Officials: Bird, John


First bishop of Chester, deprived by Queen Mary. Little concerned with the work of the Consistory Court.

JOHN BIRD (BYRD/BYRDE), bishop of Chester, (c. 1477-1558)

Qualifications:    Master of Arts, 1506; Bachelor of Divinity, 1512; Doctor of Divinity, 1514

CCEd person ID 31015

Career: Carmelite friar until the dissolution, attended Oxford University as a Carmelite; elected Provincial (in charge of pastoral supervision and oversight) of the British Province of the order in 1516 until 1519 and again from 1522 until 1534 and then 1535 until the dissolution; supporter of the divorce of Henry VIII he wrote a treatise on the matter and preached before the king at Easter 1537; in 1537 he was appointed suffragan bishop of ‘Penreth’ and acted as suffragan for the bishops of Llandaff and Lichfield; bishop of Bangor in 1539; translated to Chester in 1541 on the foundation of the diocese; deprived 1554; vicar of Great Dunmow, Essex, 1554 until his death.

Further notes: He is said to have come from an old Chester family, but this is debateable.

The diocese of Chester was one of the poorest in the country and Bird attempted to enhance his income by various ill-judged property exchanges which left the diocese worse off. He was appointed rector of Mottram in Longdendale in Cheshire by 1548 and Wistaston in Cheshire in 1552, no doubt to increase his income.

In an effort to conserve money he did not appoint an archdeacon of Chester but devolved some of his authority to the rural deans and appointed a chancellor at Chester and a commissary for Richmond.

He had married during his period as bishop, and so was deprived of Chester diocese in March 1554 following the accession of Queen Mary, whose restoration of Catholicism precluded married priests. He renounced his wife, claiming that he had married against his will, and was appointed vicar of Great Dunmow in Essex in 1554 where he died in 1558. While at Great Dunmow he acted as suffragan to Edmund Bonner, bishop of London.

When he was a Carmelite, he was described as ‘pulcherrimus, eruditus, probus, dignissimus’ (very handsome, learned, upright, very worthy). Although by the time he was appointed to Great Dunmow he was ‘well stricken in years’ and had only one eye, rumours in the parish suggested an illicit relationship between him and the young wife of a servant.


Richard Copsey, ‘Bird, John (d. 1558)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition)

Rev. F. Sanders, ‘John Bird, D.D., Bishop of Chester, 1541-1554’, Journal of the Architectural, Archaeological and Historic Society for the county and city of Chester and North Wales, new series, 13 (1907), pp. 110-126.

John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, vol. III, part I, (London, 1822), pp. 218-219.

George Watson, ‘A misappropriated bishop’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 15 (1897–9), pp. 303–308

Officials: Bucksey, Nicholas


Occasionally presided over Chester Consistory Court as commissary


Commissary of George Wilmesley who was official principal of the Chester Consistory Court, occasionally presiding over the court as deputy even following Wilmesley’s removal from office in 1556

Qualifications: Canon Burne gives Bucksey the qualification of M.A. but I have not been able to find any details of an academic career.

Career: Benedictine monk of St Werburgh’s Abbey in Chester; prior of St Werburgh’s until its surrender in January 1540; appointed to the second prebend in the foundation charter of the new cathedral August 1541; treasurer of the cathedral

Further notes: Retained his position in the diocese through the religious changes of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. He continued to preside over the consistory court occasionally until at least March 1561(CALS EDC 1/16, f. 59v) and the appointment of Robert Leche.


R. V. H. Burne, Chester Cathedral from its Founding by Henry VIII to the Accession of Queen Victoria (London, 1958).

 Christopher Haigh, ‘A Mid-Tudor Ecclesiastical Official: the Curious Career of George Wilmesley’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 122 (1971 for 1970), pp. 1-24.

A P Baggs, Ann J Kettle, S J Lander, A T Thacker and David Wardle, ‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Chester’, in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 3, ed. C R Elrington and B E Harris (London, 1980), pp. 132-146. British History Online [accessed 1 January 2023].

‘Henry VIII: August 1541, 21-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 524-537. British History Online [accessed 31 December 2022].

Joyce M Horn, David M Smith and Patrick Mussett, ‘Canons of Chester’, in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 11, Carlisle, Chester, Durham, Manchester, Ripon, and Sodor and Man Dioceses (London, 2004), pp. 50-63. British History Online [accessed 1 January 2023].


Officials: Pewson alias Morgell, John


Scribe and deputy registrar of the court.


Qualifications: Notary Public

By 1580 John Pewson alias Morgell, of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, was acting as deputy Registrar to Randle Cotgreave in the diocese of Chester. He was often deputed when depositions were to be taken away from Chester.

In 1606 a patent was granted by the bishop of Chester to John Morgyll as Registrar for his life and the life of his two sons. John Morgell or Morgan of Moston, near Chester, bought the Manor of Moston in about 1600 and died in 1636. In view of the dates, it seems likely that this John Morgell was the son of John Pewson alias Morgell who seems to have established a dynasty of Registrars of the diocese.

Signature from EDC 5/1580/10


F. R. Raines, (ed.), Notitia Cestriensis, or historical notices of the diocese of Chester, by Right Rev. Francis F.  Gastrell, vol. 1 Cheshire (Chetham Society, old series, 8, 1845).

