Archaeological and documentary evidence suggest that Christianity arrived in Britain before the third century. However, the first mention of a Bishop of London is not until the early fourth century and it is not until the seventh century that the record begins to appear complete. The present Bishop is believed to be the 132nd occupant of the See. This article provides as complete a list as possible with one 119 named bishops, 118 of them in an unbroken sequence from AD 604.
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The Bishops of London
by Bill McCann
Exactly when the first Christian Bishop of London was anointed is not known with any accuracy. That Christianity arrived in Britain at a surprisingly early date is suggested by the martyrdom of St Alban (either 208-9 or 251-59). The first reference to a Bishop of London is in 314 when Eborius of York, Restitutus of London and Adelphius of Lincoln (or possibly Colchester) attended the Council of Arles. In 480, the biographer of Germanus claimed that the Catholic faith was the only one in Britain.
The record becomes more substantial after the arrival of Augustine in 596 and it is possible to compile a more or less accurate list from Mellitus in the early seventh century to the present (2002) incumbent Richard Chartres. There were two periods when the See is known to have been vacant. The first arose when Mellitus, was forced to flee into Kent. The second was during the Commonwealth (1649-1660).
The Bishops are listed here according to the Dynasties or Royal Houses under which they served. This is purely a matter of editorial convenience which breaks up a rather long list but also facilitates comparison with the Regnal Lists of the English Monarchs. The numbering of the Bishops is not without its problems. The present incumbent is officially described as the 132nd Bishop of London and the following list is based on that as the reference point. In the sixteenth century Bishop Bonner was deposed by Edward VI and replaced by Nicholas Ridley but restored by Mary Tudor. He two periods of office are not counted separately here.
[This reminds us that England did not become truly Protestant until well into the reign of Elizabeth I, and that consequently, the vast majority of the men listed here were (Roman) Catholic Bishops. A point which somehow seems unacknowledged (or even unknown) in modern Britain with its latent anti-Catholicism. This does raise the question of the Catholic Archbishops of Westminster since the sixteenth century and their historical relationship to the pre-Henrician bishops. A question which will be explored in a separate article.]