Bishop of Bristol
|Bishop of Bristol|
|Formation||1542 (and 1897)|
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.
In 1133, Robert Fitzharding began 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 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.
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 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 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.
Suffragan bishops of Bristol
|Bishops of Bristol|
|1538||1542||Henry Holbeach||Suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Worcester; translated to Rochester.|
|Bishops of Bristol|
|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.|
|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.|
|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 (Er)||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, 3rd Baronet||Translated to Exeter and then Winchester.|
|1689||1691||Gilbert Ironside (Yr)||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 at 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.|
|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||The Hon 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|
|1836||1898||In 1836, a new diocese and see of Gloucester and Bristol was formed. While both were separate from the old dioceses and sees of Bristol and of Gloucester (and from the ones which followed), the bishops for that period are listed at Bishop of Gloucester.|
|Bishops of Bristol|
|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||30 November 2002||Barry Rogerson||Translated from Wolverhampton.|
|2003||present||Mike Hill||Translated from Buckingham.|
- Haydn, Joseph; Ockerby, Horace (1969) . 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.