Bishop of Bristol

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Bishop of Bristol
Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Bristol crop 2.jpg
Vivienne Faull
Ecclesiastical province Canterbury
ResidenceBishop's House, Winterbourne
Established1542 (and 1897)
Diocese Bristol
Cathedral Bristol Cathedral

The Bishop of Bristol heads the Church of England Diocese of Bristol in the Province of Canterbury, in England.


The present diocese covers parts of the counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire together with a small area of Wiltshire. The see is in the City of Bristol where the seat is located at Bristol Cathedral. The bishop's residence is a house in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire, north of Bristol.

The bishop is Vivienne Faull (previously Dean of York), [1] since the confirmation of her election on 25 June 2018. [2] She was consecrated at St Paul's Cathedral on 3 July 2018 [3] and enthroned in her Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Bristol on 20 October 2018. [4]


Early times

In 1133, Robert Fitzharding began to build "the abbeye at Bristowe, that of Saint Austin is" (i.e. an Augustinian monastery). [5] The abbey church, destined to serve hereafter as a cathedral, was of different dates: the old Norman nave built by Fitzharding seems to have stood till the suppression, but the chancel, which still exists, was early 14th century and the transepts late 15th. The building was worthy to serve as a cathedral. Yet at first Bristol does not seem to have been thought of as a bishopric, for it is not included in the list of projected sees now among the Cottonian MSS in the British Museum. [6]

Tudor period

A suffragan See of Bristol was erected by the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534 and filled by Henry Holbeach, who assisted Hugh Latimer and John Bell, Bishops of Worcester in the Diocese of Worcester while Bristol was still within that diocese. Holbeach was to be the only bishop suffragan before the diocesan See was erected.

The abbey church of the Augustinian Canons was plundered at the time of the suppression of the house in 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The church itself was already in process of demolition, when the king's order came to block the devastation. The surviving church's dedication was changed from St Augustine to the Holy Trinity.

It was then decided to establish a diocese of Bristol. This was one of the six that Henry VIII, acting as head of the Church, established by Act of Parliament in 1542 out of the spoils of the suppressed monasteries; the others were Oxford, Westminster, Gloucester, Peterborough, and Chester. Of the six, only Westminster was short-lived (lasting 10 years) – the other five exist today.

It may well be that the fact of the city's then being one of the leading towns in England and the chief seaport explains why it was selected as one of the new sees. Moreover, like the others, it possessed an important religious house, the buildings of which might serve the new purposes. It has also been suggested that the choice of Bristol owed something at least to Thomas Cranmer, who visited Bristol shortly before his election as Archbishop of Canterbury, and busied himself in ecclesiastical affairs there.

The first bishop appointed by the King was Paul Bush, formerly master of Edington Priory in Wiltshire, an Augustinian canon known as both a scholar and a poet. He nevertheless went along with the new ways to the point of marrying, his chosen wife being one Edith Ashley. On this account proceedings were undertaken against him in Queen Mary's reign. In 1554 a commission passed on him a sentence of deprivation, though by this time he had already voluntarily resigned.

During the vacancy, Pope Paul IV empowered Cardinal Pole to re-found the See of Bristol. The next bishop was John Holyman, a former Benedictine monk with a reputation for learning and sanctity who had been a friend of the martyred Abbot of Reading, Hugh Cook Faringdon. As Bishop of Bristol, Holyman was well appreciated. Though he took part in the trial of John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and served also on a commission to try Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, in general he took no active part in the proceedings on the score of heresy. He died in the summer or autumn of 1558 and was buried in Hanborough, Oxfordshire, the living of which he held from 1534 to 1558—even after his consecration. He was thus spared the upheaval that began with the accession of Elizabeth I the following November.

No bishop was appointed in Bristol for several years, and then Holyman in 1562 was succeeded by Richard Cheyney (1562–1579), who, though suspect under the new regime on account of his clear Roman leanings (as a young man he was a friend of Edmund Campion), could not be counted a Roman Catholic.

