Bishop of Durham

Bishop of Durham
Paul Butler
Province York
Diocese Durham
Cathedral Durham Cathedral (since 995)
St Mary and St Cuthbert, Chester-le-Street (882–995)
Lindisfarne (635–875)
First incumbent Aidan
Aldhun (first Bishop of Durham)
Formation 635 (at Lindisfanre)
995 (translation to Durham)
Lord Crew's arms has a Baron's coronet, but as Bishop of Durham he showed an Earl's coronet too

The Bishop of Durham is the Anglican bishop responsible for the Diocese of Durham in the Province of York. The diocese is one of the oldest in England and its bishop is a member of the House of Lords. Paul Butler has been the Bishop of Durham since his election was confirmed at York Minster on 20 January 2014.[1] The previous bishop was Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. The bishop is one of two (the other is the Bishop of Bath and Wells) who escort the sovereign at the coronation.

He is officially styled The Right Reverend Father in God, (Christian Name), by Divine Providence Lord Bishop of Durham, but this full title is rarely used. In signatures, the bishop's family name is replaced by Dunelm, from the Latin name for Durham (the Latinised form of Old English Dunholm). In the past, Bishops of Durham varied their signatures between Dunelm and the French Duresm. Prior to 1836, the Bishop of Durham was a prince-bishop and had significant temporal powers over the Liberty of Durham and later the County Palatine of Durham.

The bishop lived in Durham Castle from its construction in the 11th century. In 1832, Auckland Castle became the official residence of the Bishops of Durham until July 2012 when ownership of the castle was transferred over to the Auckland Castle Trust, a charitable foundation with the aim of beginning a major restoration of the grounds and castle and creating permanent exhibitions on the history of Christianity in Britain and the North East.[2] The bishop continues to have offices in Auckland Castle but no longer resides there.[3]


The Anglo-Saxon dioceses before 925

The Bishop of Lindisfarne is an episcopal title which takes its name after the tidal island of Lindisfarne, which lies just off the northeast coast of Northumberland, England. The title was first used by the Anglo-Saxons between the 7th and 10th centuries. In the reign of Æthelstan (924–939) the bishop was known as the Bishop of Chester-le-Street[4] or the Bishop of the Church of St Cuthbert. According to George Molyneaux, "it was in all probability the greatest landholder between the Tees and the Tyne".[5] It is now used by the Roman Catholic Church for a titular see.

The Anglo-Saxon bishops of Lindisfarne were ordinaries of several early medieval episcopal sees (and dioceses) in Northumbria and pre-Conquest England. The first such see was founded at Lindisfarne in 635 by Saint Aidan.[6]

From the 7th century onwards, in addition to his spiritual authority, the Bishops of Lindisfarne, and then Durham, also acted as the civil ruler of the region as the lord of the liberty of Durham, with local authority equal to that of the king. The bishop appointed all local officials and maintained his own court. After the Norman Conquest, this power was retained by the bishop and was eventually recognised with the designation of the region as the County Palatine of Durham. As holder of this office, the bishop was titled a prince-bishop and considered the equivalent of an earl. Except for a brief period of suppression during the Glorious Revolution, the bishopric retained this temporal power until it was abolished by the Durham (County Palatine) Act 1836.

List of bishops

Early Medieval bishops

Bishops of Lindisfarne
From Until Incumbent Notes
635 651 Aidan Saint Aidan.
651 661 Finan Saint Finan.
661 664 Colmán Saint Colmán.
664 Tuda Saint Tuda.
In 664 the diocese was merged to York by Wilfrid (who succeeded Tuda following his death), leaving one large diocese in the large northern Kingdom of Northumbria.
The diocese was reinstated in 678 by Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury following Wilfrid's banishment from Northumbria by King King Ecgfrith. Its new seat was initially (at least in part) at Hexham (until a new diocese was created there in 680).
678 685 Eata of Hexham Saint Eata.
685 687 Cuthbert Saint Cuthbert.
688 698 Eadberht Saint Eadberht.
698 721 Eadfrith Saint Eadfrith.
721 740 Æthelwold Saint Æthelwold.
740 780 Cynewulf
780 803 Higbald
803 821 Egbert
821 830 Egfrid
830 845 Ecgred
845 854 Eanbert
854 875 Eardulf
The monks of Lindisfarne fled from the Danes in 875 along with the ancient remains of Saint Cuthbert and there was no seat of the Bishop of Lindisfarne for seven years. In 882 Eardulf and his monks settled in Chester-le-Street, sometimes known as Cuncacestre, and the seat of the Bishop and diocese of Lindisfarne was based there until 995.
Bishops of Lindisfarne (at Chester-le-Street)
From Until Incumbent Notes
882 900 Eardulf
900 915 Cutheard
915 928 Tilred
928 944 Wilgred
944 947 Uchtred
947 Sexhelm
947 968 Aldred
968 990 Ælfsige Called "Bishop of St Cuthbert".
990 995 Aldhun Moved the see & diocese to Durham.
In 995, the King had paid the Danegeld to the Danish and Norwegian Kings and peace was restored. Aldhun was on his way to reestablish the see at Lindisfarne when he received a divine vision that the body of St Cuthbert should be laid to rest in Durham. The see and diocese of Lindisfarne was moved to Durham and the bishop's title became Bishop of Durham.
Bishops of Durham
From Until Incumbent Notes
995 1018 Aldhun previously Bishop of Lindisfarne.
1021 1041 Edmund
1041 1042 Eadred
1042 1056 Æthelric
1056 1071 Æthelwine

