Bishop of Carlisle
Coat of arms of the (({name))}
Coat of arms
vacant (acting: the Bishop of Penrith)
Ecclesiastical provinceYork
ResidenceBishop's House, Keswick (since 2009)
Rose Castle, Dalston (until 2009)
First holderÆthelwold
CathedralCarlisle Cathedral

The Bishop of Carlisle is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Carlisle in the Province of York.

The diocese covers the county of Cumbria except for Alston Moor and the former Sedbergh Rural District. The see is in the city of Carlisle where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity which was a collegiate church until elevated to cathedral status in 1133.

The diocese was created in 1133 by Henry I out of part of the Diocese of Durham. It was extended in 1856 taking over part of the Diocese of Chester. The residence of the bishop was Rose Castle, Dalston, until 2009;[1] the current bishop is the first to reside in the new Bishop's House, Keswick.

The see is vacant as of 31 August 2023, following the retirement of 67th bishop James Newcome.[2]


Early times

The original territory of the diocese first became a political unit in the reign of King William Rufus (1087–1100), who made it into the Earldom of Carlisle, which covered most of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. In 1133, during the reign of his successor, Henry I, a diocese was erected in the territory of the earldom, the territory being subtracted from the Diocese of Durham. This happened despite there being locally a strong Celtic element that looked to Glasgow for episcopal administration. As the first bishop, the king secured the appointment of his former confessor, Æthelwulf (1133–1155), an Englishman, Prior of the Augustinian Canons, whom he had established at Carlisle in 1102, though at the time of his consecration Æthelwulf seems to have been Prior of the Augustinian house at Nostell in Yorkshire. An efficient administrator, he ruled the diocese until his death in 1156 and succeeded in imparting a certain vigour to diocesan life. Among other initiatives, he built a moderate-sized Norman minster of which the transepts and part of the nave still exist. To serve this cathedral he introduced his own Augustinian brethren, with the result that Carlisle was the only see in England with an Augustinian cathedral chapter, the other monastic cathedral chapters in England consisting of Benedictine monks. There was only one archdeaconry, that of Carlisle.

Of the next bishop, Bernard, little is known, and after his death, in or about 1186, there was a long vacancy, during which the diocese was administered by another Bernard, Archbishop of Ragusa. During this period Carlisle suffered severely from the incursions of the Scots, and early in the reign of Henry III the king complained to the Pope that Carlisle had revolted in favour of Scotland, and that the canons had elected a bishop for themselves. The reigning papal legate, Philip of Dreux, punished this action by exiling the canons and appointing Hugh, Abbot of Beaulieu, a good administrator, as bishop.

It was important to the English government to have a reliable prelate at Carlisle, as they constantly looked to the bishop to attend to Scottish affairs, negotiate treaties, and generally play the part of diplomat. The next bishop was Walter Malclerk, formerly agent of King John, and a prominent figure in the reign of Henry III. Always a patron of the Friars Preachers, he introduced both Dominicans and Franciscans into the city and diocese. He resigned his see in 1246 in order to join the Order of St. Dominic. About this time a new choir was begun and carried to completion, only to be destroyed in the great fire of 1292.

A fresh beginning was made by the energetic Bishop John de Halton (1292–1324), a favourite of Edward I, and for nearly a hundred years the building of the present choir proceeded, though with many interruptions. Its chief glory is the great East window, remarkable both for its own beauty and as marking a transition from the earlier style to the perfection of tracery. During this time the see was governed by a line of bishops, busy and useful diplomats in their day, but not remarkable in other respects. Bishop John Kirkby took an active role in Border military actions, defeating a Scottish raid in 1345 and commanding English troops at the battle of Neville's Cross in the following year.[3] Thomas Merke was a close friend of Richard II, who was later tried for high treason under Henry IV and deprived. The subsequent bishops were scholars, frequently employed in negotiating truces and treaties with Scotland, and several of them were Chancellors of Oxford or of Cambridge University.

Tudor Period

Among this generation of scholar diplomats was Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's friend, John Kite (1521–1537), who remained faithful to his master, and who supported him in the poverty of his latter days.

The last of the bishops in communion with Rome was Owen Oglethorpe, a kindly-tempered man who was prevailed on to crown Elizabeth when no other bishop could be found to do it. This was an act he afterwards much regretted. On Christmas Day after the Queen’s accession he disobeyed the note she sent him in the Chapel Royal forbidding him to elevate the Sacred Host in her presence. His refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy led to his being deprived of his title along with the other bishops, and he died a prisoner 31 December 1559. Under Owen Ogelthorp Carlisle was a poor diocese, and when the Reformers plundered the churches they found little but a chalice in each, and even of these some were of tin.

