Diocesan Histories : Carlisle




THE land which the Red King added to the English kingdom was the land of Carleol, or Carlisle. Some doubt has recently been raised as to whether it was under the Red King or his successor that the land of Carlisle became the earldom, and Ranulph de Meschines the earl thereof1 but there is no doubt that Henry I founded the Norman bishopric of Carlisle. This region, the land of Carlisle, was one over which various conflicting claims to ecclesiastical jurisdiction existed: the Bishop of Durham appears at the accession of Henry I to have been in actual ecclesiastical possession of some part of the region. His title was founded, as to spiritual jurisdiction, on the conquest of King Ecgfrid, and as to certain endowments upon the gift by King Ecgfrid in 685 to St. Cuthbert of the city -

"quę vocatur Luel quę habet in circuitu quindecim milliaria."

In times when kingdoms and bishoprics were co-extensive, Ecgfrid's conquests in Cumbria would naturally be taken to belong to the diocese of his bishop, St. Cuthbert, to the Anglian diocese of Lindisfarne to the exclusion of the Celtic Bishop of Glasgow. It is probable that Ecgfrid's power in Cumbria included little more than what he bestowed on St. Cuthbert as an endowment, namely, the city of Carlisle and the cleared district in its vicinity, forming the old parish of St. Cuthbert-without-the-Walls, an area within which many field names, such as Cuddy's (Cuthbert's) close, Cuddy's chair, &c., record its connexion with the saint bishop. The rights thus obtained served as pegs on which to hang greater claims. In 854 we find from Symeon of Durham, that Eardulf, bishop of Lindisfarne, claimed Carlisle:-

"Eardulphus. . . . cathedrę pontificalis [Lindisfarne] gubernacula suscepit, nec minorem quam proximis Lindis-farnensium quibusque longe positis Episcopatus sui locis pastoralis curę sollicitudinem impendebat: quorum Luel, quod nunc Carleol appellatur, non solum proprii juris Sancli Cuthberti fuerat, sed etiam ad sui Episcopatus regimen ab Ecgfridi Regis temporibus semper adjacebat."2

From the wording of this passage it would seem that Eardulf laid claim to Carlisle for two reasons, namely, - that it (and as much of Cumbria as Ecgfrid conquered) was laid to his bishopric in the time of Ecgfrid, and belonged to his regimen, and that it was part of the endowment (proprii juris) of the see by Ecgfrid's gift; the regimen and the proprii juris being different things, one extending over a larger area than the other, the last having its boundaries fixed by Ecgfrid's gift, the first varying originally as the boundaries of the Northumbrian supremacy over Cumbria varied, but afterwards probably able to maintain a hold in places from which the Northumbrian supremacy had receded. Eardulf's successors at Chester-le-Street and Durham, after Lindisfarne ceased in 875 to be a see, continued their claims to jurisdiction and probably to emoluments in the land which Ecgfrid had made English. The well known Veredictum Antiquorum, in the cartulary of Lanercost, concerning the chapel of Triermaine [Triermain] in Gillesland [Gilsland], says:

"Gilmore filius Gilandi qui erat dominus de Treverman et de Torcrossoc fecit primum unam capellam de virgis apud Treverman et procuravit divina in ea celebrari (Dom. Edelwano Episcopo concedente), Enoc tunc persona de Walton, pro quadam parte terrę que nunc vocatur Kirkland unde sacerdos et clericus suus possent sustentari, ad ministrandum et serviendum in predicta capella. Et Gillemor, dominus de Treverman admisit ad illam capellam serviendum Gillemor, capellanum consanguineum suum, qui primum hospitabatur in terra predicta et ipsum herbergare fecit multo tempore ante adventum Huberti de Vallibus in Cumberland."

Edelwan, or Edelwyn, was bishop of Durham, 1056 to 1071 [here, a previous owner of the book has written "Rot!" in the margin], and we here have him exercising jurisdiction in the land of Carlisle before the advent of the Red King. This verdict is also of importance as showing that the parochial system was in force in the land of Carlisle before the Red King incorporated it into the English kingdom. Other documents might be cited, supporting, if genuine, the title of the bishops of Durham to jurisdiction in the land of Carlisle. The title was good enough to sustain in the year 1255 a right to the profits of the benefices belonging to the bishopric of Carlisle sede vacante by the death in that year, of Sylvester de Everdon, fifth bishop of Carlisle. ["Rot!" again]. Robert de Insula, bishop of Durham, also enforced a similar claim on the death of Robert de Chauncy, seventh Bishop of Carlisle.3

According to Fordun, in the Scotichronicon, the Bishop of Glasgow exercised jurisdiction in the land of Carlisle before Henry I created the see of that name. He says:

"Hic Henricus . . . videns Johannem Episcopum Glasguensem per Cumberlandiam ecclesias dedicare et cetera officia pontificalia secundum morem juris antiqui perficere cum nec sibi nec Archiepiscopo Eboracensi vellet inde ut domino et pręlato obsecundare; incitante Turstino Eboracensi Archiepiscopo, constituit per vim et violentiam Eadwaldum Episcopum in Cumberlandia ad titulum Carleolensem, contra eum, quia non erat qui ei resistere audebat."

