Arthur Attwell

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Arthur Henry Attwell (5 August 1920 – 2 March 1991) was Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1983 to 1988. He served as Dean of Kimberley, South Africa, from 1953 to 1959 and afterwards as Rector of Workington, Cumberland.


Arthur Henry Attwell was appointed as Dean of Kimberley and installed at St Cyprian's Cathedral on 28 June 1953.

This was a period of anguish in South Africa as Apartheid legislation was passed into law and implemented. In 1956 John Boys, Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, appointed a commission to investigate the probable effects of the Group Areas Act in Kimberley – which was resulting in forced removals as different ‘race groups’ were separated (not infrequently splitting families) and directed to live in designated suburbs or townships. In 1959 the Diocesan Magazine, Highway, stated with respect to the Group Areas Act that: “We in the Anglican Church declare the act to be evil and to be opposed at every point.” [1]

During Attwell’s term as Dean of Kimberley decisive steps were taken towards completing the building of the Cathedral (begun in 1907). In 1954 materials were ordered for the building of the cathedral tower but it was not before August 1959 – just when Attwell announced his resignation – that work was actually started and the foundation stone laid by his predecessor as dean, Francis Smith[2]


Afterwards he returned to England to become Rector at St Michael’s, Workington and Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness. His widow, Mrs Muriel Attwell, later gave Attwell’s considerable theological library, containing some 4000 books, to St Michael’s.[3][4]

Bishop of Sodor and Man[edit]

Bishop Attwell was elevated to the episcopacy in 1983 when he was enthroned as Bishop of Sodor and Man. On this occasion he pledged himself to serve the island and “to seek to appreciate all that was important in the Manx way of life and to the Manx nation, and would try to master the Manx language.” [5]

In their study of “The work of a religious representative in a democratic legislature,” Edge and Pearce remark that the interventions of Bishop Attwell, like those of his predecessor Bishop Gordon, “initially sought to explicitly identify philosophical foundations for legislative activity” but that though he had been complimented for his attendance in the legislature, his contributions, compared with those of other bishops, had been “relatively low key.” He was concerned with issues of morality – in particular “the importance of the conventional family” in relation to Civil Registration and Matrimonial legislation, but also with regard to education as “character development rather than simply vocational training”, and in relation to the rising tide of illegal drugs. He also engaged with continuing debates on Sunday trading. He was interested in and contributed to debates concerning culture, including the Manx Museum and archaeological matters.

Attwell was also concerned with overseas development, making inputs to discussion on the Resolution to approve Public Lottery Regulations 1984.[6]

At his departure in 1988, Bishop Attwell admitted that he had not found learning Manx an easy task. At a farewell function the Lieutenant-Governor formally thanked the Bishop for his work, noting particularly his contribution to debates on “youth, on heart and soul, and on morality in its greatest sense”.[6]


Anglican Church of Southern Africa titles
Preceded by
Francis Smith
Dean of Kimberley
Succeeded by
Kenneth Oram
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Vernon Nicholls
Bishop of Sodor and Man
Succeeded by
Noël Jones