Diocese of St Davids

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Diocese of St Davids
Church in Wales
Province: Wales
Arms of the Bishop of St David's
20100614-DSC 1535.jpg

St David's Cathedral
Bishop: Wyn Evans
Cathedral: St Davids Cathedral
Archdeaconries: St Davids, Cardigan,
Website: Diocese of St Davids

The Diocese of St David's is a diocese of the Church in Wales under the Bishop of St Davids. It covers the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembroke, together with a small part of western Glamorgan.

The episcopal seat is the Cathedral Church of St David (“St Davids Cathedral”) in the City of St Davids in Pembrokeshire. The present cathedral, which was begun in 1181, stands on the site of a monastery founded in the 6th century by Saint David.

The bishop's residence is Llys Esgob ("Bishop's Hall") in Abergwili in Carmarthenshire.

The office of Bishop of St David's has existed since the founding of the cathedral. The current bishop, the 128th, is the Right Reverend J Wyn Evans, who was elected on 1 September, consecrated on 29 November at Llandaff Cathedral, and enthroned in St Davids Cathedral on 6 December 2008.

The succession of bishops is said to stretch back to Saint David, and the official list of bishops begins with him, albeit that for these early ages there is more apocryphal tradition than sound records. In the 6th century, David established his seat at the edge of the sea in what is today the city of St David's in Pembrokeshire. The current Bishop of St David's is the Right Reverend Wyn Evans, who succeeded to the post on 1 September 2008.


St David was a monk who led a particularly harsh order in the sixth century and who came to dominate the church amongst the Britons of the west. In his own time his followers were condemned as dangerous hypocrites by no less a man than Gildas the Wise. Nevertheless, the foibles of an ancient age were forgotten by the Middle Ages and the memory of David was celebrated, and he was declared to be the Patron Saint of Wales.

The history of the diocese of St David's is traditionally traced to that saint in the latter half of the 6th century Records of the history of the diocese before Norman times are very fragmentary, however, consisting of a few chance references in old chronicles, such as 'Annales Cambriae' and 'Brut y Tywysogion' (Rolls Series).

Originally corresponding with the boundaries of Dyfed, St David's eventually comprised all the country south of the River Dovey and west of the English marches, with the exception of the greater part of Glamorganshire; in all some 3,500 square miles.

Claim of metropolitan status

Gerald of Wales spent much of his carreer claiming that the See of St David's was by right that of an Archbishop, not a mere Bishop. His insistence on this was what prevented him from becoming accepting the office of Bishop of St David's himself. Gerald's assertion, which he could never prove, was hauled out again at the consecration of the first Archbishop of Wales in 1921; speeches delivered claimed that the Archbishop's office was not a new office but the revival of an ancient one.

The early ecclesiastical organisation of the church amongst the Britons is unclear. It was independent of Rome; that city intruded itself only in the Middle Ages. However whether the bishops acknowledged an archbishop over them is unknown. One of the earliest mentions of the religious community at St David's Cathedral comes three and a half centuries after David's time in the work of Asser who was trained at St David's. In his Life of King Alfred c. 893 Asser calls his kinsman, Nobis, also of St David's, an "archbishop". In the Annales Cambriae, Elfodd is termed 'archbishop of the land of Gwynedd’ in his obit, under the year 809.[1]

Later tales are unreliable and filled with anachronism and roance, but they have been drawn upon to support arguments in those same leess critical ages. Rhygyfarch's Life of Saint David c. 1090. states Saint David was anointed as an archbishop by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, a position confirmed at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi by popular acclaim.

Then, blessed and extolled by the mouth of all, he is with the consent of all the bishops, kings, princes, nobles, and all grades of the whole Britannic race, made archbishop, and his monastery too is declared the metropolis of the whole country, so that whoever ruled it should be accounted archbishop.[2]

