Anglicans Online News Basics Worldwide Anglicanism Anglican Dioceses and Parishes
Noted Recently News Archives Start Here The Anglican Communion Africa Australia BIPS Canada
Search, Archives Official Publications Anglicans Believe... In Full Communion England Europe Hong Kong Ireland
Resource directory   The Prayer Book Not in the Communion Japan New Zealand Nigeria Scotland
    The Bible B South Africa USA Wales WorldB
This page last updated 23 September 2013  

Through the Years with Gaiters

Through the Years with No Gaiters
A Gaiter Rarity: An American Bishop
Metaphorical Gaiters
Gaiters Trivia

Year Suspect Occasion Anecdote Source
1948-49Geoffrey Fisher, 99th Archbishop of Canterbury Abp of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher Fetching the archbishop, who was on an American tour, at the railway station.

A dean of an American cathedral 'was dispatched to the railroad station. The train arrived and passengers got off, but there was no Archbishop in evidence. My father noticed a porter leaning out of a doorway. He pointed to his shins, the porter broke into a big smile, disappeared back into the car and emerged with Geoffrey Fisher. The gaiters of course had given him away'.


Direct report.
Late 1940s Archdeacon in eastern Ontario or Montreal ('name long lost') Various, but especially when cycling. 'He claimed that they were very effective for cycling. I have spoken with two older clerics in Ottawa, but they were unable to provide me with any clues as to his identity'. Personal observation.
1950s Prefects of Kings School Canterbury Annual Commemoration Day and other formal occasions Personal observation.
6 February 1952 One elderly bishop, name unknown. Memorial service for King George VI. 'In late winter of my sophomore year, a group of us from Cornell University went to Montreal for a regional meeting of Canterbury Clubs. On the evening of Feb. 6, 1952 preparations were underway for a dance reception when the death of King George VI was announced. The dance was canceled. The following day we participated in a memorial service at which one elderly bishop appeared in gaiters and frock coat. I've not seen such dress again'. Personal observation.
1952 Bp of Whitby 'Leading 500 hymn singers across the sands'. 'The caption says, in part: "Here the Bishop of Whitby, in biretta and gaiters, rests after leading 500 hymn singers across the sands." He has a pipe in his mouth and is apparently cleaning the sand off of one of his feet—the other sports the gaiters'. October 1952 issue of National Geographic magazine
1952 George A. Chase, Bp of Ripon Visiting British lecturer at Berkeley Divinity School, New Haven Connecticut   Personal observation.
1953 Herbert Hall, bp of Aberdeen Ibid.   Personal observation.
1955 The 'Red Dean' of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson
Act Now, a book by Hewlett Johnson, with his photo on the jacket.
'He once preached to us in Sturry (St Nicholas'), probably in 1955 or thereabouts where I attended the Junior Kings School situated two miles out of Canterbury. Young as I was I recall desperately trying to make an association between his sermon on the recent achievements of Russian aviators and some sort of Christian message. By then the old boy was so gaga that Canon Shirley, headmaster of the Senior School, forbade pupils from accepting his invitations to tea! Doubtless he didn't want anyone corrupted by Bolshevik views—a bit over the top since no one least of all the pupils took the old Dean seriously. Personal observation.
1957 Abp of Melbourne, Frank Woods Taking up of episcopal appointment. Frank Woods apparently 'was wearing gaiters on his arrival in Australia to take up his appointment in 1957'. Personal observation.
1958? Abp Wright, Diocese of Algoma Lambeth Conference, coming down stairs. 'The Archbishop wore gaiters to one of Lambeth Conferences and was seen coming down the stairs and one observer was heard to say, "Now I know what they mean by 'guts and gaiters'". Heard somewhere.
1959 The Revd Canon John Pyle, Cathedral of St John The Divine, New York City General Theological Seminary, New York 'The Divine wore gaiters to the opening of the student's annual theatrical production at GTS. He stood out in the crowd. Lo, he had his reward. Such a wonderfully fine man in such ridiculous garb!' Personal observation.
Early 1960s Geoffrey Allen, Bp of Derby Various.   Personal observation by the daughter of a priest in the Diocese of Derby.
?-1961 Geoffrey Fisher, 99th Archbishop of CanterburyThe ubiquitous Abp Fisher
Various. 'It is my recollection that Geoffrey Fisher, when Archbishop of Canterbury, wore the things almost all the time and other church dignitaries followed suit. Michael Ramsey ... preferred to wear a purple cassock and his influence is reckoned to have led to the demise of gaiters although few followed his example of wearing the cassock. Pity. I can recall seeing him on the crowded escalator of Holborn tube station one evening on his way somewhere in his episcopal cassock, an impressive but very unpretentious and unselfconscious episcopal figure'. Personal observation.
1929-1964 J.S. Moyes, Bishop of Armidale (New South Wales.) Various 'A photograph taken in 1959 shews Bp Moyes with the Archbishop of Sydney (Hugh Gough), the Bishop of Coventry (Cuthbert Bardsley) and the Dean of Sydney (Eric Pitt); both Bishops and the Dean are in gaiters'. Personal observation.
1965 Archdeacon of Rochester (and the always-gaitered Abp Fisher) Rochester Diocesan Conference, Rochester Corn Exchange, Rochester, Kent 'He was introduced by Bishop David Say from the platform, and was blushing bright red! I remember feeling sorry for him. Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher always wore gaiters, and wore them to the University of London Union for a lecture in 1962'. Personal observation.
?-1965 Unspecified bishops and archdeacons 'Abounding'

'I have photographs taken at my old Salisbury Theological College Triennial Festival in 1961 showing both Geoffrey Cantuar and William Sarum wearing episcopal gaiters. In 1964, Sauders-Davies, Bishop of Stockport wore them during a visit to my parish. The then bishop of Coventry, Cuthbert Bardsley, who accompanied him, wore a suit. He was regarded as one of the new line of bishops. All the time I was in the Chester diocese I never saw the Archdeacon of Chester gaiterless. Finally, there is an episcopal instruction:

There was an archdeacon who said,
Can I take off my gaiters in bed,
But the bishop said no
Wherever you go
You must wear them until you are dead'.

Personal observation.
Illustration of a gaiter.
1966-1967 Ian Ramsay, Bp of Durham—and a threat from the Very Revd John Allen, quondam Provost of Wakefield. Tea with the dean of the college. '+Ian was wearing gaiters. They looked somewhat strange on such a short figure. The previous Provost of Wakefield, the Very Revd John Allen, also admitted to having worn gaiters and said that he would do so again before his retirement but I did not witness it'. Personal observation.
1968 Abp of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher Reception at Lambeth Palace for bishops attending the Lambeth Conference. 'At that time he was pretty much laughed at for dressing like a dinosaur, as it were'. Reported to a US priest.
1972 Ven Carl Witton-Davies, Archdeacon of Oxford (and the never gaiterless Abp Fisher) Encaenia procession, Oxford University. 'He was acting Dean of Ch Ch while Henry Chadwick was on leave which would give a better fix in time if it mattered! Surely Fisher wore gaiters regularly while in office? Even on social occasions—I am pretty sure I once saw him so attired at a college dinner. I attended his memorial service in the Abbey (1972? 1973?) in a minor representative role, but recall no gaiters in sight that day—but of course the whole hierarchy was "robed and in the sanctuary" and may have had anything on below.' Personal observation.
Ca. 1974 Dean Walter Gilling of St James Cathedral, Toronto Retirement reception. 'Dean Gilling caused quite a stir when he showed up for his last service and farewell get-together in his gaiters and coat. I must admit he looked magnificent in the outfit along with his bushy bright gray hair'. Personal observation.
Mid 1970s Very Revd Charles Gray-Stack, Dean of Kenmare (Church of Ireland) Various. 'Was often seen in gaiters in the mid-1970s; and I think I can safely claim that it was 1975 when I saw him wearing them at a function at Trinity College'. Personal observation.
January 1977 Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal Open house for new ordinands at the deanery. Janet Mayo in her book A History of Ecclesiastical Dress (B.T. Batsford Ltd., London, 1984, page 119) says the apron and gaiters "did not pass out of general use either in Britain or abroad until the late 1950s and 1960s." I was ordained deacon in 1976 and served at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. The dean of the Cathedral had an "open house" in January of 1977 and hosted the event in apron and gaiters!'

