On the names of Bishops

The Names of Bishops (Silly Season post 1)

Tim Stibbs, Warden of Dalton Ellis Hall, tells the story of how, when he first arrived in Manchester, the Rector of St Chrysostom’s was James Wardle Harpur, and the churchwardens were David Percival Smith and Simon Tatton Brown. Goodness, he thought, to hold office in that church you must have to have a double barreled name!

I was reminded of this while reading the witty novel of the 1930’s High Rising by Angela Thirkell. Amy, is talking to her friend Laura about bishops, and says:

“Have you noticed another thing about the higher clergy, Laura? They always have suitable Christian names. The guardian angel of the Church of England makes men who are going to be bishops be christened Talbot Devereux, or Cyril Cyprian, and then, of course, they are bound to rise.”

Times and fashions change, and current Church of England bishops don’t quite seem to have Christian names of the form Amy has in mind. But did they really have such names in the 1930’s?

(From L to R) Bishops, St Clair, Albert, James, Herbert, St John and Frederick

(From L to R) Bishops, St Clair, Albert, James, Herbert, St John and Frederick

Let’s see, and judge for ourselves. Here are the first names of a randomly chosen set of ten diocesan bishops at the time Angela Thirkell’s book was first published (1933)

St Clair George Alfred (Bishop Donaldson of Salisbury), Herbert Hensley (Bishop Henson of Durham), Frederick Cyril Nugent (Bishop Hicks of Lincoln), Bertram (Bishop Pollock of Norwich), Albert Augustus (Bishop David of Liverpool), Cyril Forster (Bishop Garbett of Winchester), George Kennedy Allen (Bishop Bell of Chichester), St John Basil Wynne (Bishop Wilson of Bath and Wells), Frederick Sumpter Guy (Bishop Warman of Manchester), James Buchanan (Bishop Seaton of Wakefield – great uncle of the current worthy organist of St Chrysostom’s).

One can’t help thinking dear Amy had a point…

Fr Ian


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2364267899/
This entry was posted in Anglican, Christian and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to On the names of Bishops

  1. Tim Stibbs says:

    An amusing addition to this theme. Anglican Bishops sign with the name of their diocese rather than a surname. In 1933 the Church of Canada created a huge diocese covering the whole of Northern Canada and called it ‘Diocese of the Arctic’, appointing Archibald Lang Fleming as its first Bishop.Thus he signed himself ‘Archibald The Arctic.’ It has something of a ring about it..


  2. Richard Williams says:

    You missed out one of the best, Cosmo Gordon Laing. Don’t think I’ve ever baptised a Cosmo!

    • Do the names not rather reflect (a) changing fashions in names, and (b) changes in the strata of society providing clergy to the CofE?
      [A reflection on (a): my grand-dr picked up a notifiable rural infection at 12mos; because of her name the local DC assumed she was 101yrs rather than 1yr old]

    • Fr Derek says:

      He was Lang not Laing. Cosmo is enough of an affectation, I think!

  3. Ian says:

    So what name should one have in order to become a bishop nowadays (or, maybe more to the point, avoid it)?

  4. Karen D Powers says:

    We gave our son four names (Andrew Kenneth Thomas Powers) hoping it would look good on a bishop or attorney. Barely goes to church now and married the daughter of an attorney. Oh, well. Have never regretted the names.
    As an aside, a Southern Baptist preacher friend expanded our newborn son’s appellation to Andrew Kenneth Thomas Aloysius Peter Patrick Powers.
    Imagine her shock when our future daughter-in-law called one day and said, “Drew told me something strange about his name. He said to call you and ask. What is his FULL name?”
    Playing along I then rattled off, “Andrew Kenneth Thomas Aloysius Peter Patrick Powers.” I think she was strongly considering whether or not she really wanted to become Mrs. Andrew Kenneth Thomas Aloysius Peter Patrick Powers.

  5. David Emmott says:

    The bishop who ordained me was Clement George St Michael Parker (Bishop of Bradford); he dropped the ‘Saint’ in his signature which was simply +Michael Bradford.

  6. Fr John Joyce says:

    We should remember that it was actually the Reverend Canon Sir (George) Percy Maryon Maryon-Wilson, 12th Baronet Similarly, The Reverend Sir (Arthur) Patrick Ferguson-Davie, 5th Baronet of Creedy Park, Devon chaplain to Robert Mortimer, Bishop of Exeter and liturgical adviser to the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

  7. A lovely comment from Bishop Nigel Simeon McCulloch, former Bishop of Manchester, writes:

    “As a modest addition to your fascinating list, it is clear that my name, Nigel, was a non-starter for bishops for many centuries. The last bishop known as Nigel, until I was consecrated, was the 12th century Bishop of Ely. Whatever did he do that put the church off appointing Nigels for so long?!
    There have been other Bishop Nigels since I was consecrated, but not, I think, a Nigel Simeon. Useless information to add to your intriguing survey!”

  8. Austin Cooke says:

    I have just seen Tim Stibbs’ post of a few years ago. It is even better: Bishop Fleming’s 1856 autobiography was entitled with his signature– Archibald the Arctic. However, Bishop Tom Greenwood of the Yukon signed himself Thomas Yukon. The former (bankrupted) Diocese of the Cariboo became a temporary jurisdiction called Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior until it was reconstituted as “The Territory of the People,” governed by a suffragan to the metropolitan, and I am anxious to see how the bishop signs herself.

  9. And our attention has kindly been drawn to an appropriate name which is also a case of ‘Nominative Determinism’

    Clifford Leofric Purdy Bishop was the Suffragan Bishop of Malmesbury from 1962 until 1973

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.