Diocese of Chester

Diocese of Chester

Coordinates: 53°14′56″N 2°45′40″W / 53.249°N 2.761°W / 53.249; -2.761

Diocese of Chester
Ecclesiastical province York
Archdeaconries Chester, Macclesfield
Parishes 275
Churches 368
Cathedral Chester Cathedral
Current leadership
Bishop Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester
Suffragans Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead
Robert Atwell, Bishop of Stockport
Archdeacons Dr Michael Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester
Ian Bishop, Archdeacon of Macclesfield

The Diocese of Chester is a Church of England diocese in the Province of York based in Chester, covering the county of Cheshire in its pre-1974 boundaries (and therefore including the Wirral and parts of the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport, Metropolitan Borough of Trafford and the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside).[1] The cathedral is Chester Cathedral and the bishop is the Bishop of Chester.



The Diocese of Chester when created in 1541 showing the extent of the two archdeaconries that went to make it up.
The deaneries of the Diocese of Chester in about 1835, shortly before a series of boundary changes greatly diminished its size.
Map showing the areas of the Diocese of Chester which were transferred to other Dioceses in the 19th century, together with the dates on which they were transferred.

Ancient diocese

The city had before the sixteenth century possessed a bishop and a cathedral, though 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 Bishop of Lichfield. After the Council of London in 1075 had decreed the transfer of all episcopal chairs to cities, Peter, Bishop of Lichfield, removed his seat from Lichfield to Chester, and became known as Bishop of Chester. There he chose The Collegiate Church of St. John the Baptist as his cathedral. 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 cathedra itself were elsewhere; accordingly 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.

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 Saints 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 Lupus, Earl of Chester, converted it into a major Benedictine monastery, in which foundation he had 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. The 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 which, though not be reckoned among the greatest cathedrals of England, yet is not unworthy of its rank, and affords a valuable study in the evolution of Gothic architecture. It has been said of it that "at every turn it is satisfying in small particulars and disappointing in great features". The last of the abbots was John, or Thomas, Clark, who resigned his abbey, valued at £1,003 5s. 11d. per annum, to the king.[2]

1541 to 1836

The diocese was created during the Reformation in 1541 from the Chester archdeaconry of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, covering Cheshire and Lancashire, and the Richmond Archdeaconry of the Diocese of York.[3] The diocese was originally formed as part of the Province of Canterbury, but was quickly transferred to the Province of York later in the same year.[3] The twenty deaneries of the new diocesse were: Amounderness, Bangor, Blackburn, Boroughbridge, Catterick, Chester, Copeland, Frodsham, Furness, Kendal, Leyland, Lonsdale, Macclesfield, Malpas, Manchester, Middlewich, Nantwich, Richmond, Warrington, and Wirral. The deaneries as shown in the accompanying map, were established by 1224 and remained largely unchanged until the nineteenth century.[4]

Since 1836

Starting in 1836, a series of boundary changes saw the diocese eventually greatly diminished in size so that its extent was almost the same as that of the ceremonial county of Cheshire as it existed just prior to 1974.[5][6] A sequence of five major boundary changes to the diocese began. In 1836, the deaneries of Boroughbridge, Catterick, and Richmond, and half of the deanery of Lonsdale were taken from Chester to form part of the newly created Diocese of Ripon which also had parts taken from the Diocese of York. In 1847, the deaneries of Amounderness, Blackburn, Leyland, and Manchester, together with another large part of the deanery of Lonsdale and roughly one third of the deanery of Kendal were taken to form the then new Diocese of Manchester.[7] Additionally, part of the deanery of Warrington (Leigh)[8] was also transferred to this new Diocese of Manchester. At the same time, the deanery of Bangor was transferred to the Diocese of St. Asaph. This left the deaneries of Copeland, Furness, and the remaining parts of the deaneries of Kendal and Lonsdale detached from the main part of the diocese around Chester, provision was made to transfer these to the Diocese of Carlisle, but this required the assent of the then Bishop of Carlisle, or the appointment of a successor. In 1849, the part of the deanery of Chester that extended into Wales was transferred to the Diocese of St. Asaph. The detached deaneries in the north of Lancashire and in the Lake District were eventually transferred to the Diocese of Carlisle in 1856, on the appointment of Henry Villiers to the See.[9] Finally, in 1880, the remaining part of the deanery of Warrington was used to create the new Diocese of Liverpool. At that point, the Diocese of Chester had been reduced to its present size.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