It is unclear when St David's came definitely under the metropolitan jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but about 1115 King Henry I intruded a Norman into the see, Bernard, Bishop of St David's, who prior to his ordination was confirmed by Canterbury, much to the disgust of the Brut y Tywysogyon which noted that Henry I 'made him bishop in Menevia in contempt of the clerics of the Britons’. Once in place Bernard became convinced that St David's was a Metropolitan archbishopric (and thus of the same status as Canterbury). Bernard in the 1120s claimed metropolitan jurisdiction over Wales and presented his suit unsuccessfully before six successive popes. Pope Eugenius III was giving the case serious consideration, the issue was to be put to the synod summoned to meet at Rheims in March 1148, but the death of Bernard meant the case lapsed.[3] The idea of Archbishops in Wales was also reflected in the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth. The claim was afterwards revived in the time of Gerald of Wales who pressed it vigorously. The failure of Gerald's campaign saw the claim lapse but it was revived by Owain Glyndŵr's plan for an independent Welsh Church. The idea was also revived in the reformation with Bishop Richard Davies in the 'Address to the Welsh nation' prefixed to the translation into Welsh of the New Testament by him and William Salesbury referred to 'Archbishop David'.

It was only in 1920 that an Archbishop of Wales was established; not attached to St Davids but chosen from amongst the Bishops of the Church in Wales.

Building the Cathedral

The building of the present St David's Cathedral was begun under Bishop Peter de Leia (1176–1198).

In the Middle Ages, the sellers of indulgences ruled that two pilgrimages too St David's were equivalent in value to one pilgrimage to Rome, so dangerous was the journey.

Reformation and beyond

The Reformation confirmed the equivalence of Rome and St David's, by determining that there is no value to pilgrimages at all. There was a dramatic loss of income to the cathedral from the end of pilgrim traffic, but the evangelical fervour created by the Reformation and the resultant secular prosperity of Pembrokeshire counterbalanced any such loss.

St David's was wrenched from the Church of England by the Welsh Church Act 1914, and had its ancient endowments seized and handed over to secular hands. It became part of the new Church in Wales.

List of bishops

The accounts of the early incumbents are conflicting and drawn from various traditions, but the usual list is as follows:

Early bishops

Early Bishops of St David's [4]
From Until Incumbent Notes
545 589 David
589 606 Cynog
606 c. 610 Saint Telio
c. 610 unknown Saint Ceneu
unknown Morfael
unknown Haernynin Also known as Haerwnen
unknown Elwaed Also known as Elfaed
unknown Gurnuru Also known as Gwrnwen
unknown Llunwerth I
unknown Gwrgwst
unknown Gwrgan
unknown Clydog
unknown Einion
unknown Elfodd Also known as Elffod; he may instead have been Diocese of Bangor
unknown Ethelman
unknown Elaunc Also known as Elane
unknown Maelsgwyd
unknown 831 Sadyrnfyw Also known as Sadwrnfen
831 unknown Cadell
unknown 840 Sulhaithnay
840 874 Nobis Also known as Novis
874 unknown Idwal
unknown Asser
unknown Arthwael Also known as Arthfael
unknown Samson
unknown Ruelin
unknown 961 Rhydderch
unknown Elwyn
unknown Morfyw Also known as Morbiw
unknown 873 Llunwerth II
873 944 Eneuris
944 unknown Sulhidyr Also known as Hubert
unknown 978 Ivor
978 999 Morgeneu
999 unknown Nathan
unknown Ieuan Also known as Jevan
unknown 1016 Arwystl
1016 1023 Erbin Also known as Ervin
1023 1039 Trahaearn
1039 1061 Joseph
1061 1071 Bleiddud
1071 1078 Sulien
1078 1080 Abraham
1080 1091 Sulien (again) Restored
unknown unknown Rhigyfarch, son of Sulien Perhaps never a bishop?
unknown 1115 Wilfrid Also known as Gruffydd
1115 (Daniel) Also known as Deiniol; elected but set aside; became Archdeacon of Powys

