Dean of Westminster

The Dean of Westminster is the head of the chapter at Westminster Abbey. Due to the Abbey's status as a Royal Peculiar, the dean answers directly to the British monarch (not to the Bishop of London as ordinary, nor to the Archbishop of Canterbury as metropolitan). Initially, the office was a successor to that of abbot of Westminster, and was for the first 10 years cathedral dean for the Diocese of Westminster. The current dean is John Hall.

The west face of Westminster Abbey from below
The west façade of the Abbey

List of deans

Herbert Railton The Deanery A Brief Account of Westminster Abbey 1894
The Deanery at Westminster Abbey
Name Portrait Term of office
William Benson
(formerly last abbot of the Benedictine abbey)
No image 1540 1549
Richard Cox Bp Richard Cox 1549 1553
Hugh Weston No image 1553 1556
Vacancy (restored as Benedictine abbey)
John Feckenham, abbot
1556 1559
William Bill William Bill. Line engraving by R. Grave after G. P. Harding Wellcome V0000549 (crop) 1560 1561
Gabriel Goodman Gabriel Goodman by GP Harding 1561 1601
Lancelot Andrewes Lancelot Andrewes Pembroke 1601 1605
Richard Neile
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester from 1608)
Richard Neile portrait 1605 1610
George Montaigne George Mountaigne DD 1610 1617
Robert Tounson No image 1617 1620
John Williams
(in commendam as Bishop of Lincoln 1621–41,
as Archbishop of York from 1641)
Abp John Williams by Gilbert Jackson 1620 1644
Richard Steward
(not installed)
Richard Steward by Adriaen Hanneman 1644 1651
Vacancy (English Interregnum) 1651 1660
John Earle John Earle from NPG 1660 1662
John Dolben
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester from 1666[R 1])
ArchbishopDolben 1662 1683
Thomas Sprat
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester from 1684[R 1])
Thomas Sprat by Michael Dahl 1683 1713
Francis Atterbury
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester[R 1])
Francis Atterbury by Godfrey Kneller 1713 1723
Samuel Bradford
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester[R 1])
Samuel Bradford 1723 1731
Joseph Wilcocks
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester[R 1])
Joseph Wilcocks by GP Harding 1731 1756
Zachary Pearce
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester[R 1])
Bp Zachary Pearce by Edward Penny 1756 1768
John Thomas
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester from 1774[R 1])
John Thomas, Bishop of Rochester, by Joshua Reynolds 1768 1793
Samuel Horsley
(in commendam as Bishop of Rochester[R 1])
Samuel Horsley by Mrs Barou 1793 1802
William Vincent William Vincent by GP Harding after William Owen 1802 1815
John Ireland John Ireland 1816 1842
Thomas Turton Thomas Turton by HW Pickersgill 1842 1845
Samuel Wilberforce Samuel Wilberforce2 March–October 1845
William Buckland William Buckland detail 1845 1856
Richard Chenevix Trench Drawing of Richard Chenevix Trench 1856 1864
Arthur Penrhyn Stanley Arthur Penrhyn Stanley by John Watkins 1864 1881
George Granville Bradley George Granville Bradley by SA Walker 1881 1902
Armitage Robinson No image 1902[1] 1911
Herbert Edward Ryle Dr HE Ryle NPG 1911 1925
William Foxley Norris William Foxley Norris by Ernest Moore 1925 1937
Paul de Labilliere No image 1938 1946
Alan Don No image 1946 1959
Eric Abbott No image 1959 1974
Edward Carpenter No image 1974 1985
Michael Mayne No image 1986 1996
Wesley Carr No image 1997 2006
John Hall Svetlana Medvedeva 1 April 2009-2 (cropped) 2006[2] incumbent
David Hoyle No image 2019 dean-designate[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h In 1666, John Dolben was additionally appointed Bishop of Rochester, retaining the Deanery of Westminster in commendam. His successor as Dean, Thomas Sprat, was additionally appointed to Rochester in 1684. From then until 1802, it was customary for the Bishop of Rochester to hold the Deanery of Westminster in commendam. These eight deans held both offices concurrently.


  1. ^ "No. 27486". The London Gazette. 21 October 1902. p. 6647.
  2. ^ "No. 58165". The London Gazette. 28 November 2006. p. 16399.
  3. ^


Alan Don

Alan Campbell Don (3 January 1885 – 3 May 1966) was a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, editor of the Scottish Book of Common Prayer, chaplain and secretary to Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury, from 1931 to 1941, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons from 1936 to 1946 and Dean of Westminster from 1946 to 1959.

