Bishop of Bristol

Bishop of Bristol
Mike Hill
Province Canterbury
Diocese Bristol
Cathedral Bristol Cathedral
Formation 1542 (and 1897)

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 in Winterbourne, Bristol.

The current bishop is Mike Hill.


Early times

In 1133, Robert Fitzharding began to build "the abbeye at Bristowe, that of Saint Austin is" (i.e. an Augustinian monastery).[1] 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.[2]

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 the Bonshommes at Edyngton 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 1558even 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, 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 Forrest Browne, Bishop of Bristol from 1897 to 1914.[3]

List of bishops

For the sole Bishop suffragan of Bristol, see Henry Holbeach.
Bishops of Bristol
From Until Incumbent Notes
1542 1554 Paul Bush Provincial of the Bonshommes; being married, resigned upon the accession of Queen Mary.
1554 December 1558 John Holyman Monk of Reading; died in office.
1558 1562 Vacant for 3 years.
1562 1579 Richard Cheyney Previously Canon at Westminster; with dispensation simultaneously held the separate diocesan see of Gloucester; died in office.
1579 1581 Vacant for 2 years.
1581 1589 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.
1589 1593 Richard Fletcher Previously Dean of Peterborough; translated to Worcester then London.
1593 1603 Vacant for 10 years.
1603 1617 John Thornborough Translated from Limerick; translated to Worcester.
1617 1619 Nicholas Felton Also Prebendary of St Paul's; translated to Ely.
1619 1622 Rowland Searchfield Died in office.
1623 1632 Robert Wright Translated to Lichfield & Coventry.
1633 1636 George Coke Previously Canon at St Paul's; translated to Hereford.
1637 1641 Robert Skinner Translated to Oxford then Worcester.
1642 1644 Thomas Westfield Also Archdeacon of St Albans since 1631; died in office.
1644 1646 Thomas Howell Deprived for the Commonwealth.
1646 1660 Vacant for 16 years – Interregnum.
1661 1671 Gilbert Ironside (I) Previously Prebendary of York; died in office.
1672 1679 Guy Carleton Previously Dean of Carlisle; translated to Chichester.
1679 1684 William Gulston Prebendary of Chichester, 1666–1681; died in office.
1684 1685 John Lake Translated from Sodor & Man; translated to Chichester.
1685 1689 Sir Jonathan Trelawny, Bt. Translated to Exeter and then Winchester.
1689 1691 Gilbert Ironside (II) Previously Vice-Chancellor at Oxford University; translated to Hereford.
1691 1710 John Hall Also Master of Pembroke College, Oxford since 1664 and Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford since 1676; died in office.
1710 1714 John Robinson Also Dean of Windsor, 1709–1713 and Lord Privy Seal, 1711–1713; translated to London.
1714 1719 George Smalridge Also Dean of Christ Church, Oxford since 1713; died in office.
1719 1724 Hugh Boulter Previously Archdeacon of Surrey; also Dean of Christ Church; translated to Armagh.
1724 1732 William Bradshaw Also Dean of Christ Church; died in office.
1733 1734 Charles Cecil Translated to Bangor.
1735 1737 Thomas Secker Previously Canon at Durham; translated to Oxford then Canterbury.
1737 1738 Thomas Gooch Previously Archdeacon of Essex; translated to Norwich then Ely.
1738 1750 Joseph Butler Previously Prebendary of Rochester; translated to Durham.
1750 1755 John Conybeare Previously Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; died in office.
1756 1758 John Hume Translated to Oxford then Salisbury.
1758 1761 Philip Yonge Also Prebendary at St Paul's since 1754; translated to Norwich.
1761 1782 Thomas Newton Previously Prebendary of Westminster; also Canon of St Paul's; also Dean of St Paul's from 1768; died in office.
1782 1783 Lewis Bagot Also Dean of Christ Church since 1777; translated to Norwich then St Asaph.
1783 1792 Christopher Wilson Died in office.[4]
1792 1794 Spencer Madan Translated to Peterborough.
1794 1797 Reginald Courtenay Previously Prebendary at Rochester; translated to Exeter.
1797 1802 Folliott Cornewall Previously Dean of Canterbury; translated to Hereford then Worcester.
1802 1807 George Pelham Translated to Exeter then Lincoln.
1807 1808 John Luxmoore Dean of Gloucester since 1800; translated to Hereford then St Asaph.
1808 1820 William Mansel Also Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1798; died in office.
1820 1827 John Kaye Also Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, 1814–1830; translated to Lincoln.
1827 1834 Robert Gray Died in office.
1834 1836 Joseph Allen Previously Prebendary at Westminster; translated to Ely.
Bishops of Gloucester and Bristol
Merged as a single see and diocese, 1836–1897
From Until Incumbent Notes
1836 1856 James Monk Translated from Gloucester; died in office.
1856 1861 Charles Baring Translated to Durham.
1861 1863 William Thomson Previously Dean of Queen's College, Oxford; translated to York.
1863 1897 Charles Ellicott Previously Dean of Exeter; translated to Gloucester.
Bishops of Bristol
From Until Incumbent Notes
1897 1914 Forrest Browne Translated from Stepney.
1914 1933 George Nickson Translated from Jarrow.
1933 1946 Clifford Woodward MC Translated to Gloucester.
1946 1958 Frederick Cockin Previously Canon at St Paul's.
1958 1975 Oliver Tomkins Previously Canon at Lincoln.
1976 1985 John Tinsley Previously Professor of Theology at Leeds.
1985 2002 Barry Rogerson Translated from Wolverhampton.
2003 incumbent Mike Hill Translated from Buckingham.


  1. "St Augustine's Abbey". University of the West of England. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  2. Page, William (ed.). "Houses of Augustinian canons: The abbey of St Augustine, Bristol". British History Online. Victoria County History. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  3. The Rev George Forrest Browne at
  4. "Searching for Surname=WILSON; Forename=Christopher". Cambridge University Alumni Database. Retrieved 8 November 2016.


  • Haydn, Joseph; Ockerby, Horace (1969) [1894]. Haydn's Book of Dignities (reprint ed.). Bath: Firecrest Publishing. 
  • Whitaker's Almanack (editions 1883 to 2004), Joseph Whitaker & Sons, Ltd/A&C Black, London.
  • Text partly adapted from the Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1908.

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/3/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.