Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy

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The Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy is a charity founded in 1655 which provides financial support to clergy of the Church of England.

The Corporation was established in 1655 in response to the distress of the large number of clergymen who were dispossessed of their livings under the regime of Oliver Cromwell. Those who were loyal to the crown and adhered to the traditional form of service were displaced. One of the main instigators of the charity was Edward Wake, who was uncle of William Wake Archbishop of Canterbury. The founders were merchants of the City of London with clerical connections and other clergymen. The first fund-raising events were on 8 November 1655, when a Festival Service was held in Old St Paul's Cathedral, followed by a dinner in the Merchant Taylors' Hall. Collections were taken at each and these events have continued ever since. The charity also had generous support from important and influential people.

When Charles II came to the throne, the supporters of the charity sent a message of loyal greeting and in 1678 the King granted the charity a Royal Charter. This Charter committed the administration of the “Charity for Releefe of the poore Widdowes and Children of Clergymen” to a “Court of Assistants”. The Court of Assistants consisted of a President, a Vice-President, three Treasurers and up to forty-two Assistants, elected each year from the Governors. The Court first met on 15 July 1678 in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey. The Corporation’s President was John Dolben, Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster and the Vice-President was Sir Christopher Wren.

As time passed the Corporation became a wider charity for clerical families and provided support such as the payment of the apprenticeship indentures. The charity obtained properties such as a house in Salisbury Square and other church land, and advowsons. The charity was not free from abuse. In 1731 Valens Comyn achieved great distinction in its service by uncovering the fraudulent activities of one of the Treasurers, who had been double listing widows whose pensions he was responsible for paying and lining his pockets on the proceeds

The Corporation today is the largest charity helping clergy of the Anglican Church in times of personal hardship, their widows, dependants and elderly unmarried daughters. In 1998 Clark reported in the Independent that in the previous year 3,500 vicars had resorted to the two charities - the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy, and the Friends of the Clergy Corporation. The charity has kept its name unchanged, although its accurate description of its original aim now appears misleading. It is based at 1 Dean Trench Street, Westminster.

References[edit]

  • Gentleman’s Magazine March 1785
  • Gentlemans Magazine January 1817
  • COX, Nicholas Bridging the Gap: A History of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy Over 300 Years, 1655-1978. Oxford: Becket Pubns, 1978, ISBN 0-7289-0002-5.
  • Ross Clark Poverty in the vicarage Independent, The (London), Sep 14, 1998

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