Diocese of Lichfield

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Diocese of Lichfield
Church of England
Province: Canterbury
Arms of the Bishop of Lichfield
Cathedral Close, Lichfield.jpg

Lichfield Cathedral Close
Bishop: Jonathan Gledhill
signs as: Lichfield
Cathedral: Lichfield Cathedral
Bishop of Wolverhampton
Bishop of Shrewsbury
Bishop of Stafford
Archdeaconries: Lichfield, Stoke, Salop, Walsall
No. of parishes: 429
No. of churches: 582
Website: http://www.lichfield.anglican.org/

The Diocese of Lichfield is a Church of England diocese in the Province of Canterbury, England. The bishop's seat is Lichfield Cathedral: The Cathedral Church of Mary and Saint Chad. The diocese covers 1,744 square miles, covering Staffordshire, northern Shropshire and much of Warwickshire.

In the Early Middle Ages, the Diocese of Lichfield encompassed much of the Midlands and for a brief while it was an Archbishopric, though only one Archbishop of Lichfield was ever consecrated.


The Diocese of Mercia was created by Bishop Diuma in around 656 and the bishop's seat was settled in Lichfield in 669 by the then bishop, Ceadda (known to history as Saint Chad), who built a monastery there.

At the Council of Chelsea, Bishop Higbert was raised to the rank of archbishop and given authority over the dioceses of Worcester, Leicester, Lincoln, Hereford, Elmham and Dunwich. This was during the dominance of King Offa of Mercia, who wanted an archbishop to rival Canterbury. Offa died in 796, and at the Council of Clovesho in 803 Lichfield's archiepiscopal rank was removed and its dioceses restored to the authority of Canterbury.

During the 9th century, the diocese was devastated by the Vikings. Lichfield itself was unwalled and had become rather poor, so Bishop Peter moved the see to the fortified and wealthier Chester in 1075. His successor, Robert de Limesey, transferred it to Coventry and the diocese was renamed the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. At this stage it also covered Derbyshire and most of Warwickshire. In 1539 the see was transferred back to Lichfield and the name was reversed to become the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry.

The diocese was one of the largest in mediæval England and was divided into five archdeaconries roughly coinciding with the constituent counties or parts of counties: Chester (covering Cheshire and south Lancashire), Coventry, Derby, Salop and Stafford. In 1541 the diocese of Chester was created and parishes in south Lancashire, Cheshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire were transferred to the new diocese.

The industrialisation of the Midlands brought further changes. On 24 January 1837, the archdeaconry of Coventry was transferred to the Diocese of Worcester[1] and the Bishop, see and diocese of Lichfield and Coventry all accordingly renamed Lichfield.[1] In 1884 the archdeaconry of Derby was transferred to the new Diocese of Southwell.[2] In 1877 part of the archdeaconry of Stafford became the archdeaconry of Stoke-upon-Trent[3] (now generally called merely Stoke) and in 1981 the remainder was renamed the archdeaconry of Lichfield. In 1997 another part of the archdeaconry (of Lichfield) was removed to form the new archdeaconry of Walsall, covering Trysull, Walsall, Wednesbury, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton. [4]

The Bishop of Lichfield is assisted by the area bishops of Shrewsbury (responsible for the Salop archdeaconry), Stafford (responsible for the Stoke archdeaconry), and Wolverhampton (responsible for the Lichfield and Walsall archdeaconries).


The Cathedral Church of Mary and Saint Chad, known as Lichfield Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Lichfield, and stands in the heart of the little city of Lichfield in Staffordshire.

The Cathedral is most striking, an awe-inspiring mediæval cathedral in exhuberant Gothic and the only mediæval British cathedral with three spires.


Ground Plan of the Cathedral

The cathedral is built of sandstone hewn from a quarry on the south side of Lichfield. The walls of the nave lean outwards slightly, due to the weight of stone used in the ceiling vaulting; some 200–300 tons of which was removed during renovation work to prevent the walls leaning further.

