Diocese of Chester

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Diocese of Chester
Church of England
Province: York
Bishop: Peter Forster
Cathedral: Chester Cathedral
Bishop of Birkenhead,
Bishop of Stockport
Archdeaconries: Chester, Macclesfield
No. of parishes: 275
No. of churches: 368
Website: chester.anglican.org

The Diocese of Chester is a Church of England diocese in the Province of York covering Cheshire.

The diocese was created by King Henry VIII as part of the Henrician Reformation, in 1541, and at the time of its creation it was much larger, encompassing Lancashire also and parts of Cumberland, Flintshire, Westmorland and Yorkshire. The Victorian church reorganisations created new dioceses in the industrial areas, cutting Chester down to its home county.


The Diocese of Chester when created in 1541
The deaneries of the Diocese of Chester in 1835
Map showing the areas loost to the Diocese of Chester

Ancient diocese

Before the sixteenth century the city possessed a bishop and a cathedral, though only intermittently. Even before the Norman Conquest the title "Bishop of Chester" is found in documents applied to prelates who would be more correctly described as Bishop of Mercia, or Bishop of Lichfield. After the Council of London in 1075 had decreed the transfer of all episcopal chairs to cities, Peter, Bishop of Lichfield, removed his seat from Lichfield to Chester, and became known as Bishop of Chester. There he chose The Collegiate Church of St John the Baptist as his cathedral. The next bishop, however, transferred the see to Coventry on account of the rich monastery there, though he retained the episcopal palace at Chester. The Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield was of enormous extent, and it was probably found convenient to have something analogous to a cathedral at Chester, even though the cathedra itself were elsewhere; accordingly the church of St John ranked as a cathedral for a considerable time, and had its own dean and chapter of secular canons down to the time of the Reformation.

The chief ecclesiastical foundation in Chester was the Benedictine monastery of St Werburgh, the great church of which finally became the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The site had been occupied even during the Christian period of the Roman occupation by a church dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, and rededicated to St Werburgh and St Oswald during the Saxon period. The church was served by a small chapter of secular canons until 1093, when Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, converted it into a major Benedictine monastery, in which foundation he had the co-operation of St Anselm, then Prior of Bec, who sent Richard, one of his monks, to be the first abbot. A new Norman church was built by him and his successors. The monastery, though suffering loss of property both by the depredations of the Welsh and the inroads of the sea, prospered, and in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries the monks transformed their Norman church into a gothic building which, though not be reckoned among the greatest cathedrals of England, yet is not unworthy of its rank, and affords a valuable study in the evolution of Gothic architecture. It has been said of it that "at every turn it is satisfying in small particulars and disappointing in great features". The last of the abbots was John, or Thomas, Clark, who resigned his abbey, valued at £1,003 5s. 11d. per annum, to the king.

1541 to 1836

The Diocese of Chester was created, during the Henrician Reformation, on 14 August 1541,[1] from the Chester archdeaconry of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. On its creation, it covered Cheshire and Lancashire, and the Richmond Archdeaconry of the Diocese of York.[2] The diocese was originally formed as part of the Province of Canterbury, but was quickly transferred to the Province of York later in the same year.[2] The twenty deaneries of the new diocese were: Amounderness, Bangor, Blackburn, Boroughbridge, Catterick, Chester, Copeland, Frodsham, Furness, Kendal, Leyland, Lonsdale, Macclesfield, Malpas, Manchester, Middlewich, Nantwich, Richmond, Warrington, and Wirral. The deaneries as shown in the accompanying map, were established by 1224 and remained largely unchanged until the nineteenth century.[3]

