In 1850, Pope Pius IX restored the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales and created thirteen dioceses.

As part of this restoration, the Catholic Diocese of Southwark was erected on 29th September 1850. The new Diocese of Southwark covered much of southern England - London south of the Thames, Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Berkshire, southern Oxfordshire, Hampshire and the Channel Islands. Bishop Thomas Grant was consecrated as Bishop of the Diocese on 4th July 1851.

Two years prior to the restoration of the hierarchy, on 4th July 1848, St George’s Catholic Church, designed by Augustus Pugin, was solemnly opened by Bishop Wiseman. On the restoration, St George's was chosen as the Cathedral Church of the new Diocese of Southwark. For the next half-century, until the opening of Westminster Cathedral, St George's was the centre of Catholic life in London.

By the later 1800s, it had become clear that the Diocese of Southwark was too large for one bishop. On 19th May 1882, Pope Leo XIII created the Diocese of Portsmouth from the Diocese of Southwark. Hampshire, South Oxfordshire, Berkshire, and the Channel Islands now became part of the new Diocese.

In 1888, Bishop John Butt purchased 60 acres of land in Wonersh, near Guildford and appointed Frederick Walters to design a Diocesan Seminary. St John’s Seminary opened in temporary accommodation at Henfield, Sussex in August 1889.  Two years later, the new buildings were complete and the Seminary was officially opened on 8 September 1891. On 3rd July 2021, St John’s Seminary closed and the training of Diocesan priests moved to Allen Hall in Westminster Diocese. 

On the night of 16th April 1941, St George’s Cathedral was hit by an incendiary bomb which started a fire that destroyed the Cathedral but left other Diocesan buildings on the site undamaged. The Cathedral was rebuilt, designed by the architect Romilly Craze, and consecrated on 4th July 1958 by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy.

On 28th May 1965, Pope Paul VI created a new Diocese of Arundel and Brighton from part of the Diocese of Southwark. East and West Sussex and Surrey (outside of the London boroughs) became part of this new Diocese. On the same date, the Diocese of Southwark was elevated to a Metropolitan See and Bishop Cyril Cowderoy became the first Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Southwark. The Province of Southwark includes the Dioceses of Plymouth, Portsmouth and Arundel and Brighton.

Following the resignation of Archbishop Emeritus Peter Smith on 10th June 2019, Archbishop John Wilson was installed as the Eleventh Bishop of Southwark and Fifth Archbishop of Metropolitan and See on 25th July 2019.

Explore more of Southwark's history

History of Southwark

Our Pastoral Leaders from 1850 to today

Continue reading
Title Page Of A Liturgical Book Printed In Paris In 1555

Diocesan Archives

Continue reading

Southwark Diocesan Crest

Continue reading