The diocese was formed by taking the county and archdeaconry of Dorset from Salisbury, and several parishes from the dioceses of Gloucester and Worcester, together with three churches in Bristol which had belonged to Bath and Wells.

The modern bishopric

In 1836 the see was united with that of Gloucester, whilst the Dorset territory was reunited with the diocese of Salisbury. In 1897, Bristol was again separated from Gloucester. The new diocese consisted of the southern part of Gloucestershire and the northern part of Wiltshire, including the town of Swindon. Thus the diocese consists of the strip of territory either side of the Great Western railway uniting Swindon and Bristol. The first bishop appointed was George Forrest Browne, Bishop of Bristol from 1897 to 1914. [7]

List of bishops

Bishops of Bristol
15421554 No image.svg Paul Bush Provincial of the Bonshommes; being married, resigned upon the accession of Queen Mary.
1554December 1558 No image.svg John Holyman Monk of Reading; died in office.
15581562Vacant for three years.
15621579 No image.svg Richard Cheyney Previously Canon at Westminster; with dispensation simultaneously held the separate diocesan see of Gloucester; died in office.
15791581Vacant for two years.
15811589 No image.svg John Bullingham Previously Canon of Worcester and Prebendary of Lincoln; with dispensation simultaneously held the separate diocesan see of Gloucester and prebendary of Hereford; died in office.
15891593 No image.svg Richard Fletcher Previously Dean of Peterborough; translated to Worcester then London.
15931603Vacant for 10 years.
16031617 John Thornborough from NPG (crop).jpg John Thornborough Translated from Limerick; translated to Worcester.
16171619 Bp Nicholas Felton.jpg Nicholas Felton Also Prebendary of St Paul's; translated to Ely.
16191622 No image.svg Rowland Searchfield Died in office.
16231632 Robert Wright, Warden of Wadham.jpg Robert Wright Translated to Lichfield & Coventry.
16331636 No image.svg George Coke Previously Canon at St Paul's; translated to Hereford.
16371641 No image.svg Robert Skinner Translated to Oxford then Worcester.
16421644 No image.svg Thomas Westfield Also Archdeacon of St Albans since 1631; died in office.
16441646 No image.svg Thomas Howell Deprived of the see when the English episcopacy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646; died 1650.
16461660The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate. [8] [9]
16611671 Bp Gilbert Ironside the Elder.jpg Gilbert Ironside (I)Previously Prebendary of York; died in office.
16721679 No image.svg Guy Carleton Previously Dean of Carlisle; translated to Chichester.
16791684 Bp William Gulston.jpg William Gulston Prebendary of Chichester, 1666–1681; died in office.
16841685 BishopJohnLake.jpg John Lake Translated from Sodor & Man; translated to Chichester.
16851689 Jonathan Trelawny.jpg Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Bt. Translated to Exeter and then Winchester.
16891691 Bp Gilbert Ironside the Younger.jpg Gilbert Ironside (II)Previously Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University; translated to Hereford.
16911710 Dr John Hall Bp of Bristol.jpg John Hall Also Master of Pembroke College, Oxford since 1664 and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford since 1676; died in office.
17101714 Bp John Robinson.jpg John Robinson Also Dean of Windsor, 1709–1713 and Lord Privy Seal, 1711–1713; translated to London.
17141719 George Smalridge.jpg George Smalridge Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1713; died in office.
17191724 Bp Hugh Boulter.jpg Hugh Boulter Previously Archdeacon of Surrey; also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; translated to Armagh.
17241732 William Bradshaw by Enoch Seeman.jpg William Bradshaw Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; died in office.
17331734 No image.svg Charles Cecil Translated to Bangor.
17351737 Thomas Secker by Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg Thomas Secker Previously Canon at Durham; translated to Oxford then Canterbury.
17371738 ThomasGooch.jpg Thomas Gooch Previously Archdeacon of Essex; translated to Norwich then Ely.
17381750 Joseph Butler, Bp of Bristol.jpg Joseph Butler Previously Prebendary of Rochester; translated to Durham.
