Bishop of Chester

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Bishop of Chester
Mark Tanner
Ecclesiastical province York
ResidenceBishop's House, Chester
First holder John Bird
Diocese Chester
Cathedral Chester Cathedral

The Bishop of Chester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Chester in the Province of York.


The diocese extends across most of the historic county boundaries of Cheshire, including the Wirral Peninsula and has its see in the City of Chester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was formerly the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Werburgh, being elevated to cathedral status in 1541. The Bishop's residence is Bishop's House, Chester.

Cheshire previously held a bishopric from 1075 when the seat was at the collegiate church of St John the Baptist until 1102. The present diocese was formed in 1541 under King Henry VIII. Mark Tanner's election as Bishop of Chester was confirmed on 15 July 2020. [1] [2]

Earliest times

Arms of the Bishop of Chester: Gules three mitres with their lables Or. Diocese of Chester arms.svg
Arms of the Bishop of Chester: Gules three mitres with their lables Or.

Chester at various periods in its history had a bishop and a cathedral, though till the early sixteenth century 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 even Bishop of Lichfield. After the Council of London in 1075 had decreed the transfer of all episcopal sees to cities, Peter, Bishop of Lichfield, removed his seat from Lichfield to Chester, and became known as Bishop of Chester. There he chose as his cathedral collegiate church of Saint John the Baptist, an arrangement which continued until 1102.

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 cathedral itself was elsewhere; accordingly we find that 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. But 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 Ss. 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, Earl of Chester, converted it into a great Benedictine monastery, with 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.

This 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.

Tudor period

The last of the abbots of Chester was John, or Thomas, Clark, who resigned his abbey, valued at £1,003 5s. 11d. per annum, to the king at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In 1541 Henry VIII, without papal sanction, created six new episcopal sees, one of which was Chester. The archdeaconry of Chester, from the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, and that of Richmond, from York, were combined to form the new see, and it was laid down that the abbey church, now the cathedral, was to be served by a dean and six prebends, the former abbot becoming the first dean. At first the diocese was annexed to the Province of Canterbury, but by another Act of Parliament it was soon transferred to that of York. The first bishop was the Provincial of the Carmelites, John Bird, a doctor of divinity who had attracted the king's attention by his sermons preached against the pope's supremacy. Having already been rewarded by appointment as Bishop of Bangor, he was now translated to Chester. On the accession of Mary he was deprived as being a married man, and died as Vicar of Dunmow in 1556.

Despite the origins of the diocese, it was recognised by the Roman See for the space of Queen Mary's reign. George Cotes, Master of Balliol and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and lecturer in theology, was appointed bishop by the Roman See. In 1556 he was succeeded by Cuthbert Scott, an able theologian and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. On the accession of Elizabeth I he was one of the four Roman Catholic bishops chosen to defend Roman Catholic doctrine at the conference at Westminster, and immediately after this he was sent to the Tower and was deprived in 1559. Being released on bail, he contrived to escape to the Continent. He died at Louvain, on 9 October 1564.

Subsequent centuries

The present diocese covers most of the traditional county of Cheshire, including the Wirral Peninsula and has its see in the City of Chester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was formerly the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Werburgh, being elevated to cathedral status in 1541.

List of bishops

List of bishops of Chester after the foundation of the modern diocese of Chester in 1541.

Earlier the midland diocese had for a time had its see at Chester, for which see List of the Bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield and its precursor offices.

Bishops of Chester
15411554 No image.svg John Bird Translated from Bangor; deprived by Mary I.
15541555 No image.svg George Cotes Died in office.
15561559 No image.svg Cuthbert Scott Deprived by Elizabeth I.
15611577 No image.svg William Downham Died in office.
15791595 Bp William Chaderton.jpg William Chaderton Translated to Lincoln.
15951596 No image.svg Hugh Bellot Translated from Bangor; died in office.
15971604 BpRichardVaughan painting.jpg Richard Vaughan Translated from Bangor; translated to London.
16041615 Bishop Lloyd.jpeg George Lloyd Translated from Sodor and Man; died in office.
16161619 Thomas Morton portrait.jpg Thomas Morton Translated to Lichfield and Coventry then Durham.
16191646 Bp John Bridgeman.jpg John Bridgeman Deprived of the see when the English episcopy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646. Died in 1652.
16461660The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate. [4] [5]
16601661 BrianWalton.jpg Brian Walton Died in office.
1662 No image.svg Henry Ferne Died shortly after consecration.
16621668 No image.svg George Hall Also Archdeacon of Canterbury; died in office.
16681672 Bp John Wilkins.jpg John Wilkins Died in office.
16731686 JohnPearson.jpg John Pearson Died in office.
16861689 Thomas Cartwright by Gerard Soest.jpg Thomas Cartwright Followed James II into exile after the Glorious Revolution and died of dysentery shortly after arriving in Dublin. [6]
16891707 Bp Nicholas Stratford.jpg Nicholas Stratford Died in office.
17081714 Abp Sir William Dawes.jpg Sir William Dawes, Bt. Translated to York.
17141725 Bp Francis Gastrell by Michael Dahl.jpg Francis Gastrell Died in office.
17261752 Bp Samuel Peploe.jpg Samuel Peploe Died in office.
17521771 Bp Edmund Keene by Zoffany.jpg Edmund Keene Translated to Ely.
17711776 William Markham by Benjamin West.jpg William Markham Translated to York.
17761787 Beilby porteus engraving.jpg Beilby Porteus Translated to London.
17881800 Bp William Cleaver by John Hoppner.jpg William Cleaver Translated to Bangor then St Asaph.
18001809 Bp Henry Majendie.jpg Henry Majendie Translated to Bangor.
18101812 Bowyer Edward Sparke.jpg Bowyer Sparke Translated to Ely.
18121824 George Henry Law by William Beechey.jpg George Henry Law Translated to Bath and Wells.
18241828 CJ Blomfield by JS Templeton.jpg Charles James Blomfield Translated to London.
18281848 AbpJohnBirdSumner.jpg John Bird Sumner Translated to Canterbury.
18481865 No image.svg John Graham Died in office.
18651884 William Jacobson by Lewis Carroll.jpg William Jacobson Retired.
18841889 Portrait of William Stubbs by Hubert von Herkomer.jpeg William Stubbs Translated to Oxford.
18891919 Bp Francis Jayne by Bassano.jpg Francis Jayne Retired.
19191932 Henry Luke Paget, Rotary.jpg Luke Paget Translated from Stepney.
19321939 Geoffrey Fisher by RG Eves.jpg Geoffrey Fisher Translated to London then Canterbury.
19391955 No image.svg Douglas Crick Translated from Stafford.
19551973 No image.svg Gerald Ellison Translated from Willesden; translated to London.
19741981 No image.svg Victor Whitsey Translated from Hertford.
19821996 No image.svg Michael Baughen Retired to London and Southwark; now honorary assistant bishop in Guildford.
19962019 Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Chester crop 2.jpg Peter Forster Retired 30 September 2019. [7]
20192020 No image.svg Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead Acting diocesan bishop [7]
2020present No image.svg Mark Tanner Translated from Berwick [1] 15 July 2020 [2]
Sources: [8] [9] [10]

Assistant bishops

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

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  1. 1 2 "Diocese of Chester | Mark Tanner named as next Bishop of Chester".
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  6. Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Cartwright, Thomas (1634-1689)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . Vol. 9. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. 1 2 "Diocese of Chester | Bishop Peter announces his retirement".
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  11. "Tubbs, Norman H." . Who's Who . A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. "Greenwood, Tom" . Who's Who . A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)