Present day

The Bishop of Chester is assisted by two suffragan bishops, the Bishop of Birkenhead and the Bishop of Stockport.[16] There are two archdeaconries, Chester and Macclesfield, which are further divided into 18 deaneries.[17] There are consequently two archdeacons: the Archdeacon of Chester, the Venerable Dr Michael Gilbertson, and the Archdeacon of Macclesfield, the Venerable Ian Bishop. There is also the Dean of Chester (currently The Very Reverend Dr Gordon McPhate), who is primarily responsible for the running of the cathedral.[16]

Deanery Archdeaconry Ecclesiastical Parishes/Parish Churches Notes and References
Birkenhead Chester Bidston, Birkenhead Priory, Birkenhead St James with St Bede, Birkenhead Christ Church, Oxton, Prenton, Rock Ferry, Tranmere St Catherine, Tranmere St Paul with St Luke, Woodchurch [17]
Bowdon Macclesfield Altrincham St George, Altrincham St John, Ashley, Ashton upon Mersey St Martin, Ashton upon Mersey St Mary Magdalene, Bowdon, Broadheath, Dunham Massey St Margaret, Dunham Massey St Mark, Hale, Oughtrington, Partington and Carrington, Hale Barns with Ringway, Sale St Anne, Sale St Paul, Timperley, Warburton [17]
Chadkirk Macclesfield Bredbury St Barnabas, Bredbury St Mark, Chadkirk (or Romiley), Disley, High Lane, Low Marple, Marple, Mellor, Norbury, Comstall (or Werneth), Whaley Bridge [17]

Chadkirk deanery was originally part of Stockport deanery at least as late as 1974.[18]

Cheadle Macclesfield Bramhall, Cheadle All Hallows, Cheadle St Mary, Cheadle St Cuthberts, Cheadle Hulme All Saints, Cheadle Hulme St Andrew, Gatley, Handforth, Heald Green, Poynton, Cheadle Hulme Emmanuel [17]

Cheadle deanery was originally part of Stockport deanery at least as late as 1974.[18]

Chester Chester Ashton Hayes, Barrow, Chester St Peter with St John, Chester St Oswald and St Thomas of Canterbury, Chester Holy Trinity Without-the-Walls (Blacon), Chester St Mary Without-the-Walls (Handbridge), Chester St Paul, Christleton, Dodleston, Eccleston and Pulford, Guilden Sutton, Hoole, Huntington, Kelsall, Lache cum Saltney, Plemstall, Tarvin, Upton-by-Chester, Plas Newton, Chester Christ Church [17]

Chester College Chaplaincy (now University of Chester Chaplaincy) is also in this deanery.[17]

Congleton Macclesfield Alsager St Mary Magdalene, Alsager Christ Church, Astbury, Barthomley, Brereton, Church Hulme (or Holmes Chapel), Congleton St James, Congleton Team, Eaton, Elworth, Goostrey, Hulme Walfield, Lawton (or Church Lawton), Odd Rode, Sandbach, Sandbach Heath, Smallwood, Warmingham, Wheelock, Swettenham [17]
Frodsham Chester Alvanley and Manley, Dunham-on-the-Hill, Frodsham, Grange, Hallwood, Halton, Helsby, Kingsley, Norley, Norton, Runcorn All Saints, Runcorn Holy Trinity, Runcorn Weston St John, Runcorn St Michael and All Angels, Thornton-le-Moors with Ince & Elton, Crowton [17]
Great Budworth Chester Antrobus, Appleton Thorn, Aston by Sutton, Barnton, Daresbury, Grappenhall, Great Budworth, Latchford Christ Church, Latchford St James, Little Leigh, Lower (or Nether) Whitley, Lymm, Stockton Heath, Stretton, Thelwall, Walton [17]
Knutsford Macclesfield Alderley, Birtles, Chelford, Alderley Edge, High Legh, Knutsford St Cross, Knutsford St John the Baptist, Lindow, Lower Peover, Marthall, Mobberley, Over Peover, Over Tabley, Rostherne with Bollington, Toft, Wilmslow, Woodford [17]
Macclesfield Macclesfield Bollington, Bosley, Capesthorne with Siddington, Gawsworth, Henbury, Hurdsfield, Macclesfield Team (St Michael's, St Peter's), Macclesfield St John, Macclesfield St Paul, Marton, North Rode, Pott Shrigley, Prestbury, Rainow with Saltersford and Forest, Sutton St James, Upton Priory, Wildboarclough, Wincle [17]
Malpas Chester Aldford, Bickerton, Bickley, Bruera, Bunbury, Burwardsley, Coddington, Farndon, Handley, Hargrave, Harthill, Malpas and Threapwood, Marbury, Shocklach, Tarporley, Tattenhall, Tilstone Fearnall, Tilston, Tushingham, Waverton, Whitewell [17]
Middlewich Chester Byley-cum-Lees, Davenham, Delamere, Hartford, Little Budworth, Lostock Gralam, Middlewich, Moulton, Northwich (Castle) Holy Trinity, Northwich (Winnington) St Luke, Over St Chad, Over St John, Sandiway, Weaverham, Wharton, Whitegate, Witton (Northwich), Christ Church, Wharton [17]
Mottram Macclesfield Dukinfield St John, Dukinfield St Luke, Dukinfield St Mark, Gee Cross, Godley cum Newton Green, Hattersley, Hollingworth, Hyde St George, Hyde St Thomas, Micklehurst, Millbrook, Mottram-in-Longendale, Newton in Mottram, Newton Flowery Field, Stalybridge Holy Trinity & Christchurch, Stalybridge St Paul, Tintwistle [17]
Nantwich Macclesfield Acton, Audlem, Baddiley, Burleydam, Church Minshull, Coppenhall, Crewe All Saints and St Paul, Crewe St Andrew with St John the Baptist, Crewe St Barnabas, Crewe Christ Church, Crewe St Peter, Crewe Green, Doddington, Haslington, Leighton-cum-Minshull Vernon, Nantwich, Weston, Wettenhall, Wistaston, Worleston, Wrenbury, Wybunbury [17]
Stockport Macclesfield Brinnington with Portwood, Offerton, Cheadle Heath and Edgeley, Stockport St Mary, Stockport St Peter, Stockport St Saviour, Stockport St Thomas, Stockport St George [17]

