Byline: STEVE DOUGHTY
A BISHOP is to be `evicted' from his [pounds sterling]1million home and forced to move downmarket - the first senior cleric to fall victim to the Church of England's cash crisis.
The new Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr Kenneth Stevenson, has been asked to leave his beautiful 200-year-old residence set in seven Hampshire acres - one of the largest thatched houses in Britain - so it can be put up for sale.
He is understood to have strongly resisted the move with his wife and four children to a Victorian villa. One Church figure said: `There was a huge row.'
Until now the lavish lifestyles of leading Anglicans had escaped the Church's economy drive which has been targeted on the lower-ranking clergy.
But now other bishops' homes - known as See houses - may also be put on the market. The nine palaces and 35 other historic and imposing residences cost [pounds sterling]1.6million to maintain in 1994 - more than [pounds sterling]36,000 each.
That is only a fraction of the [pounds sterling]159,000-plus annual cost of maintaining a bishop, who is entitled to domestic and secretarial assistance, chauffeuring, and other help on top of his [pounds sterling]24,590 salary.
The decision to sell Dr Stevenson's residence, Bishopswood in Fareham, comes amid internal criticism and resentment about the display of wealth as well as financial problems which have become acute since the Church Commissioners lost [pounds sterling]800million in property speculation during the early 1990s.
New guidelines from the commissioners declare that it is `no longer appropriate for bishops to live in such grandeur'. The residences make bishops `remote and unapproachable' they say.
The ideal home should, according to the commissioners, have six bedrooms, a dining room seating up to 12, a room for 30 people to meet, a study, a drawing room, a sitting room solely for family use plus `limited' grounds without the traditional kitchen garden.
The commissioners said yesterday that they were switching Dr Stevenson and his family to a smaller house `more in keeping with the needs of the Church in the 21st century'. …