The cathedral's interior is 370 feet long and with a nave 68 feet broad. The central spire is 252 feet high and the western spires 190 feet.

Lichfield suffered severe damage during the Civil War. All of the stained glass was destroyed, but in spite of this the windows of the Lady Chapel contain some of the finest Flemish painted glass in existence, brought in 1801 from the Abbey of Herkenrode in Belgium, in 1801, having been purchased by Brooke Boothby when that abbey was dissolved during the Napoleonic Wars. It was sold on to the cathedral for the same price. There are also some fine windows by Betton and Evans (1819), and many fine late 19th century windows, particularly those by Charles Eamer Kempe.

The Lichfield Gospels, also known as the Book of Chad, are the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the early part of Luke, written in Latin and dating from around 730. There were originally two volumes but one went missing around the time of the Civil War. It is closely related in style to the Lindisfarne Gospels. The manuscript is on display in the Chapter House from Easter to Christmas.

The Close is one of the most complete in the country and includes a mediæval courtyard which once housed the men of the choir. The three spires are often referred to as 'the Ladies of the Vale'.

History of the cathedral

The Nave

The first cathedral to be built on the present site was in 700AD when Bishop Hedda built a new church to house the bones of St Chad which had become a sacred shrine to many pilgrims when he died in 672. Starting in 1085 and continuing through the twelfth century the original Anglo-Saxon church was replaced by a Norman cathedral, whih was in turn replaced by the current, Gothic cathedral.

The current cathedral was begun in 1195 and completed in the 1330s. The Choir dates from 1200, the Transepts from 1220 to 1240 and the Nave was started in 1260. The octagonal Chapter House, which was completed in 1249 and is one of the most beautiful parts of the Cathedral with some charming stone carvings, houses an exhibition of the cathedral's greatest treasure, the Lichfield Gospels, an 8th century illuminated manuscript.

There were three great sieges of Lichfield during the period 1643–1646 as the cathedral was surrounded by a ditch and defensive walls it made a natural fortress. The cathedral authorities with a certain following were for the king, but the townsfolk generally sided with the parliament, and this led to the fortification of the close in 1643. Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, led an assault against it, but was killed by a deflected bullet from John Dyott (known as 'dumb' because he was a deaf mute) who along with his brother Richard Dyott had taken up a position on the battlements of the central cathedral spire on 2 March 1643. Brooke's deputy Sir John Gell, took over the siege. Although the Royalist garrison surrendered to Gell two days later, the close yielded and was retaken by Prince Rupert of the Rhine on 20 April of the same year. Rupert's engineers detonated a mine to breach the defences. Unable to defend the breach, the parliamentarians surrendered to Rupert the following day. The cathedral suffered extensive damage: the central spire was demolished, the roofs ruined and all the stained glass smashed.

After the Restoration in the 1660s Bishop John Hacket began the restoration of the cathedral, aided by substantial funds donated by the King. It was not until the 19th century though that the damage caused by the Civil War was fully repaired. Up until the 19th century, on top of an ornamented gable, between the two spires, stood a colossal figure of Charles II, by Sir William Wilson. Today it stands just outside the south doors.

The Cathedral Close

During the 18th century while Lichfield flourished, its cathedral decayed. The 15th-century library, on the north side of the nave, was pulled down and the books moved to their present location above the Chapter House. Most of the statues on the west front were removed and the stonework covered with Roman cement. At the end of the eighteenth century James Wyatt organised some major structural work, including installing a massive stone screen at the entrance to the Choir. Francis Eginton painted the east window and was commissioned by the chapter to do other work in the cathedral. The ornate west front was extensively renovated in the Victorian era by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

The Lichfield Angel

Scott's work includes a remarkable number of ornate carved figures of kings, queens and saints, working with original materials where possible and creating fine new imitations and additions when the originals were not available. Wyatt's choir-screen had utilised mediæval stone-work which Scott in turn used to create the clergy's seats in the sanctuary. The new metal screen by Francis Skidmore and John Birnie Philip to designs by Scott himself is a triumph of High Victorian art, as are the fine Minton tiles in the choir, inspired by the mediæval ones found in the Choir foundations and still seen in the Library.

