available for public research in our reading room as well as copies of their published reports. These and other records from the Archbishops Commissions show changes in the mindset of the church and how it worked to ensure that the positions it took were representative of the community that it served.


The drawings above come from the transcripts of oral evidence given to the second Commission. Unfortunately, the name of the shorthand writer was not recorded so we do not know who drew them. Doodles of many of the witnesses were started although these are the most complete. Images of these can be found in our online image library Lambeth Palace Library or you can view the originals in our reading room. Their reference number is ACCS2/MS/1-5.

Henry Montgomery, an imperial bishop

This blog post is more personal than previous efforts where I have chosen one of the library’s treasures or a historical event. Henry Montgomery (1847-1932) was vicar of my church, St Mark’s, Kennington, before becoming Bishop of Tasmania and later Secretary of the SPG. Before writing this I knew very little of Montgomery’s life and views, and it seems an appropriate time to reflect on this history. Many libraries, archives and museums are re-evaluating the origin, content and descriptions of their material following the rise to prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year. 

The Library holds correspondence from Montgomery in the papers of Archbishops Benson, Frederick Temple and Davidson. Montgomery’s own papers are MSS 4537-4543 and contain personal letters from Henry’s father Robert, and his father-in-law Frederic Farrar and correspondence relating to his leadership of the SPG and several volumes of his memoirs. I was also surprised to find out that the British Museum holds objects and photographs taken by Montgomery during his travels through the Pacific.    

Montgomery was born in Cawnpore (now Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh) in Northern India to Robert and Ellen Jane (née Lambert) Montgomery in 1847. His father was part of the Anglo-Irish gentry from County Donegal and had entered the Indian Civil Service. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 Robert removed the weapons from the Indian garrison in Lahore and was knighted for his actions. Henry spent most of his youth in England attending Harrow and then studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was ordained as a priest in 1872 and was a curate at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, then Christ Church, Southwark, and St Margaret’s, Westminster (on Parliament square). Montgomery’s mentor during this time was Frederic William Farrar, who later became Dean of Canterbury. Just like Montgomery, Farrar was born in India and studied at Trinity, and he was Montgomery’s housemaster at Harrow and vicar at St Margaret’s.

The closeness of their relationship goes some way to explaining how Montgomery married Farrar’s daughter Maud (who was only 16) in 1881, two years after he became vicar of St Mark’s, Kennington. Maud and Henry had nine children, most notably Bernard Montgomery, the World War II General at El Alamein who became Field Marshal. In 1887 Henry’s father died, which led to a brief time of financial difficulty for the family as Henry now had to pay off the debt on their estate in Ulster. His time in Kennington involved balancing numerous visits to parishioners and a growing family, Maud later recalled that “He could work in his study with the children playing about the room, and many of his sermons were written in the nursery overlooking the Oval cricket ground.”[1]

Henry and Maud Montgomery outside the Fig Tree entrance to Lambeth Palace (MS 4541, f. 72)

The turning point in Montgomery’s life came in 1889 when he was appointed Bishop of Tasmania. At this time Australia was still seen as a region for missionary activity but Montgomery was also keen to grow the Anglican Church across the Pacific. He continued the construction of St David’s Cathedral in Hobart while spending many months in rural areas and mining towns. Overall the number of church buildings in the diocese increased from 75 to 125.[2] He was passionate about upholding morals in a frontier society and founded a home for former prostitutes and vulnerable women. Gambling was another concern, highlighted by his opposition to George Adams’ Tattersall’s lotteries which were legalized in 1895. Montgomery also visited the Bass Strait islands every year, particularly Cape Barren Island where there was a school for Indigenous Australians, however the teacher Edward Stephens was deeply unpopular.[3]

Over time it became clear that Montgomery wanted a larger role across a wider geographical area. Beyond Tasmania he argued for the creation of the diocese of New Guinea after the south-eastern part of the island was annexed by Queensland in 1884. He visited the diocese of Melanesia in 1892 including the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, writing of his experiences in The Light of Melanesia (1896). Reflecting on his time as bishop, Montgomery wrote to Archbishop Temple in 1901: “It is because the work is all missionary here that I love it so. Great questions such as education, temperance, social problems between classes, come to me as duties. Missionary questions come to me as joys”.[4]

Montgomery’s vision and dedication had not gone unnoticed and in January 1902 he became Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) and retained his episcopal title. According to Steven Maughan, this was his opportunity to pursue his goal to “reinvigorate the Church itself by directly linking the fortunes of Anglicanism with the British Empire.”[5] Montgomery wanted the church to be led by a united leadership of Anglo-Saxons that would uphold imperial values around the world. However, there were signs that the church was beginning to become uneasy about its relationship with empire. For example, the celebration of Empire Day in 1904 was not officially encouraged by Archbishop Davidson. Montgomery’s paternalistic racist views – common in the 19th century – were beginning to be challenged by a younger generation of churchmen such as C.F. Andrews in India.

