SIR – I have sympathy with Bill Woodhouse’s comments about his rectory (Letters, September 24), but there are several points to make.
First, grand houses like his were exceptional, even in the Seventies, and the Church has for years been selling off manageable four- or five-bedroom Regency or Victorian parsonages ideal for families, where there is certainly no need for staff. Even the dioceses (not the Church Commissioners since the Seventies) have usually seen fit to install central heating, poor though their maintenance has otherwise often been. Indeed, if the dioceses had attended to routine maintenance better, emergency repairs of the kind described by Mr Woodhouse would not have been necessary.
Secondly, the mission of the Church is not primarily about the incumbent. The traditional parsonage is a focal point for the entire community in hosting events such as fetes, for which most new parsonages are inadequate. Indeed, where such events continue, the Church has often had to rely on the goodwill of the private purchasers of their parsonages to host them.
The answer to Mr Woodhouse’s final question is that, in our view, the parsonages should not have been sold at all. Capital assets are an investment, and if you sell one investment you only have to find another. At least the capital would have grown substantially, which has not happened when it has been transferred to general accounts that are no longer ring-fenced for investment. Anthony Jennings Director, Save our Parsonages London WC1