Personal observation.

Late 1970s The Archdeacon of Northumberland Various.   Personal observation.
1980s Very Revd Duncan Abraham, Dean of Toronto Once, occasion unknown.

'Wore gaiters at least once. The garment had apparently belonged to his predecessor, Dean Gilling. Dean Abraham retired in the early 1990s'. You may want to confirm this be emailing the Toronto Cathedral office (the present Dean is the Very Rev. Douglas Stoute'. (Ed. note: We didn't, alas, since we were short of time.)

Reported to an organist at an Anglican preparatory school.
1980s Peter Mumford, Bp of Truro A County Show.

'I seem to remember that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was with him but I certainly remember the gaiters—one would. I can't do the year I'm afraid, but he was at Truro from 1981 to 1990'.

Personal observation.
-1981 (?) Very Revd R L P Milburn, Dean of Worcester, later Master of the Temple Always (presumed from obituary).

The Very Revd RLP Milburn, quondam Dean of WorcesterSee The Times (London) for his obituary.

Er, discerned from obituary.

Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon Gerald Ellison, Bishop of London

Illustration of a gaiter.

Apparently always and everywhere, since he 'wore out four sets at Willesden'. (Ed. note: Perhaps he followed the injunction above?)

'He was consecrated to Willesden (London) in 1950 or so, translated to Chester in about 1955 and thence to London in 1973 or 1974. He retired in 1982 (?). He served for a year as Vicar General in Bermuda for a year (1983/84) which is where I met him. He had the full rig, including gaiters and stringed top hat. He also had full evening dress which he wore to the US Naval Air Station for their July 4th banquet (it rather stunned the Marine guard at the front gate)!

Jane Ellison, his wife, said once that when he was Willesden he wore out four sets of gaiters, and commented something along the lines of "Archbishop Fisher would not let a bishop within 100 yards of Lambeth Palace without gaiters!".

When he retired from London, he had an audience with Queen Elizabeth. He telephoned the Palace to ask what he should wear, and whether episcopal morning dress was still required. He was told that it was not required, but that Her Majesty always appreciated seeing it worn. On his arrival at the Palace, he remarked (as they looked at him wearing the full kit, with WWII service medals, pectoral cross, etc): "Take a good look at me, for I am like the dinosaur and the battleship..."

His collection of robes (he also had a Parliamentary Robe—the equivalent of a cappa magna) was donated to a museum on his death a few years ago'.

Personal observation.
Mid 1980s Unspecified archdeacons Various. 'Some Archdeacons were still wearing gaiter in the mid 1980s'. Personal observation (?)
Late 1980s Bishop of Johannesburg Various.   Personal observation
1989 Robert Runcie, Abp of Canterbury Appointment at Buckingham Palace.   Apparent TV clip in England.
1999 Ven. Peter Hannen, Archdeacon of Montreal Evensong commemorating the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the first Bishop of Montreal. (Ed. note: Would gaiters on this occasion be considered fancy dress?) The archdeacon 'inherited these gaiters from a previous archdeacon whose name escapes me. In any case, he cuts a dashing figure. I hadn't realized how slimming and distinguished gaiters could be'. (Ed. note: Could he have obtained his gaiters from this archdeacon, perhaps?) Direct report.
1960s-present day Unspecified bishops and archdeacons Ceremonial occasions, apparently. 'It is still the case that some Bishop have a purple version of gaiters that they wear to events like the Lord Mayor's Dinner in London. Some Archdeacons were still wearing gaiter in the mid 1980s'. Personal observation (?)



The Dean of Carlisle and unspecified others. At a parish church near you?

What makes your correspondent (and you?) think gaiters are extinct? The younger generation of dignitaries still includes their champions. My good friend the Dean of Carlisle wears them regularly. I have even seen him simply put a surplice and stole over the top (no cassock) to conduct a wedding, as was the custom in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Unless you have spied these contraptions at close quarters, you may not be aware that gaiters are fashioned by the inclusion of a steel rod down the back of the leg so that whatever the physical attributes of the wearer, a 'shapely calf' is displayed!

