Glossary: Dean

The first dignitary of a cathedral, and the head of its corporation, also exercising under the bishop cure of souls over the cathedral body and administering its discipline. The dean was a corporation sole, with the right to receiving an estate or patronage as dean and conveying it to his successors, as well as sharing in the corporate revenues and patronage of the dean and chapter. The powers of the dean vary considerably between cathedrals, in some cases the position being little more than the first among equals in the chapter. The dean did, however, have considerable independence from the bishop. Collegiate churches which were not cathedrals, such as Westminster Abbey or Southwell Minster, were also presided over by a dean. Did Southwell have a dean?

The term is also found used in relation to the office of rural dean, which was in some places and at some periods within the compass of the CCED fallen into disuse. It will also be found being used to describe 'deans of peculiars', such as the dean of Battle, Sussex, where the offices reflect the particular jurisdictional status of the incumbent. It was in addition used to describe an office in many Oxford and Cambridge colleges, usually with particular responsibilities for discipline or the chapel.