Bishop of Exeter: Wikis


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Bishop of Exeter
Michael Langrish

Province: Canterbury
Diocese: Exeter
Cathedral: Exeter Cathedral
First Bishop: Leofric
Formation: 1050

The Bishop of Exeter is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Exeter in the Province of Canterbury.[1] The incumbent usually signs his name as Exon or incorporates this in his signature.

From the first bishop until the 16th century they were in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. During the Reformation the church in England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church, at first temporarily and later more permanently. Since the Reformation, the Bishop and Diocese of Exeter has been part of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The current bishop is the Right Reverend Michael Laurence Langrish, the 70th Lord Bishop of Exeter, who signs Michael Exon.



The history of Christianity in the South West of England remains to some degree obscure. At a certain point the historical county of Devon formed part of the diocese of Wessex. About 703 Devon and Cornwall were included in the separate Diocese of Sherborne and in 900 this was again divided, the Devon bishop having from 905 his seat at Tawton (now Bishop's Tawton) and from 912 at Crediton, birthplace of St Boniface. Lyfing became Bishop of Crediton in 1027 and shortly afterwards became Bishop of Cornwall.

The two dioceses of Crediton and Cornwall, covering Devon and Cornwall, were permanently united under Edward the Confessor by Lyfing's successor Bishop Leofric, hitherto Bishop of Crediton, who became first Bishop of Exeter under Edward the Confessor, which was established as his cathedral city in 1050. At first the abbey church of St Mary and St Peter, founded by Athelstan in 932 and rebuilt in 1019, served as the cathedral.



The present cathedral was begun by Bishop William de Warelhurst in 1112, the transept towers he built being the only surviving part of the Norman building, which was completed by Bishop Marshall at the close of the twelfth century. The cathedral is dedicated to St Peter.

As it now stands, the cathedral is in the decorated style. It was begun by Bishop Quivil (1280-1291), continued by Bishops Bytton and Stapeldon, and completed, much as it has since remained, by Bishop Grandisson during his long pontificate of 42 years.

In many respects Exeter cathedral resembles those of France rather than others found in England. Its special features are the transept towers and the choir, containing much early stained glass. There is also an episcopal throne, separated from the nave by a choir screen (1324) and a stately West front. In a comparison with certain other English cathedrals, it is perhaps disadvantaged by the absence of a central tower and a general lack of elevation, but it is undoubtedly very fine.


The bishops of Exeter, like the general population of the diocese, always enjoyed considerable independence, and the see was one of the largest and richest in England. The remoteness of the see from London prevented it from being bestowed on statesmen or courtiers, so that over the centuries the roll of bishops possessed more capable scholars and administrators than in many other sees. The result was a long and stable line of bishops, leading to active Christian observance in the area.

The diocese contained 604 parishes grouped in four archdeaconries: Cornwall, Barnstaple, Exeter, and Totton. There were Benedictine, Augustinian, Premonstratensian, Franciscan and Dominican houses, and four Cistercian abbeys.

Modern history

This wealthy diocese was forced to cede land during the reign of Henry VIII, when Bishop Vesey was obliged to surrender fourteen out of twenty-two manors, and the value of the see was reduced to a third of what it formerly was. Vesey, despite his Catholic sympathies, held the see until 1551, when he finally had to resign, and was replaced by the Bible translator Miles Coverdale. Following the accession of Mary, in 1553, Vesey was restored, but died soon after in 1554. He was succeeded by James Turberville, the last Catholic Bishop of Exeter. Turberville was removed from the see by the Protestant Elizabeth I in 1559, and died in prison, probably in or about 1570.

Henry Phillpotts served as Lord Bishop of Exeter from 1830 to his death in office in 1869. He was England's longest serving bishop since the 14th century. The diocese was divided in 1876 along the border of Devon and Cornwall, creating the Diocese of Truro (but five parishes which were at the time in Devon were included in this diocese as they had always been within the Archdeaconry of Cornwall). The diocese covers the County of Devon. The see is in the City of Exeter where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter which was founded as an abbey possibly before 690. The current bishop is the Right Reverend Michael Laurence Langrish, the 70th Lord Bishop of Exeter, who signs Michael Exon.

