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The 1800s saw an increase in religious dissent and a series of reforms which weakened the constitutional power of the established church. The emerging reform movement included non-believers, as well as religious minorities and liberal Christians.

  • The Sacramental Test Act (1828) removed the requirement for public officials to be members of the Church of England.
  • The Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829) codified the emancipation of Catholics, allowing (inter alia) members of the Catholic Church to take seats in the Westminster Parliament for the first time.
  • The Tithe Commutation Act (1836) abolished the system of tithes under which the Church had claimed one-tenth of land produce as payment for its services.
  • The Marriage Act (1836) and the Births and Deaths Registration Act (1836) introduced civil marriage and the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths.
  • The Bishopric of Manchester Act (1847) limited the number of Bishops entitled to sit in the House of Lords to 26 (its current figure).
  • The Matrimonial Causes Act (1857) took the issue of divorce away from the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts, making divorce more widely available and accessible (especially for women).
  • The Court of Probate Act (1857) passed control of probate administration (including the collection of death duties) from the ecclesiastical courts to a newly established government department (the Court of Probate).
  • The Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act (1860) further reduced the jurisdiction of church courts to those 'in Holy Orders'.
  • The Compulsory Church Rate Abolition Act (1868) made the payment of church rates voluntary instead of compulsory.