Past & Present Bishops of the Anglican Diocese of Trinidad & Tobago

A Bishop’s Mitre

1797 The British brought their religion to Trinidad and the Brigade Chaplain to the forces, Revd J.H. Clapham, became the first Church of England Rector in Trinidad.

1824 The Church of England in Trinidad, having been under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, became part of the new Diocese of Barbados.  TheRevd W.H. Coleridge D.D. was consecrated Bishop of Barbados.1

Revd. Clapham was joined in 1823 by Revd. George Cummins and in that year (1823) the Trinity Church was consecrated.  In 1841, the Revd George Cummings was appointed as the first Archdeacon in Trinidad and was authorized to be Vicar General. The first ordination took place on May 21, 1844 when Bishop Parry, (who succeeded Bishop Coleridge) ordained five deacons at the Holy Trinity Church.  At that time Trinidad was divided into sixteen parishes with nine clergymen.

1870 The clergy and laity resolved that Trinidad should be separated from the Diocese of Barbados and be made an independent See.

1871 A Church Council was formed and the Revd. Richard Rawle was unanimously elected Bishop.  In April, Queen Victoria signed the Warrant for the separation of Trinidad from the Diocese of Barbados and on June 29, 1872 the Bishop Elect was consecrated in Lichfield Cathedral.  On August 2 he arrived in Trinidad and was enthroned as Bishop of Trinidad on August 6 at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

In July 1873 an Ordinance was passed incorporating the Bishop and the Treasurers as Trustees with all necessary powers and vesting in them the Church properties.1

In 1885 the Council became known as the Synod.

Bishop Rawle decided to resign from the Diocese of Trinidad and to assume duty as Principal of Codrington but he died on May 10, 1889 and was buried in Barbados.  Bishop Rawle was succeeded by James Thomas Hayes who was consecrated on March 25, 1889.  The official residence of the Diocesan Bishop and the street on which the residence is located, bear his name.

In 1891 Tobago was joined to the Diocese of Trinidad and in 1895 the Bishop of Trinidad was given jurisdiction over the congregations and missions in Venezuela.  Venezuela eventually became a separate diocese in 1975 and separated from the Province of the West Indies in 1981.

It is interesting to note that the census of 1891 showed that the Church of England in Trinidad and Tobago numbered 47,095 persons.  Ecclesiastical grants were given to the various denominations in proportion to their strength and the Anglican Church received £3,500.

Bishop Hayes died on January 26, 1904.  Dr John Francis Welsh, principal of St Bonniface, Warminster was chosen bishop.  He was consecrated on October 28, 1904 and enthroned on November 24,1904.  Hayes Court, having been conceived in 1904 was completed in 1910.

Bishop Welsh died in 1916 and in 1918, Dr Arthur Henry Anstey, then Principal of Codrington was elected Bishop.  He was consecrated on June 29 at Holy Trinity Cathedral, the first Bishop to be consecrated in Trinidad.  During his tenure he consistently financed Diocesan and parochial projects from his own funds but his great work for which he is remembered was in the field of education.  In 1921 Bishop Anstey started a Church High School for Girls – now Bishop Anstey High School.  In 1926 he opened a hostel for teachers.  He lived at the Hostel and ran it himself for about 15 years.  In 1928 Bishop’s Hostel for women teachers was opened.  On July 3, 1943, Bishop Anstey was unanimously elected Archbishop of the West Indies.  He became seriously ill in January 1945 and resigned as Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Trinidad on February 1, 1945.

The Diocese remained vacant for some time until Fabian Elliott Menteath Jackson was enthroned as Bishop in June 1946.  Bishop Jackson was able to raise a considerable sum of money for Church work.  However, his work was greatly impaired by ill health and he retired in 1949.

Bishop Douglas John Wilson MA, Cambridge was elected Bishop in 1950 by direct vote of Synod.  Together with his new Dean, the Revd. Mr Vaughan, he formulated plans for a Church of England High School for boys.  However, he retired and left Trinidad in 1956, before the laying of the foundation stone of the Trinity College at Moka.

The Venerable Frank Noel Chamberlain, OBE, MA., AKC., Archdeacon of the Fleet was selected by an appointing Committee in England as successor to Bishop Wilson.  He was consecrated and enthroned in Trinidad in August 1956 and administered the affairs of the Diocese until July 1961.  On his retirement, Archbishop William James Hughes, then an Archbishop in Central Africa was invited to be successor.  Bishop Hughes became Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago in 1962.  He strove to give the Church a West Indian complexion and encouraged the change of name from “The Church of England in Trinidad and Tobago” to “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago”.

Guy Marshall was consecrated in Ottawa, Canada in 1967 by the Archbishop of the West Indies as Suffragan Bishop of Trinidad in Venezuela. At that time, Venezuela was part of the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago.  On October 28, 1972 Bishop Marshall became the first Bishop of Venezuela as jurisdiction for that Diocese was handed over to him.

In 1970, at a time of great turmoil in the country in the aftermath of the Black Power disturbances Clive Orminston Abdulah was elected as the first native Bishop of the Diocese.  He was consecrated on September 29, 1970 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and during his tenure the Church adopted a more ecumenical stance.  Bishop Abdulah retired as Diocesan Bishop in 1993 and continues to serve as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago.

Rawle Ernest Douglin was elected Coadjutor bishop to succeed Bishop Abdulah.  Bishop Douglin was consecrated on September 29, 1992 and has enjoyed a brilliant episcopacy.  He retired in 2001 and continues to serve as Assistant Bishop in the Diocese.

Bishop Douglin was succeeded by the incumbent Calvin Wendell Bess.   Bishop Bess retires on December 18, 2011.  Claude Berkley was elected as Coadjutor in October 2010 and was consecrated on March 17, 2011.  He assumed office as Diocesan Bishop on December 18, 2011 and was enthroned in an impressive ceremony at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity on January 14, 2012.

(See information for current Bishops under Bishops on this website)

1Source: The Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago 1872 – 1972;

The information in this article was obtained from The Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago 1872 – 1972, a publication of The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago.



Click on the bishop’s name you wish to get more information about:

Bishop’s Name Dates in Office
Richard Rawle 1872–1889
James Thomas Hayes 1889 – 1904
John Francis Welsh 1904 – 1916
Arthur Henry Anstey 1918 – 1945
(Archbishop of the West Indies) 1943-1945
Fabian Elliot M. Jackson 1946 – 1949
Douglas John Wilson 1950 – 1956
Frank Noel Chamberlain 1956 – 1961
William James Hughes 1962 – 1970
Guy Marshall (Suffragan Bishop) 1968-1974
Clive Orminston Abdulah(First Local Bishop) 1970 – 1993
Rawle Ernest Douglin 1993 – 2001
Calvin Wendell Bess 2001 – 2011
Claude Berkley(First Tobagonian Bishop) 2011-Present