Armitage Robinson

Joseph Armitage Robinson, KCVO, FBA, DD (9 January 1858 – 7 May 1933) was a priest in the Church of England and scholar. He was successively Dean of Westminster (1902–1911) and of Wells (1911–1933).

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, (13 December 1815 – 18 July 1881), known as Dean Stanley, was an English churchman and academic. He was Dean of Westminster from 1864 to 1881. His position was that of a Broad Churchman and he was the author of a number of works on Church History.

David Hoyle (priest)

David Michael Hoyle is the current Dean of Bristol and was installed on 29 May 2010.

He was born in 1957 and educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Ordained in 1987 his first post was as a curacy at The Good Shepherd Chesterton, Cambridge after which he was Fellow and Chaplain (later Dean) of Magdalene College, Cambridge. He was Vicar of Christ Church Southgate and then Director of Ministry for the Diocese of Gloucester and Residentiary Canon of Gloucester Cathedral until his appointment to the Deanery.On 19 June 2019 it was announced that Hoyle had been appointed the next Dean of Westminster. He will take up his appointment on 16 November 2019 following the retirement of John Hall.

Eric Abbott

Eric Symes Abbott KCVO (26 May 1906 – 6 June 1983) was an English Anglican priest and Dean of Westminster.

Abbott was born in Nottingham in 1906 to William Henry Abbott and Mary Symes, both schoolteachers. He was educated at Nottingham High School and later studied classics and theology at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was ordained priest in 1931 and thereafter held a number of different posts, such as chaplain (1932–1936) and dean (1945–1955) of King's College London, and warden of Keble College, Oxford (1956–1960).

He was appointed chaplain to King George VI (1948–1952) and Queen Elizabeth II (1952–1959). In 1959, he was made Dean of Westminster, a position he held until 1974.

As such he presided over the 900th anniversary of the founding of the abbey in 1965-1966. In 1966 he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO). After the death of Princess Margaret it was reported that she regarded Eric Abbott as "a father figure." Abbott never married. He died at Haslemere in 1983 and his funeral was held in Westminster Abbey. He is buried in the nave. In his memory the Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Fund provides for annual lectures on spirituality, held alternately in Oxford and London. The first, delivered in 1986, was by Cardinal Basil Hume A full copy of all the previous lectures is held at King's College London.

George Granville Bradley

George Granville Bradley, CVO, DD (11 December 1821 – 13 March 1903) was an English divine, scholar, and schoolteacher, who was Dean of Westminster (1881–1902).

Herbert Edward Ryle

Herbert Edward Ryle (25 May 1856 – 20 August 1925) was an English Old Testament scholar and Anglican bishop, successively serving as the Bishop of Exeter, the Bishop of Winchester and the Dean of Westminster.

Hugh Weston

Hugh Weston (c.1505 – 1558) was an English churchman and academic, dean of Westminster and Dean of Windsor, and Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford.

John Hall (priest)

John Robert Hall (born 13 March 1949) is an English priest of the Church of England. He is the current Dean of Westminster and a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II.

John Ireland (Anglican priest)

John Ireland (8 September 1761 – 2 September 1842) was an English Anglican priest, who served as Dean of Westminster from 1816 until his death. In this role, he carried the crown during the coronation services at Westminster Abbey of two monarchs (George IV in 1821, William IV in 1831). Theologically and politically conservative, as shown in his writings, he was generous with the considerable riches that he acquired during his career, making large donations to support education and relieve poverty in his home town. In 1831, as Ireland was "a distinguished Benefactor of the University", Oxford had sought and obtained his permission to put on display a marble bust of him by the sculptor Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey. The bust is now in the Examination Schools of the university. During his lifetime, he established scholarships at the University of Oxford, and in his will, he left money to establish the post of Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture.

Joseph Wilcocks

Joseph Wilcocks (19 December 1673 – 28 February 1756) was an English churchman, bishop of Gloucester, and bishop of Rochester and dean of Westminster.

Wilcocks was the son of Joseph Wilcocks, a physician of Bristol. He entered Merchant Taylors' School on 11 September 1684, and matriculated from St John's College, Oxford, on 25 February 1692. From 1692 until 1703 he held a demyship at Magdalen College and a fellowship from 1703 until 15 February 1722. He graduated B.A. on 31 October 1695, M.A. on 28 June 1698, and B.D. and D.D. on 16 May 1709.

