Mervyn Stockwood

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The Right Reverend

Mervyn Stockwood
Bishop of Southwark
Mervyn Stockwood.jpg
Stockwood on Friday Night, Saturday Morning (1979)
In office1959–1980
PredecessorBertram Simpson
SuccessorRonald Bowlby
Other postsHonorary assistant bishop in Bath & Wells
Ordination1936 (deacon); 1937 (priest)
Personal details
Born(1913-05-27)27 May 1913
Bridgend, Glamorgan
Died13 January 1995(1995-01-13) (aged 81)
Bath, Somerset
ParentsArthur & Beatrice
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge

Arthur Mervyn Stockwood (27 May 1913 – 13 January 1995) was the Anglican Bishop of Southwark from 1959 to 1980.

Early life[edit]

Mervyn Stockwood was born in Bridgend, Wales. His solicitor father was killed during the First World War in 1916 on the Somme. He was introduced to Anglo-Catholic worship at All Saints' Church, Clifton, which reinforced his love of ritual and sense of the dramatic. He was educated at The Downs School and Kelly College; in 1931 he entered Christ's College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1934.

Having studied for the Anglican ministry at Westcott House theological college in Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1936, priest in 1937. First curate, then Vicar of St Matthew's, Moorfields for nineteen years, he was also missioner to Blundell's School.[1] In 1955 he was appointed Vicar of Great St Mary's, Cambridge where his preaching drew large congregations of undergraduates, gaining him a national reputation.[2]

A flamboyant figure, he was for a time a Labour councillor, having converted to socialism while at theological college.

Bishop of Southwark[edit]

In 1959, at the suggestion of Geoffrey Fisher, Harold Macmillan appointed Stockwood to the diocese of Southwark.[3] Under him, Southwark became one of the best known dioceses in the Church of England. Stockwood encouraged both the radical and conservative wings of the church. On the one hand he encouraged priests wearing jeans in public, marches against racism and the training of "worker priests" in the Southwark Ordination Course, yet he was also the first Church of England diocesan bishop to preach at the National Pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, of which he later became an honorary guardian.

During the 1960s the term 'South Bank religion' was connected with Stockwood's diocese and those in his circle espousing a more liberal theology.[4] He was liberal in his view of the morality of homosexual relationships, favoured homosexual law reform, and included homosexual couples among the guests at his dinner parties. On at least one occasion he blessed a homosexual relationship, but Stockwood himself claimed to be celibate.[4]

Stockwood was adept at making unusual and radical, but usually highly successful, appointments. John Robinson was appointed as his suffragan at Woolwich in 1959.[3] Later Stockwell chose David Sheppard as Bishop of Woolwich in 1969 (after John Robinson's return to Cambridge), Hugh Montefiore as Bishop of Kingston in 1970, Michael Marshall to Woolwich in 1975 and Keith Sutton to Kingston in 1978.

Stockwood appeared on the BBC chat show Friday Night, Saturday Morning on 9 November 1979, with Christian broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge, arguing that the film Monty Python's Life of Brian was blasphemous. He told John Cleese and Michael Palin at the end of the discussion that they would "get [their] thirty pieces of silver".[5]

Later life and legacy[edit]

In 1980 he retired and went to live in Bath. In his autobiography, Chanctonbury Ring, Stockwood claimed to have had numerous paranormal experiences.[6] A supporter of the Churches' Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Study, he said of the matter, "Our job is to examine the evidence without presupposition or jumping to conclusions. The weakness of the Church has been its refusal to consider the evidence and discuss it."[citation needed]

Shortly before his death he was one of ten Church of England bishops 'outed' (i.e. alleged to be a closet homosexual) by the radical gay organisation OutRage!.[7] Michael De-la-Noy's biography, Mervyn Stockwood: A Lonely Life (September 1997), paints him as a socialist who loved the trappings of wealth, privilege and royalty.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ obituary at[dead link]
  2. ^ Michael de-la-Noy, Obituary: The Rt Rev Hugh Montefiore, The Guardian, 14 May 2005.
  3. ^ a b Michael de-la-Noy Obituaries: The Right Rev Mervyn Stockwood, The Independent, 14 January 1995
  4. ^ a b David Hiliard "Stockwood, (Arthur) Mervyn" in Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (eds) Who's Who in Contemporary Gay History Vol.2: From World War II, London: Routledge, 2001, p.389
  5. ^ "John Cleese, Michael Palin & Richard Burridge "Life of Brian" Debate Reflections (BBC Radio 4, 2013)". YouTube. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  6. ^ The Way We Live Now: The Medium Is the Massage Considering Her Financial Predicament
  7. ^ Simon Edge "The Church's true colours", New Statesman, 10 January 2008

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
Bertram Simpson
Bishop of Southwark
Succeeded by
Ronnie Bowlby