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Winchester, diocese of

Winchester, diocese of. Roughly conterminous with west and central Hampshire and the Channel Islands, Winchester is the fifth senior see after Canterbury, York, London, and Durham, and with them its bishop always has a seat in the House of Lords. The first signs of a bishopric were in c.660, when Cenwalh appointed Wine as bishop, but there was no regular bishopric until the West Saxon see was moved there from Dorchester in c.663. In 705 the diocese was divided, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, the Isle of Wight staying under Winchester, the remainder west of Selwood going to the new see of Sherborne. In c.909 Edward the Elder further reduced it to Hampshire and Surrey by removing Berkshire and Wiltshire for the new diocese of Ramsbury. Though it was marginally enlarged by the addition of the Channel Islands from Salisbury in 1499, the bishopric was further diminished by the creation of the Guildford and Portsmouth dioceses in 1927. The hegemony of Wessex from Egbert's reign onwards increased the see's importance, and in the 11th cent. Winchester became the national capital. Significant bishops include Swithin (852–62), Egbert's adviser; Æthelwold (963–84), the monastic reformer who replaced Winchester's secular canons with monks; William Giffard (1107–29), a Benedictine, the first of nine post-Conquest Winchester bishops to be chancellors of England; Henry of Blois (1129–71), Stephen's brother and papal legate. In c.1142 Henry even requested metropolitan status for Winchester. Others include Peter des Roches (1205–38), a Poitevin, guardian in Henry III's minority; William of Wykeham (1367–1404), founder of New College, Oxford, and Winchester College; Cardinal Beaufort (1404–47), Henry IV's half brother; Stephen Gardiner (1531–51 and 1553–5), chancellor under Mary; Lancelot Andrewes (1619–26), scholar and preacher; and Samuel Wilberforce (1869–73). The present cathedral, the longest in Europe (556 feet), begun in 1079 under Walkelin (1070–98), is still basically Norman with Early English and Perpendicular additions, and contains the remains of the Saxon kings and a shrine of St Swithin.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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