The Winchester Diocese

The Winchester Diocese led by the Bishop of Winchester is one of the oldest and largest in England, with more than 300 parishes. Over 700 clergy and lay ministers work to care spiritually and practically for all those who live in their local area, supporting church members and anyone who needs their help.

What is the Diocese of Winchester?

England has 43 dioceses (geographical areas under the care of a bishop), each with its own bishop and cathedral. Their role is to provide vision, teaching and administrative support for their local parishes.

The Winchester Diocese is one of the largest in England. With 390 churches and 312 parishes grouped into 15 deaneries, it covers most of Hampshire, east Dorset and the Channel Islands.

It’s also one of the oldest. Founded in the 7th century, when Christianity first came to England, the diocese once covered a West Saxon kingdom that stretched from Surrey to Cornwall.

What do the parishes do?

The parishes are ancient local areas that lie at the heart of England and its established church.

Over half of the 312 parishes in the Diocese of Winchester are rural, and all of them unique. Each has its own special history, local community and needs.

Across the Diocese, some 250 clergy and 350 lay ministers provide spiritual and practical care to all their parishioners, whether church-goers or not.

Many parish priests also care for ancient, fragile churches, and are responsible for several parishes. Some work with the support of a team including lay people.

What does the Bishop do?

The Diocese of Winchester is led by the Bishop of Winchester, who stands in an unbroken line of bishops stretching back over 12 centuries.

He is responsible for spiritual welfare of the people in his Diocese and the clergy who work with them. He also carries national and international responsibilities, and is supported by the Suffragan Bishops of Southampton and Basingstoke.

He has his seat, the ornate chair (‘cathedra’) from which bishops traditionally addressed their people, in Winchester Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese.

The Cathedral hosts a range of diocesan and county-wide events. Many of the helpers in its restaurant, the Refectory, are volunteers from local parishes.

What does the Diocesan Office do?

It works to support its local parishes by:

  • Training clergy and laity and keeping them up to date with theology
  • Offering parishes practical help with, for example, financial management
  • Supporting parishes to run a wide range of local, community-based social projects
  • Working with 84 church schools educating some 20 thousand young people
  • Promoting inter-faith and ecumenical working.

Find out more

Learn more about the Diocese of Winchester
Visit the Diocese of Winchester website