The Bishop of Winchester is appointed by the Crown, and is one of five Church of England bishops who are among the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords regardless of their length of service. The Lords Spiritual are the 26 bishops in parliament. The other members are called the Lords Temporal.
The Diocese of Winchester is one of the oldest and most important in England. Originally it was the see of the kingdom of Wessex, with the cathedra at Dorchester Cathedral under Saints Birinus and Agilbert. It was transferred to Winchester in AD 660. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the wealthiest English sees and its bishops have included a number of politically prominent Englishmen, notably the 9th century Saint Swithun and medieval magnates including William of Wykeham and Henry of Blois.
A cathedral at Dorchester was founded in 634 by the Roman missionary Saint Birinus. It was the seat of a Bishop of the West Saxons; the episcopal see for that kingdom was moved to Winchester in 660 and so the Wessex Bishops of Dorchester were succeeded by the Bishops of Winchester.
Winchester was divided in AD 909, with Wiltshire and Berkshire transferring to the new See of Ramsbury. Nevertheless, the domains of the Bishop of Winchester ran from the south coast to the south bank of the River Thames at Southwark, where the bishop had one of his palaces, making it one of the largest as well as one of the richest sees in the land. In more modern times, the former extent of the Diocese of Winchester was reduced by the formation of a new diocese of Southwark in south London, a new diocese of Guildford in Surrey and a new diocese of Portsmouth in Hampshire. The most recent loss of territory was in 2014 when the Channel Islands were removed from the diocese of Winchester after a dispute with Bishop Tim Dakin led to a breakdown in relations. However, this arrangement is expressed to be an interim one and will not necessarily become permanent. The Channel Islands remain part of the Diocese of Winchester effectively under a scheme of episcopal delegation. The Bishop of Winchester delegated his episcopal authority in relation to the Channel Islands to the Archbishop of Canterbury who in turn placed the Channel Islands under the pastoral supervision of the Bishop of Dover. The Channel Islands have not been transferred to and incorporated within another diocese.
Traditionally, in the general order of precedence before 1533, the Bishop of Winchester was given precedence over all other diocesan bishops - that is, the first English bishop in rank behind the archbishops of Canterbury and York. But in 1533, Henry VIII of England raised the rank of the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Durham, relegating Winchester to third (but still above other remaining diocesan bishops). The Bishop of Winchester has almost always held the office of Prelate of the Order of the Garter since its foundation in 1348.
The official residence of the Bishop of Winchester is Wolvesey Palace in Winchester. Other historic homes of the bishops included Farnham Castle and a town residence at Winchester Palace in Southwark, Surrey (now London). The bishop is the visitor to five Oxford colleges, including New College, Oxford and St John's College, Oxford.
The current Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, was enthroned on 21 April 2012, having been elected on 14 October 2011. He was consecrated as a bishop at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 25 January 2012.