The SPG had its own problems, for example the bicentenary appeal in 1901 had only raised 20 per cent of its target. To encourage the discussion of issues faced in the colonial mission field a new journal The East and the West, a Quarterly Review for the Study of Missions was started in 1903. Montgomery wanted the SPG to be seen as the home of moderate broad churchmen compared to the more Anglo-Catholic Universities’ Mission to Central Africa or the more evangelical Church Missionary Society. From the beginning of his Secretaryship Montgomery envisaged a conference that would bring the Church of England together in facing the challenges of modern mission through a united commitment to the empire. In the event though, the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908 “came to focus primarily on the internal order of the communion and the home problems of the church”.[6] The empire could not be used to unite church parties as Montgomery intended and he began to realise that such an ‘imperial church’ was untenable.

Despite this, Montgomery maintained his enthusiasm for Anglican involvement in ecumenical missions and represented the SPG at the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. Along with Bishop Gore and Bishop Talbot he helped to sway Archbishop Davidson’s decision to deliver the opening address.[7] Of the only 19 non-Westerners at the conference Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah (later bishop of Dornakal in the Church of South India) spoke out against the attitudes of many missionaries, “Too often you promise us thrones in heaven, but will not offer us chairs in your dining room”.[8] Unfortunately it would take at least another generation for many missionaries to change their behaviour and attitudes.

Bishop Montgomery visiting the Great Wall of China, 1910 or 1911 (MS 4542, f. 79)

While he was Secretary of the SPG, Montgomery’s love of travel did not diminish and following the Edinburgh Conference he embarked on a seven month tour of East Asia. In 1916 he preached the triennial missionary sermon before the General Convention of the US Episcopal Church in St Louis, Missouri. Retiring in 1918, he continued to write, producing several biographies of other missionary bishops. While Montgomery’s dedication as a parish priest, bishop and missionary leader can be appreciated, his racist views were firmly rooted in the nineteenth century. As bishop of Tasmania he worked tirelessly, travelling across his diocese and the wider Pacific, and as Secretary of the SPG he modernised its structures and collaborative efforts. The course of Montgomery’s life was very much when ‘imperial Christianity’ was at its peak and this is a major – and painful – part of his legacy.

By David Thomas, Library Assistant


[1] Quoted in Withycombe, Robert, Montgomery of Tasmania: Henry and Maud Montgomery in Australasia (Brunswick East: Acorn Press, 2009), p. 15.

[2] Accessed 27/11/2020.

[3] Stephens, Geoffrey, ‘H.H. Montgomery – the Mutton Bird Bishop’, p. [10]. Accessed 07/12/2020.

[4] Accessed 27/11/2020.

[5] Maughan, Steven, ‘An archbishop for Greater Britain: Bishop Montgomery, missionary imperialism and the SPG, 1897-1915’ in Three centuries of mission: the united Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701-2000 (London : Continuum, 2000), p. 360.

[6] Maughan, Steven, ‘An archbishop for Greater Britain: Bishop Montgomery, missionary imperialism and the SPG, 1897-1915’ in Three centuries of mission: the united Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1701-2000 (London : Continuum, 2000), p. 367.

[7] Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 1. Accessed through 4/11/2020.

[8] Dore, Michael, ‘The Evangelisation of the World in this Generation’, p 3. Accessed through 4/11/2020.

Centenary of the Church in Wales

Centenary of the Church in Wales

In 1920, the Church in Wales was disestablished, becoming independent after centuries of being part of the Church of England.

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales, 1920 (MS 4701 p. 11
The Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales, 1920 (MS 4701 p. 11

