Victorian Preaching Expenses

Our Chapel’s archive continues to bring forth items of curiosity. One leather-bound ledger lists all the preachers from 1870-1901 and the sum of money each was given to defray his expenses. Some of their names are quaint, such as Mr Metcalfe Gray and Mr Jacob Carradice. On Nov 2nd, 1884, Mr Benjamin Burrows was given 6 shillings for preaching. The previous month, Mr Barrit Atkinson was given one shilling less. On 11th January 1880, ‘Young Mr Shawcross’ received 12 shillings. Josiah Hall received the same sum nine years earlier. On 2nd April 1876, Norman Edmondson received nothing, yet Rev. J. Place received £15 on March 27th 1870. Mr Duerden, the pastor, received 7 shillings and sixpence for each Sunday he preached from 1898 until the record closes in 1901. On 16th October, 1880, there was ‘no preaching’, which was good news for the accounts but not so good for the souls.

It’s not clear if these amounts were generous at the time or modest offerings from a poor church. The accounts begin with details of a church meeting in 1870 referring to a request for financial aid from the Congregational County Unions, and being told the chapel needs to do more to fund itself.

I've converted the monies above into 2017 equivalences, using the National Archives‘ historical currency converter. I expect the modern figures are a little misleading; money was scarcer back then and people poorer, so a straight-forward comparison ignores that fact that coins made of real silver and gold were harder to come by than our printed bank notes.

Mr Burrows was therefore given £18.78; 

Mr Atkinson £15.65;

Young Shawcross £39.71;

Mr Hall £37.57;

Rev Place £939.14;

Pastor Duerden £29.31.

The amount received by poor Mr Edmondson translates very accurately into today’s values: nothing then equals nothing now. Why were some given more than others? Hopefully it had nothing to do with the hearers’ enjoyment of the sermon and more to do with the distances travelled and costs incurred. Quite why Rev J. Place should receive so large a sum is unclear; he doesn’t seem to have been asked back and a basic web search is hindered by his surname. So despite being a humble country chapel, it successfully paid its way, (nearly) always ensuring that the people received a good sermon while reimbursing the preacher’s cost of travel and perhaps a little more beside. 

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

Gal. 6:6