Diocese of Worcester

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Diocese of Worcester
Church of England
Province: Canterbury
Arms of the Bishop of Worcester
Worcester cathedral night2.jpg
Bishop: Dr John Inge
Cathedral: Worcester Cathedral
Bishop of Dudley
Archdeaconries: Dudley, Worcester
No. of parishes: 180
No. of churches: 284
Website: cofe-worcester.org.uk

The Diocese of Worcester is an ancient diocese of the Church of England, within the Province of Canterbury. It covers Worcestershire, part of northern Gloucestershire and some parts of Staffordshire in the Black Country. The diocese if presided over by the Bishop of Worcester, and its centre is Worcester Cathedral, in the city of Worcester.

The diocese was founded in around 679 by St Theodore of Canterbury at Worcester to minister to the kingdom of the Hwicce, one of the many petty-kingdoms amongst the English of that time. The original borders of the diocese are believed to be based on those of that ancient kingdom.[1]


The Cathedral Church of Christ and St Mary the Virgin, commonly called Worcester Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. It stands in the centre of the City of Worcester, which city has grown up aroud it. It is a vast gothic edifice of the 12th century, whose tall spire is visible across the city.

Worcester Cathedral has been described as possibly the most interesting of all England’s cathedrals, especially architecturally. The first cathedral was built in 680, then Bishop Oswald built another in 983, and established a monastery attached to it. Wulfstan rebuilt the cathedral in 1084 after the Norman Conquest, which was the beginning of the present building.

During Anglo-Saxon times, Worcester was one of the most important monastic cathedrals in the country, a centre of great learning and of the richest diocese in the kingdom, a tradition continued in the Middle Ages, refected in the wealth of the cathedral library.

In 1540 King Henry VIII dissolved the monastery and the cathedral continued under a Dean and Chapter. The cathedral was badly damaged in the Civil Wars, which began and ended at Worcester, and was much restored after the Restoration in 1660, and in a major Victorian restoration from 1864-75.


Currently the diocese has 190 parishes with 281 churches and 163 stipendiary clergy. It covers an area of 671 square miles.

The diocese is divided into two Archdeaconries:

  • The Archdeaconry of Worcester
  • The Archdeaconry of Dudley

From its creation, the diocese included what is now southern and western Warwickshire (an area known as Felden). On 24 January 1837 the north and east of Warwickshire (Arden) which formed the archdeaconry of Coventry in the then Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry was transferred to the diocese of Worcester.[2] In 1905 an area in northern Warwickshire was split off as the Diocese of Birmingham, and in 1918 an area approximating to the rest of Warwickshire was made the Diocese of Coventry.

Early History

The Church of Worcester is believed to have been founded in the late 7th century. It seems to have benefited in the 8th century from the support of the kings of the Mercians. Through this royal support the Bishopric found itself in a position from which it was able to gradually extend its control over several of the other prominent minsters in the area during the seventh and eighth centuries. Consequently In the ninth century the bishopric of Worcester can be seen to be the most powerful ecclesiastical power in Mercia during this time. From this position the church was able to use their great wealth to buy privileges for themselves from the kings of Mercia. Later in the period it was from Mercia, and in particular Worcester, that King Alfred began to recruit priests and monks with which to rebuild the church in Wessex during the 880s (Asser, ch. 77). It has been argued that these priests bought with them a new attitude towards the churches place within society and the churches relationship with the monarchy. Consequently, we can see from the Bishopric of Worcester the emanation of a new ecclesiastical ideology that would develop over time to become the accepted Anglo-Saxon church.

Worcester Archive

The Charters of Worcester are one of the key sources for historians studying the period and are a major reason for the insight that we have regarding the early Anglo-Saxon Church. The Charters exist within the Worcester archive which is itself the largest Anglo-Saxon archive of its kind. It contains many texts, ranging from late 7th to the 11th centuries, providing for us an unprecedented continuous history of the Church. This archive takes physical form in that 2 distinct cartularies. The first cartulary, cartulary A (Cotton Tiberius A xiii), contains in it the majority of the charters that make up the archive. It is from these that we are able to develop a coherent picture of land ownership and societal responsibilities during the Anglo-Saxon period and beyond. A prominent example of this is no. 95 of cartulary A which shows the 8th-century king of Mercia, Ceolwulf II, granting the Bishopric of Worcester exemption from royal dues in exchange for money. This example shows not just the dues and power of the king himself but also the wealth and power of the Church, the sophisticated system of bartering and exchange that existed at the time and also the legal system of recording important transactions.

Bishops of Worcester

The Bishop of Worcester presides over the diocese. The title can be traced back to the foundation of the diocese in the year 680, and has been continuous ever since.

