Vicar Apostolic of the Western District (England)

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The Vicar Apostolic of the Western District was the title given to the Roman Catholic bishop who, between 1688 and 1850, headed the Church's ecclesiastical jurisdiction in England known as the Vicariate Apostolic of the Western District.

Background[edit]

Soon after the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, the bishops of England were forced to choose between taking the Oath of Supremacy, thus denying the authority of the Pope, and losing their episcopal sees. Those who chose to continue their allegiance to Rome were subsequently deposed and replaced in their sees by priests of the Church of England. Most of the deposed Bishops were imprisoned in various locations and died in captivity over a period of years, though some left the country and continued their work overseas. The last of the deposed bishops was Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St Asaph, who died in Rome on April 3, 1585.

Restoration: The Vicar Apostolic of England[edit]

In 1623 Pope Urban VIII decided once again to provide a bishop with jurisdiction in England. So it was that Dr William Bishop was appointed, with the title of Vicar Apostolic of England. He died shortly afterwards and was succeeded by Dr Richard Smith, who in August 1631 was forced to resign and fled to France. The office then remained vacant until its revival in 1685 with the appointment of Dr John Leyburn as Bishop.

Geographical Organisation[edit]

In 1623 the first Vicar Apostolic, Dr Bishop, divided England into six areas and placed a superior at the head of each with the title of vicar general. This structure remained in place until Dr Leyburn reduced the number from six to four. It was on the basis of these four areas that on January 20, 1688 Pope Innocent XI increased the number of bishops in England to four. The territory of the former single Vicariate Apostolic was thereby reduced, becoming the Vicariate Apostolic of the London District. So it was that the Vicariate Apostolic of the Western District was created, along with the Vicariate Apostolic of the Northern District and the Vicariate Apostolic of the Midland District.

Vicar Apostolic of the Western District[edit]

The first Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, with effect from 30 January 1688, was Bishop Philip Michael Ellis OSB, who resigned in 1705.

The Vicariate included the six south-western counties of England and all of Wales. In 1840, a general redivision of the vicariates took effect. Wales became a new vicariate, and thenceforth the Western District consisted of the English counties in the south west only. Despite this last subdivision and intermittent persecution, a Vicariate Apostolic of the Western District continued in existence until on 29 September 1850 Pope Pius IX issued the Bull Universalis Ecclesiae, by which thirteen new dioceses which did not formally claim any continuity with the pre-Elizabethan English dioceses were created, commonly known as the restoration of the English hierarchy. Among them was the diocese of Clifton, which along with the new diocese of Plymouth was formed from the territory of the former Vicariate Apostolic of the Western District.

Diocese of Clifton[edit]

Given that the Vicars Apostolic resided chiefly at Bath in Somerset, it was fitting that the last Vicar Apostolic of the Western District, Dr Joseph William Hendren (1791–1866), consecrated in 1848, should become the first Bishop of Clifton. Thus the new Clifton diocese was in continuity with the old vicariate.

In the early period from 1850 the Clifton diocese was a suffragan of the Metropolitan See of Westminster, but a further development was the creation under Pope Pius X, on 28 October 1911, of a new Province of Birmingham, to which Clifton then was transferred.

The archives of the Western District, one of the most important sources of information for the history of the Church in England from 1780 to 1850 are deposited in the archives of the diocese of Clifton.

List of the Vicars Apostolic of the Western District[edit]

Vicars Apostolic of the Western District
From Until Incumbent Notes
1688 1705 Philip Michael Ellis, O.S.B.
Titular Bishop of Aureliopolis in Asia
Appointed vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 28 January 1688. Consecrated on 6 May 1688. Resigned as vicar apostolic in 1705. Afterwards appointed Bishop of Segni in Italy on 3 October 1708. Died on 16 November 1726.[1]
1705 1713 Vacant Andrew Giffard (brother of Bonaventure Giffard) was appointed Vicar Apostolic of the Western District and Titular Bishop of Centuriae on 7 September 1705, however, he refused to accept the appointement, and died on 14 September 1714.
1713 1744 Matthew Pritchard, O.F.M.
Titular Bishop of Myra
Appointed vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 20 September 1713. Consecrated on 9 June 1715. Resigned on 20 November 1744 and died on 22 May 1750.[2]
1744 1763 Lawrence William York, O.S.B.
Titular Bishop of Nebbi
Appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 13 May 1741. Consecrated on 10 August 1741. Succeeded vicar apostolic on 20 November 1744. Retired on 11 July 1763 and died on 14 April 1770.[3]
1770 1797 Charles Walmesley, O.S.B.,
Titular Bishop of Ramata (Rama)
Appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 15 June 1756. Consecrated on 21 December 1756. Succeeded vicar apostolic on 14 April 1770. Died in office on 25 November 1797.[4]
1797 1809 William Gregory Sharrock, O.S.B.,
Titular Bishop of Telmissus
Appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 30 September 1779. Consecrated on 12 August 1780. Succeeded vicar apostolic on 25 November 1797. Died in office on 17 October 1809.[5]
1809 1829 Peter Bernardine Collingridge,
Titular Bishop of Thespiae
Appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 13 January 1807. Consecrated on 11 October 1807. Succeeded vicar apostolic on 18 October 1809. Died in office on March 1829.[6]
1829 1843 Peter Augustine Baines, O.S.B.,
Titular Bishop of Sigus
Appointed coadjutor vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 4 February 1823. Consecrated on 1 May 1823. Succeeded vicar apostolic on 3 March 1829. Died in office on 6 July 1843.[7]
1844 1845 Charles Michael Baggs,
Titular Bishop of Pella
Appointed vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 9 January 1844. Consecrated on 28 January 1844. Died in office on 16 October 1845.[8]
1846 1848 William Bernard Ullathorne, O.S.B.,
Titular Bishop of Cabasa
Appointed vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 12 May 1846. Consecrated on 21 June 1846. Translated to the Central District on 28 July 1848.[9]
1848 1850 Joseph William Hendren, O.F.M.
Titular Bishop of Martyropolis
Appointed vicar apostolic and titular bishop on 28 July 1848. Consecrated on 10 September 1848. Became the first Bishop of Clifton on 29 September 1850 when the district was divided.[10]
In 1850, the Western District was divided between the dioceses of Clifton and Plymouth.[11]
Source(s): [12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]