Stockport deanery originally included Chadkirk and Cheadle deaneries at least as late as 1974.[18]

Wallasey Chester Leasowe, The Parish of the Resurrection, Liscard St Thomas, New Brighton St James with Emmanuel, New Brighton All Saints, Poulton, Seacombe, Wallasey St Hilary, Wallasey St Nicholas, Moreton [17]
Wirral North Chester Barnston, Bebington St Andrew, Bebington Townfield Church, Frankby with Greasby, Great Meols, Heswall, Higher Bebington, Hoylake, New Ferry, Newton West Kirby, Thurstaston, Upton (Overchurch), West Kirby St Andrew, West Kirby St Bridget, Poulton Lancelyn [17]
Wirral South Chester Backford, Bromborough, Burton, Capenhurst, Eastham, Ellesmere Port Team, Great Saughall, Great Sutton, Hooton, Neston, Neston Parkgate, Shotwick, Thornton Hough, Willaston [17]

See also



  1. ^ Diocese of Chester. Retrieval Date: September 30, 2007.
  2. ^ http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Chester
  3. ^ a b Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). p. 12.
  4. ^ Dunn, F. I. (1987). p. 8.
  5. ^ Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). page 64.
  6. ^ Dunn, F. I. (1987). p. 9.
  7. ^ Later changes to the Diocese of Manchester led to part of it forming the Diocese of Blackburn
  8. ^ Elrington, C. R. (1980) (Ed.) p. 63.
  9. ^ Bishop Henry Villiers was the successor to Bishop Percy (Elrington, C. R. (1980) (Ed.) page 63.)
  10. ^ Dunn, F. I. (1987). pp. 8–9.
  11. ^ Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). pages 63–65.
  12. ^ Church of England Statistics 2002. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
  13. ^ London Gazette: no. 19427. pp. 1765–1768. 7 October 1836. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Creation of the Diocese of Ripon
  14. ^ London Gazette: no. 20265. pp. 3173–3174. 29 September 1843. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Internal reorganisation of the Diocese of Chester prior to the creation of the Diocese of Manchester
  15. ^ London Gazette: no. 20769. pp. 3157–3160. 31 August 1847. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Creation of the Diocese of Manchester
  16. ^ a b "Who’s who? Bishops, Archdeacons and the Dean". Chester Diocese. Archived from the original on 2008-02-29. http://web.archive.org/web/20080229013200/http://www.chester.anglican.org/diocese/whoswhobp.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Chester Diocese: Links". Chester Diocese. Archived from the original on 2008-02-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20080224175035/http://www.chester.anglican.org/diocese/links/. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  18. ^ a b c Phillips, A. D. M. and Phillips, C. B. (2002). pp. 12–13.


  • Dunn, F. I. (1987). The ancient parishes, townships and chapelries of Cheshire. Chester: Cheshire Record Office and Cheshire Diocesan Record Office. ISBN 0906758149. 
  • Elrington, C. R. (Ed.) (1980). The Victoria history of the county of Chester, Volume III. Oxford: The University of London Institute of Historical Research (Oxford University Press). ISBN 0197227546. 
  • Phillips, A. D. M.; Phillips, C. B. (2002). A new historical atlas of Cheshire. Chester, UK: Cheshire County Council and Cheshire Community Council Publications Trust. ISBN 0904532461. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Chester". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

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