drastically fell in value in Sweden and Finland as a consequence of the Great Northern War and seven major harvest failures between 1700 and 1721. These various factors produced an enormous diversity in clerical incomes across regions and forced clergymen to rely upon other sources of income. Given the difficulty of collecting the tithe from hard-pressed tenant farmers, Irish clergymen appointed tithe proctors who were empowered to collect parish dues in return for which they were allowed to keep everything above the sum agreed with the clergyman.

Extravagance and luxury did not characterize the bulk of the Protestant clergy of Europe. Indeed ofthe Lutheran clergy in Württemberg, who enjoyed a much more comfortable position within the state than the rest of the Protestant clergies of Europe, 30 per cent had incomes below the recognized living wage. Many Church of England incumbents were obliged to teach, farm or engage in other tasks, while in Ireland clergymen supplemented their income by preaching funeral sermons, collecting small dues for performing rites of passage, marrying into money, or sometimes conducting illegal marriages. The paucity of income and lack of parsonages contributed to the much discussed and potentially vexing issues ofpluralism and non-residence. In England between 1705 and 1776 the incidence of clergymen who were incumbents of more than one parish increased from 16 per cent to 36 per cent, and though poverty was a reason it may also be related to a decline in the number of ordi-nands. Yet neither non-residence nor pluralism necessarily entailed pastoral neglect as many clergymen simply lived in a neighbouring parish or employed a curate. The case for pluralism in Ireland was more compelling given the extreme poverty of some dioceses. Of the parishes in the diocese of Ferns in 1712, for example, only thirty-two out of ninety-nine provided any income for the clergy.3 The inequality of the legal means of payment did in some cases produce a two-tiered system. The traditional losers were the curates who, as noted for England, could often remain in their impoverished and vulnerable position for their entire careers. Yet, measures were taken to improve clerical incomes. Despite its drawbacks, Queen Anne's Bounty formed in 1704 to raise the incomes of small livings, paid out £3,401,600 between 1713 and 1844. Owing to the impact of the Bounty and, more importantly, increased land values and commutation windfalls resulting from land enclosure acts, the average income for the Church of England clergy increased significantly over the course of the eighteenth century. It has been calculated that in 1736 that 5,638 benefices out of an approximate total of 10,500 were valued below £50 a year and that 20 per cent of that number were below £10; by the early nineteenth century, only a third of the entire clergy earned below £150 a year. The greatest increases

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment