Welsh Church Commission.

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Welsh Church Commission.

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History

The Welsh Church Commission was created by the Welsh Church Act 1914 as a transitional body to oversee the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales and the transfer of some of its assets to the Representative Body of the Church in Wales and the sale and transfer of others. The Welsh Church (Temporalities) Act 1919 (also called the Amending Act) clarified areas of doubt relating to the treatment of some of the assets, and fixed the date of disestablishment as 1920. The Commission remained active until 1960. Its first chairman was Sir Alfred Watson KBE (1870-1936). The work of the Commission was complex, since it involved bringing together all property and sources of income relating to the Church of England in Wales, previously administered by the Dioceses of Bangor, Llandaff, St Asaph and St Davids [the Dioceses of Monmouth and Swansea and Brecon were created in 1921], the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (created 1836), and the commissioners of Queen Anne's Bounty (created 1704). These included: tithe rent-charges; income from glebe lands; and miscellaneous property including manorial rights, charitable trusts, and land for churches and burial grounds. All records relating to church property were transferred to the Commission, effectively consolidating records previously held by dioceses, ECE, QAB and others, including John Francis and Son, mineral agents, at a time when the need to retain manorial court records and title deeds for legal purposes was being relaxed. In addition, the Commission administered and transferred and sold properties, generating further records. On the expenditure side, the Commission paid compensation to all office holders whose rights were extinguished by the Act (and also lay patrons who had the right of presentation), and took on responsibility for clergy and their pensions. Following the realisation of assets, the Commission transferred property to the Representative Body of the Church in Wales to fund its activities, and distributed the remainder (£3.4 million) to County Councils, the University of Wales, and the National Library of Wales. The treatment of the tithe rent-charge proved most problematic, partly because it was politically-charged (much of the impetus for disestablishment had come from nonconformists who saw the tithe as a tax to support an irrelevant foreign institution) and partly because the tithe system was being reformed over the course of the Commission's work, and was abolished by the Tithe Act 1936. The Commission had to resolve the treatment of 24 parishes along the England-Wales border that either lay partly in both countries or fell within English dioceses; it did so by consulting the parishioners.

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