After Ogelthorp's deprivation and death, Bernard Gilpin was to succeed him in Carlisle but he refused though much pressed to it, the Bishopric was conferred on one John Best, who was consecrated 2 March 1560. Bishop John Best was the first post-Marian Anglican Bishop at Carlisle. Bishop Best was the 31st Bishop of Carlisle from 2 May 1561 to his death on 22 May 1570.

Subsequent Centuries

The cathedral, originally dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, received its current dedication at the time of the Reformation.

The diocese was extended in 1856 by the addition of part of the Diocese of Chester.

List of bishops

Bishops of Carlisle
From Until Incumbent Notes
1133 1156 Æthelwold Adelulf; Prior of St Oswald's, Nostell.
1156 1186 See vacant
1186 Paulinus of Leeds Master of St. Leonard's hospital, York; elected at Richard I's wish, but declined.
1186 1203 See vacant
1203 1214 Bernard Translated from Ragusa by Pope Innocent III; received royal assent 1204.
1214 1218 See vacant Scottish occupation 1216 to 1217.
1218 1223 Hugh of Beaulieu Abbot of Beaulieu Abbey.
1223 1246 Walter Mauclerk Walter Mauclerc; also Lord Treasurer 1227–33; resigned 1246.
1246 1254 Silvester de Everdon Previously Archdeacon of Chester and Keeper of the Great Seal.
1255 1256 Thomas Vipont Thomas de Veteri Ponte; previously Rector of Greystoke.
1256 Robert de Sancta Agatha Previously Archdeacon of Northumberland; elected but declined; later Archdeacon of Durham.
1258 1278 Robert de Chauncy Robert de Chause; Previously Archdeacon of Bath; chaplain to the queen.
1278 William Langton William de Langeton or William of Rotherfield; Dean of York; elected but refused.
1280 1292 Ralph of Irton Ralph de Ireton or Ralph Ireton; Prior of Gisborough Priory.
1292 1324 John de Halton John de Halghton; Canon of Carlisle.
1325 William Ayremyn Canon of York; elected 7 Jan 1325, but quashed 13 Feb 1325.
1325 1332 John Ross John de Rosse or John Ross; son of Lord de Ros. Canon of Hereford; appointed by Pope John XXII.
1332 1352 John Kirkby John de Kirkeby; Canon of Carlisle.
1352 John Horncastle John de Horncastle; elected but set aside by Pope Clement VI before consecration.
1353 1362 Gilbert Welton Gilbert de Wilton.
1363 1395 Thomas Appleby Thomas de Appleby; Canon of Carlisle.
1396 Robert Reed Robert Reade; translated from Waterford and Lismore; translated to Chichester.
1397 1400 Thomas Merke Thomas Merkes or Thomas Merks; deprived and imprisoned 10 January 1400, pardoned the following year, thereafter served as a deputy and acting bishop in Winchester.
1400 1419 William Strickland
1420 1423 Roger Whelpdale Provost of Queens' College, Cambridge.
1423 1429 William Barrow William Barrowe; translated from Bangor.
1429 1449 Marmaduke Lumley Previously Archdeacon of Northumberland and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge; also Lord Treasurer 1446–9; translated to Lincoln.
1450 1452 Nicholas Close Previously Archdeacon of Colchester; translated to Lichfield & Coventry.
1452 1462 William Percy Also Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1451–6.
1462 1463 John Kingscote John Kingscotes; previously Archdeacon of Gloucester.
1464 1468 Richard Scroope Richard Scrope; Rector of Fen-Ditton, Cambridgeshire.
1468 1478 Edward Story Also Chancellor of the University of Cambridge 1468–9; translated to Chichester.
1478 1495 Richard Bell Previously Prior of Durham; resigned; died 1496.
1495 1502 William Senhouse William Sever or William Seveyer; Abbot of St Mary's Abbey, York; translated to Durham.
1503 1508 Roger Leyburn Richard Leyburn; Archdeacon of Durham.
1508 1520 John Penny Translated from Bangor.
1521 1537 John Kite Translated from Armagh; titular Archbishop of Thebes 1521–37.
1537 1556 Robert Aldrich Provost of Eton and Canon of Windsor.
1557 1559 Owen Oglethorpe Dean of Windsor; crowned Elizabeth I 15 January; deprived 26 June; died 31 December 1559.
1560 Bernard Gilpin BD Declined the bishopric on the death of Oglethorpe.
1560 1570 John Best Prebendary of Wells.
1570 1577 Richard Barnes Previously suffragan Bishop of Nottingham 1567–70; later translated to Durham.
1577 1598 John May Prebendary of Ely.
1598 1616 Henry Robinson Provost of The Queen's College, Oxford.
1616 1621 Robert Snoden Robert Snowden or Snowdon; Prebendary of Southwell.
1621 1624 Richard Milbourne Translated to St David's.
1624 1626 Richard Senhouse Dean of Gloucester.
1626 1629 Francis White Dean of Carlisle; translated to Norwich.
1629 1642 Barnaby Potter Provost of Queen's College, Oxford.
1642 1646 James Ussher in commendam only; Archbishop of Armagh; deprived of the see when the English episcopy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646; died 1656.
1646 1660 The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate.[4][5]
1656 1660 See vacant Episcopacy abolished during the English Interregnum.
1660 1664 Richard Sterne Master of Jesus College, Cambridge; translated to York.
1664 1684 Edward Rainbowe Edward Rainbow; Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
1684 1702 Thomas Smith Dean of Carlisle.
1702 1718 William Nicolson Archdeacon and Prebendary of Carlisle; translated to Derry.
1718 1723 Samuel Bradford Prebendary of Westminster; translated to Rochester.
1723 1734 John Waugh Dean of Gloucester.
1734 1747 Sir George Fleming, Bt. Dean of Carlisle.
1747 1762 Richard Osbaldeston Dean of York; translated to London.
1762 1768 Charles Lyttelton Dean of Exeter.
1769 1787 Edmund Law Archdeacon of Carlisle.
1787 1791 John Douglas Canon-resident of St Paul's; translated to Salisbury.
1791 1808 The Hon Edward Venables-Vernon Later Venables-Vernon-Harcourt; translated to York.
1808 1827 Samuel Goodenough Died in office.
1827 1856 The Hon Hugh Percy Translated from Rochester; died in office.
1856 1860 The Hon Henry Montagu Villiers Canon of St Paul's; translated to Durham.
1860 1869 The Hon Samuel Waldegrave Canon of Salisbury; died in office.
1869 1891 Harvey Goodwin Dean of Ely.
1892 1904 John Bardsley Translated from Sodor and Man.
1905 1920 John Diggle
1920 1946 Henry Williams Resigned 1946; died 1961.
1946 1966 Thomas Bloomer Resigned 1966; died 1984.
1966 1972 Cyril Bulley Previously suffragan Bishop of Penrith; resigned 1972; died 1989.
1972 1989 David Halsey Previously suffragan Bishop of Tonbridge; died 2009.
1989 1999 Ian Harland Previously suffragan Bishop of Lancaster; died 2008.
2000 2009 Graham Dow Previously suffragan Bishop of Willesden.
2009 2023 James Newcome Previously suffragan Bishop of Penrith.
2023 acting Rob Saner-Haigh, Bishop of Penrith Acting diocesan bishop during vacancy in See.