Since 1836

Starting in 1836, a series of boundary changes saw the diocese eventually greatly diminished in size to cover Cheshire alone. A sequence of five major boundary changes to the diocese began. In 1836, the deaneries of Boroughbridge, Catterick, and Richmond, and half of the deanery of Lonsdale were taken from Chester to form part of the newly created Diocese of Ripon which also had parts taken from the Diocese of York. In 1847, the deaneries of Amounderness, Blackburn, Leyland, and Manchester, together with another large part of the deanery of Lonsdale and roughly one third of the deanery of Kendal were taken to form the then new Diocese of Manchester. Additionally, part of the deanery of Warrington (Leigh)[4] was also transferred to this new Diocese of Manchester. At the same time, the deanery of Bangor was transferred to the Diocese of St Asaph. This left the deaneries of Copeland, Furness, and the remaining parts of the deaneries of Kendal and Lonsdale detached from the main part of the diocese around Chester, provision was made to transfer these to the Diocese of Carlisle, but this required the assent of the then Bishop of Carlisle, or the appointment of a successor. In 1849, the part of the deanery of Chester that extended into Flintshire was transferred to the Diocese of St Asaph. The detached deaneries in the north of Lancashire and in the Lake District were eventually transferred to the Diocese of Carlisle in 1856, on the appointment of Henry Villiers to the See.[5] Finally, in 1880, the remaining part of the deanery of Warrington was used to create the new Diocese of Liverpool. From that point, the Diocese of Chester had been reduced to its present size.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

Present day

The Bishop of Chester is assisted by two suffragan bishops, the Bishop of Birkenhead and the Bishop of Stockport.[12] The suffragan See of Stockport was created in 1949 and was the sole suffragan bishopric in the diocese until the See of Birkenhead was created in 1965. Since 1994 the Bishop of Beverley (currently the Right Reverend Glyn Webster, consecrated in 2013) has provided "alternative episcopal oversight" in this diocese (among eleven others in the Province of York) to those parishes which cannot in conscience accept the sacramental ministry of bishops who have participated in the ordination of women.

There are two archdeaconries, Chester and Macclesfield, which are further divided into 18 deaneries.[13] There are consequently two archdeacons: the Archdeacon of Chester and the Archdeacon of Macclesfield. The Dean of Chester is primarily responsible for the running of Chester Cathedral.[12]


The diocesan Bishop of Chester is supported by two suffragan bishops, the Bishop of Birkenhead and the Bishop of Stockport. There are five retired honorary assistant bishops licensed in the diocese.

Excluding early mediæval bishops who may have been referred to as 'Bishop of Chester', the bishops of the diocese have been:

Bishops of Chester
From Until Incumbent Notes
1541 1554 John Bird Translated from Bangor; deprived by Mary I.
1554 1555 George Cotes Died in office.
1556 1559 Cuthbert Scott Deprived by Elizabeth I.
1561 1577 William Downham Died in office.
1579 1595 William Chaderton Translated to Lincoln.
1595 1596 Hugh Bellot Translated from Bangor; died in office.
1597 1604 Richard Vaughan Translated from Bangor; translated to London.
1604 1615 George Lloyd Translated from Sodor and Man; died in office.
1616 1619 Thomas Morton Translated to Lichfield and Coventry then Durham.
1619 1646 John Bridgeman Deprived of the see when the English episcopy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646. Died in 1652.
1646 1660 The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate.[14][15]
1660 1661 Brian Walton Died in office.
1662 1662 Henry Ferne Died shortly after consecration.
1662 1668 George Hall Also Archdeacon of Canterbury; died in office.
1668 1672 John Wilkins Died in office.
1673 1686 John Pearson Died in office.
1686 1689 Thomas Cartwright Died in office.
1689 1707 Nicholas Stratford Died in office.
1708 1714 William Dawes Translated from York.
1714 1725 Francis Gastrell Died in office.
1726 1752 Samuel Peploe Died in office.
1752 1771 Edmund Keene Translated to Ely.
1771 1776 William Markham Translated from York.
1776 1787 Beilby Porteus Translated to London.
1788 1800 William Cleaver Translated to Bangor then St Asaph.
1800 1809 Henry Majendie Translated to Bangor.
1810 1812 Bowyer Sparke Translated to Ely.
1812 1824 George Law Translated to Bath and Wells.
1824 1828 Charles Blomfield Translated to London.
1828 1848 John Sumner Translated to Canterbury.
1848 1865 John Graham Died in office.
1865 1884 William Jacobson Died in office.
1884 1889 William Stubbs Translated to Oxford.
1889 1919 Francis Jayne Resigned or retired.
1919 1932 Luke Paget Translated from Stepney.
1932 1939 Geoffrey Fisher Translated to London then Canterbury.
1939 1955 Douglas Crick Translated from Stafford.
1955 1973 Gerald Ellison Translated from Willesden; translated to London.
1974 1981 Victor Whitsey Translated from Hertford.
1982 1996 Michael Baughen Retired to London and Southwark.
1996 present Peter Forster
Sources: [16][17][18]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Diocese of Chester)