J. P. Rylands, (ed.), ‘Cheshire and Lancashire Funeral Certificates; A.D. 1600 to 1678’, Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, vol. vi (1882).

Officials: Cotgreave, Randle


Principal Registrar of the diocese


Principal Registrar of the Diocese of Chester






Officials: Chaderton, William


Bishop of Chester 1579-1595; translated to Lincoln


Qualifications: bishop of Chester

CCEd person ID:


Further notes: 



Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition  <>

Venn, J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, TBA

Officials: Yale, David


Chancellor of the diocese of Chester and official principal of the Chester consistory court 1587-1608; commissioner of ecclesiastical causes for York province from 1599

DAVID YALE, d. 1626

Qualifications: of Queens College Cambridge, 1555; Bachelor of Arts 1564; Master of Arts 1567, proctor of the University 1575 to 1576; Doctor of Law 1579.

CCEd person ID:

Career: presented to the rectory of Llandegla 1564; vicar of High Offley briefly in 1573; prebendary of St Asaph 1578; admitted as an advocate to the Court of Arches in the following year; full member of Doctors’ Commons in 1582; a prebendary of Chester in the same year; rector of Llandyrnog 1583; joint administrator of the diocese of Bangor in 1585 sede vacante; JP for Denbigh 1604.

Further notes: David Yale was probably the illegitimate son of John Wyn of Plas-yn-Iâl near Wrexham in north Wales. He bought extensive lands at Erddig in Wrexham and owned land in Derbyshire. He was the great-grandfather of Elihu Yale, benefactor of the American university which bears his surname.


Dictionary of Welsh Biography online edition <>

Ormerod, George, The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, (second edition, revised and enlarged by T. Helsby, 3 vols, London: George Routledge & Sons, 1882), vol i, p. 113.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition (in Yale, Thomas) <>

Venn, J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, part I, volumes IV, 1927.

Officials: Pennant, Henry


Notary Public and Deputy Registrar of the diocese


Notary Public and deputy to Randle Cotgrave, Registrar of the diocese

Qualifications: Notary Public

Career: Deputy Registrar of the diocese from at least 1572, he sometimes acted as promoter in promoted office causes. By the 1580s he had begun to act as a proctor.

Henry Pennant’s signature from EDC 5/1576/43

Notes: He copied some lines of poetry into the last surviving page of one of his account books. These lines formed part of Jasper Heywood’s 1560 translation of Seneca’s play Thyestes.


Cheshire Sheaf, 3rd series, xii, pp. 6-7, 12.

Officials: Downham, William


First Elizabethan bishop of Chester. He was nominally head of the consistory court from his appointment as bishop in 15651 until his death in 1577.

WILLIAM DOWNHAM, bishop of Chester, (1510/11 – 1577)

Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts 1541; Master of Arts 1543; Doctor of Theology 1566 (Oxford)

Career: Downham entered Oxford University in 1539 after the dissolution of the priory in Hertfordshire, where he had been a brother. He became a chaplain to Princess Elizabeth and remained with her during the reign of her Catholic sister, Mary, for which he was later denigrated by the Puritan element in his diocese.

 Further notes: He worked actively in the consistory court, occasionally personally taking depositions from witnesses. He has, however, has been accused of favouring Catholicism and of laxity towards papists, but ‘he had an almost impossible task in remote country’ in one of the poorest sees in the country.  After his death he was described as ‘a milde, courteous & loueinge man, wisheinge well vnto all’.


Haigh, Christopher, ‘Finance and administration in a new diocese: Chester, 1541-1641’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal, Continuity and change: personnel and administration of the Church of England, 1500-1642 (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1976), pp. 145-66.

C. S. Knighton, Downham, William (1510/11-1577) bishop of Chester in , Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition)

David Rogers’ History in British Library, Harley 1948, f. 87.

Officials: Knight, William


Nominally in charge of the Chester Consistory Court during his period in office as archdeacon of Chester, he delegated oversight of the court to official principals including Adam Beconsall.

WILLIAM KNIGHT, 1475/6 – 1547

Archdeacon of Chester 1522 to 1541, nominally in charge of the Chester Consistory Court

Qualifications: bachelor of canon law by 1504; doctor of canon law by 1506 (Oxford)

CCEd person ID 147690

Career: his biography can be found online in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: during a long and distinguished career he held a number of ecclesiastical offices, including archdeacon of Chester from 1522 to 1541 and bishop of Bath and Wells from 1541 to 1547. He was secretary to both Henry VII and Henry VIII and as such was sent abroad on a number of diplomatic missions.

Further notes: ‘ one of the best rewarded clerical careerists of his age’. (DNB)


 Dictionary of National Biography


Officials: Wydhope, Richard


Scribe and registrar of the court, the precise dates during which he held this office are not known.

RICHARD WYDHOPE fl. 1526-1528

Registrar of the Court

Qualifications: Notary Public


Rev. G. J. Piccope, (ed.), Lancashire and Cheshire wills and inventories from the Ecclesiastical Court, Chester, (Chetham Society, old series, 33, 1857 (First Portion)), p. 29.