Assistant bishops

Among those who served as assistant bishops of the diocese were:

Honorary assistant bishops — retired bishops taking on occasional duties voluntarily — have included:


  1. ^ "Talks held over future of Rose Castle". BBC. 31 January 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  2. ^ "New Bishop of Carlisle is set to be enthroned". Westmorland Gazette. 10 October 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2009.
  3. ^ Burgess, John Christians in Cumbria Kendal 1982 p18 ISBN 0900811153
  4. ^ Plant, David (2002). "Episcopalians". BCW Project. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  5. ^ King, Peter (July 1968). "The Episcopate during the Civil Wars, 1642-1649". The English Historical Review. 83 (328). Oxford University Press: 523–537. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxxiii.cccxxviii.523. JSTOR 564164.
  6. ^ "Danson, Ernest Denny Logie". Who's Who. A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ "Graham, Andrew Alexander Kenny". Who's Who. A & C Black. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (Third Edition, revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 235–237. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Bishops of Carlisle: 1133-1324. British History Online
  • Bishops of Carlisle: 1292-1556. British History Online
  • Bishops of Carlisle: 1537-1860. British History Online
  • Haydn's Book of Dignities (1894) Joseph Haydn/Horace Ockerby, reprinted 1969
  • Whitaker's Almanack 1883 to 2004 Joseph Whitaker & Sons Ltd/A&C Black, London
  • Crockfords 1858 to 2003/4 Church Commissioners
  • The above text is in part adapted freely from the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.