The Diocese of Coventry 1918-2018
The beginnings of the Diocese of Coventry go back to the seventh century when the Diocese of Mercia was divided so the southern part became the Diocese of Worcester and the northern part became the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, stretching as far north-westerly as Chester.
During the English Civil War, Coventry was a stronghold for Parliamentarian forces. Consequently, when the monarchy was restored the new Restoration Bishop, John Hacket, reversed the title of the diocese to “Lichfield and Coventry”.
In 1836, the four deaneries of Arden, Coventry, Marton and Stoneleigh were transferred to the Diocese of Worcester by an Act of Parliament, creating the Diocese of Lichfield and leaving Coventry without its name in the title of a diocese.
In 1905, the City of Birmingham, together with the north-western parts of Warwickshire split from the Diocese of Worcester to become the new Diocese of Birmingham. The Bishop of Worcester, Charles Gore became the new Bishop of Birmingham. Bishop Gore was succeeded by Bishop Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs who began to bring to birth the new Diocese of Coventry.
St Michael’s, Coventry was made a Collegiate Church in 1908. Two years later, in 1910, No. 13 Priory Row was purchased as a Chapter House. An appeal was launched in 1913 to raise £60,000 and by 1918 the new Diocese of Coventry consisted of two Archdeaconries (194 benefices) – its area being the parts of Warwickshire remaining up to that time in the Diocese of Worcester.
Bishop Huyshe Wolcott Yeat-Biggs transferred from Worcester to become the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Coventry.
The Coventry Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers was formed on 23rd November 1907, and was originally known as the Warwickshire Guild of Change Ringers. It was not until 1928 that a member suggested the name should be changed to the Coventry Diocesan Guild. There was no immediate response. A formal proposal to change the name was put to the AGM in 1929 and discussion was deferred for one year. In 1930, a prominent ringer proposed the existing name was retained and inertia won the day.
It was not until 1936 that the matter was resurrected with a proposed title of ‘Coventry Diocesan Guild of Church Bell ringers’, our current title. However, despite argument that an ecclesiastical title was better than a secular one and would clear up the overlap with the St Martins Guild, a counter proposal to retain the old name was carried. Again, the status quo held until after the war.
Just two weeks before the formal declaration of peace in Europe, the Guild AGM held in Rugby, agreed to change the name of the Guild. The first option for the name was proposed as the Warwickshire Guild for the Diocesan Guild of Coventry. On amendment, the meeting agreed to the Coventry Diocesan Guild of Church Bellringers with the boundary of activity being the Diocesan, the same as it is today.
To commemorate the birth of the Diocesan a number of quarter peals and peals were rung in celebration.