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Cantoris

Westminster Abbey

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The Abbey, along with St Margaret Westminster (the latter no services at all now) in financial difficulties with threats to choral services etc. Why? Both (along with others) are Royal Peculiars. One of the richest families in the world own them as personal private chapels, so why are they not putting their hands in their very deep pockets for their upkeep for the nation. Assume therefore that Thomas Trotter not organist at St Margaret either now?

 

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The Queen does not own Westminster Abbey, any more than the Bishop of London owns S. Paul’s Cathedral (or any other church in her diocese).

It is not the Queen’s personal private chapel. Being a royal peculiar simply means that it is exempt from the local bishop’s jurisdiction and the Queen is the ultimate authority there for matters of discipline etc. - matters which in a normal church are the responsibility of the bishop.

It is owned (if it can be said to be owned by anyone) by the Church of England, just like the humblest parish church in the land.

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8 hours ago, Cantoris said:

The Abbey, along with St Margaret Westminster (the latter no services at all now) in financial difficulties with threats to choral services etc.

Could you please quote a source for this rather startling information.

5 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

It is owned (if it can be said to be owned by anyone) by the Church of England, just like the humblest parish church in the land.

I am not at all sure that this is correct.  Westminster Abbey is a royal foundation of King Saint Edward the Confessor, re-founded by Elizabeth I as a College of a Dean and Canons outside the jurisdiction of any diocesan bishop or archbishop.  Of course the form of worship is that of the Church of England.

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32 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I am not at all sure that this is correct.  Westminster Abbey is a royal foundation of King Saint Edward the Confessor, re-founded by Elizabeth I as a College of a Dean and Canons outside the jurisdiction of any diocesan bishop or archbishop.  Of course the form of worship is that of the Church of England.

It is of course a royal *foundation*, as are many churches and institutions, and has very strong royal links, but that doesn’t mean the Crown owns it, as it owns (say) Windsor Castle.

It belongs to the Church of England, but with a peculiar form of jurisdiction (“peculiar” in both senses of the word) that reflects its origins.

The fact that the Queen is the Ordinary doesn’t mean she owns the Abbey, any more than the bishop of a diocese as Ordinary (i.e. the usual form of jurisdiction) owns any of the parish churches of that diocese. Likewise the Ordinaries of other non-royal peculiars. Being Ordinary doesn’t make a church your personal property: it simply means you are at the apex of the structure of governance.

 

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Sorry, I'm not convinced about ownership by the C of E but that isn't really the topic.  Before seeing Colin Pykett's reply, I made a quick search of the Charity Commission in relation to the Abbey Choir School.  This reveals that the trustees of the Westminster Abbey Choir School Bursary Fund are the Dean and Chapter.  Without knowing, I suspect that the Abbey buildings vest in them, but it isn't terribly relevant and I think we agree that the Abbey is not a royal chapel.  

The link kindly provided by Colin Pykett only refers to services at St Margaret's Westminster being cancelled and a shortfall in the Abbey's income.  As Colin observes, music isn't specifically mentioned, but there may be other information elsewhere.

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8 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

It is of course a royal *foundation*, as are many churches and institutions, and has very strong royal links, but that doesn’t mean the Crown owns it, as it owns (say) Windsor Castle.

It belongs to the Church of England, but with a peculiar form of jurisdiction (“peculiar” in both senses of the word) that reflects its origins.

The fact that the Queen is the Ordinary doesn’t mean she owns the Abbey, any more than the bishop of a diocese as Ordinary (i.e. the usual form of jurisdiction) owns any of the parish churches of that diocese. Likewise the Ordinaries of other non-royal peculiars. Being Ordinary doesn’t make a church your personal property: it simply means you are at the apex of the structure of governance.

 

Westminster Abbey is not 'owned' by the Church of England. It is ultimately owned by The Queen in right of the Crown. Just in the same way the Crown Jewels are not owned by the State. They are also owned by the Sovereign in right of the Crown.

Windsor Castle is a bit more complicated. It is held in trust by the Occupied Royal Palaces Estate. Effectively the Sovereign once again owns Windsor Castle, but since it is held in Trust on behalf of the nation, the Sovereign does not have the final say in the financial disposition of the Palace Estates. This principle also applies to all assets which are ultimately owned by the Sovereign in right of the Crown.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Sorry, I'm not convinced about ownership by the C of E but that isn't really the topic.  Before seeing Colin Pykett's reply, I made a quick search of the Charity Commission in relation to the Abbey Choir School.  This reveals that the trustees of the Westminster Abbey Choir School Bursary Fund are the Dean and Chapter.  Without knowing, I suspect that the Abbey buildings vest in them, but it isn't terribly relevant and I think we agree that the Abbey is not a royal chapel.  