  1. Template:Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae
  2. 2.0 2.1 Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). p. 12.
  3. Dunn, F. I. (1987). p. 8.
  4. Elrington, C. R. (1980) (Ed.) p. 63.
  5. Bishop Henry Villiers was the successor to Bishop Percy (Elrington, C. R. (1980) (Ed.) page 63.)
  6. Dunn, F. I. (1987). pp. 8–9.
  7. Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). pages 63–65.
  8. Church of England Statistics 2002. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  9. London Gazette: no. 19427. pp. 1765–1768. 7 October 1836. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Creation of the Diocese of Ripon
  10. London Gazette: no. 20265. pp. 3173–3174. 29 September 1843. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Internal reorganisation of the Diocese of Chester prior to the creation of the Diocese of Manchester
  11. London Gazette: no. 20769. pp. 3157–3160. 31 August 1847. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Creation of the Diocese of Manchester
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Who’s who? Bishops, Archdeacons and the Dean". Chester Diocese. Archived from the original on 2008-02-29. http://web.archive.org/web/20080229013200/http://www.chester.anglican.org/diocese/whoswhobp.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  13. "Chester Diocese: Links". Chester Diocese. Archived from the original on 2008-02-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20080224175035/http://www.chester.anglican.org/diocese/links/. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  14. Episcopy. British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate 1638–60. Retrieved on 20 August 2011.
  15. King, Peter (July 1968). "The Episcopate during the Civil Wars, 1642–1649". The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press) 83 (328): 523–537. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxxiii.cccxxviii.523. 
  16. "Historical successions: Chester". Crockford's Clerical Directory. http://www.crockford.org.uk/listing.asp?id=818. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  17. Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S. et al., eds (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd, reprinted 2003 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 237–238. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  18. Horn, J. M.; Smith, D. M.; Mussett, P. (2004). "Bishops of Chester". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: Volume 11: Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses. British History Online. pp. 37–42. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=35844. 
  • Dunn, F. I. (1987). The ancient parishes, townships and chapelries of Cheshire. Chester: Cheshire Record Office and Cheshire Diocesan Record Office. ISBN 0-906758-14-9. 
  • Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). The Victoria history of the county of Chester, Volume III. Oxford: The University of London Institute of Historical Research (Oxford University Press). ISBN 0-19-722754-6. 
  • Phillips, A. D. M.; Phillips, C. B. (2002). A new historical atlas of Cheshire. Chester, UK: Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust. ISBN 0-904532-46-1. 

Dioceses of the Church of England

Province of Canterbury:
Bath & Wells •
Birmingham • Bristol • Canterbury • Chelmsford • Chichester • Coventry • Derby • Ely • Exeter • Gibraltar in Europe • Gloucester • Guildford • Hereford • Leicester • Lichfield • Lincoln • London • Norwich • Oxford • Peterborough • Portsmouth • Rochester • Saint Albans • Saint Edmundsbury & Ipswich • Salisbury • Southwark • Truro • Winchester • Worcester
Province of York:
Blackburn •
Carlisle • Chester • Durham • Leeds • Liverpool • Manchester • Newcastle • Sheffield • Sodor & Man • Southwell & Nottingham • York