The religious census of 1851 had revealed that almost 80% of worshippers in Wales attended Nonconformist chapels, with fewer than 20% attending Church of England services, whether held in Welsh or English. And it was from the Nonconformists that pressure came to disestablish the Church in Wales, especially after the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1871. That pressure came to a head in what became known as a ‘tithe war’ from 1888-1890. Traditionally, tithes were an annual payment of a proportion of the yearly produce of the land by parishioners to support the parish church. Originally they were paid in kind on three types of produce: everything that grew, everything that was nourished by the land and the profits of labour and industry. They were also divided into two other categories, great (rectorial) and small (vicarial). The great tithe consisted of corn, other grains, hay and wood and was paid to the rector of the parish. If the rector did not live in the parish and had appointed a vicar to look after it in his absence, the vicar then received the small tithe. After the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, a money payment, fixed in denomination but variable in value, known as the Tithe Rent Charge or Corn Rent Charge, was substituted for payment in kind. It was based on the average price over seven years of wheat, barley and oats, so it fluctuated with the rise and fall of the cereal market worldwide. From 1873 cereal prices fell steadily year on year; that meant a fall in the tithe rent charge (and clergy income) but also a fall in the farmer’s profits overall. And the obligation to pay tithes bore heavily on tenant farmers. Why, if they went to Chapel, should they pay for the Church? So, they refused to pay – and all over Wales there were demonstrations, scuffles and the Reading of the Riot Act. The situation was only eased by the Tithe Act of 1891, initiated in Parliament by A.G. Edwards, Bishop of St. Asaph, who was keen to relieve the real financial hardship faced by many of the clergy. There are two substantial volumes of correspondence about the Tithe Act in Archbishop Benson’s papers, which shows how heavily he was involved – as well as another three volumes relating to disestablishment in general. Welsh disestablishment might have happened in 1895 – a Bill had passed its second reading, but came to nothing with the fall of the Liberal government of Lord Rosebery that June. Disestablishment, and consequent disendowment, was bitterly opposed by the Church and the Conservative Party – but it happened all the same.

A really pivotal figure in the story is Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury. His private papers and memoranda, and seven volumes of official papers specifically about Wales, record all the twists and turns of negotiations for the Welsh Church Bill and beyond, from 1906 right up to 1925. The first document in those seven volumes is headed ‘Most Private & Confidential’ and it records a conversation which he had on February 21st 1906 with the Bishop of St. Asaph. He wrote: “Mr. Lloyd George had been in private communication with the Bishop, and had asked him whether if the Government were to introduce a very mild and kindly Welsh Disestablishment Bill, the Welsh Church would modify its opposition and practically allow the matter to go forward even if outwardly opposing. Mr. Lloyd George promised, at a later date, to show the Bishop in black and white what he would himself suggest, but, roughly, it amounted to something like an arrangement that the church should retain everything – buildings, houses, glebes, etc. – but not the tithes. These terms are of course very much more favourable than Mr. Asquith’s former Bill, and the Bishop believes that Lloyd George would rather like to get Disestablishment carried with a minimum of friction, knowing as he does that many of his own supporters would feel afraid of a Bill which irritated Churchmen and might affect business relationships – custom to tradesmen, etc. The Bishop had said he would think over what Mr. Lloyd George had told him but did not encourage him to think that the Church was likely to withdraw opposition.” The following day, February 22nd, Davidson, Edwards and Lloyd George had a conversation in the Bishops’ Robing Room of the House of Lords: “Lloyd George told us that he had been discussing with the Prime Minister [Henry Campbell-Bannerman], who approved of the suggestion, a plan of now appointing a Royal Commission of (say) six persons, besides a Chairman, to consider the origin, the history, the character and the value of the provision for spiritual needs in Wales, showing what has been done or is now being done in each parish, both by the Church and by Nonconformists. And he wanted to know whether we as Churchmen would make difficulties as to co-operating in any such enquiry…”   So the Royal Commission to look into the Church of England and Other Religious Bodies in Wales and Monmouthshire was set up that year and reported in great detail in 1910: the Minutes of evidence are four inches thick, and the Report itself, dealing with every aspect of religious life, has a profusion of statistical appendices. The Welsh Church Bill finally received Royal Assent on 18 September 1914 – but by that time Britain was at war and the date of disestablishment postponed. It wasn’t until July 1919, while Lloyd George was occupied with the Paris Peace Conference, that a Welsh Church Amending Bill was hastily drafted and passed. Davidson confided in his journal of 31st July 1919: “I hope and believe that I have done rightly. Had I refused it seems that I might have wrecked a really helpful settlement, and in my own view almost anything is better than keeping the sore open.” Davidson released the Welsh Bishops from their obedience to Canterbury on 31st March 1920 and a new, independent, Province – the Church in Wales – came into being with Bishop Edwards of St. Asaph as the first Archbishop of Wales.

The Lambeth Palace Garden in the Archives

Whilst it would be misguided in 2020 to talk of the joys of spring, given the sad impact of the coronavirus, the time of year is nevertheless traditionally an exciting one for the Lambeth Palace garden. The garden is a unique green space in the heart of London with a long and interesting history documented within the Library’s collections.

The garden at Lambeth Palace
The Lambeth Palace garden, with Lambeth Palace in the background

The garden is one of the largest private gardens in London, and has a good claim to being the oldest continuously cultivated garden in the city. The earliest court roll for the archiepiscopal manor of Lambeth from 1236/7 (Reference: ED 1193) refers to the “…garden and orchards, with pears and other fruit sold at the garden gate, a ‘New herbarium’ with turfs coming from archbishop’s lands at Norwood, flax and hemp sown in gardens and a ‘great ditch’ surrounding the whole site”. An account roll from the time of Archbishop Reynolds in 1322 (Ref: ED 545) refers to the wall around the ‘great garden’ being newly built and thatched with reeds and a rabbit garden nearby. The roll lists various seeds which were bought and their cost, and provides an introduction to the garden’s staffing. Gardener Roger had a labourer for eight days to dig the garden, a boy to help dig out flowering plants for three days at 1d per day, and a spade which was worth 6d.

