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The 19th cent. saw the questioning of the right of a church which represented only a minority of Christian believers to be the established church, its clergy maintained by parishioners who did not belong to it. The Irish church was the first to be disestablished, by Gladstone in 1869. In Wales, where nonconformists accounted for 80 per cent of worshippers, a similar campaign was waged. Several parliamentary bills from 1870 onwards failed, until one was passed in 1914. The First World War delayed its implementation, but it came into force in 1920. The 1869 Irish disestablishment left the Church of Ireland a shadow of its former self, particularly in the overwhelmingly catholic rural areas. In Wales the delay saw a different outcome. By 1920 nonconformity itself was losing its dominant place in Welsh life, and the Church in Wales was able to maintain a widespread presence throughout the principality. Disestablishment of the Church of England has been frequently mooted, sometimes from within, but has failed to become a dominant issue.

Subjects: British History — European History.

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