Rochester, diocese of

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Rochester, diocese of. Now comprising west Kent, Rochester is the second oldest English see, founded by King Æthelbert of Kent in 604, with Justus as first bishop. Paulinus, the former missionary to Northumbria, expelled in 632, was bishop of Rochester (635–44). Despite its vulnerability to the 9th-cent. Danish invasions, it survived intact. The diocese consisted only of west Kent until the addition of Essex and most of Hertfordshire from London in 1845; this proved unsuccessful and they were removed to form the St Albans diocese in 1877. In compensation Rochester was given eastern and mid-Surrey from Winchester, which proved equally unsuccessful. In 1905 the Surrey area was taken to form part of the new Southwark diocese (1905). The medieval bishopric had a small population compared with those of the midlands and north, but in the 19th and 20th cents. it became densely inhabited. Distinguished bishops include John Fisher (1504–35), executed with Thomas More for refusing to recognize Henry VIII's supremacy and later canonized. A noted 18th-cent. bishop was Francis Atterbury (1713–23), deprived of his bishopric for Jacobite sympathies. The cathedral, alongside the 12th-cent. castle, has an impressive late Norman nave, completed in 1130 with additions (1179–1240).

Revd Dr William M. Marshall