He was chaplain to the English factory at Lisbon in 1709, and to the English embassy, and on his return was appointed chaplain-in-ordinary to George I and preceptor to the daughters of the Prince of Wales. On 11 March 1721 he was installed a prebendary of Westminster, and on 3 December 1721 he was consecrated bishop of Gloucester, holding his stall in commendam.

On 21 June 1731 he was installed dean of Westminster, and on the same day was nominated bishop of Rochester. He refused further promotion, declining the archbishopric of York, and devoted himself to completing the west front of Westminster Abbey. He died on 28 February 1756, and was buried in the Abbey on 9 March under the consistory court, where his son erected a monument to his memory in 1761. He married Jane (died 27 March 1725), the daughter of John Milner, British consul at Lisbon. He published several sermons.

Michael Mayne

Michael Clement Otway Mayne, (10 September 1929 – 22 October 2006) was an English priest of the Church of England who served as the Dean of Westminster.

Paul de Labilliere

Paul Fulcrand Delacour de Labillière (22 January 1879 – 28 April 1946) was the second Bishop of Knaresborough from 1934 to 1937; and, subsequently, Dean of Westminster.

Richard Cox (bishop)

Richard Cox (c. 1500 – 22 July 1581) was an English clergyman, who was Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Ely.

Robert Tounson

Robert Tounson (1575 – 15 May 1621) — also seen as “Townson” and “Toulson” — was Dean of Westminster from 1617 to 1620, and later Bishop of Salisbury from 1620 to 1621. He attended Sir Walter Raleigh at his execution, and wrote afterwards of how Raleigh had behaved on that occasion.

Wesley Carr

Arthur Wesley Carr KCVO (26 July 1941 – 15 July 2017) was an Anglican priest who was the Dean of Westminster from 1997 to 2006.

William Benson (abbot)

William Benson (died 1549) was an English Benedictine, the last Abbot of Westminster and first Dean of Westminster. He was a friend of Thomas Cranmer, and belonged to the evangelical circle around Cranmer that included Thomas Goodrich, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Thirlby.

William Bill

William Bill (c. 1505 – 15 July 1561) was Master of St John's College, Cambridge (1547–1551?), Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge (1548) and twice Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (1551–1553, 1558–1561), Provost of Eton College (1558–1561) and Dean of Westminster (1560–1561).

He was born to John and Margaret Bill of Ashwell, Hertfordshire. He had two brothers and two sisters. His brother Thomas became physician to Henry VIII of England. William was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, gaining his BA in 1532. He was elected a Fellow of St John's College in 1535, and gained his MA in 1546. He received a BD degree during the period 1544-1546. In 1547, he was elected Master of St John's College, and also became a Doctor of Divinity. In 1551, he was appointed Master of Trinity College. Following the accession of Mary I in 1553, he lost all his former positions. John Christopherson was appointed in his stead to the Mastership of Trinity. When Elizabeth I of England acceded in 1558, he was appointed Provost of Eton College, and re-appointed as Master of Trinity College. He was Lord High Almoner from 1558–1561 and helped revise the liturgy of Edward VI. He was appointed Dean of Westminster on 30 June 1560 but died the following year.

He was buried in St Benedict's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, where his tomb and small brass figure can still be seen.

There are varying reports of whether or not he married.

William Foxley Norris

William Foxley Norris (4 February 1859 – 28 September 1937) was Dean of York between 1917 and 1925 and of Westminster from then until his death in 1937.

Born into a clerical family, he was educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Oxford, before taking holy orders at Leeds Clergy School. After curacies in Eton and Chatham he embarked on a career that was to take him from pastoral (Incumbencies in Oxfordshire and Yorkshire) to administrative (Diocesan Educational Inspector) posts before a steady rise up the ecclesiastical ladder. He was successively Rural Dean of Silkstone, Rector of Barnsley, and Archdeacon of Halifax. In July 1902 he was appointed an honorary Canon of Wakefield Cathedral.He became Dean of York in 1917, serving as such until 1925 when he was appointed Dean of Westminster. An exceptionally talented artist he wrote widely on church treasures. A much respected cleric, he died on 28 September 1937 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.His grandson was Air Chief Marshal Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris the Battle of Britain pilot who went on to have a distinguished air force career.

Province of Canterbury
Province of York
Royal Deans
Canons (current)


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