In the Anglo-Saxon period the diocese was the richest in the land, owning estates across the county, and in the later Anglo-Saxon period it became common for the Archbishop of York to hold York and Worcester in plurality because the ravanged lands of York, after the Norse had done their work, did not provide a sufficient income for an archbishop to live as was expected.

The bishop's official residence is the Bishop's Office, The Old Palace, Deansway, Worcester, Worcestershire.[3] The bishops had two earlier residences: Hartlebury Castle near Kidderminster from the 13th-century to 2007 and a palace at Alvechurch until it was pulled down in the 17th-century.

List of bishops


Bishops of Worcester
From Until Incumbent Notes
680 691 Bosel Resigned the See
691 693 Oftfor
693 717 Ecgwine of Evesham Also recorded as Ecgwin, Egwin and Eegwine
718 c 744 Wilfrith (I.) Also recorded as Wilfrid
c 743 c 775 Milred Also recorded as Mildred and Hildred
775 777 Wærmund
777 c 780/81 Tilhere
781 c 799 Heathured Also recorded as Hathored and Æthelred
c 799 822 Denebeorht Also recorded as Deneberht
822 c 845/48 Heahbeorht Also recorded as Heahberht and Eadbert
c 845/48 872 Ealhhun Also recorded as Alwin
873 915 Werferth Also recorded as Waerfrith, Wærferth, Werfrith and Waerfrith
915 922 Æthelhun
922 929 Wilfrith (II.)
Floruit|fl.929 957 Koenwald Also recorded as Cenwald and Coenwald
957 959 Saint Dunstan Previously Abbot of Glastonbury; translated to London; and later to Canterbury
961 992 Saint Oswald of Worcester Held both Worcester and York ( 971–992)
992 1002 Ealdwulf Previously Abbot of Peterborough; held both Worcester and York (995–1002)
1002 1016 Wulfstan (I.) Translated from London; also Archbishop of York (1002–1023)
1016 1033 Leofsige
1033 1038 Beorhtheah
c 1038/39 1040 Lyfing (1st term) Deprived from Worcester; also Bishop of Crediton and Cornwall (1027–1046)
1040 1041 Ælfric Puttoc Also Archbishop of York, 1023–1041; deprived from both
1041 1046 Lyfing (2nd term) Restored to Worcester
1046 1061 Ealdred Translated from Hereford; later to York
1062 1095 Wulfstan (II.)

Conquest to Reformation

Bishops of Worcester
From Until Incumbent Notes
1096 1112 Samson
1113 1123 Theulf Nominated in 1113; consecrated in 1115
1125 1150 Simon
1151 1157 John de Pageham
1158 1160 Alured
1163 1179 Roger Also recorded as Roger of Gloucester
1180 1185 Baldwin Translated to Canterbury
1185 1190 William of Northall
1191 1193 Robert FitzRalph Previously Archdeacon of Nottingham
1193 1195 Henry de Sully Previously Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey
1196 1198 John of Coutances
1199 1212 Mauger Elected in 1199, but quashed by Pope Innocent III; later postulated to the See; consecrated in 1200
1213 1214 Randulf of Evesham (bishop-elect) Elected in December 1213, but quashed by the Papal legate, Niccolò de Romanis, in January 1214
1214 1216 Walter de Gray Translated to York
1216 1218 Sylvester Also recorded as Sylvester of Evesham
1218 1236 William de Blois
1237 1266 Walter de Cantilupe
1266 1268 Nicholas of Ely Formerly Archdeacon of Ely;translated to Winchester
1268 1302 Godfrey Giffard
1302 John St German (bishop-elect) Elected in March 1302, but quashed in October 1302
1302 1307 William Gainsborough
1307 1313 Walter Reynolds Translated to Canterbury
1313 1317 Walter Maidstone
1317 1327 Thomas Cobham Previously Archbishop-elect of Canterbury in 1313
1327 Wulstan Bransford (bishop-elect) Elected bishop but was quashed; later elected in 1339
1327 1333 Adam Orleton Translated from Hereford; later to Winchester
1333 1337 Simon Montacute Translated to Ely
1337 1338 Thomas Hemenhale Translated from Norwich
1339 1349 Wulstan Bransford
1349 1353 John of Thoresby Translated from St David's; later to York
1352 1361 Reginald Brian Translated from St David's
1362 1363 John Barnet Translated to Bath and Wells; and later to Ely
1363 1368 William Whittlesey Translated from Rochester; later to Canterbury
1368 1373 William Lenn Translated from Chichester
1373 1375 Walter Lyghe (bishop-elect) Elected in 1373, but quashed in 1375
1375 1395 Henry Wakefield
1394 1401 Robert Tideman of Winchcombe Translated from Llandaff
1401 1407 Richard Clifford Previously Bishop-elect of Bath and Wells; later translated to London
1407 1419 Thomas Peverel Translated from Llandaff
1419 1426 Philip Morgan Translated to Ely
1425 1433 Thomas Poulton Translated from Chichester
1433 1435 Thomas Brunce (bishop-elect) Elected bishop, but never consecrated; later became Bishop of Rochester
1434 1443 Thomas Bourchier Translated to Ely; and later to Canterbury
1443 1476 John Carpenter Nominated in 1443; consecrated in 1444; resigned the See in 1476
1476 1486 John Alcock Translated from Rochester; later to Ely
1486 1497 Robert Morton Nominated in 1486; consecrated in 1487
1497 1498 Giovanni de' Gigli
1498 1521 Silvestro de' Gigli
1521 1522 Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici (apostolic administrator) Later became Pope of Rome
1522 1535 Girolamo Ghinucci Deprived of the See by Henry VIII at the Act of Supremacy