List of bishops

Pre-Reformation bishops

List of pre-Reformation Bishops of Exeter [2][3]
No. Incumbent From Until Notes
1 Leofric 1050 1072 The first bishop who had transferred the sees of Crediton and Cornwall to Exeter
2 Osbern FitzOsbern 1072 1103
3 William Warelwast 1107 1138
4 Robert Warelwast 1138 1155
5 Robert II of Chichester 1155 1160
6 Bartholomew 1161 1184
7 John the Chanter 1186 1191
8 Henry Marshal 1194 1206
9 Simon of Apulia 1214 1223
10 William Brewer 1224 1244 also known as William Briwere
11 Richard Blund 1245 1257 also known as Richard Blundy
12 Walter Branscombe 1258 1280 also known as Walter Bronescombe
13 Peter Quinel 1280 1291 also known as Peter Quivel
14 Thomas Bitton 1291 1307 also known as Thomas de Bytton
15 Walter Stapledon 1308 1326
16 James Berkeley 1326 1327
17 John Godeley 1327 1327 also known as John Godele
18 John Grandisson 1327 1369
19 Thomas Brantingham 1370 1394 also known as Thomas Brantyngham
20 Edmund Stafford 1395 1419
21 John Catterick 1419 Translated from Lichfield; also known as John Ketterick
22 Edmund Lacey 1420 1455 Translated from Hereford; also known as Edmund Lacy
John Hales 1455 1456 resigned before consecration
23 George Neville 1458 1465 Translated to York
24 John Booth 1465 1478
25 Peter Courtenay 1478 1487 Translated to Winchester
26 Richard Fox 1487 1492 Translated to Bath and Wells
27 Oliver King 1493 1495 Translated to Bath and Wells
28 Richard Redman 1496 1502 Translated from St Asaph; later translated to Ely
29 John Arundel 1502 1504 Translated from Lichfield
30 Hugh Oldham 1505 1519
31 John Vesey (resigned) 1519 1551

Post-Reformation bishops

List of post-Reformation Bishops of Exeter [2]
No. Incumbent From Until Notes
32 Myles Coverdale 1551 1553
(31) John Vesey (restored) 1553 1555
33 James Turberville 1555 1560
34 William Alleyn 1560 1571 also known as William Alley
35 William Bradbridge 1571 1578
36 John Woolton 1579 1594
37 Gervase Babington 1595 1597 Translated to Worcester
38 William Cotton 1598 1621
39 Valentine Carey 1621 1626
40 Joseph Hall 1627 1641 Translated to Norwich
41 Ralph Brownrigg 1642 1659
42 John Gauden 1660 1662 Translated to Worcester
43 Seth Ward 1662 1667 Translated to Salisbury
44 Anthony Sparrow 1667 1676 Translated to Norwich
45 Thomas Lamplugh 1676 1688 Translated to York
46 Jonathan Trelawney 1689 1707 Translated from Bristol; later translated to Winchester
47 Offspring Blackall 1708 1716
48 Lancelot Blackburne 1717 1724 Translated to York
49 Stephen Weston 1724 1742
50 Nicholas Claget 1742 1746 Translated from St David's
51 George Lavington 1747 1762
52 Frederick Keppel 1762 1777
53 John Ross 1778 1792
54 William Buller 1792 1796
55 Henry Reginald Courtenay 1797 1803 Translated from Bristol
56 John Fisher 1803 1807 Translated to Salisbury
57 George Pelham 1807 1820 Translated from Bristol; later translated to Lincoln
58 William Carey 1820 1830 Translated to St Asaph
59 Christopher Bethell 1830 1830 Translated from Gloucester; later translated to Bangor
60 Henry Phillpotts 1831 1869
61 Frederick Temple 1869 1885 Translated to London
62 Edward Henry Bickersteth 1885 1900
63 Herbert Edward Ryle 1901 1903 Translated to Winchester
64 Archibald Robertson 1903 1916
65 Rupert Ernest William Gascoyne Cecil 1916 1936
66 Charles Edward Curzon 1936 1948 Translated from Stepney
67 Robert Cecil Mortimer 1949 1973
68 Eric Arthur John Mercer 1973 1985 Translated from Birkenhead
69 Geoffrey Hewlett Thompson 1985 1999 Translated from Willesden
70 Michael Laurence Langrish 1999 present

See also


  1. ^ Crockford's Clerical Directory, 100th edition, (2007), Church House Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7151-1030-0.
  2. ^ a b Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (Third Edition, revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 246–248. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.  
  3. ^ Bishops of Exeter 1300-1541. Retrieved on 16 February 2009.


  • Some text adapted from Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1908.


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