17501755 Bp John Conybeare.jpg John Conybeare Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1733; died in office.
17561758 John Hume Bp of Oxford.jpg John Hume Translated to Oxford then Salisbury.
17581761 Philip Yonge Bp of Norwich.jpg Philip Yonge Also Prebendary at St Paul's since 1754; translated to Norwich.
17611782 Thomas Newton Bp Bristol.jpg Thomas Newton Previously Prebendary of Westminster; also Canon of St Paul's; also Dean of St Paul's from 1768; died in office.
17821783 Bp Lewis Bagot by John Hoppner.jpg Lewis Bagot Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1777; translated to Norwich then St Asaph.
17831792 Bp Christopher Wilson.jpg Christopher Wilson Died in office. [10]
17921794 Spencer Madan Bishop of Peterborough.jpg Spencer Madan Translated to Peterborough.
17941797 Henry Reginald Courtenay, Bp of Exeter.jpg Reginald Courtenay Previously Prebendary at Rochester; translated to Exeter.
17971802 Folliott Herbert Walker Cornewall by William Owen.jpg Folliott Cornewall Previously Dean of Canterbury; translated to Hereford then Worcester.
18021807 Bp George Pelham.jpg George Pelham Translated to Exeter then Lincoln.
18071808 No image.svg John Luxmoore Dean of Gloucester since 1800; translated to Hereford then St Asaph.
18081820 William Lort Mansel by GH Harlow.jpg William Lort Mansel Also Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1798; died in office.
18201827 John Kaye by Richard Rothwell.jpg John Kaye Also Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1814–1830; translated to Lincoln.
18271834 Dr Robert Gray by Richard Evans.jpg Robert Gray Died in office.
18341836 Joseph Allen by Thomas Phillips.jpg Joseph Allen Previously Prebendary at Westminster; translated to Ely.
Bishops of Gloucester and Bristol
Merged as a single see and diocese, 1836–1897
See Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol
Bishops of Bristol
18971914 GeorgeForrestBrowne2.jpg George Forrest Browne Translated from Stepney.
19141933 No image.svg George Nickson Translated from Jarrow.
19331946 Bishop Clifford Salisbury Woodward.jpg Clifford Woodward Translated to Gloucester.
19461958 No image.svg Frederick Cockin Previously Canon at St Paul's.
19581975 Bishop Oliver Tompkins.jpg Oliver Tomkins Previously Canon at Lincoln.
19751985 Bishop John Tinsley.jpg John Tinsley Previously Professor of Theology at Leeds; consecrated in 1975, but elected and confirmed in 1975.
19852002 Bishop Barry Rogerson.jpg Barry Rogerson Translated from Wolverhampton; Ordained the first women priests in the Church of England, 14 March 1994.
20032017 Bishop Mike Hill (crop).jpg Mike Hill Translated from Buckingham; retired 30 September 2017. [11]
2018incumbent Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Bristol crop 2.jpg Vivienne Faull Previously Dean of York; confirmed 25 June 2018; consecrated at St Paul's Cathedral, 3 July 2018; enthroned in her Cathedral Church 20 October 2018

Assistant bishops

Among those who have served as assistant bishops in the diocese were:

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  2. York Minster — Acting Dean of York (Accessed 29 June 2018)
  3. "Consecration of Vivienne Faull as Bishop of Bristol". Diocese of Bristol. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  4. "Service of Welcome and Enthronement for Bishop of Bristol". Diocese of Bristol. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  5. "St Augustine's Abbey". University of the West of England. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  6. Page, William (ed.). "Houses of Augustinian canons: The abbey of St Augustine, Bristol". British History Online. Victoria County History. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  7. The Rev George Forrest Browne at
  8. Plant, David (2002). "Episcopalians". BCW Project. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
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  10. "Wilson, Christopher (WL732C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  11. Diocese of Bristol — Bishop of Bristol announces retirement (Accessed 25 January 2017)
  12. "Marsden, Samuel Edward" . Who's Who . A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)