During the Reformation

Bishops of Worcester
From Until Incumbent Notes
1535 1539 Hugh Latimer Resigned the See. Martyred under Mary I on 16 October 1555.
1539 1543 John Bell
1543 1551 Nicholas Heath (1st term) Translated from Rochester; deprived of the See
1552 1554 John Hooper Also Gloucester, 1550–1553; deprived of the See.
1554 1555 Nicholas Heath (2nd term) Restored to the See; later translated to York
1555 1559 Richard Pate Deprived of the See.

After the Reformation

Bishops of Worcester
From Until Incumbent Notes
1559 1570 Edwin Sandys Translated to London; and later to York
1571 1576 Nicholas Bullingham Translated from Lincoln
1577 1583 John Whitgift Translated to Canterbury
1584 1591 Edmund Freke Translated from Norwich
1593 1595 Richard Fletcher Translated from Bristol; later to London
1596 1597 Thomas Bilson Translated to Winchester
1597 1610 Gervase Babington Translated from Exeter
1610 1616 Henry Parry Translated from Gloucester
1617 1641 John Thornborough Translated from Bristol
1641 1646 John Prideaux Deprived of the see when Parliament abolished bishops on 9 October 1646
1646 1660 Vacant during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate
1660 1662 George Morley Translated to Winchester
1662 John Gauden Translated from Exeter
1662 1663 John Earle Translated to Salisbury
1663 1670 Robert Skinner Translated from Bristol
1671 1675 Walter Blandford Translated from Oxford
1675 1683 James Fleetwood
1683 1689 William Thomas Translated from St David's
1689 1699 Edward Stillingfleet
1699 1717 William Lloyd Translated from Lichfield and Coventry
1717 1743 John Hough Translated from Lichfield and Coventry
1743 1759 Isaac Maddox St Asaph
1759 1774 James Johnson Translated from Gloucester
1774 1781 Brownlow North Translated from Lichfield and Coventry; later to Winchester
1781 1808 Richard Hurd Translated from Lichfield and Coventry
1808 1831 Folliott Cornewall Translated from Hereford
1831 1841 Robert Carr Translated from Chichester
1841 1860 Henry Pepys Translated from Sodor and Man
1860 1890 Henry Philpott
1890 1902 John Perowne
1902 1905 Charles Gore Translated to Birmingham; and later to Oxford
1905 1918 Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs Translated from Southwark; later to Coventry
1919 1931 Ernest Pearce
1931 1941 Arthur Perowne Translated to Bradford
1941 1956 William Wilson Cash
1956 1971 Lewis Charles-Edwards
1971 1982 Robin Woods
1982 1996 Philip Goodrich
1997 2007 Peter Selby Previously Bishop of Kingston-upon-Thames (1984–1992). Also Bishop to HM Prisons (2001–2007)
2007 present John Inge

Outside links


  1. Della Hooke, The Kingdom of the Hwicce (1985), pp.12-13
  2. London Gazette: no. 19460, pp. 167–170, 24 January 1837. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  3. Provincial Directory: Worcester. Anglican Communion. Retrieved on 10 December 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Historical successions: Worcester". Crockford's Clerical Directory. http://www.crockford.org.uk/listing.asp?id=480. Retrieved 14 July 2012. 
  5. Fryde et al. 1986, Handbook of British Chronology, pp. 223–224, and 278.
  6. Fryde et al. 1986, Handbook of British Chronology, pp. 278–280.
  7. Greenway 1971, "Bishops of Worcester - Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 2, pp. 99–102.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jones 1962, "Bishops of Worcester", Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300–1541: Volume 4, pp. 55–58.
  9. Fryde et al. 1986, Handbook of British Chronology, p. 280.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Horn 1996, "{{brithist|35280 Bishops of Worcester]", Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: Volume 7, pp. 105–109.
  11. Fryde et al. 1986, Handbook of British Chronology, pp. 280–281.


Dioceses of the Church of England

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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