Middle Ages

Pre-Reformation Bishops of St David's [4][5]
From Until Incumbent Notes
1115 1148 Bernard Chancellor to Queen Adelize; first bishop to submit to the see of Canterbury; consecrated in 1115; possibly died 22 April 1148
1148 1176 David fitzGerald Previously Archdeacon of Cardigan; consecrated bishop 19 December 1148; died 8 May 1176
1176 1198 Peter de Leia Previously Prior of Wenlock; consecrated bishop 7 November 1176; died 16 July 1198
1199 1203 (Gerald of Wales) Elected 29 June 1199, but assent was refused by King John; continued as bishop-elect until resigned in 1203; died circa 1223; also known as Giraldus Cambrensis in Latin
1203 1214 Geoffrey de Henlaw Nominated in July 1199, but not consecrated until 7 December 1203; died in office
1215 1229 Iorwerth Elected before 18 June and consecrated 21 June 1215; died before 27 January 1229; also known as Gervase
1230 1247 Anselm le Gras Elected before 7 April 1229; received possession of the temporalities 20 November 1230; consecrated 9 February 1231; died before 2 April 1247; also known as Anselm de la Grace
1248 1256 Thomas Wallensis Elected sometime between 16 April and 16 July 1247; received possession of the temporalities 26 September 1247; consecrated 26 July 1248; died 11 July 1255; also known as Thomas le Waleys
1256 1280 Richard Carew Elected after 4 August 1255; consecrated sometime between 11 February 10 March 1256; died 1 April 1280
1280 1293 Thomas Bek Elected before 17 June and consecrated 6 October 1280; died 14 April 1293; also recorded as Thomas Beck
1296 1328 David Martyn Elected in June 1293; received possession of the temporalities 11 October 1293; consecrated 30 September 1296; died 9 March 1328; also recorded as David Martin
1328 1347 Henry de Gower Elected 21 April 1328; received possession of the temporalities 26 May 1328; consecrated 12 June 1328; died before 4 May 1347
1347 1349 John of Thoresby Worcester 4 September 1349
1350 1352 Reginald Brian Worcester 22 October 1352
1353 1361 Thomas Fastolf Appointed 22 October 1352; received possession of the temporalities 4 June 1353; died in June 1361
1361 1389 Adam Houghton Lord Chancellor 1377–1378; died 13 February 1389
1389 (Richard Mitford) Elected but set aside by the pope
1389 1397 John Gilbert Translated from Hereford; received possession of the temporalities 12 July 1389; died 28 July 1397
1397 1407 Guy Mone Appointed 30 August and consecrated 11 November 1397; also was Lord High Treasurer in 1398; died 31 August 1407
1408 1414 Henry Chichele Consecrated 17 June 1408; translated to Canterbury 27 April 1414
1414 1415 John Catterick Coventry and Lichfield 1 February 1415
1415 1417 Stephen Patrington Appointed 1 February and consecrated 9 June 1415; received possession of the temporalities 16 June 1514; translated to Chichester 15 December 1417
1417 1433 Benedict Nichols Translated from Bangor 15 December 1417 and received possession of the temporalities 1 June 1418; died in office 25 June 1433
1433 1442 Thomas Rodburn Previously Archdeacon of Sudbury; appointed 8 October and received possession of the temporalities 16 December 1433; consecrated 31 January 1434; died before 27 June 1442; also known as Thomas Rudborne
1442 1446 William Lyndwood Appointed 27 June and received possession of the temporalities 14 August 1442; consecrated 26 August 1442; also was Lord Privy Seal 1432–1443; died in office 21 October 1446
1447 John Langton Appointed 23 January and received possession of the temporalities 2 March 1447; consecrated 7 May 1447; also was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1436–1445 and 1447; died in office 22 May 1447
1447 1460 John De la Bere Wells; appointed 15 September and received possession of the temporalities 14 November 1447; consecrated 19 November 1447; resigned before 23 July 1460
1460 c.1481 Robert Tully Previously a monk at Gloucester Abbey; appointed 23 July and consecrated after 28 August 1460; died circa 1481
1482 1483 Richard Martin Formerly Bishop-designate of Waterford and Lismore; appointed Bishop of St David's 26 April and consecrated 28 July 1482; also was a Privy Councillor to Edward IV; died in office 11 May 1483
1483 1485 Thomas Langton Formerly Prebendary of Wells; appointed 4 July and consecrated sometime in August or September 1483; received possession of the temporalities 25 March 1484; translated to Salisbury 8 February 1485
1485 1496 Hugh Pavy Previously Archdeacon of Wiltshire; appointed 6 May and received possession of the temporalities 25 March 1484; consecrated 9 October 1485; died sometime between 3 May and 3 August 1496
1496 1504 John Morgan Previously Dean of Windsor; appointed 3 August and received possession of the temporalities 23 November 1496; died in office sometime between 24 April and 19 May 1504; also known as John Young;
1505 1508 Robert Sherborne Previously Dean of St Paul's, London; appointed 5 January and received possession of the temporalities 12 April 1505; consecrated 11 May 1505; translated to Chichester 18 September 1508
1509 1522 Edward Vaughan Formerly Prebendary of St Paul's, London; appointed 13 June and consecrated 22 July 1509; died in office before 27 January 1522
1523 1536 Richard Rawlins Previously Warden of Merton College, Oxford and Prebendary of St Paul's, London; appointed 11 March and consecrated 26 April 1523; died in office 18 February 1536

