Bishop of Chester
Mark Tanner
Ecclesiastical provinceYork
ResidenceBishop's House, Chester
First holderJohn Bird
CathedralChester Cathedral

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

The diocese extends across most of the historic county boundaries of Cheshire, including the Wirral Peninsula and has its see in the City of Chester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was formerly the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Werburgh, being elevated to cathedral status in 1541. The Bishop's residence is Bishop's House, Chester.

Cheshire previously held a bishopric from 1075 when the seat was at the collegiate church of St John the Baptist until 1102. The present diocese was formed in 1541 under King Henry VIII. Mark Tanner's election as Bishop of Chester was confirmed on 15 July 2020.[1][2]

Earliest times

Arms of the Bishop of Chester: Gules three mitres with their lables Or.[3]
Arms of the Bishop of Chester: Gules three mitres with their lables Or.[3]

Chester at various periods in its history had a bishop and a cathedral, though till the early sixteenth century only intermittently. Even before the Norman conquest the title Bishop of Chester is found in documents applied to prelates who would be more correctly described as Bishop of Mercia or even Bishop of Lichfield. After the Council of London in 1075 had decreed the transfer of all episcopal sees to cities, Peter, Bishop of Lichfield, removed his seat from Lichfield to Chester, and became known as Bishop of Chester. There he chose as his cathedral collegiate church of Saint John the Baptist, an arrangement which continued until 1102.

The next bishop, however, transferred the see to Coventry on account of the rich monastery there, though he retained the episcopal palace at Chester. The Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield was of enormous extent, and it was probably found convenient to have something analogous to a cathedral at Chester, even though the cathedral itself was elsewhere; accordingly we find that the church of St John ranked as a cathedral for a considerable time, and had its own dean and chapter of secular canons down to the time of the Reformation. But the chief ecclesiastical foundation in Chester was the Benedictine monastery of St Werburgh, the great church of which finally became the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The site had been occupied even during the Christian period of the Roman occupation by a church dedicated to Ss. Peter and Paul, and rededicated to St Werburgh and St Oswald during the Saxon period. The church was served by a small chapter of secular canons until 1093, when Hugh, Earl of Chester, converted it into a great Benedictine monastery, with the co-operation of St Anselm, then Prior of Bec, who sent Richard, one of his monks, to be the first abbot. A new Norman church was built by him and his successors.

This monastery, though suffering loss of property both by the depredations of the Welsh and the inroads of the sea, prospered, and in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries the monks transformed their Norman church into a gothic building.

Tudor period

The last of the abbots of Chester was John, or Thomas, Clark, who resigned his abbey, valued at £1,003 5s. 11d. per annum, to the king at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In 1541 Henry VIII, without papal sanction, created six new episcopal sees, one of which was Chester. The archdeaconry of Chester, from the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, and that of Richmond, from York, were combined to form the new see, and it was laid down that the abbey church, now the cathedral, was to be served by a dean and six prebends, the former abbot becoming the first dean. At first the diocese was annexed to the Province of Canterbury, but by another Act of Parliament it was soon transferred to that of York. The first bishop was the Provincial of the Carmelites, John Bird, a doctor of divinity who had attracted the king's attention by his sermons preached against the pope's supremacy. Having already been rewarded by appointment as Bishop of Bangor, he was now translated to Chester. On the accession of Mary he was deprived as being a married man, and died as Vicar of Dunmow in 1556.

Despite the origins of the diocese, it was recognised by the Roman See for the space of Queen Mary's reign. George Cotes, Master of Balliol and Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and lecturer in theology, was appointed bishop by the Roman See. In 1556 he was succeeded by Cuthbert Scott, an able theologian and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University. On the accession of Elizabeth I he was one of the four Roman Catholic bishops chosen to defend Roman Catholic doctrine at the conference at Westminster, and immediately after this he was sent to the Tower and was deprived in 1559. Being released on bail, he contrived to escape to the Continent. He died at Louvain, on 9 October 1564.

Subsequent centuries

The present diocese covers most of the traditional county of Cheshire, including the Wirral Peninsula and has its see in the City of Chester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was formerly the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Werburgh, being elevated to cathedral status in 1541.

List of bishops

List of bishops of Chester after the foundation of the modern diocese of Chester in 1541.

Earlier the midland diocese had for a time had its see at Chester, for which see List of the Bishops of the Diocese of Lichfield and its precursor offices.

