WORCESTER: Introduction

Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1992.

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'WORCESTER: Introduction', Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992), pp. 101-102. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp101-102 [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "WORCESTER: Introduction", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992) 101-102. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp101-102.

. "WORCESTER: Introduction", Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses, (London, 1992). 101-102. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/fasti-ecclesiae/1541-1847/vol7/pp101-102.


Worcester cathedral chapter was established by charter of Henry VIII on 24 Jan. 1542, after the dissolution of its monastic body. As in each of the other cathedrals in this volume, the former head of the monastic establishment became the first dean, thus saving the Crown the expense of his pension. Four former monks figured among the ten canons, all of whose prebends were in the king's gift, and were always referred to by their numbers. (fn. 1)

A few months before this, the bounds of the diocese of Worcester had been altered. The medieval diocese had consisted of Worcestershire (apart from a few parishes on the Herefordshire border), east Gloucestershire, south-west Warwickshire, a few parishes just inside Staffordshire and a small detached portion of Shropshire. (fn. 2) The diocese had been divided into the archdeaconries of Gloucester and Worcester (which included the Warwickshire parishes). On 3 Sept. 1541 the new diocese of Gloucester was formed by detaching Gloucestershire from Worcester and Hereford dioceses, (fn. 3) so that henceforth in Worcester diocese there was only one archdeaconry, that of Worcester. However, the revenues of Gloucester diocese were found to be inadequate, and in 1552 it was joined with Worcester under Bishop John Hooper, and at the same time the bishop was given the right of collation to all prebends. (fn. 4) This arrangement lasted scarcely two years, as when Hooper was deprived by Queen Mary in March 1554 two bishops were once again appointed, with separate dioceses. The prebends reverted to being in the sovereign's gift, although Mary granted the right of collation to Bishops Heath and Pates for their lives and Elizabeth did the same for Bishops Sandys and Whitgift. (fn. 5)

From then on the diocese of Worcester remained unaltered, with its single archdeaconry, until 1836, when the Worcestershire parishes on the Herefordshire border were transferred from Hereford to Worcester diocese, north-east Warwickshire was transferred from Lichfield diocese to that of Worcester, and the archdeaconry of Coventry was annexed and united to this diocese (taking responsibility for the whole of Warwickshire). (fn. 6) The parishes in Staffordshire and Shropshire were transferred to Worcestershire by acts of parliament of 1832 and 1844. (fn. 7) Thus the diocese was to consist of Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

In contrast to Ely and Norwich, the cathedral clergy of Worcester came overwhelmingly from Oxford University. The link with this university was further strengthened when one of the prebends was annexed by Charles I to the Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity. Like the University of Oxford, the city of Worcester ('the faithful city') and the cathedral chapter were staunchly royalist.

The upheavals of the Reformation were reflected in a spate of deprivations at the accessions of Mary and Elizabeth: early in Mary's reign the bishop and dean of Worcester were removed, and soon after Elizabeth's accession the bishop, dean and five canons lost their offices. During the Interregnum, the bishop, dean dean and seven of the canons died, leaving only three canons to resume chapter business in 1660. In 1690, the single non-Juror was the dean.

The act of 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113 reduced the number of prebends from ten to four, and the requisite number was reached by 1854. The prebends which remained were the third, fifth, eighth and ninth, and they have continued to be called by these names. The Lady Margaret Professorship of Divinity, previously annexed to the sixth prebend, was annexed instead to a prebend of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1840.

John Le Neve, in his Fasti of 1715, listed only the bishops, deans and archdeacons of Worcester. T.D. Hardy, in his revision of 1854, added canons, copying almost word-for-word the lists given in Brown Willis's Survey of Cathedrals (1742), and thereafter apparently deriving his information from his customary Public Record Office sources, although he gives no references. Sources of information for the present work have presented no great difficulties. Grants by the Crown to the prebends can normally be found in the patent rolls and the London Gazette. The virtually complete series of bishops' registers provides details of institutions and collations, although some are not recorded in the sixteenth century. Chapter acts books are lacking for this century, though this lack is partially remedied by eighteenth-century copies of now-missing volumes and a few extant portions of chapter minutes. In any case, installations are seldom recorded in the chapter acts, but the subscription book, covering most of the seventeenth century, is valuable here, as men subscribed to the oaths before installation. Details of installations circa 1546-1626 were apparently available to Thomas Abingdon, whose book The Antiquities of the Cathedral Church of Worcester was published in 1717, and have since been lost. As the dates he gives prove correct when they can be verified, it seems probable that the others are accurate also. Various other facts have been gathered from the wealth of chapter muniments of all kinds, which have been thoroughly catalogued in the Cathedral Library. Details of death or burial have been found in the usual variety of national and local printed and manuscript sources.


  • 1. L. & P. XVII no. 71 (28, 29).
  • 2. Taxatio P. Nicholai IV (1802), pp. 216-25; Valor Ecclesiasticus (1810-34) II 491-2, III 49, VI 67; Victoria History of the County of Worcester II (1906) 89-92; V.C.H. Glos. II (1907) 48-9; V.C.H. Warwicks. II (1908) 50; V.C.H. Staffs. III (1970) 92; V.C.H. Salop II (1973) 1.
  • 3. L. & P. XVI no. 1226 (2).
  • 4. C.P.R. 1550-3 p. 225-6,231. However, the king presented as usual to a vacant prebend in 1553 (C.P.R. 1553 p. 201).
  • 5. C.P.R. 1553-4 p. 329; C.P.R. 1554-5 p. 172; C.P.R. 1560-3 p. 335; C.P.R. 1580-2 no. 132; BA.2648/10 (i) p. 42.
  • 6. 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77; Lond. Gaz. nos. 19460-1, 19465; BA.2648/12 (ii) ff. 30v-32v.
  • 7. 2 & 3 Will. IV c. 64; 7 & 8 Vic. c. 61; V.C.H. Worcs. III 33, 50, 136.