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George Bell House rededicated after thanksgiving for late Bishop’s life

13 October 2023

James H. Grayson

The new name plate on George Bell House

The new name plate on George Bell House

THANKSGIVING for the life and work of the former Bishop of Chichester Dr George Bell was offered during choral evensong in Chichester Cathedral last week, before George Bell House was rededicated in his memory.

On Tuesday 3 October — the day on which Bell is commemorated in the Common Worship calendar — the Interim Dean, Canon Simon Holland, officiated at evensong, with lessons read by Lord Lexden and Desmond Browne. The cathedral’s Chancellor, Canon Daniel Inman, preached on the legacy of Bishop Bell as a Christian leader and peacemaker. There followed a rededication service at George Bell House. Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson read a reflection on Bell by Martin Niemöller, marking the 65th anniversary of the late Bishop’s death.

Earlier this year, the Chapter agreed to restore the name of George Bell House (News, 4 August), after a campaign for several years by defenders of Bell’s reputation (News, 9 February 2019).

The name had been changed by the Chapter to 4 Canon Lane in 2016, a year after Bishop Bell was named in a legal civil claim of sexual abuse (News, 30 October 2015). The complaint concerned the abuse of a young girl in the late 1940s and early ’50s, later known as Carol.

In 2017, Lord Carlile’s independent review of the case found that Church of England officials had “rushed to judgment” when accepting the allegations against Bishop Bell (News, 22 December 2017).

Sussex Police closed their latest investigation in 2018 (News, 27 April 2018). In 2019, the Archbishop of Canterbury apologised for “mistakes” made in the handling of the allegation (News, 1 February 2019). In 2021, he retracted a statement made in 2017 (News, 19 November 2021): “What I say today that is new and should have been said sooner is this: I do not consider there to be a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name. Previously I refused to retract that statement, and I was wrong to do so.”

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