Early map of London
Printed map of London coloured by hand, taken from a copy of Georgius Braun and Franz Hogenberg, ‘Civitates orbis terrarum’, (LPL, MS 3392)

The Library’s earliest pictorial representation of the garden is a hand coloured print of London from 1560 by Georgius Braun and Franz Hogenberg (MS 3392) which probably shows the garden as it was laid out in the time of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The household ordinances of Archbishop Matthew Parker (MS 1072), give a detailed description of the gardener’s duties in the 16th century, including keeping the grass ‘lowe with the sythe’, and that he ‘delve and manure the grounds to the best comodity of the owner’.

Plan of garden
An exact Plann and Description of Lambeth Pallace with the Courtyards, Gardens, Orchard, Woodyard, Parke, and Walkes Lying and being within the County of Surry Parcell of the Possessions of Thomas Scott Esq. and Mr. Matthew Hardy (LPL, TD 216)

The first detailed plan of the garden dates from the Civil War period (TD 216), when in 1648 commissioners were appointed by Chancery to carry out a survey with a view to the sale of much of the site. The plan is accompanied by a survey giving the size, value and character of the land, which includes the garden (COMM XIIa/23, f.62). The household accounts of Archbishop William Sancroft tell us how much the gardener was paid in 1679 (TG 1, f.63) and a bill in Archbishop John Potter’s accounts for 1736 illustrates the variety of seeds which were bought (TG 5, f.10). By the mid-18th century the number of plans of the garden grows. For example the landscaping work which took place under Archbishop John Moore between 1783-4 is reflected in plans from before (TD 217) and after (TD 218). The granting of a large part of the garden on a lease to London County Council in 1900 by Archbishop Frederick Temple is recorded in the collections in reasonable detail.

Plan of the palace gardens and adjoining land
Lambeth Palace, plan of the gardens and lands adjoining the palace. (LPL TD217)

Plan of the Palace and gardens
Lambeth Palace, plan of the palace and gardens as intended (LPL TD 218)

The 19th and 20th centuries have seen the involvement of several Archbishops’ wives in garden renovations. A print of 1883 (Print 034/075) conveys a sense of the landscaping and planting work carried out by Mary Howley, wife of Archbishop William, in the 1830s. Archbishop Randall Davidson’s wife Edith was responsible for the planting of yellow antirrhinum, scarlet salvias, heliotrope and verbenas.

Print depicting the gardens at the end of the 19th century
The Gardens of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace (LPL, Prints 034/075)

Rosamund Fisher wrote a diary which she donated to the Library (MS 1726, ff. 64-78), and which provides valuable insights into the garden soon after the end of World War Two: “when we arrived the garden was still occupied by an RAF balloon and its crew… Wright, the gardener, had inadequate help, but did wonders in restocking the herbaceous borders and the kitchen garden. Seeds cost little and we made successful experiments with many plants hitherto supposed not to grow in Lambeth soil”. The tradition of wives working on garden renovations has continued into the recent past, with Rosalind Runcie leading a project to restore the garden in preparation for the 1988 Lambeth Conference, and further work taking place under Eileen Carey.

Further reading

For further detail on the history of the Lambeth Palace garden see:
Watton, M (2017). ‘Seven Hundred Years since a Spade Cost Sixpence, Records of the Lambeth Palace Garden’, Archives, LII (135), 3-15.

An intriguing letter from Randall Davidson

Mr Cliff Webb writes:

The Library is naturally always interested in securing any correspondence of Archbishops of Canterbury. I have recently acquired two letters of Randall Davidson, written when he was still bishop of Winchester (though his translation to Canterbury was imminent) that I intend to donate to Lambeth Palace Library.

The first letter is of no great interest. Bishop Davidson is writing to a Sir Alexander promising to support a Mr Buckland who is up for election to the Athenaeum. I have not identified the correspondent or Athenaeum candidate, though no doubt it could be done.

The second (illustrated below) is much more interesting, but also frustrating, because the name of the addressee has been excised.

Clearly, the recipient is in hot water. The situation is ‘grave’ and made worse as the miscreant had missed a previous opportunity to tell the bishop. He is told in clear terms he should not plan for the future before they have discussed his ‘attitude and position’.

Davidson letter

Letter to unknown clergyman from Archbishop Davidson, December 1902

Somebody may know of some suitable scandal to which this applies, or research in the Archbishop’s papers may well elucidate the matter.