A new diocese called Halam and Axholme will be created in the north of England if proposals presented for discussion this week by Bishop Gordon Wheeler of Leeds are accepted.
The new diocese would embrace the metropolitan county of North Yorkshire, at present part of the Leeds diocese, together with the part of Humberside south of the river Humber, and the high peak district of Derbyshire, which are at present in the Nottingham diocese.
The creation of a new diocese in the area has been discussed for many years but in December 1975 the Bishops' Conference gave formal approval to the proposal when they accepted the ideas set out in `Groundplan' on the reoreanisation of the church's structure in England and Wales.
The suggestions outlined in 'Groundplan' were discussed at deanery, clergy and pastoral council meetings. The present proposal is designed to meet objections raised at those initial discussions — particularly the fears that some areas would be left without sufficient funds.
If the present plan is accepted the new diocese will include from the Leeds diocese the 50 parishes of some 67,000 Catholics inside the civic boundaries of the metropolitan county of South Yorkshire and the two parishes in Goole, Humberside.
From the present Nottingham diocese the new diocese will include the two parishes at present within the boundary of the City of Sheffield; those areas within what is known as the commuter belt of South Yorkshire, and all that area of the new county of Humberside south of the Humber; as well as the area known as the District of High Peak in the county of Derbyshire.
There is a suggestion, also that Chesterfield and Staveley should be included in the new diocese which would then have 80 parishes with a Catholic population of about 84,000 out of a total population of about one and a half million.
It is suggested in this proposal that Sheffield should be the episcopal see on the grounds that it is the largest city with over one third of the population of the new diocese and that it is the centre for the heads of the Anglican Church, the Methodist Church and the Free Churches whose diocese or districts cover roughly the same area as the proposed new diocese St Mary's would be the cathedral church.
The proposed name of the new diocese, Halam and Axholme is derived from the fact that in ancient times there was a county of Halamshire in south Yorkshire and a Vale of Axholme in south Humberside, both these names are still well known in the area.