The link kindly provided by Colin Pykett only refers to services at St Margaret's Westminster being cancelled and a shortfall in the Abbey's income.  As Colin observes, music isn't specifically mentioned, but there may be other information elsewhere.

Rowland, you don't need to be convinced about anything. You are absolutely correct.

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Thank you contraviolone. 

Perhaps I may conclude my input to this thread with something totally unconnected and irrelevant. On my 21st birthday in 1962 I went to an organ recital by Simon Preston in Westminster Abbey, the organ still being in its 1937 Coronation incarnation, largely the conception of Arthur Harrison, I think, although he did not live to hear its completion.  I suspect that few people would have spent their coming of age (long before the age of majority was reduced to 18) in this way.  Not entirely sure now, but I think Simon Preston’s programme included Liszt’s BACH.  During the same series I heard George Thalben-Ball, but my only abiding memory of his recital was that he added the tuba every time in the final chord of all of the ‘big’ works - a practice which Henry Willis III described as a ‘crash’ - and these were certainly very resounding ones.

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I believe like most cathedrals it was owned by the Dean, and following the 1963 Cathedral Measure, the Dean and Chapter. Eminent domain aside, the Queen no more owns it any more than a bishop owns a cathedral. Although of course it's pretty meaningless to talk of ownership, as it's not ownership in the usual sense of a fee simple, but comes with plenty of responsibilities and few rights - the D&C can't sell off the Lady Chapel to raise funds for example.

As regards the Queen dipping into her pockets, I am guessing that as The Choir of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’ Palace are part of the Royal Household, it would probably break all sorts of precedents for her to start dispensing funds in a personal capacity elsewhere.

 

 

 

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The Cathedrals Measure 1963 has no application to Westminster Abbey which was only briefly a cathedral under Henry VIII to protect it from the effects of his own dissolution of the monasteries.  Possibly you were only referring to the 1963 Measure as a comparison with the situation of cathedrals, but the status of the Abbey was, and remains, a Collegiate Church of the Dean and Chapter.  What I have read elsewhere confirms what contraviolone has said that it vests in the Dean and Chapter.  I don’t think that contraviolone or I were discussing the concept of fee simple, which I suspect has no application anyway to the Crown as the ultimate freeholder of all land in England and Wales.  

There is a separate thread on this Board about the Chapels Royal in which our fellow member Wolsey provided much detailed information from his personal expert knowledge.  

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57 minutes ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

The Cathedrals Measure 1963 has no application to Westminster Abbey which was only briefly a cathedral under Henry VIII to protect it from the effects of his own dissolution of the monasteries.  Possibly you were only referring to the 1963 Measure as a comparison with the situation of cathedrals, but the status of the Abbey was, and remains, a Collegiate Church of the Dean and Chapter.  What I have read elsewhere confirms what contraviolone has said that it vests in the Dean and Chapter.  I don’t think that contraviolone or I were discussing the concept of fee simple, which I suspect has no application anyway to the Crown as the ultimate freeholder of all land in England and Wales.  

There is a separate thread on this Board about the Chapels Royal in which our fellow member Wolsey provided much detailed information from his personal expert knowledge.  

I stand corrected on the Cathedral measure as the point when the Chapter became involved in ownership in addition to the Dean. But my point in bringing up fee simple in response to the OP that it is in no way a "personal private chapel" along the lines of those found for example in some country houses of the aristocracy - no one owns it in that sense, like other churches the fee simple is in abeyance. All freehold titles derives from the Crown in a theoretical sense, but the Queen does not own the freehold of Westminster Abbey like she does of Balmoral for example.

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20 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Could you please quote a source for this rather startling information.

I am not at all sure that this is correct.  Westminster Abbey is a royal foundation of King Saint Edward the Confessor, re-founded by Elizabeth I as a College of a Dean and Canons outside the jurisdiction of any diocesan bishop or archbishop.  Of course the form of worship is that of the Church of England.

As far as St Margarets Westminster is concerned see Deans report "Church Times" 17 July

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Replying to Michael Wilson’s latest post, we seem to be going round in circles!  You will see in my reply to Dafydd y Garred Wen “I think we agree that the Abbey is not a royal chapel”.  But it is undoubtedly a Royal Church vested in the Dean and Chapter who are answerable only to her Majesty!  

So, back to the original subject, is there any evidence that the Abbey’s choral foundation faces any ‘threats’?
 

PS to Cantoris:  I don’t have access to the Church Times, and don’t feel I can add anything further to this discussion which has strayed far beyond the realm of music.

Edited by Rowland Wateridge
PS added

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