CARLISLE: Introduction

Pages 3-5

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 11, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 2004.

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This volume is the eleventh in the series covering 1541–1857 in the Institute of Historical Research's revision of Le Neve-Hardy's Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae. It lists the higher clergy of the dioceses of the province of York, apart from the archdiocese of York itself, which was the subject of volume four. The province of York in the middle ages consisted of the very large archdiocese of York, together with the small ones of Carlisle and Durham, each with a monastic cathedral. After the dissolution of the monasteries, these two were re-established on similar lines with secular chapters. The new diocese of Chester was set up on a comparable pattern, consisting of the counties of Cheshire and Lancashire, and portions of Westmorland, Cumberland and Yorkshire. The diocese of Sodor and Man was attached to York province in 1542. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the eighteen-thirties decided upon a further reduction in the size of the diocese of York, and also that of Chester, and took out of them the dioceses of Ripon and Manchester. Fuller details are given below in the introductions to each diocese.

During the middle ages, the diocese of Carlisle had had a monastic cathedral, following the Augustinian rule, so that, when Carlisle priory was dissolved in 1540, King Henry VIII introduced a secular chapter into the cathedral under a foundation charter of 8 May 1541. The new chapter was to consist of a dean – the former prior, who had been acting as warden since 1539 – and four canons, two of whom were former regular canons. The right of presentation to these four prebends was initially with the Crown, but Queen Mary I granted it in 1558 to the bishop. As in the middle ages, the diocese had a single archdeacon, and was the smallest diocese in England until 1856. (fn. 1)

Legal and practical problems arose in 1707–8, when Dean Francis Atterbury maintained against the bishop, William Nicolson, that the foundation charter of 1541 was the only valid constitution of the cathedral. This meant that Queen Mary's subsequent grant, and the statutes of 1545, under which the cathedral normally operated, but which had never passed the king's Great Seal, were not binding. Therefore, for example, it was the Crown, and not the bishop, who should legally hold visitations of the cathedral chapter and possess the valuable patronage of the prebends. This would have had national repercussions in all the twelve other cathedrals of Henry VIII's 'new foundation'. After a few months of acute tension, during which the dean took the bishop to the court of common pleas, and the bishop defied the dean by holding three turbulent visitations and excommunicating one of the canons, Nicolson's Whig politician friends secured the passage of a bill in parliament to give legislative force to customary statutes. This was known as the Cathedrals Act of 1708 (6 Anne c. 75). (fn. 2)

The bishopric of Carlisle ranked among the poorer sees. In 1702 William Grahme refused it, claiming that the income would beggar him if he accepted it. The inquiry of the commissioners into the revenue of bishops on an average of three years to 31 December 1831 revealed an annual income of only £2,213, putting Carlisle in twenty-fourth position among the bishops, and well below the average income of £5,936, though in addition Bishop Hugh Percy held the chancellorship of Salisbury and a prebend of St. Paul's. Surprisingly, the cathedral corporation, with an income of £5,318, ranked eleventh among cathedrals, although the commissioners commented that these years had seen an unusually high income and a figure of around £3,510 was to be expected for the next seven years. The dean had received an average of £121 7s 6d in 1828–31, plus £1,602 as fines for the renewal of leases of cathedral property. Individual canons had received a basic £22 5s plus a further £80 10s from leases. (fn. 3)

In view of these figures, it was scarcely surprising that the ecclesiastical commissioners recommended that the diocese of Carlisle be enlarged by incorporating the deanery of Furness and Cartmel in Lancashire and those parts of the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland that had been in the diocese of Chester, and the Cumberland parish of Alston, formerly in the diocese of Durham. More controversially, it was proposed that the diocese of Carlisle be united with that of Sodor and Man. These recommendations were included in the statute of 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77. The annual income of the bishop was fixed at £4,500 on 5 September 1837 by Order in Council. However, the proposal to incorporate the diocese of Sodor and Man met with strong opposition from the clergy and inhabitants of the Isle of Man, and was repealed by a further Act of parliament on 4 July 1838. (fn. 4) A new archdeaconry of Westmorland was established by Order in Council of 10 August 1847 from parishes in the archdeaconry of Richmond in the diocese of Chester, but Bishop Hugh Percy refused to accept this and the other changes in the extent of the diocese and they were not carried out until after his death in 1856, when the first appointment of an archdeacon of Westmorland was made. (fn. 5) There was no reduction in the number of the prebends, but by Order in Council of 1 May 1855 (to which Bishop Percy consented) the archdeaconry of Carlisle was to be annexed to the next vacant prebend, which turned out to be the 4th. (fn. 6)

John Le Neve, whose Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae was published in 1716, seems to have drawn his information from printed sources and some registers of archbishops of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. For the canons he gave only the years of appointment and did not cite sources. Thomas Duffus Hardy, whose revision of Le Neve was published in 1854, and was the standard reference work for more than a century, gave fuller details, probably culled from the Public Records, of which he was an assistant keeper, but seldom cited his sources.

Both the diocesan and the capitular records are good for this period, with relatively few omissions in the registers and act books series. As a result the lists given here are fairly definitive.

A consolidated index of all the higher clergy in the eleven volumes so far published in the series 1541–1857, with the offices held by each man, may be consulted on the Institute of Historical Research's website, History (http://, currently under Research Tools, Higher Clergy.


  • 1. L. & P. xvi no. 878 (11, 15); C.P.R. 1557–8 p. 307.
  • 2. London Diaries of William Nicolson, Bishop of Carlisle, 1702–18, ed. C. Jones and G. Holmes (Oxford, 1985). pp. 428–33; Hist. MSS. Comm., Portland MSS. IV 138–9, 476; Statutes of the Realm VIII 840.
  • 3. London Diaries of Nicolson pp. 54–5; Rept. of the Commissioners … to inquire into the Ecclesiastical Revenues of England and Wales [67] H.C. (1835) xxii 2–3, 10–11.
  • 4. Stat. 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77; Lond. Gaz. no. 19538, 21 Aug. 1837; stat. 1 & 2 Vic. c. 30.
  • 5. Lond. Gaz. no. 20769 (pp. 3159–60), 10 Aug. 1847.
  • 6. Ibid. no. 21719, 1 May 1855.