Bishop of Bristol

Bishop of Bristol

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 the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

The Bishop's residence is Wethered House in Clifton, Bristol.

The current bishop is the Right Reverend Michael Arthur Hill, the 55th Lord Bishop of Bristol, who signs "Michael Bristol".


Early Times

A certain Robert Fitzharding began in 1133 to build "the abbeye at Bristowe, that of Saint Austin is", i.e. an Augustinian monastery. 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 fourteenth century, and the transepts late fifteenth. The building as a whole was well 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.

Tudor Period

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.

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 the Bonshommes at Edyngton in Wiltshire. Himself an Augustinian Canon and known as both a scholar and a poet. Nevertheless, he went along with the new ways to the point of marrying, his chosen wide 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. 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 Dr Richard Cheney (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 new Bristol diocese was formed by taking the county and archdeaconry of Dorset from Salisbury, and several parishes from the Dioceses of Gloucester and Worcester, 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 re-united 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. 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. [ [ The Rev George Forrest Browne] at]

External links

* [ Official web site]


*"Haydn's Book of Dignities (1894) Joseph Haydn/Horace Ockerby, reprinted 1969"
* "Whitaker's Almanack 1883 to 2004, Joseph Whitaker and Sons Ltd/A&C Black, London"
* Text partly adapted from the Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1908.

See also

*List of bishops of Bristol, England

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