Lichfield Angel

In February 2003, an eighth century sculpted panel of the Archangel Gabriel was discovered under the nave of the cathedral. The panel some 24 inches high is carved from limestone, and originally was part of a stone chest, which is thought to have contained the relics of St Chad.[5] The panel was broken into three parts but was still otherwise intact and had traces of red pigment from the period. The pigments on the Lichfield Angel correspond closely to those of the Lichfield Gospels which have been dated to around 730AD. The Angel was first unveiled to the public in 2006, when visitor numbers to the cathedral trebled. After being taken to Birmingham for eighteen months for examination, it is now exhibited in the cathedral.



The Bishop of Lichfield has his residence at Bishop's House, Lichfield. In the past, the title has had various forms, including "Mercia", "Coventry", "Lichfield and Coventry" and "Coventry and Lichfildl". The present bishop, the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, the 98th Lord Bishop of Lichfield, who signs as Jonathan Lichfield.

Bishops of Mercia (based at Repton)
From Until Incumbent Notes
 ? aft 655 Diuma Dwyna; Duma.
dates unclear Ceollach Cellach, a Scot; resigned and returned to Scotland.
c658 c 662 Trumhere Trumhere, Abbot of Ingethling.
c 662 c 667 Jaruman
Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People (based at Lichfield)
669 672 Chad Ceadda or "Saint Chad". Translated from York. After his consecration was first declared invalid and then restored; died in office.
Bishops of Lichfield
672 c674 Winfrith Winfride; Winfrid. Deprived by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury.
c 676 bef 692 Seaxwulf Saxulf; Sexulf. Abbot of Medeshamstede (Peterborough); Saint Sexwulf.
691 bet 716–727 Headda Headdi; Eatheadus of Sidnacester.
bef 731 737 Aldwine Aldwyn; Aldwini.
737 bet 749–767 Witta Huitta.
bef 757 765 Hemele Hemel.
c 765 c 769 Cuthfrith Cuthred; died in office.
c 769 bet 777–779 Berhthun Died in office.
779 787 Hygeberht Higbert; created Archbishop by King Offa in 787.
Archbishop of Lichfield
787 799 Hygeberht Higbert; Bishop until 787.
Bishops of Lichfield
From Until Incumbent Notes
bet 799–801 bet 814–816 Ealdwulf Adulphus; title of Archbishop laid aside.
bet 814–816 bet 817–818 Herewine
818 830 Æthelwold
830 bet 830–836 Hunberght Humbert II.
bet 830–836 bet 841–845 Cynefrith Cumbert; Cineferth; Saint Cumbert.
bet 843–845 bet 857–862 Tunberht Tunbright; Tunfrith; Tumfriht.
bet 857–862 bet 866–869 Wulfsige
bet 866–869 bet 869–883 Burgheard
bet 869–883 bet 889–900 Wulfred
bet 889–900 bet 903–915 Wigmund Omitted from Haydn's; not the same man as the Archbishop of York who died in 854.
bet 903–915 bet 935–941 Ælfwine
bet 935–941 bet 946–949 Wulfgar
bet 946–949 bet 963–964 Cynesige Kinsey; Kynsy; Kinsius.
bet 963–964 975 Wynsige Winsey; Winsius.
975 bet 1002–1004 Elphege
bet 1002–1004 after 1017 Godwin
after 1017 bet 1026–1027 Leofgar Leosgar.
c 1027 1039 Brihtmær Brithmar.
1039 1053 Wulfsige Wulsy.
1053 1067 Leofwin Abbot of Coventry.
Norman Bishops of Lichfield
1067 1075 Peter Removed see to Chester.
Bishops of Chester
1075 1085 Peter
1086 1102 Robert de Limesey Prebendary of St Paul's; removed see to Coventry.
Bishops of Coventry
From Until Incumbent Notes
1102 1117 Robert de Limesey As above, title change only; died in office.
1117 1121 Vacant for 4 years
1121 1126 Robert Peche Henry I; died in office.
1126 1129 Vacant for 2 years
1129 1148 Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry Also called Bishop of Lichfield & Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.
1149 1159 Walter Durdent
1161 1182 Richard Peche
1183 1184 Gerard la Pucelle
1184 1188 Vacant
1188 1198 Hugh Nonant
1198 1208 Geoffrey de Muschamp
1208 1215 Vacant due to interdict by Pope Innocent III against King John's realms.
1215 1223 William de Cornhill
1224 1228 Alexander de Stavenby Became Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield.
Bishops of Coventry and Lichfield
From Until Incumbent Notes
1228 1238 Alexander de Stavenby Previously Bishop of Coventry.
1239 William de Raley William Raleigh; elected by both the chapter of Coventry and that of Lichfield but being also elected Bishop of Norwich he accepted the latter office.
1239 Nicholas Farnham Elected by the Chapter of Coventry but did not take office, later Bishop of Durham.
1239 William de Manchester Dean of Lichfield; elected by the Chapter of Lichfield but did not take office