During the Reformation

Bishops of St David's during the Reformation[4][6]
From Until Incumbent Notes
1536 1548 William Barlow Bishop-elect of St Asaph; elected Bishop of St David's 10 April and consecrated in June 1536; translated to Bath & Wells in 1548
1549 1554 Robert Ferrar Consecrated 9 September 1548; deprived by Queen Mary I in March 1554; burned at the stake 30 March 1555
1554 1559 Henry Morgan Principal of St Edward's Hall, Oxford; consecrated 1 April 1554; deprived by Queen Elizabeth I in the summer of 1559; died 23 December 1559

Reformation to disestablishment

Bishops of St David's from the Reformation to Disestablishment[4][7][8]
From Until Incumbent Notes
1560 1561 Thomas Young Previousley Chancellor of St David's; consecrated 21 January 1560; translated to York 25 February 1561
1561 1581 Richard Davies Translated from St Asaph 21 May 1561; died in office in October or November 1581
1582 1592 Marmaduke Middleton Translated from Waterford and Lismore 30 November 1582; deprived circa 1590-1592; died in exile 1593
1590/92 1594 See vacant
1594 1615 Anthony Rudd Previously Dean of Gloucester; consecrated bishop 9 June 1594; died in office 7 March 1615
1615 1621 Richard Milbourne Previously Dean of Rochester; consecrated bishop 9 July 1615; translated to Carlisle in 1621
1621 1627 William Laud Previously Dean of Gloucester; consecrated bishop 18 November 1621; translated to Bath & Wells 18 September 1626
1627 1635 Theophilus Feild Translated from Llandaff 12 July 1627; translated to Hereford 23 December 1635
1635 1649 Roger Maynwaring Previously Dean of Worcester; consecrated bishop 28 February 1636; deprived of the see by the Commonwealth in 1649; died 1 July 1653
1649 1660 The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate
1660 1677 William Lucy Previously Rector of Highclere; consecrated bishop 2 December 1660; died in office 4 October 1677
1677 1683 William Thomas Previously Dean of Worcester; consecrated bishop of St David's in early 1678; translated to Worcester 27 August 1683
1683 1686 Laurence Womock Previously Archdeacon of Suffolk; consecrated bishop 11 November 1683; died in office 12 March 1686
1686 1687 John Lloyd Previously Principal of Jesus College, Oxford; consecrated bishop 17 October 1686; died in office 1687
1687 1699 Thomas Watson Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge; consecrated bishop 26 June 1687; suspended 21 August 1694 and deprived 3 August 1699 for crimes including simony; died 3 June 1717
1699 1705 See vacant
1705 1710 George Bull Previously Archdeacon of Llandaff; consecrated bishop 29 April 1705; died in office 17 February 1710
1710 1713 Philip Bisse Consecrated bishop 19 November 1710; translated to Hereford 16 February 1713
1713 1723 Adam Ottley Previously Archdeacon of Salop and Prebendary of Hereford; consecrated bishop 15 March 1713; died in office 3 October 1723
1724 1731 Richard Smalbroke Previously Treasurer of Llandaff; consecrated bishop 3 February 1724; translated to Lichfield & Coventry 20 February 1731
1731 Elias Sydall Previously Dean of Canterbury; consecrated bishop 11 April 1731; translated to Gloucester 2 November 1731
1732 1743 Nicholas Clagett Previously Dean of Rochester; consecrated bishop 23 January 1732; translated to Exeter 2 August 1742
1743 Edward Willes Previously Dean of Lincoln; consecrated bishop 2 January 1743; translated to Bath & Wells 12 December 1743
1744 1752 The Hon Richard Trevor Previously a Canon of St. George's Chapel, Windsor; consecrated bishop 1 April 1744; translated to Durham 7 December 1752
1752 1761 Anthony Ellys Formerly Prebendary of Gloucester; consecrated bishop 31 March 1753; died in office 16 January 1761
1761 1766 Samuel Squire Previously Dean of Bristol; consecrated bishop 24 March 1761; died in office 7 May 1766
1766 Robert Lowth Formerly Prebendary of Durham; consecrated bishop 15 June 1766; translated to Oxford 16 October 1766
1766 1774 Charles Moss Previously Archdeacon of Colchester; consecrated bishop 30 November 1766; translated to Bath & Wells 2 June 1774
1774 1779 The Hon James Yorke Previously Dean of Lincoln; consecrated bishop 26 June 1774; translated to Gloucester 2 August 1779
1779 1783 John Warren Previously Archdeacon of Worcester; consecrated bishop 19 September 1779; translated to Bangor 9 June 1783
1783 1788 Edward Smallwell Consecrated bishop 6 July 1783; translated to Oxford 15 April 1788
1788 1793 Samuel Horsley Formerly Prebendary of Gloucester; consecrated bishop 11 May 1788; translated to Rochester 7 December 1793
1794 1800 The Hon William Stuart Previously Canon of Christ Church, Oxford; consecrated bishop 12 January 1794; translated to Armagh in 1800
1801 1803 Lord George Murray Nominated bishop 20 December 1800 and consecrated 11 February 1801; died in office 3 June 1803
1803 1825 Thomas Burgess Formerly Prebendary of Durham; nominated bishop 25 June consecrated 17 July 1803; translated to Salisbury 17 June 1825
1825 1840 John Jenkinson Nominated bishop 18 June and consecrated 24 July 1825; died in office 6 or 7 July 1840
1840 1874 Connop Thirlwall Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; nominated bishop 23 July and consecrated 9 August 1840; resigned 16 June 1874; died 27 July 1875
1874 1897 Basil Jones Conserated bishop 24 August 1874; died in office 14 January 1897

