A short history of the Diocese

The Diocese, historically the county of Somerset, was created when the Diocese of Sherborne, itself once part of Winchester, was divided about 909. At first the Bishops made the old Minster at Wells their cathedral, but about 1090 the then Bishop, largely for political reasons, moved to Bath where he set up his see in the Abbey there. He and his immediate successors were known as the Bishops of Bath.

In 1197, when Wells was being rebuilt, Bishop Savaric took over the vacant Abbey of Glastonbury and with it the title Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury. His successor Jocelin also used the title until 1217 but then reverted to Bath alone, though he seems to have preferred Wells. In 1245 the next Bishop adopted the title of Bath and Wells. The monks of Bath continued to be nominally involved in the appointment of later bishops with the canons of Wells until the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.

The Diocese was divided between the archdeaconries of Glastonbury, Bath, Wells and Taunton in the Middle Ages and the last three after 1539. The rural deaneries were often based on the ancient minsters of the area.

Suffragan Bishops of Taunton have served between 1538 and 1559 and again from 1911. Earlier, Bishops from Wales, Ireland or with titles from the Middle East and elsewhere assisted absent diocesans. Retired Colonial Bishops helped from the mid 19th century.

The Diocese gave up parishes to Bristol in 1541 and 1845, and to other neighbours in the 19th and 20th centuries as Somerset changed its own boundaries.


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