History, Facts and Figures

The Diocese of Winchester, which was founded in 676AD is one of the five senior dioceses of the Church of England. Today it consists of:

a) about two thirds of the County of Hampshire, excluding Portsmouth and the area immediately to its north, and a few parishes in the north east;
b) Southampton, most of Bournemouth and the most easterly part of Dorset;
c) The Channel Islands

Stretching from the beaches of Bournemouth to the edges of Surrey suburbia, and from the River Hamble to the outskirts of Newbury, the area covers 1048 square miles with a population of 1.27m. Whilst much of the diocese is rural there are significant urban concentrations in Southampton/Eastleigh (population approximately 290,000), Bournemouth/Christchurch (population approximately 200,000) and Basingstoke (population approximately 85,000), so over half of the diocese lives in urban areas.


This is, overall, a prosperous part of the country with relatively high levels of employment and economic activity. The population is predominantly white; 85 parishes have fewer than 10 non-white residents and eleven parishes have none. The largest groupings of other ethnicities are to be found in Southampton's City Centre parish.

The northern Archdeaconry of Winchester is predominately rural and 30% of the total population of the diocese live in this area. Population densities are commonly between 1.7 and 2.6 people per hectare. Within easy commuter distance of London, there are a number of wealthy and influential residents who hold or have retired from senior positions in large corporate and government organisations based in the capital. Within this area of affluent wealth there are also pockets of rural and urban deprivation.

The southern Archdeaconry of Bournemouth is home to nearly 60% of the diocesan population and population density varies from 54.6 people per hectare in Southampton to 2.3 per hectare in the New Forest. While some commute from this area to London, the majority work in the locality.

  • Christchurch (Dorset) has the highest percentage of older people (34%) of any authority in England
  • Bournemouth, with (again), a high percentage of elderly people, also has a remarkably high number of young people within its University, numerous language schools, and the Bournemouth and Poole College which is one of the largest further education colleges in the country with 24,000 learners.
  • Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Southampton and Winchester are major shopping centres and the focus on commerce and business can mask the economic and spiritual deprivation.
  • Southampton is a major port with a substantial container berth and is now home to much of the cruise trade
  • The New Forest is a complex area and the western, eastern and southern parts bear little relation to each other.
  • Agriculture plays a significant role throughout the rural parts of the diocese, with large estates owned by individuals, pensions funds or national corporations like John Lewis Partnership.
  • The armed forces are a significant presence in parts of north Hampshire; UK Land HQ is planned to move from Wilton to Andover.
  • Tourism brings many people into the area, with Winchester, the New Forest and various stately homes and themed attractions drawing visitors especially in the summer.
  • There are universities in Winchester, Southampton (2) and Bournemouth
  • There is an active nightclub chaplaincy in Bournemouth and Street Pastors in Basingstoke, Eastleigh, Southampton and Winchester
  • There are the beginnings of some 'Fresh Expressions' - and they include Messy Church in Lymington; Western Lighthouse Project in Southampton; and an initiative in Knights Enham in Andover.


Because the Diocese of Winchester is one of the historic dioceses, and has played a significant national role in the past, it is recognised as a senior bishopric, currently with an automatic seat in the House of Lords, and the bishop is the Prelate of the Order of the Garter.

Ecclesiastically the Diocese is served by 390 churches grouped in 179 benefices; 13 deaneries and 2 archdeaconries on the mainland, and two deaneries in the Channel Islands. There are 171 stipendiary clergy posts and 36 stipendiary curate in training posts. In addition there are 17 house-for-duty posts, 69 self-supporting ministers and 264 Readers.

There are ministries in hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, prisons and the port of Southampton. Since the review at the end of 2009 there are no diocesan funded sector ministries.

Closely allied to the Church are 95 Church of England schools in the diocese that are part of the state-maintained sector. There are also two academies, three affiliated schools, one Foundation school, one sixth form college, 27 independent schools and a university.

There are strong personal links between church leaders within Churches Together in Hampshire and the Islands and several local ecumenical partnerships within the diocesan area.

The Diocese has partnership links with Newcastle, Florence and overseas Anglican Provinces of Burundi, Congo, Myanmar, Rwanda and Uganda.

In churchmanship terms the diocese is substantially in the spectrum between open evangelical to liberal catholic. The Church of England in Winchester Diocese is, as elsewhere, a broad church so there is a spectrum of views on theological and moral issues.

The diocese has an informal area system with each Suffragan Bishop looking after an archdeaconry, although both Suffragans also have diocese-wide roles.

Background to the Diocese

The Cathedral

Winchester's historic Cathedral has its own web pages with comprehensive details of all worship, activities, personnel and history. Click here to visit the Cathedral site.

Old Alresford Place

Since 1964, Old Alresford Place has been the Diocesan Conference and Training Centre. After it was substantially re-ordered and refurbished from 2006-2008, the Diocesan Office was relocated there to provide a central resource to service mission and ministry across the diocese. The Office houses the departments of Corporate Services, DAC Pastoral and Closed Churches, Discipleship and Ministry, Finance, Property and Safeguarding and Inclusion.

To achieve economies of scale, several departments serve more dioceses: the Finance department serves the three dioceses of Guildford, Portsmouth and Winchester; the IT department serves the four dioceses of Chichester, Guildford, Portsmouth and Winchester; the Education department serves the dioceses of Portsmouth and Winchester and is based in the Portsmouth diocesan office; the HR Adviser serves the dioceses of Salisbury and Winchester, The Deputy Diocesan Secretary serves Guildford & Winchester and the Communications Team is shared with Guildford.


The Bishop's house and office are at Wolvesey in Winchester. This seventeenth century building has official rooms and a Chapel on the ground floor, the private area where the Bishop and his family live is in a twentieth century extension. Wolvesey has also been widely used not only for the bishop's entertaining, but also by local charities for fundraising events, for Quiet Days, and many other functions. The Bishop is currently supported in his office by a Chaplain and two secretaries.

Latest News from around the Diocese

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Odiham resident to cycle over 1000 miles

Steve Brown is raising funds for local church

General Synod votes in favour of women bishops

Statement from the Bishop of Winchester

Eleven new clergy ordained at Winchester Cathedral

New Deacons will serve communities across Hampshire and Dorset

A new Bishop for Basingstoke

Winchester vicar David Williams appointed

St Peter's Church, Ropley

Early on Thursday morning there was a serious fire at St Peter's Church in Ropley.

Funeral and memorial service for Bishop John Baker

Academy Drum Band Performs at Wolvesey

Academy Drum Band Performs at Wolvesey for the Bishop’s Clergy and Readers Supper

Bishop John Austin Baker

It is with deep sorrow that I advise the Right Reverend John Austin Baker died at 6 a.m. this morning, Wednesday 4 June.

Thanks from Bishop Peter and Jane Hancock

Bishop and Archdeacon help out at local charity