Papers of George Allen Kennedy Bell

Scope and Content

The Papers of George Bell extend over his entire career, from his undergraduate days at Oxford, his appointment at Christ Church in 1910, chaplain to Archbishop Davidson (1914-24), Dean of Canterbury (1924-29), and from 1929 as Bishop of Chichester. Although some the papers relate specifically to the administration of the diocese of Chichester, the majority of the collection encompasses a much broader arena: the Church of England in general; the Anglican Communion, and International Affairs. The papers illustrate, for instance, his contribution to religious drama by his sponsorship of the Canterbury Festival, his involvement in the ecumenical movement with the formation of the World Council of Churches, his involvement with the German Church struggle during the 1930's, and friendship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, his championing of the needs of refugees with the setting up of the Church of England Committee for Non-Aryan Christians, and his condemnation of carpet-bombing of German cities during the War. Apart from correspondence, the collection includes diaries, sermons, newspaper cuttings, and a few photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Kennedy Allen Bell was the son of the Rev. James Allen Bell (canon of Norwich 1918), born in 1883 and educated at Winchester School and Christ Church, Oxford. He was ordained to the title of the curacy of Leeds in 1907, and returned to Oxford as clerical student and tutor at Christ Church in 1910. He was appointed chaplain to Randall Davidson, archbishop of Canterbury, on the outbreak of the first World War in 1914, and continued as chaplain until appointed Dean of Canterbury in 1924. In 1929 he was consecrated bishop of Chichester, a position he held until his resignation towards the end of 1957. He died in October 1958. George Bell was one of the foremost churchmen of his generation; his breadth of vision was recognised in both ecumenical and international circles. His ecumenical involvements included first chairman of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, 1947-54; and hon. president of the WCC, 1954-8; chairman of the Church of England Council on Foreign Relations, 1945-58; joint chairman of the Anglican-Methodist Conversations, 1956. He was junior secretary of the 1920 Lambeth Conference, and episcopal secretary of the 1930 Conference, and chariman of the 1948 Conference Committee on church unity. He was a member of the Archbishop's Commission on Church and State, 1930-5, and convener of the Convocation Committee on Church and State, 1933-8. He inaugurated the performances of religious drama in Canterbury Cathedral, with John Masefield's The Coming of Christ in 1928, and the following year he founded the Canterbury Festival of Music and Drama. He invited T.S. Eliot to write Muder in the Cathedral for the 1935 Canterbury Festival (for which he was still a trustee). He was the first bishop to appoint a diocesan Director of Religious Drama in 1930. He set up the Church of England Committee for non-Aryan Christians in 1937. His publications include sermons, addresses, visitation charges, the biography of Randall Davidson (1935), Christianity and world order (1940). He edited 5 volumes of Documents on Christian unity (1924-1958), the Stockhold Conference, 1925: the official report of the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work, 1925, and co-edited Mysterium Christi: Christological studies by British and German theologians, 1930, and The Church of England and the Free Churches: proceedings of the joint conferences held at Lambeth Palace, 1921-25, 1925.


Original file numbers of the 'German Church Papers' (numbered 1-59) have been adopted for the volume order of this section of the papers as researchers working on these papers before their transfer to Lambeth Palace Library quoted file numbers. The rest of the papers have been arranged and bound as: large subject files on International and ecumenical affairs (65-117), internal affairs of the Church of England or Anglican Communion (118-83); smaller miscellaneous files of correspondence arranged in a roughly chronological sequence: school and college and early career at Oxford, Leeds and Lambeth Palace (184-90); dean of Canterbury, 1924-29 (191-202); bishop of Chichester, 1929-1958 (203-18); publications (219-38); diaries and note books (239-306), sermons (342-55), newspapers cuttings (356-66), death and biography (367-8).

Conditions Governing Access

A full readers ticket is required for access to this collection. See


Bell's papers on the Community of Holy Cross placed in the manuscripts sequence (MSS. 3067-71) in 1979. A few letters from Bell's papers quoted by Jasper in his biography were never received by the Library and have never been located.

Other Finding Aids

Barber, Melanie, Papers of George Kennedy Allen Bell, Bishop of Chichester, 1883-1958, in Lambeth Palace Library. Catalogue and Index, volumes 184-368, 1996 (typescript). List of volumes of the Papers of George Kennedy Allen Bell, Bishop of Chichester, with description of the German Church Papers, vols. 1-60, (typescript). Draft catologue of vols. 61-183.

Conditions Governing Use

Appraisal Information

With the exception of some appraisal of letters of congratulations, all papers tranferred by Henrietta Bell and the family have been retained.

Custodial History

The Bell Papers were mainly given to the Library by Henrietta Bell, the widow of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, during the 1960's. Some of the Bishop's papers loaned by his widow to Canon Jasper for his biography were addded to the collection in the 1970's.



Related Material

Archbishops' Papers (chiefly Davidson, but also Lang, Temple and Fisher); Manuscript series (Headlam Papers); MSS.3060-3062 (Archbishop's Commission on Church and State); MSS. 3067-3071 (Holy Cross Community); MSS.3287-3319 (Collins papers); MSS. 3589-3593 (Lancelot Mason papers); Bishops' meetings; Lambeth Conference.


R.C.D.Jasper, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, London, OUP, 1967. D Hampson, The British response to the German church struggle 1933-1939, DPhil dissertation, University of Oxford, 1973. E. Bethge and R.C.D. Jasper (ed.s), An der Schwelle zum Gespaltenen europa, 1939-1951, 1974 (correspondence between Bell and Gerhard Libholz). E.G.Rupp, 'I seek my brethren' Bishop George Bell and the German churches, London, Epworth Press, 1975. E.H. Robertson, Unshakeable friend: George Bell and the German churches, London, CCBI, 1995. A. Chandler (ed.), Brethren in adversity, Woodbridge, Boydell and Brewer for the Church of England Record Society, 1997. Dietrich Bonhoeffer werke, includes correspondence.

Geographical Names