Pre-Reformation prince-bishops

Bishops of Durham
From Until Incumbent Notes
1071 1080 William Walcher
1081 1096 William de St-Calais
1099 1128 Ranulf Flambard
1133 1140 Geoffrey Rufus
1141 1143 William Cumin
1143 1153 William of St. Barbara
1153 1195 Hugh de Puiset
1197 1208 Philip of Poitou
1209 1213 Richard Poore Election quashed by Pope Innocent III (who was quarrelling with King John); later elected and consecrated.
1214 1214 John de Gray Died before consecration.
1215 1215 Morgan Election quashed.
1217 1226 Richard Marsh
1226 1227 William Scot Election quashed.
1229 1237 Richard Poore Translated from Salisbury.
1237 1240 Thomas de Melsonby Resigned before consecration.
1241 1249 Nicholas Farnham
1249 1260 Walter of Kirkham
1260 1274 Robert Stitchill
1274 1283 Robert of Holy Island
1284 1310 Antony Bek Also Titular Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1306 to 1311 (the only English person ever to hold this post).
1311 1316 Richard Kellaw
1318 1333 Lewis de Beaumont
1333 1345 Richard de Bury
1345 1381 Thomas Hatfield
1382 1388 John Fordham Translated to Ely.
1388 1406 Walter Skirlaw Translated from Bath & Wells.
1406 1437 Thomas Langley
1437 1457 Robert Neville Translated from Salisbury
1457 1476 Lawrence Booth Translated to York.
1476 1483 William Dudley
1484 1494 John Sherwood
1494 1501 Richard Foxe Translated from Bath & Wells, later translated to Winchester.
1502 1505 William Senhouse Translated from Carlisle.
1507 1508 Christopher Bainbridge Translated to York.
1509 1523 Thomas Ruthall
1523 1529 Thomas Wolsey Archbishop of York. Held Durham in commendam.
1530 1559 Cuthbert Tunstall Translated from London.

Post-Reformation prince-bishops

Bishops of Durham
From Until Incumbent Notes
1530 1559 Cuthbert Tunstall
1561 1576 James Pilkington
1577 1587 Richard Barnes Translated from Carlisle.
1589 1595 Matthew Hutton Translated to York.
1595 1606 Tobias Matthew Translated to York.
1606 1617 William James
1617 1627 Richard Neile Translated from Lincoln, later translated to Winchester.
1627 1628 George Montaigne Translated from London, later translated to York.
1628 1632 John Howson Translated from Oxford
1632 1659 Thomas Morton Translated from Lichfield.
1660 1672 John Cosin
1674 1722 Nathaniel Crew Translated from Oxford.
1722 1730 William Talbot Translated from Salisbury.
1730 1750 Edward Chandler Translated from Lichfield.
1750 1752 Joseph Butler Translated from Bristol.
1752 1771 Richard Trevor Translated from St David's.
1771 1787 John Egerton Translated from Lichfield.
1787 1791 Thomas Thurlow Translated from Lincoln.
1791 1826 Shute Barrington Translated from Salisbury.
1826 1836 William Van Mildert Translated from Llandaff.

Late modern bishops (since 1836)

Bishops of Durham
From Until Incumbent Notes
1836 1856 Edward Maltby Translated from Chichester.
1856 1860 Charles Longley Translated from Ripon, later translated to York, then to Canterbury.
1860 1861 Henry Villiers Translated from Carlisle.
1861 1879 Charles Baring Translated from Gloucester and Bristol.
1879 1889 Joseph Lightfoot Previously Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity.
1890 1901 Brooke Westcott Previously Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.
1901 1920 Handley Moule Previously Norrisian Professor of Divinity.
1920 1939 Hensley Henson Translated from Hereford.
1939 1952 Alwyn Williams Translated to Winchester.
1952 1956 Michael Ramsey Translated to York, then to Canterbury.
1956 1966 Maurice Harland Translated from Lincoln.
1966 1972 Ian Ramsey Previously Nolloth Professor in the Philosophy of Christian Religion at Oxford University.
1973 1983 John Habgood Translated to York.
1984 1994 David Jenkins Previously Professor of Theology University of Leeds
1994 2003 Michael Turnbull Translated from Rochester
2003 2010 Tom Wright Previously Dean of Lichfield; returned to academia.
2011 2013 Justin Welby Translated to Canterbury.[9]
2014 incumbent Paul Butler Previously Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.[10]


  1. Archbishop of York – Bishop of Durham Election Confirmed (Accessed 20 January 2014)
  2. "Positive Developments at Auckland Castle". Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  3. "Our Plans". Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
  4. Keynes, Atlas, Table XXXVII
  5. Molyneaux 2015, p. 30.
  6. Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ancient Diocese and Monastery of Lindisfarne". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
  7. Fryde et al. 2003, pp. 214–215 and 219.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Historical successions: Durham (including precussor offices)". Crockford's Clerical Directory. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  9. Diocese of Durham – New Bishop Announced
  10. "Election of Paul Butler as 74th Bishop of Durham confirmed in service". Retrieved 20 January 2014.


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I., eds. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd, reprinted 2003 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  • Keynes, Simon. "Table XXXVII: Attestations of ecclesiastics during the reign of King Æthelstan" (PDF). Kemble: The Anglo-Saxon Charters Website. 
  • Molyneaux, George (2015). The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-871791-1. 
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I., eds. (1986). Handbook of British Chronology (3rd, reprinted 2003 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 216, 241–243. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
  • Greenway, D. E. (1971). "Bishops of Durham". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces). British History Online. pp. 29–32. 
  • Jones, B. (1963). "Bishops of Durham". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300–1541: Volume 6: Northern Province (York, Carlise and Durham). British History Online. pp. 107–109. 
  • Horn, J. M.; Smith, D. M.; Mussett, P. (2004). "Bishops of Durham". Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857: Volume 11: Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses. British History Online. pp. 73–77. 

External links

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