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Bristol, diocese of

Bristol, diocese of. The see, founded in 1542 by Henry VIII, is now roughly conterminous with the city of Bristol, but at first included all Dorset, taken from the Salisbury diocese. It incurred Archbishop Laud's displeasure in the 17th cent. for its puritan ethos and lax discipline. As one of the poorest dioceses, from which bishops wanted rapid preferment, Bristol proved a useful tool for 18th-cent. managers of political patronage. Its poverty, and the need to create the Ripon and Manchester dioceses without increasing the total bench of bishops, led to its brief union with the Gloucester diocese in 1836. Dorset returned to Salisbury, though Bristol retained a number of north Wiltshire parishes. Rising population made this merger clearly undesirable, and the bishopric had its independence restored by an Act of 1884. The first 32 women priests of the Church of England were ordained here in 1994. The cathedral is the former St Augustine's abbey, dissolved at the Reformation and rededicated to the Holy Trinity. The 13th-cent. choir remains, and there is a fine Norman chapter house.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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