Oxford, diocese of

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Oxford, diocese of. The see, now conterminous with Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire, was carved out of the vast Lincoln diocese by Henry VIII in 1542. Originally planned as the see of Osney and Thame with the cathedral at Osney, it was refounded in 1546 as the see of Oxford. The last abbot of Osney, Robert King, was the first bishop. Because initially the diocese was small, consisting only of Oxfordshire, and relatively poor, most late 17th- and 18th-cent. bishops were eager for preferment elsewhere. They were thus easy prey to politicians, keen to manipulate episcopal patronage. In 1845, however, the see was greatly enlarged by the addition of Berkshire (from Salisbury) and Buckinghamshire (from Lincoln). Some Oxford bishops were, nevertheless, notable: John Fell (1675–86), also renowned in the university as dean of Christ Church; John Potter (1715–37) and Thomas Secker (1737–58), both future archbishops; Richard Bagot (1829–45), who had to cope with the complexities of the tractarian movement; and Samuel Wilberforce (1845–70), a great administrator and pioneer in modern standards of episcopal life and work. Other distinguished bishops were William Stubbs (1889–1901), the historian, and Charles Gore (1911–19), the Anglo-catholic leader, previously the first bishop of Birmingham. The cathedral, formerly St Frideswide's Augustinian priory church (1158–85), in Norman style with a 15th-cent. choir vault, is an integral part of Christ Church college.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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