Disestablished church from 1920

Bishops of St David's from Disestablishment[4][9]
From Until Incumbent Notes
1897 1926 John Owen Consecrated 1 May 1897; died in office 4 November 1926
1926 1950 David Prosser Consecrated 2 February 1927; also was Archbishop of Wales 1944–1949; died in office 28 February 1950
1950 1956 William Havard Translated from St Asaph; elected 30 March 1950; died in office 17 August 1956
1956 1971 John Richards Consecrated 30 November 1956; resigned 31 March 1971
1971 1982 Eric Roberts Elected 21 April and consecrated 1 June 1971; resigned 30 September 1981
1982 1991 George Noakes Elected 11 November 1981 and consecrated 2 February 1982; also was Archbishop of Wales 1987–1991; relinquished both posts in 1991; died 14 July 2008
1991 1995 Ivor Rees[10] Elected and consecrated in 1991; retired in 1995.
1996 2001 Huw Jones Formerly Assistant Bishop of St Asaph; enthroned in St David's Cathedral in 1996; retired as bishop at the end of 2001
2002 2008 Carl Cooper Previously Archdeacon of Merioneth; elected and consecrated in 2002; resigned 29 April 2008
2008 present Wyn Evans St David's 1994-2008; elected bishop 1 September and consecrated 29 November 2008; enthroned in St Davids Cathedral 6 December 2008


  1. J. Wyn Evans, 'David (d. 589/601)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  2. Rhygyvarch's Life of St David. A.W. Wade-Evans's (Ed.) sections, 48, 53
  3. David Walker, 'Bernard (d. 1148)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Past Bishops & Deans of St David's. St David's Cathedral. Retrieved on 16 March 2010.
  5. Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 297–298. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  6. Fryde, ibid., p. 298.
  7. Fryde, ibid., pp. 298–299.
  8. 19th-Century Bishops of the Church of England. Retrieved on 18 March 2010.
  9. Fryde, ibid., p. 299.
  10. Shipmate Bishop Ivor Rees. Royal Naval Association Gallery. Retrieved on 18 March 2010.