The present Archbishop of Canterbury (Note: at the time of writing, this would have been George Carey) still, I think, wears episcopal evening dress at Buckingham Palace banquets. This is an even more stunningly bizarre get-up! I expect that His Grace of York and His nearly-Grace of London need the same attire for the same reason. If they wear that absurd costume it is difficult to imagine that they do not have to sport the 'day' version from time to time.

A priest of my acquaintance, in his early thirties, turned out, a while ago, for a Buckingham Palace garden party in clerical morning dress which he had just bought because he thought he would need it from time to time. This modest eccentricity consists of black trousers and morning coat. I did not see whether he had the requisite black silk top hat; but then, why on earth not?

Messrs. Wippell of Exeter still purvey this fancy dress — at their customary vast expense. They will still send their man from Exeter to measure the More-than-Reverend and could doubtless supply a list of recent customers. Whether they will is quite another matter.

I wonder whether any female dignitaries have taken up this male attire.

Personal observation, shrewd guess.

An illustration, by Spy, of a late 19c. Bishop of London in gaiters.

2011 The Bishop of St Davids During the 'Friends of St David's Cathedral' festival

'I am writing to draw your attention to a contemporary example of a bishop apparently wearing a set in public, with photographic evidence (furthermore) posted openly in a photograph on a Cathedral website'.

We especially like the subtle use of the adverb 'openly' in the writer's email. After all, privately worn gaiters would be just . . . odd.

Website for St David's Cathedral, Diocese of St Davids, Church in Wales.


A Gaiter Rarity: An American Bishop

Year Suspect Occasion Source: Photo
1902 First Bishop of Albany (New York)

Visit to Burlington, New Jersey, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of St Mary's Parish.

Bp William Croswell Doane wore the traditional frock coat and gaiters throughout his episcopate (1868-1913), possibly the only American bishop so to do.

Bishop Doane

Metaphorical Gaiters

Year Suspect Occasion Anecdote Source
Present day Football team of Bishop's University (Canada) Metaphorical gaiters only, during their games? 'The football team of Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, incidentally, is called the Bishops Gaiters. The university was founded by the Lord Bishop of Quebec, and the Bishops of Quebec and Montreal still have roles as Visitors to the university'. Personal knowledge of a Church of Canada priest.

Through the Years with No Gaiters

Year Suspect Occasion Anecdote Source
1959-1980 Mervyn Stockwood, Bp of Southwark Various

He 'caused outrage in his early years as a bishop (amongst other things) by making it clear that he wouldn't wear the offending garments. Mervyn told me how touched he was that on the morning of his consecration Geoffrey Fisher came down to breakfast wearing a cassock'.

He also told a story about meeting Henry Montgomery Campbell, Bishop of London (1956-1961) on Lambeth Bridge. Montgomery Campbell (in gaiters) muttered to Mervyn (in purple cassock, purple cloak, probably purple biretta, which he often sported) as he passed, 'Ah! The Bishop of Southwark incognito'.

Direct report to a CofE priest.
1968 One unnamed bishop and, of course, Abp Fisher Lambeth

'Owen Chadwick, in his biography "Michael Ramsey: A Life", states that Lambeth 1968 was the first time the bishops did not wear gaiters. (Ed. note: But see above.) Evidently one unnamed bishop showed up at registration wearing them, and Archbishop Fisher, Ramsey's predecessor, wore them to a garden party'. (Ed. note: See Abp Fisher's photo on these pages passim.)

Owen Chadwick, via Abp Michael Ramsey biography.

Illustration of a gaiter.Gaiter Trivia

What does it mean to dream of gaiters? Find out at this silly site here.
A mystery written during the classic period of English detective fiction: Gold and Gaiters (1950), by CA Allington (who also wrote Archdeacons Afloat).

Background illustration: George Richmond, Sir John Gurney, Charles James Blomfield, and Henry Edward Maning at Fulham Palace c1840, pen and ink.


This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©1997-2019 Society of Archbishop Justus