William Wheeler (bishop)

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The Right Reverend
William Wheeler
Roman Catholic Bishop emeritus of Leeds
Church Roman Catholic Church
See Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds
Installed 27 June 1966
Term ended 12 July 1985
Predecessor George Patrick Dwyer
Successor David Konstant
Other posts Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Middlesbrough (1964-1966)
Ordination (Church of England) 1934; (Catholic Church) 31 March 1940[1]
by Bishop Henry John Poskitt
Consecration 19 March 1964
by Archbishop Igino Eugenio Cardinale
Personal details
Born (1910-05-05)5 May 1910
Saddleworth, Yorkshire, UK
Died 21 February 1998(1998-02-21)
Leeds, Yorkshire, UK
Buried St Edward King and Confessor Church, Clifford, West Yorkshire, UK

The Rt Rev. William Gordon Wheeler was the 7th Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from 1966 until 1985.[2]


Wheeler was born on 5 May 1910 in Saddleworth in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, in the United Kingdom. He was educated at the Manchester Grammar School and University College, Oxford.[3] He was strongly influenced by the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the church in Worsley which he attended during his time at the Grammar School.[4] Later he was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1934 and began his ecclesiastical career with curacies at St Bartholomew's, Brighton, and St Mary and All Saints, Chesterfield.

During this period, Wheeler became more and more convinced by the writings of the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, once also a minister of the Church of England and the leader of the Oxford Movement, before being received into the Roman Catholic Church. He finally followed this same path and was received into the Catholic Church in 1936. He then enrolled at Beda College in Rome to study for the Catholic priesthood.[5]


Ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1940, he was firstly an assistant curate at St Edmund's Parish in Lower Edmonton, then chaplain (and later Administrator) at the Westminster Cathedral. He often made a point of noting to his clergy that he understand their difficulties from his having heard confessions every day of the 11 years he served in that office.[5] He was later named by the Holy See to the episcopate as the coadjutor bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough in 1964, immediately after which he participated in the last two sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

Wheeler was named Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds in 1966. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the spirit of the Council. One example is that, immediately after his return from Rome, he founded a new ecumenical centre at Wood Hall in Wetherby, Yorkshire. Later, despite his feelings about the historic structure of the diocese, he followed part of its instruction by supervising the division of his diocese in 1980, in keeping with the Conciliar mandate to have dioceses be of such a size as to be truly manageable under one bishop.[4]

Yet Wheeler remained a staunch conservative in matters of liturgical practice. He was the last bishop in England to use the cappa magna, and had a strong attachment to the Tridentine Mass.[5]

Wheeler submitted his resignation as bishop of the diocese at the mandatory age of 75 in 1985. He then entered an active retirement.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Wheeler died on 21 February 1998, aged 87, after a brief illness. At his request, he was buried near his predecessor and the bishop who had ordained him in the Catholic Church, Bishop Henry John Poskitt, also a convert from the Church of England, in the Church of St. Edward the Confessor in Clifford, West Yorkshire.[5]

A noted author,[6] his memoir, In Truth and Love, was published posthumously in 1990.[5]

In March 2013, catholic primary and secondary schools in north west Leeds and Bradford, joined together to gain Academy status from the government, as a Catholic Multi Academy Trust. The Trust, the second in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds, took the name The Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust. At present, 6 schools form the parts of the trust, however there are 10 other catholic schools could join in the future.[7][8]


  1. ^ "Bishop William Gordon Wheeler". Catholic Hierarchy. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  2. ^ The Times Saturday, 24 August 1985; p. 10; Issue 62225; col E Bishop Wheeler to retire
  3. ^ Who Was Who, 1897–2007, London, A & C Black, 2007; ISBN 9780199540877
  4. ^ a b c Finnigan, Robert E. (7 March 1998). "Obituary: The Right Rev Gordon Wheeler". The Independent. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Nionckton, Christopher (27 February 1998). "Bishop Gordon Wheeler". The Catholic Herald. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Among other works, Wheeler wrote “Homage to Newman”, 1945 and “ More Truth and Love”, (1994) British Library catalogue accessed 28 August 2008 22:26
  7. ^ The Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust
  8. ^ McIntyre, Annette (5 March 2013). "Five Catholic primaries and one secondary school leave council control". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
George Patrick Dwyer
Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds
Succeeded by
David Konstant