1239 December 1241 Hugh de Pateshull Lord Treasurer; accepted after much controversy between the two chapters and at Henry III's request; confirmed 25 December 1239; died in office.
December 1241 8 December 1241 Richard le Gras Abbot of Evesham, elected but declined office or died before the disputed election was resolved.
December 1241 1245 Vacant
1243 Robert de Monte Pessulano Elected but refused the appointment, finding the election disagreeable to Henry III.
1245 1256 Roger Weseham Dean of Lincoln; appointed by Pope Innocent IV.
1258 1295 Roger de Meyland Roger Longespée; Roger de Molend.
1296 1321 Walter Langton Lord Treasurer and Lord Chancellor.
1322 1358 Roger Northburgh Roger de Northbrugh; Archdeacon of Richmond; Lord Keeper and Lord Treasurer.
1360 1385 Robert de Stretton Canon of Lichfield.
1386 1386 Walter Skirlaw Dean of St Martin's; translated to Bath & Wells.
1386 1398 Richard le Scrope Translated to York.
1398 1414 John Burghill Translated from Llandaff.
1415 1419 John Catterick John Keterich; Translated from St David's; translated to Exeter.
1419 1419 James Cary translated to Exeter but died before taking office thereof.
20 November 1420 13 March 1447 William Heyworth
1447 1452 William Booth York.
1452 Nicholas Close Translated from Carlisle; Chancellor of Cambridge.
1453 1459 Reginald Boulers Translated from Hereford.
1459 1490 John Hales John Halse. Prebendary of St Paul's, London.
1493 1496 William Smyth Archdeacon of Surrey; translated to Lincoln.
1496 1502 John Arundel Dean of Exeter; translated to Exeter.
1503 1531 Geoffrey Blythe Geoffry Blyth. Dean of York.
1534 1539 Rowland Lee Chancellor and Prebendary of Lichfield and Lord President of Wales. Title changed when Coventry Cathedral was dissolved.
From the Reformation: Bishops of Lichfield and Coventry
From Until Incumbent Notes
1539 1543 Rowland Lee Previously Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
1543 1554 Richard Sampson Translated from Chichester; Lord President of Wales.
1554 1559 Ralph Baines Ralph Bayne; deprived and died soon after.
1560 1579 Thomas Bentham Fellow of Magdalene College, Oxford.
1580 1609 William Overton Prebendary of Winchester and Salisbury.
1609 1610 George Abbot Dean of Winchester; translated to London.
1610 1614 Richard Neile Richard Neale; translated to Rochester.
1614 1618 John Overall Dean of St Paul's, London; translated to Norwich.
1619 1632 Thomas Morton Translated from Chester; translated to Durham.
1632 1643 Robert Wright Translated from Bristol.
1644 1660 Accepted Frewen Dean of Gloucester; translated to York.
1661 1670 John Hacket Canon-resident of St Paul's, London.
1671 1692 Thomas Wood Dean of Lichfield.
1692 1699 William Lloyd Translated from St Asaph; translated to Worcester.
1699 1717 John Hough Translated from Oxford; translated to Worcester.
1717 1730 Edward Chandler Prebendary of Worcester; translated to Durham.
1731 1749 Richard Smalbroke Translated from St David's.
1750 1768 The Hon Frederick Cornwallis Canon of Windsor; Dean of St Paul's, London (1766); translated to Canterbury.
1768 1771 John Egerton Translated from Bangor; translated to Durham.
1771 1774 Brownlow North Dean of Canterbury; translated to Worcester.
1775 1781 Richard Hurd Master of the Temple; translated to Worcester.
1781 1824 The Hon James Cornwallis
(after 1823: The Rt Hon The Earl Cornwallis)
Dean of Canterbury; grand-nephew of the Hon Frederick Cornwallis (above); died in office.
10 March 1824 31 March 1836 The Hon Henry Ryder Translated from Gloucester; died in office.
3 July 1836 24 January 1837 Samuel Butler Became Bishop of Lichfield when the Diocese of Coventry was created.
Bishops of Lichfield
From Until Incumbent Notes
24 January 1837 4 December 1839 Samuel Butler Previously Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; died in office.
23 January 1840 11 October 1843 James Bowstead Translated from Sodor & Man.
3 December 1843 19 October 1867 John Lonsdale Archdeacon of Middlesex and Principal of King's College, London; died in office.
4 January 1868 11 April 1878 George Selwyn Translated from New Zealand; died in office.
24 June 1878 28 July 1891 William Maclagan Vicar of St Mary Abbots, Kensington; translated to York.
29 September 1891 15 March 1913 The Hon Augustus Legge Died in office.
13 June 1913 15 June 1937 John Kempthorne
29 July 1937 11 January 1953 Edward Woods Died in office.
29 September 1953 1 December 1974 Stretton Reeve
2 January 1975 29 February 1984 Kenneth Skelton Bishop of Matabeleland; retired.
12 October 1984 2003 Keith Sutton
2003 present Jonathan Gledhill

