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Diocese of Plymouth

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Plymouth consists of the County of Dorset, which formed a portion of the old Catholic Diocese of Salisbury, whose last ruler, Cardinal Peto, died in March, 1558; also of the Counties of Devon and Cornwall with the Scilly Isles, which formed the ancient Diocese of Exeter, whose last Catholic bishop, James Turberville, died on 1 November, 1570. Since the Reformation these counties have, with more or less of the rest of England, been governed by three archpriests and fourteen vicars Apostolic, the last of whom, called Vicar Apostolic of the Western District (1848), was William Hendren, Bishop of Uranopolis. In the Brief "Universalis Ecclesiæ" (29 September, 1850), Pius IX separated the three counties from the Western District and formed them into the new Diocese of Plymouth: the rest of the district to be the new Diocese of Clifton, to which Bishop Hendren was forthwith translated, and the Diocese of Plymouth was placed under his temporary administration.

Reverend George Errington (1804-86) of St. John's Church, Salford, was appointed by the Holy See first Bishop of Plymouth, and on 25 July, 1851, consecrated there, together with the first Bishop of Salford, by Cardinal Wiseman. On 7 August he was installed at St. Mary's church, East Stonehouse, Devon, which mission included its neighbour, Plymouth, wherein no Catholic place of worship existed. In this Ultima thule and poor district he found 17 secular and 6 regular priests, and 23 missions including three institutes of nuns. No railways had reached the diocese except the Great Western to Plymouth, and a short mining railway established between Truro and Penzance at the extreme of Cornwall. A goodly number of the clergy did not belong to the diocese but were temporarily accepted. On 26 November, 1853, the bishop established his cathedral chapter, consisting of a provost and, by permission from Rome under the above difficulties, seven instead of ten canons for the time. In February, 1854, he held a synod at Ugbrooke Park, the seat of Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and, amongst his synodal acts, established a clerical conference with its dean for each county. By 30 March, 1855, he had traversed the whole diocese for purpose of visitation and conferring confirmation, when bulls from Rome of that date appointed him Archbishop of Trebizond and Coadjutor cum jure successionis to Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster. William Vaughan (1814-1902), Canon of the Clifton Diocese, was nominated second Bishop of Plymouth, and on 16 September, 1855, consecrated by Cardinal Wiseman in Clifton pro-cathedral. Encouraged by generous offers of assistance from Edmund Polifex Bastard of Kitley, Yealmpton, Devon, and from Miss Letitia Trelawny of Cornwall, Bishop Vaughan on 28 June, 1856, laid the foundation stone of the Cathedral of Our Immaculate Lady and St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany (born at Crediton, Devon), solemnly opened it on 25 March, 1858, and on 22 September, 1880, in the twenty-fifth year of his episcopate, he consecrated the Cathedral. attended the Vatican Council throughout, in 1869-70. Between 10-12 March, 1888, the diocese, by a triduum of prayer, celebrated the bishop's Golden Jubilee of fifty years' priesthood. By the end of 1891 the Diocese of Plymouth, through the bishop's energetic supervision, became well established. It had 49 secular and 48 regular clergy, 52 public churches, and 15 chapels of communities, as well as ten orders of men and sixteen of nuns. Early in 1891 Bishop Vaughan requested from Rome a coadjutor-bishop. Leo XIII elected, from the Plymouth Chapter's terna, Charles Graham (1834), canon of Plymouth, on 25 September, 1891. On 28 October following he was consecrated titular Bishop of Cisamos, with right of succession, by Bishop Clifford of Clifton, in the Plymouth cathedral. Bishop Vaughan retired to St. Augustine's Priory, Newton Abbot, Devon, where, on 24 October, 1902, he died in his eighty-ninth year, and was buried in the priory cemetery. In October, 1902, Dr. Graham became third Bishop of Plymouth. Between 19 and 21 December, 1907, the diocese celebrated with a triduum the fiftieth anniversary of his priesthood: on this occasion he added a fresh member to the cathedral chapter. After a severe illness in 1910, Bishop Graham tendered his resignation of the see, which was accepted 9 Feb., 1911.

The recent expulsion of religious from France has, during 1910, raised the number of communities of nuns in this diocese to twenty-nine. The Catholic population is about one in a hundred, that is, 12,000, most of whom, being employed in the Government Army and Navy establishments, reside in Plymouth, Stonehouse, and Devonport. It is worthy of note that Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, founder of the Hierarchy of the Church in the United States of America, was on 15 August, 1790, consecrated in Lulworth Church, Dorset, by Bishop Walmesley, Vicar Apostolic of the Western District. The Faith never failed during the Reformation at Lanherne, Cornwall, and at Chideock, Dorset, through the fidelity of the Lords Arundell. Blessed Cuthbert Mayne, the protomartyr of pontifical seminarists, was a native of Devon.


OLIVER, Collections (1857); BROTHER FOLEY, Records of the English Province S. J. (London, 1877-83); CHALLONER, Memoirs of Missionary Priests; BRADY, English Hierarchy (London, 1877).

About this page

APA citation. Graham, C. (1911). Diocese of Plymouth. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Graham, Charles. "Diocese of Plymouth." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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