The Diocese of Chichester almost exactly covers the counties of East and West Sussex and the City of Brighton and Hove, stretching for nearly a hundred miles (160km) along the south coast of England.
It was founded in 681 by St Wilfrid who converted the Kingdom of the South Saxons and established the first cathedral (a building which no longer exists) at Selsey.
Organisation of the Diocese
Today the diocese comprises 506 churches in 365 parishes which are served by 450 clergy and employed Lay Workers and 265 Readers. The parishes are grouped into 286 benefices (with one clergyman or woman in overall charge).
The benefices are grouped into 21 rural deaneries. These are outlined in red on the map. The word “deanery” comes originally for the Latin for ten: deaneries originally comprised about ten parishes. Nowadays they are geographically-based, and may contain twice that number, or (for very rural areas) fewer. Because Chichester is still a predominantly rural diocese, we still use the term “rural” deaneries, rather than the more prosaic Area Deaneries which the Dioceses of Liverpool or London have, for example. Each rural deanery is in turn part of an archdeaconry, an area for which an archdeacon is responsible. The archdeacons are senior priests who assist the bishops [see below] and have important legal and practical responsibilities for the parishes in their care. Each archdeaconry is outlined with a blue line on the map. Bishops are the successors to the Apostles whom Christ chose two thousand years ago, and the mitre (hat) which they wear in church symbolises the tongues of flame which rested on the Apostles at the first Pentecost. The chief bishop of this diocese is the Bishop of Chichester, Bishop Martin. Because the diocese is so large, he gives some responsibility to the Bishop of Horsham and to the Bishop of Lewes. In addition to the churches, there are a number of retreat houses based at religious communities in the diocese.
Records maintained by parishes are held within the parish until they are transferred to the relevant County Records Office. While Church House cannot search parish records, staff can direct you to the most likely parish for any information you’re looking for. Contact the Communications Department in the first instance. You may be able to find help more quickly by searching for the parish, if you already know it, looking on our Links page, or you can contact the relevant County Records Office: West Sussex or East Sussex. Please note that there are statutory fees for searches of parish records; searches at Records Offices are usually free to personal callers.