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 London Gazette: no. 19460, pp. 169–170, 24 January 1837. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  2. From Parson to Professional: The Changing Ministry Of the Anglican Clergy In Staffordshire, 1830-1960. A thesis written by the Rev. Dr. John W. B. Tomlinson (2008 Birmingham University)
  3. London Gazette: no. 24486, pp. 4316–4318, 24 July 1877. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
  4. "Diocese of Lichfield". http://www.archives.staffordshire.gov.uk/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=DserveV.ini&dsqApp=Archive2&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqCmd=show.tcl&dsqSearch=(RefNo=='CA1'). Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  5. Wilcox, Peter (2011). The Gold, the Angel and the Gospel Book. Lichfield Cathedral. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-9558887-7-9. 
  • Beresford, W. (n.d.). Diocesan Histories: Lichfield. London: SPCK
  • Cahill, M. (2001). The diocese of Coventry and Lichfield 1603–1642. PhD dissertation. University of Warwick.
  • Cooper, T. N. (1994). Oligarchy and conflict : Lichfield Cathedral clergy in the early sixteenth century in 'Midland History', 19, 40–57.
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third Edition, revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 219. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  • Haydn, Joseph. (1894). Haydn's Book of Dignities (1894). Horace Ockerby.
  • Stenton, Frank M. (1971) Anglo-Saxon England (Third Edition). Oxford University Press
  • Whittaker, James. (2004). Whitaker's Almanack 1883 to 2004. A & C Black, London.

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