Church Politics in Mid-Victorian Britain: The London Union on Church Matters, 1848-1865


The Church of England faced increasing external challenges in the Victorian period. It also suffered serious internal divisions. How did it seek to contend with these problems? This core question can be usefully addressed through a study of the London Union on Church Matters. The LUCM represents an effort by High Church laity to uphold Church interests and promote a particular idea of what the Church should be. Historians have not previously paid it much attention. There is no Union archive, but the opinions and activities of the body can be recovered through contemporary books and periodicals, the correspondence, speeches, and writings of its leaders, parliamentary proceedings, and various Church records (such as those relating to Church Congresses and other deliberative meetings). The LUCM placed itself at the head of a wider church union movement, which from the 1840s into the 1860s campaigned on such issues as education, marriage, and burials, as well as doctrine and ritual in the Church. Unions condemned unwelcome legislative interference in Church concerns and rejected the claims of Liberal politicians and militant Nonconformists. They resisted attempts by the Low Church party and Evangelicals to guide the Church in a direction that was unacceptable to High Churchmen. The union movement could not remain united, however, for another body was formed in London, the Metropolitan Church Union, and it refused to acknowledge the LUCM’s directing and coordinating role. This had implications both for Church defense and for the High Church agenda within the Church of England.


Michael Turner
Roy Carroll Distinguished Professor, History Department, Appalachian State University, North Carolina, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


The Politics of Religion



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