Bishop of Oxford

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The Bishop of Oxford is the diocesan bishop of the Church of England Diocese of Oxford in the Province of Canterbury; his seat is at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The see has been vacant since the retirement of John Pritchard on 31 October 2014; the acting bishop is Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester.


The origins of Christianity in this part of England go back at least to the 7th century, when Saint Birinus brought his mission to the West Saxons in 634. The West Saxon King Cynegils was baptised in the River Thames near the present site of Dorchester Abbey, where the original See was established.

The see was transferred in 1092 to Winchester, before being absorbed into the Diocese of Lincoln, the vast extent of which covered much of central and eastern England from the River Thames to the Humber.

King Henry VIII, acting now as head of the Church in England, established by Act of Parliament in 1542 six new dioceses, mostly out of the spoils of the suppressed monasteries. These six were Bristol, Chester, Gloucester, Oxford, Peterborough and Westminster. This intervention by Henry VIII saw a new see located at Osney in Oxfordshire in 1542 before finally being moved to its present location in the City of Oxford in 1546.

While the city gained prosperity from the accession of thousands of students, it was never, apart from the university, again prominent in history until the seventeenth century, when it became the headquarters of the Royalist party, and again the meeting-place of Parliament. The city of Oxford showed its Hanoverian sympathies long before the university, and feeling between them ran high in consequence. The area and population of the city remained almost stationary until about 1830, but since then it has grown rapidly.

Modern bishopric

The modern diocese covers the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire, with parishes also in Bedfordshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, and Warwickshire. The see is in the City of Oxford where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Christ which was elevated to cathedral status in 1546, and which (uniquely among English dioceses) is also the chapel of Christ Church, Oxford. The Oxford diocese at the present day contains the greatest number of parishes of any diocese on England (621) and also the most church buildings (815), of which 475 are grade 1 or 2* listed buildings.

The Bishop's residence is Diocesan Church House, Oxford. He signs + Christian name Oxon:.

List of bishops

List of the Bishops of Oxford, and its precursor offices.

(Dates in italics indicate de facto continuation of office)

Tenure Incumbent Notes
See at Osney
1542 to 1546 Robert King, Bishop of Oxford Suffragan Bishop of Lincoln
See at Oxford
1546 to 1558 Robert King, Bishop of Oxford Suffragan Bishop of Lincoln
1558 to 1559 Thomas Goldwell Previously Bishop of St Asaph; deprived, fled to Milan, Naples and Rome
1559 to 1567 vacant
1567 to October 1568 Hugh Curwen
(Hugh Coren)
Archbishop of Dublin
October 1568 to 1589 vacant
1589 to 1592 John Underhill Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford
1592 to 1604 vacant
1604 to 1618 John Bridges Dean of Salisbury
1619 to 1628 John Howson Student of Christ Church, Oxford; appointed Bishop of Durham
1628 to 1632 Richard Corbet Dean of Christ Church, Oxford; appointed Bishop of Norwich
1632 to 1641 John Bancroft Master of University College, Oxford
1641 to 1663 Robert Skinner Bishop of Bristol; deprived during the Commonwealth
1660 to 1663 Robert Skinner Restored; appointed Bishop of Worcester
1663 to 1665 William Paul Dean of Lichfield
1665 to 1671 Walter Blandford Warden of Wadham College, Oxford;[1] appointed Bishop of Worcester
1671 to 1674 Nathaniel Crew Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, and Dean of Chichester; appointed Bishop of Durham
1674 to 1676 Henry Compton Canon of Christ Church, Oxford; appointed Bishop of London
1676 to 1686 John Fell Dean of Christ Church, Oxford
1686 to 20 March 1687 Samuel Parker Archdeacon of Canterbury; died in office
1688 to 1690 Timothy Hall Denied installation by the Chapter of Christ Church
1690 to 1699 John Hough President of Magdalen College, Oxford; appointed Bishop of Lichfield
1699 to 1715 William Talbot Dean of Worcester; appointed Bishop of Salisbury
1715 to 1737 John Potter Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford; appointed Archbisop of Canterbury
1737 to 1758 Thomas Secker Bishop of Bristol; appointed Archbishop of Canterbury
1758 to 1766 John Hume Bishop of Bristol; appointed Bishop of Salisbury
1766 to 1777 Robert Lowth Bishop of St David's; appointed Bishop of London
1777 to 1788 John Butler Prebendary of Winchester; appointed Bishop of Hereford
1788 to 1799 Edward Smallwell Bishop of St David's
1799 to 1807 John Randolph Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford; appointed Bishop of Bangor
1807 to 1811 Charles Moss
1812 to 1815 William Jackson Regius Professor of Greek, Oxford
1816 to 1827 The Hon Edward Legge Dean of Windsor
1827 to 1829 Charles Lloyd Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford
1829 to 1845 Richard Bagot Dean of Canterbury; appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells
1845 to 1869 Samuel Wilberforce Dean of Westminster; translated to Winchester
1870 to 1889 John Mackarness Prebendary of Exeter
1889 to 1901 William Stubbs Bishop of Chester
1901 to 1911 Francis Paget Dean of Christ Church, Oxford
1911 to 1919 Charles Gore Bishop of Birmingham; resigned
1919 to 1925 Hubert Burge Bishop of Southwark
1925 to 1937 Thomas Strong Bishop of Ripon; resigned
1937 to 1954 Kenneth Kirk Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, Oxford
1955 to 1970 Harry Carpenter Warden of Keble College, Oxford; resigned
1971 to 1978 Kenneth Woollcombe Principal of Edinburgh Theological College; resigned
1978 to 1986 Patrick Rodger Bishop of Manchester; resigned
1987 to 2006 Richard Harries Dean of King's College, London; ennobled on retirement
2007 to 31 October 2014 John Pritchard Suffragan Bishop of Jarrow
31 October 2014 to present (acting) Colin Fletcher, acting bishop area Bishop of Dorchester

See also


  1. The Oxford Gazette: no. 1. p. 1. 7 November 1665. Retrieved 8 January 2009.


  • Oxford Diocesan Year Book
  • 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
  • The above text is partly drawn from the Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1908