Dean and Chapter of Westminster

The Chapter House at Westminster Abbey

The Dean and Chapter of Westminster are the ecclesiastical governing body of Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England and royal peculiar in Westminster, Greater London. They consist of the dean and several canons meeting in chapter and are also (less frequently) known as the Dean and Canons of Westminster.

Foundation

The first college of canons was established by letters patent on 17 December 1540 by Henry VIII. Under the Bishop of Westminster of the newly created Diocese of Westminster, there was a dean and 12 canons, six of whom were former monks of the abbey. They survived the dissolution of the diocese in 1550, becoming a second cathedral of the Diocese of London until 1556 when the college was dissolved by Mary I. The second college of canons was established on 21 May 1560 by Elizabeth I, this time as a royal peculiar.[1] From 16 November 1645 the dean and canons were dispersed, and a committee of the Lords and Commons from the Long Parliament governed. The dean and canons were restored on the Restoration in 1660.

Current chapter

As of 2 January 2021:[2]

Dean of Westminster
David Hoyle Dean of Westminster (since 16 November 2019)
Canons Residentiary of Westminster
David Stanton
  • Canon Residentiary (since 5 October 2013 installation)[3]
  • Sub-Dean (since before 21 October 2018)[4]
  • Canon Treasurer (since 2013)
  • Archdeacon of Westminster (since before 17 June 2018)[5]
Anthony Ball
  • Canon Residentiary (since 10 September 2016 installation)[6]
  • Canon Steward (since 2016)
  • Almoner (since before 30 September 2018)[7]
  • Rector of St Margaret's (since 2020)
Jamie Hawkey
  • Canon Residentiary (since 19 January 2019 installation)[7]
  • Canon Theologian (since installation)
Stradling canon vacancy vice Sinclair (since 30 April 2020)[8]
Minor Canons[NB 1]
Mark Birch
  • Minor Canon (since January 2015 installation)[9]
  • Precentor (since 2020)
  • Sacrist (2017–2020)
  • Chaplain (installation–2017)
Jenny Petersen
  • Minor Canon (since 20 May 2017 installation)[10]
  • Chaplain (since installation)
  • vacating 6 January 2021[11]
Minor Canon/Sacrist vacancy vice Stoltz (since 2020)
Receiver General[NB 2]
Paul Baumann Receiver General and Chapter Clerk
 (since 24 November 2018 installation)[12]

Roles within the chapter

Today, the roles divided between the canons residentiary generally include: the sub-dean, who is second to the dean; the canon treasurer; the canon steward, who is responsible for the welcoming of visitors; canon theologian; the canon almoner; the Archdeacon of Westminster; and the rector of St Margaret's. Between and among the chapter of canons, roles can be and are reshuffled as desired. The minor canons are the precentor, the sacrist and, since 2016, the Abbey chaplain (not to be confused with the Speaker's Chaplain). Historically, other roles have included the Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons ("Speaker's Chaplain" or "Chaplain to the Commons"), the Headmaster of Westminster School and the rector of St John's, Smith Square (also called St John the Evangelist, Westminster.)

List of canons

First foundation (cathedral, 1540–1556)

The first a canon of each stall was appointed by Henry VIII in the foundation charter dated 17 December 1540.[13] Eight canons were deprived of their prebends by Mary I on 30 March 1554 and one resigned shortly after; only three remained in post. (See also: Marian exiles.)

The first secular chapter was abolished on 26 September 1556.

Second Foundation (Royal Peculiar, 1560–1660)

Twelve canons were appointed (or re-appointed) by Elizabeth I at the refoundation of the secular chapter, 21 May 1560.[14]

Second Foundation (Royal Peculiar, since 1660)

The prebendaries admitted since the Restoration in 1660 have had no fixed stalls to their prebends, but upon any vacancy the new prebendary was installed in the lowest stall on the side where the vacancy happened, and not in the stall of him who died, or was promoted.[15] Since all but four (5th, 6th, 8th & 11th) prebends were vacant before 1660, it is not possible to assert that any particular succession of canons relates to any previous prebend except for those four.

A prebend at Westminster was highly sought after by the ecclesiastical establishment. The value of the prebend helped to enrich the salaries of some of the poorer bishops, who retained their prebends at Westminster whilst in office. Other distinguishing features of the Westminster chapter were the close links with Westminster School – thirteen headmasters were canons – and eleven members of the peerage or baronetage were members of the chapter at various times.

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners reports in 1835 and 1836 (as enacted in the statute 3 & 4 Queen Victoria c. 113) called for a reduction in the number of canons from twelve to six. Two of the remaining prebends were united with the rectories of St Margaret's, Westminster and St John's, Smith Square (which had already been held by a canon of no particular prebend for quite some time). The number of prebends was reduced further from six to five in 1890 on the resignation of Brooke Foss Westcott and from five to four in 1941 on the resignation of Russell Barry (rector of St John's).

Canons are listed here by succession, rather than by chronological order of appointment.

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