Holy Oils: Portraits and Personalities of the Bishops of Sheffield


Sheffield Cathedral is preparing for an event that it has only witnessed seven times in its long and interesting history.

Out will come the best vestments and silver, the Director of Music will have the Cathedral Choir tuned to its usual perfection and a congregation of hundreds will gather from Sheffield Diocese and Parishes, City and region.

The event is the Enthronement of the Eighth Bishop of Sheffield, The Very Reverend Pete Wilcox, on Saturday 23 September. However, in these times the preferred term is ‘Installation’. Nevertheless, as part of the service, Bishop Pete will be sat with all ceremony by the Dean of Sheffield on the Cathedra, his episcopal throne or seat of teaching, in the Cathedral Church of his diocese. In doing this, the Dean of Sheffield will be acting on behalf of the Archbishop of York and representing the wider communion of the Church of England.

At the beginning of September in Sheffield Cathedral there will be a special exhibition of the portraits of the previous seven Bishops. It is a long tradition that at the end of a Bishop’s time in office a portrait in oils is commissioned and displayed in the Cathedral. These portraits are not often seen by members of the public, as they are not displayed in the public space of the Cathedral.

Photographic replicas of these oil portraits will be on display together with a short biography of each Bishop. Another treasure to be displayed, which is rarely seen up close, is the Diocesan Crozier, also called a Pastoral Staff. The Crozier is quite an elaborate confection of gilded metal with some very fine details in enamel. This is the original Crozier made for the Bishop when the Diocese of Sheffield was instigated in 1914. A Bishop’s Crozier is symbolic of their role as chief shepherd and pastor of the people. As part of the installation ceremony the Crozier will be presented to the Bishop with the words.

Bishop Pete, may this staff be a sign to you

of your care for us in Christ. May you encourage

the faithful, restore the lost and build up the body

of Christ, who is the good shepherd of us all.

Traditionally the Diocesan Crozier never leaves the Cathedral and the exhibition will be an opportunity to view this historic piece of Sheffield’s history at close quarters.

Many people will remember these Bishops and perhaps were baptised, married or confirmed by them. We would love to hear from people who may remember them. Is there anyone out there who can remember the very first Bishop, Leonard Hedley Burrows?

The Exhibition opens in Old St Georges Chapel, Sheffield Cathedral on Saturday 2 September 2017 and closes 30 October 2017