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.