Bishops of Chester
From Until Incumbent Notes
1541 1554
No image.svg
John Bird
Translated from Bangor; deprived by Mary I.
1554 1555
No image.svg
George Cotes
Died in office.
1556 1559
No image.svg
Cuthbert Scott
Deprived by Elizabeth I.
1561 1577
No image.svg
William Downham
Died in office.
1579 1595
Bp William Chaderton.jpg
William Chaderton
Translated to Lincoln.
1595 1596
No image.svg
Hugh Bellot
Translated from Bangor; died in office.
1597 1604
BpRichardVaughan painting.jpg
Richard Vaughan
Translated from Bangor; translated to London.
1604 1615
Bishop Lloyd.jpeg
George Lloyd
Translated from Sodor and Man; died in office.
1616 1619
Thomas Morton portrait.jpg
Thomas Morton
Translated to Lichfield and Coventry then Durham.
1619 1646
Bp John Bridgeman.jpg
John Bridgeman
Deprived of the see when the English episcopy was abolished by Parliament on 9 October 1646. Died in 1652.
1646 1660 The see was abolished during the Commonwealth and the Protectorate.[4][5]
1660 1661
Brian Walton
Died in office.
No image.svg
Henry Ferne
Died shortly after consecration.
1662 1668
No image.svg
George Hall
Also Archdeacon of Canterbury; died in office.
1668 1672
Bp John Wilkins.jpg
John Wilkins
Died in office.
1673 1686
John Pearson
Died in office.
1686 1689
Thomas Cartwright by Gerard Soest.jpg
Thomas Cartwright
Followed James II into exile after the Glorious Revolution and died of dysentery shortly after arriving in Dublin.[6]
1689 1707
Bp Nicholas Stratford.jpg
Nicholas Stratford
Died in office.
1708 1714
Abp Sir William Dawes.jpg
Sir William Dawes, Bt.
Translated to York.
1714 1725
Bp Francis Gastrell by Michael Dahl.jpg
Francis Gastrell
Died in office.
1726 1752
Bp Samuel Peploe.jpg
Samuel Peploe
Died in office.
1752 1771
Bp Edmund Keene by Zoffany.jpg
Edmund Keene
Translated to Ely.
1771 1776
William Markham by Benjamin West.jpg
William Markham
Translated to York.
1776 1787
Beilby porteus engraving.jpg
Beilby Porteus
Translated to London.
1788 1800
Bp William Cleaver by John Hoppner.jpg
William Cleaver
Translated to Bangor then St Asaph.
1800 1809
Bp Henry Majendie.jpg
Henry Majendie
Translated to Bangor.
1810 1812
Bowyer Edward Sparke.jpg
Bowyer Sparke
Translated to Ely.
1812 1824
George Henry Law by William Beechey.jpg
George Henry Law
Translated to Bath and Wells.
1824 1828
CJ Blomfield by JS Templeton.jpg
Charles James Blomfield
Translated to London.
1828 1848
John Bird Sumner
Translated to Canterbury.
1848 1865
No image.svg
John Graham
Died in office.
1865 1884
William Jacobson by Lewis Carroll.jpg
William Jacobson
1884 1889
Portrait of William Stubbs by Hubert von Herkomer.jpeg
William Stubbs
Translated to Oxford.
1889 1919
Bp Francis Jayne by Bassano.jpg
Francis Jayne
1919 1932
Henry Luke Paget, Rotary.jpg
Luke Paget
Translated from Stepney.
1932 1939
Geoffrey Fisher by RG Eves.jpg
Geoffrey Fisher
Translated to London then Canterbury.
1939 1955
No image.svg
Douglas Crick
Translated from Stafford.
1955 1973
No image.svg
Gerald Ellison
Translated from Willesden; translated to London.
1974 1981
No image.svg
Victor Whitsey
Translated from Hertford.
1982 1996
No image.svg
Michael Baughen
Retired to London and Southwark; now honorary assistant bishop in Guildford.
1996 2019
Official portrait of The Lord Bishop of Chester crop 2.jpg
Peter Forster
Retired 30 September 2019.[7]
2019 2020
No image.svg
Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead
Acting diocesan bishop[7]
2020 present
No image.svg
Mark Tanner
Translated from Berwick[1] 15 July 2020[2]
Sources: [8][9][10]

Assistant bishops

Among those who have served as assistant bishops in the diocese have been:


  1. ^ a b "Diocese of Chester | Mark Tanner named as next Bishop of Chester".
  2. ^ a b[bare URL PDF]
  3. ^ "The Armorial Bearings of the Bishops of Chester". Cheshire Heraldry Society. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  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. Oxford University Press. 83 (328): 523–537. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxxiii.cccxxviii.523. JSTOR 564164.
  6. ^ Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Cartwright, Thomas (1634-1689)" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 9. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  7. ^ a b "Diocese of Chester | Bishop Peter announces his retirement".
  8. ^ "Historical successions: Chester". Crockford's Clerical Directory. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  9. ^ Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I., eds. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd, reprinted 2003 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 237–238. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  10. ^ Horn, J. M.; Smith, D. M.; Mussett, P. (2004). "Bishops of Chester". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: Volume 11: Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses. British History Online. pp. 37–42.
  11. ^ "Tubbs, Norman H.". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  12. ^ "Greenwood, Tom". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Haydn's Book of Dignities (1894) Joseph Haydn/Horace Ockerby, reprinted 1969
  • Whitaker's Almanack 1883 to 2004, Joseph Whitaker and Sons Ltd/A&C Black, London
  • Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Chester". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.