Select Bishop Miscellany



Here are some Bishop stories and accounts over the years:

The Boy Bishop Ceremony


St. Nicholas of Bari was said to have inspired the annual ceremony held on December 6 of the election of a boy from the cathedral or parish choir to act as a “bishop” for three weeks.  This ancient ceremony was abolished by Henry VIII in 1541, later revived, and then finally done way with by Queen Elizabeth. 

The pageantry associated with these boy bishops who were elected for their appearance and bearing of a bishop of the church may have influenced people at the time when they came to adopt surnames.  By the time the parish registers came into official use in 1538 the Bishop surname was firmly established
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Thomas Bishopp, Forebear of the Sussex Bishopps


Thomas Bishopp, a lawyer of unknown parentage, settled in Sussex as a servant of Sir William Shelley of Michelgrove.  Over time he acquired several manors in the county and leased a house with a park of 150 acres at Henfield from the Bishop of Chichester.

Both Bishopp’s parents were Catholics.  Though he himself conformed he was criticized in 1582 for leniency in enforcing the recusancy laws.  Moreover, his second marriage, about seven years later, was into a Catholic family and in 1594 an informer accused him of sheltering a recusant.

However, he was protected from prosecution by Thomas Sackville, the joint lord lieutenant of Sussex who had been his guardian following the death of his father in 1560.  This relationship ensured him a secure position in the county’s administration and probably accounts for his election as a Sussex MP in 1584 and again in 1586
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Charles Bishop's Journey from Sussex to Liverpool

The TV program Who Do You Think You Are? unearthed some interesting information about Charles Bishop, the great great grandfather of the Liverpool comedian John Bishop.

Charles Bishop was listed as a lay vicar in Chichester, Sussex in the 1861 census.  An earlier record reveals that Charles, then a soldier himself, had married a soldier’s daughter Catherine in Montreal in 1852.  But how to reconcile his church and military careers?

The answer was music.  Charles joined up as a boy.  His service records revealed that he was in his regiment’s band.  Charles rose to become a sergeant and bandleader, yet bought himself out of the army at considerable cost to take a job at Chichester Cathedral.  The term lay vicar was somewhat misleading.  It actually means that he was employed to sing in the choir.  Charles was evidently a success because he moved on to work at York Minster.

Then came another career change.  By 1874 Charles was working in a minstrel show, blacking up to go on stage. Charles’s company, Sam Hague’s Minstrels, was based in Liverpool, which helps explain how his family settled in the city.  In the 1891 census he was recorded there as a music vocalist.


The Rev. John Bishop, Early New England Immigrant

John Bishop was born in Cattistock, Dorset in 1610, the seventh son of William and Alice Bishop.  He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees.

As a young man he decided to emigrate to New England and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts where in 1640 he was a schoolmaster.  He went to Stamford, Connecticut in 1644 to serve as the second minister of the First Congregational Church.  He married Rebecca Goodyear, the mother of all his children, there in 1645.  Following Rebecca’s death in 1671, he married the widow Joanna Boyes.  She too died before him in 1683.

John Bishop served the First Congregational Church of Stamford for close on fifty years.  He died in 1694 at the age of 84, a much respected and beloved clergyman.  In his will he requested to be buried between his two wives Rebecca and Joanna who he said with comfortable assurance “had fallen asleep in Jesus and gone to Heaven before me.”



Eleazar Bishop, from the Channel Islands to America


Eleazar Bishop was the son of Anthony Bishop who had moved his family from England to the Channel Island of Jersey in the early 1680’s. 

Their family story went as follows.  In 1692 Eleazar Bishop, aged seven, was playing on the beach with his dog when the captain of an English ship noticed them and decided that he wanted the dog.  He told his mate to get the dog.  The mate then had to kidnap Eleazar to get the dog. 

During the voyage to America, the dog became attached to the crew, but not so Eleazar.  When the ship landed at New London in Connecticut, the captain had to get rid of Eleazar.  So he sold him to Richard Dart for a yoke of oxen.

Richard and his wife brought Eleazar into their home and raised him as one of the family.  Eleazar later married their daughter Sarah.  Their son John moved from Connecticut to Nova Scotia in the 1760’s as one of the ‘New England planters.
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Thomas Bishop and His Wild West Show


Thomas Bishop got inspired in Newcastle in 1889 by the sight of the famous Buffalo Bill.  

He was holding his father’s hand and watching the street parade before him with great enjoyment. As the procession continued down the street, the boy heard gunshots. The gunfire grew louder and louder until he saw the source of the noise.  At the centre of the parade rode a tall man mounted on a white horse, cutting a striking figure in his fringed jacket, tall leather boots, and large cowboy hat.  That man on the white horse was William Frederick Cody, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” and the man responsible for founding the most famous travelling Wild West show.  


However, just a few years later, the untimely death of his father and his mother’s ill health saw Thomas and his younger brother Robert end up in an orphanage. There, before they had even reached their teenage years, the boys were given the opportunity to immigrate to their choice of several British territories at the time.  “Canada,” Thomas said to himself when he heard the list read out. “That’s where the cowboys are!”  

Thomas found work as a farmhand in the Niagara region.  Having always enjoyed working with horses, he also began to take on horse training gigs, quickly making a name for himself in local circles as a gifted trainer of troubled horses.  In 1914 Thomas was invited to perform a trained horse exhibition and Wild West display to help raise money for World War One troops.   The show was a huge success and Thomas soon found himself regularly producing Wild West shows, just like his hero Buffalo Bill.  


Over the following years, as his Wild West Show continued to grow and expand, Thomas was able to purchase some farming land near Ridgeville, Ontario which he named the 4-B Corral
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