Mervyn Haigh

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Mervyn Haigh
Bishop of Winchester
In office1942–1952 (resigned)
PredecessorCyril Garbett
SuccessorAlwyn Williams
Other post(s)Private Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1924–1931)
Bishop of Coventry (1931–1942)
Prelate of the Garter (1942–1952)
Personal details
Born(1887-09-14)14 September 1887
Died20 May 1962(1962-05-20) (aged 74)
Dolgellau, Gwynedd, UK[1]
Buried26 May 1962, Winchester Cathedral[1]
ParentsRevd Canon William Edward Haigh & Janet Middleton[1]
ProfessionChaplain; lecturer
EducationClifton College, Bristol
Alma materNew College, Oxford
Ordination history of
Mervyn Haigh
Diaconal ordination
PlaceSt Paul's Cathedral, City of London
Priestly ordination
PlaceSt Paul's Cathedral, City of London
Episcopal consecration
Datec. 1931

Mervyn George Haigh (14 September 1887 – 20 May 1962) was an Anglican clergyman who served as the third bishop of the restored see of Coventry[2] in the modern era and the 97th Bishop of Winchester in a long line stretching back to the 7th century.[3]

He was born on 14 September 1887, the son of an Anglican clergyman and was educated at Clifton College, Bristol[4] In later life he sat on the college's council, 1948–1961 and New College, Oxford.[a]

After university he took Holy Orders and embarked on a clerical career that was to last for over 40 years. He served in curacies in East Finchley and Chelsea until he was appointed, during the First World War, a Temporary Chaplain to the Forces in January, 1917. He was posted to East Africa, having indicated in his interview that he 'leans to a hot climate'.[5] He arrived at Dar-Es-Salaam at the end of May, and was sent to Dodoma, about 300 miles inland. Haigh was already acquainted with the Senior Chaplain, Percy Guinness, who was the first chaplain to win a DSO in 1914 in France. At Dodoma, Haigh found that the main problems were caused not by the Germans but by disease and boredom. To alleviate the boredom, he created a grass hall lit by electricity for recreational purposes. When the Dodoma base closed, he was transferred to Dar-Es-Salaam where he was instrumental in building and equipping a second institute.[6] He also lectured to troops on VD, where his 'plainness of speech won a sympathy and understanding which was remarkable'.[7] Haigh, however, did not escape disease, and a second dose of Seven Day Fever led to his demobilisation.[8] He would have lifelong problems with poor health, caused or worsened by his East Africa experiences. He had performed well enough in East Africa, however, to be twice mentioned in despatches.[9]

From 1919 until 1924 he was Chaplain and Lecturer at the Ordination Test School, in Knutsford, and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Llandaff but his big breakthrough came with his appointment to be the Archbishop of Canterbury's Private Secretary, a post he was to hold under two separate incumbents until his elevation to the rank of Bishop in 1931.[b] He was appointed Bishop of Coventry, and served the diocese well especially during the terrible bombing of the city during World War II. In 1942 he was translated to Bishop of Winchester,[11] the enthronement taking place on 30 September that year.[12] Haigh was, by 1942, highly regarded and was considered for the vacancies of Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, when Cosmo Lang retired, and in 1944 following the sudden death of William Temple.[13] However, Haigh, although he had a 'Fine Presence', was prone to depression, and this counted against him. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was not keen to appoint Geoffrey Fisher in 1944 without seeing an alternative. Haigh lunched with Churchill on 22 December 1944,[14] but on 2 January 1945, Fisher was appointed to Canterbury. Haigh, seems, therefore, to have been the 'runner-up' to Fisher. Fisher had been Bishop of London but would not recommend Haigh as his successor because, although Haigh was 'brilliant', he was too negative and unable to withstand the pressures of the post both physically and mentally.[15]

A deep thinker[16] and loyal monarchist,[17] Haigh chaired the Joint Committee which revised the Amended Lectionary.[18] He resigned his post in 1952 and was honoured by Winchester College[19] before retiring to North Wales where he became involved in several rural campaigns.[20] He died on 20 May 1962, his papers bequeathed to the nation.[21]

William Wand, who succeeded Fisher as Bishop of London, regarded Haigh as 'a good man and a great prelate'. He reflected on Haigh's sharp mind and quick tongue which could demolish ill-thought through proposals and made Haigh the 'best machine-gunner on the bench' of bishops.[22] Even though plagued by poor health, he was an exceptional bishop.


  1. ^ Where he won the Ellerton Prize and gained a Cross Country Blue
  2. ^ Following a hugely successful role organising the 1930 Lambeth Conference[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Haigh, Mervyn George". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/51168. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ Bishop Haigh An Influential Churchman (Obituaries), The Times Monday, 21 May 1962; p. 12; Issue 55396; col D
  3. ^ List of Bishops of Winchester
  4. ^ "Clifton College Register" Muirhead, J.A.O. p223: Bristol; J.W Arrowsmith for Old Cliftonian Society; April, 1948
  5. ^ Index Card Museum of Army Chaplaincy
  6. ^ Op cit FR Barry
  7. ^ RAChD 1962 journal. Article by GF Trench
  8. ^ TNA WO374/30022. Service Record
  9. ^ Who Was Who, A and C Black
  10. ^ The Times, Wednesday, 24 December 1930; p. 5; Issue 45704; col A The Church in 1930 Seventh Lambeth Conference, Episcopal Changes
  11. ^ "Winchester Bishopric". Archived from the original on 12 December 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  12. ^ Order of Ceremonial at the enthronement of the Right Reverend Mervyn Haigh, DD, Lord Bishop of Winchester, on Wednesday 30 September 1942- Classified at Lambeth Palace Library G119 44.42
  13. ^ TNA PREM5/378
  14. ^ Duff Cooper Diaries, edited by John Julius Norwich, Weidenfeld and Nicolson,2005,p341
  15. ^ Lambeth Palace Library, Fisher 3
  16. ^ "Mervyn Haigh" Barry, F.R: London, SPCK,1964
  17. ^ "Sermon on the death of the king". Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  18. ^ "An introduction to the Amended Lectionary for Sundays and Certain Holy Days" Haigh, M.G. (ed.): London, SPCK, 1948
  19. ^ Ad Portas[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Snowdonia National Park Joint Advisory Committee; Caernarvonshire National Park Planning Committee; Merioneth National Park Planning Committee The Times Monday, 24 September 1962; p. 18; Issue 55504; col C
  21. ^ "National Archives". Archived from the original on 19 March 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2008.
  22. ^ Church Quarterly Review, 1965


Church of England titles
Preceded by Bishop of Coventry
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by