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One of the thirteen English dioceses created by Apostolic Letter of Pius IX on 27 Sept., 1850. It then comprised the English counties of Shropshire and Cheshire, and the Welsh counties of Carnarvon, Flint, Denbigh, Merioneth, Montgomery, and Anglesey. When on 4 March, 1895, Leo XIII formed the Vicariate of Wales, these Welsh counties were separated from this diocese, so that now only Shropshire and Cheshire are under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Shrewsbury. Before the Reformation, Cheshire and the portion of Shropshire north and east of the River Severn were under the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, and the rest of Shropshire was under the Bishop of Hereford. On the creation of the Diocese of Chester by Henry VIII, Cheshire was withdrawn from the old Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. When Pope Innocent XI in 1688 divided England into four vicariates, Shropshire was in the Midland, and Cheshire in the Northern District, and when eight vicariates were formed by Gregory XVI in 1840, Shropshire was part of the Central District, and Cheshire part of the Lancashire District. The diocese takes its name from Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, and is under the patronage of Our Lady Help of Christians, and St. Winefride. The latter saint was chosen because her body had been translated from Gwytherin, in Denbighshire, to Shrewsbury in 1138, and deposited with great honor and solemnity in the Benedictine abbey founded by Roger, Earl of Montgomery, in 1083, where it remained until her shrine was plundered at the dissolution of the monasteries.
The first bishop of the diocese was James Brown (1812-81), president of Sedgeley Park School, who was consecrated 27 July, 1851. Out of a total population of 1,082,617, Catholics numbered about 20,000. There were 30 churches and chapels attended by resident priests, and 6 stations; 1 convent, that of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, in Birkenhead, to which was attached a boarding-school for young ladies, and also a small day-school for poor children. There were Jesuits at Holywell, who also had a college at St. Bruno's, Flintshire, and a Benedictine at Acton Burnell. When Dr. Brown celebrated the jubilee of his consecration, the secular priests had increased to 66, and the regulars to 32. Instead of one religious house of men and one of women, there were now four of men, and nine of women ; and many elementary schools had been provided for the needs of Catholic children. In 1852 the bitter feeling caused by-the re-establishment of the hierarchy found vent in serious riots at Stockport. On 29 June a large mob attacked the Church of Sts. Philip and James; they broke the windows and attempted to force in the doors, but before they could effect an entrance, Canon Randolph Frith, the rector, succeeded in removing the Blessed Sacrament, and secreting It with the chalices, etc., in a small cupboard in the side chapel. He was compelled to flee immediately to the belltower, and, whilst the rabble were destroying whatever they could lay their hands upon, he made his escape along the roof, and descended by the spouting at the back of the presbytery. Much of the church furniture, with vestments, etc., was piled up in the street and burned. At St. Michael's, the Host was desecrated, and the pyx and ciborium carried away.
On the death of Dr. Brown, Right Rev. Edmund Knight (1827-1905), who was auxiliary from 1879, was translated to this see 25 April, 1882, and, on his resignation in May, 1895, was succeeded by Right Rev. John Carroll (1838-97), who had been coadjutor since 1893. He was followed by Right Rev. Samuel Webster Allen (1844-1908), who ruled the diocese from 1897 till his death in 1908. His valuable library on Egyptology, his favorite study, was bequeathed to the new Capuchin foundation at Cowley College, Oxford. The present ruler of the diocese, 1911, is Right Rev. Hugh Singleton (b. 1851).
The Catholic population of the diocese is now 58,013, Shropshire contributing under 3000, partly on account of agricultural depression and the consequent flocking to industrial centres. There are 90 clergy, 16 convents, representatives of 4 orders of men, 8 secondary schools for girls, an orphanage and industrial school for boys, a home for aged poor, a home for penitents, and soon there is to be an orphanage erected in memory of Bishop Knight. At Oakwood Hall, Romiley, a house of retreats for working-men has been opened and has already done important work; and at New Brighton, the nuns of Our Lady of the Cenacle have opened a house of retreats for working-women and ladies. Shropshire is singularly rich in archeological interest, its pre-Reformation parish churches, the noble ruins of monasteries round the Wrekin, the Roman city of Uriconium (Wroxeter), the lordly castle of Ludlow, giving the county a place apart in the heart of the antiquary. In Shrewsbury itself, where once Grey, Black, and Austin Friars and the Black Monks of St. Benedict had foundations, there is now a beautiful little cathedral, built by E. Welby Pugin. Chester, too, with its quaint streets, black and white houses, and venerable cathedral and city walls, claims the visitor's attention. When the body of Daniel O'Connell was brought back from Genoa, it rested in the old chapel in Queen's Street on its way to Ireland.
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