Friends and admirers of Bishop George Bell (who died in 1958) were appalled three years ago when a new guidebook to Chichester Cathedral was published.
A paragraph about the Bishop on page 37 accepted his identification (from a single accusation) as probably a paedophile, stating that the allegations, though never tested in a court of law, were ‘nonetheless plausible’.
An extra twist of the knife was the slightly unnecessary contention that ‘as Bell himself recognized, … supporting victims is always the right thing to do’.
The resulting outcry, in view of Bell’s previous blameless reputation, caused the Cathedral to withdraw the guidebook from its shop in the Cloisters, so that until recently the only guidebooks displayed were in French and German.
The 2016 revision could be sold to visitors who specifically requested it, but was kept under the counter as if it contained offensive material – as in a sense it did.
Now a newly revised version has silently appeared in the Cloisters shop. In this the ‘outing’ of Bell has been removed, to be replaced by a longer account of his friendship with the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis in 1945.
It’s reassuring to see this evident change of view at the Cathedral over the character of one of Chichester’s greatest bishops.
Is it perhaps time now to commission for a site somewhere in or near the building a statue of this remarkable man?
Hawthorn Close, Chichester
Earlier this month, at Westminster Abbey, there was a Service of Thanksgiving for the politician and diplomat Lord ‘Paddy’ Ashdown who died last year.
In the Epilogue of his last book – “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” – Lord Ashdown concludes:
“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here”
Later next month, in Chichester Cathedral*, some of those questions will be addressed at the Coburg Conference which “will focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and George Bell’s work, and what it can teach us in the light of today’s political situation”.
Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society
* October 10th to 14th. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral
4 Canon Lane, formerly known as George Bell House (its rightful name – likely to be restored … see NOTE below), is a guest house set within the cathedral grounds in a fantastic location tucked behind the Cathedral and next to the beautiful Bishop’s Gardens. The house is a historic building, full of character with décor in keeping with the period. Set in a quiet location the building has a restful atmosphere. It is ideally located for exploring the charming town centre of Chichester, its cathedral or visit the Festival Theatre – all within walking distance!
4 Canon Lane is used for many purposes and only has 8 rooms. The rooms are comfortable without being elaborate. Some of the upstairs rooms have wonderful views of the cathedral or gardens. In particular, the 2 large doubles, Room 4 overlooking the garden and Room 5 overlooking the Cathedral are more expensive but apparently worth it. Smaller rooms are to the side and have showers, not baths.
It would seem that there are significant different differences between the rooms – with the better rooms unsurprisingly in demand – so early booking is advised…
George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral – before the name change [Picture: Alamy]
Due to unsubstantiated allegations, George Bell House has been renamed 4 Canon Lane. However, in the absence of any actual proof, court judgement or any admission of liability on behalf of the Church of England, it is expected that 4 Canon Lane will have its previous name of George Bell House restored.
Without proof or independent substantive evidence, there is no justification to excise the extraordinary legacy of Bishop George Bell or his memory…
The Church of England also seems to need reminding that in the United Kingdom a man is innocent until actually proven guilty.
Although it is for [Dean and] Chapter to decide, it is expected 4 Canon Lane will revert back to its former title of George Bell House following an Extraordinary meeting of the Chichester Cathedral Council on 17 January 2018.
LETTER: Bell report [wait] is intolerable MERIEL WILMOT-WRIGHT, LITTLE LONDON MEWS, CHICHESTER
Published: 01:00 Thursday 23 November 2017
It is now eight weeks since the eminent QC Lord Carlile delivered to Archbishop Justin Welby the report of his investigations into the unproven allegations against the late Bishop George Bell. Eight weeks – and the report is still unpublished. This delay is intolerable and there is now a large body of people nationwide calling for its immediate publication – one hopes, without redactions.