Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Eighty Years of Leicester Diocese

The Diocese of Leicester is this year celebrating eighty years since being refounded.

Leicester became the seat of a Bishop in 664. It is not known for certain where the Bishop’s headquarters would have been – certainly we should not be looking for a Gothic cathedral. There are a number of candidates, but I believe it was St. Nicholas Church, which has a number of Anglo-Saxon features.

One of the Bishops was the famous St. Wilfrid, who built the surviving crypts at Hexham and Ripon, led the victorious side at the Synod of Whitby, and converted the Kingdom of Sussex to Christianity. He showed up in Leicester after one of his rows led to another exile.

Around 870, at the height of the invasions by the then fiercely anti-Christian Danes, the Bishop understandably fled, and the headquarters of the Diocese moved to Dorchester on the River Thames.

It was over a thousand years before Leicester again had its own Bishop.

St. Martin’s Church became Leicester Cathedral on 16th November 1926. The diocese was formed from part of the See of Peterborough. The first Bishop was Cyril Bardsley, who up until then had been Bishop of Peterborough.

Tom Butler, now Bishop of Southwark, was Leicester’s Bishop from 1991 to 1999, and he was succeeded by Tim Stevens, an Essex man who was once Team Rector on Canvey Island and came to Leicester from his appointment as Bishop of Dunwich in Suffolk.

Celebrate 80 is an ongoing festival, running more or less throughout the year, reflecting the Church of today and its work in harmony with other faith communities, partners in city and county and voluntary organisations.

A splendid brochure has been produced in conjunction with the festival.

The really big event of the year, which the Diocese hopes will be attended by many thousands, is the Big Day Out in Leicester’s lovely Abbey Park, beside the River Soar, on Saturday 3rd June. This will be attended by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.