The Bishop of Glasgow, by way of protest against the dismemberment of his see, resigned his bishopric and retired into a monastery, but was afterwards recalled. The Bishops of Glasgow continued for long to maintain their claim, and in 1258, John de Cheham, bishop of Glasgow, spurred thereto by the allowance in 1255 of the claims of the Bishop of Durham upon the bishopric of Carlisle, went to Rome to urge his case there, but died on the road. The chronicle of Lanercost says:-

"obtendebat jus antiquum in partes Westmorlandia in preju diciam Karleolensis ecelesię, dicens usque ad Rer Cross in Staymor ad dięcesem suam pertinere."

The Rey cross on Stainmoor was the most southern boundary in the sixth century of the see of Glasgow, which was then co-extensive with the kingdom of Strathclyde.

William II and Henry I must have found a strong Celtic element in the land of Carlisle, particularly in the west thereof, and these people would look to Glasgow and not to Durham for episcopal administrations, although the bishops of Glasgow had from the middle of the eleventh century resorted to York for consecration.

We thus have two great sees with conflicting claims to ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the land of Carlisle, when William II incorporated it into the English kingdom, while Durham was in possession of, probably, the greater part of it. One or two minor claims have to be dealt with. A separate bishopric of Hexham existed from 681 to 820; the reasons for this division of the see of Lindisfarne into Lindisfarne and Hexham must be looked for in the histories of the sees of Durham and of York; the see of Hexham came to an end in 820. This see extended from the Tees to the Aln, and on the west extended as far as the river Eden at Wetheral; it no doubt advanced its borders from the boundary between Cumbria and Northumbria, under cover of Ecgfrid's conquest of Cumbria. This addition included, and was probably co-extensive with, the great estates which afterwards belonged to Gilles, the son of Bueth, and which became the barony of Gillesland, and the rural deanery of that name, whose existence it would otherwise be a puzzle to account for; it probably formed at a very early date the estate of some great thane, whose residence was at the mote of Irthington. On the see of Hexham the see of York had claims, arising out of the history of its formation.

We have mentioned the church of Candida Casa, Whithern, as the mother church of the district,4 and St. Ninian as its bishop. He was not immediately succeeded by any bishop of Candida Casa, but at a later period an Anglian succession of bishops existed there, 732 to 803, and the line was revived again in the twelfth century. These bishops had no jurisdiction in the land of Carlisle, though we do find the bishops of the revived line acting in the north of England as episcopal curates or assistant bishops.

The Bishop of Durham in 1092 was William de S. Carilef, an unscrupulous Norman, who at first betrayed the interests of his king in favour of Odo, of Bayeux, and then betrayed the interests of Odo of Bayeux in favour of his king, to whom he thus became reconciled. He issued a manifesto or charter, probably in 1092 or soon afterwards, by which he claimed Carlisle and all the surrounding country as being in his diocese; he died in 1096, and William II kept the see vacant for three years and a half, when he appointed another Norman, Ralf, surnamed the Flambard, or the burning torch, an unprincipled minister, who suited well an unprincipled monarch. Ralf was consecrated in 1099; in the following year his patron was killed in the New Forest, and the new king, Henry I, clapped Ralf a prisoner into the Tower, from whence he escaped to the Continent. During his absence Henry I severed the land of Carlisle, Hexhamshire, and Teviotdale from his diocese of Durham. Hexhamshire, which is not the same as the see of Hexham, and the land of Carlisle, he handed over to the see of York, then held by Archbishop Thomas II, while Teviotdale fell to the see of Glasgow.

The land of Carlisle was, in 1092, in a very disorganised condition, and in the wilder parts the inhabitants were, in the eyes of the adherents of the Roman use, little better than uncivilised heathen and heretics. Any religious houses that had existed in it, either at Carlisle or at Dacor [Dacre], or just without it at St. Bees, had perished in the catastrophe of 876, and no religious house was, in 1092, existing in the land of Carlisle. This want the Norman rulers set themselves to supply, not perhaps so much from religious motives as from political reasons; such houses were really missionary colonies, centres of civilisation as well as of religious life. The county histories and Dugdale print a charter by William II under date of 1089, by which he founded a nunnery at Armathwaite, on the river Eden; but this charter is a palpable forgery. We get on safer ground when we come to Walter, a wealthy Norman, whom the Red King left at Carlisle as master of the works; he commenced to build a church there in honour of the Virgin Mary, and intended to found a religious house. On his death the work was taken up by Henry I, who, at the intercession of his queen, Matilda, founded in 1102 a house of Augustinian canons at Carlisle, and appointed his chaplain, Adulf, Athelwulf, or Ęthelwulf, prior thereof. His name proves him to have been an Englishman, and he was prior of St. Oswald's, at Nostell in Yorkshire, also an Augustinian house. The church of the house was, from the first, a divided church; that is to say, the chancel. belonged to the canons, the nave to the parishioners of St. Mary's parish, which was probably first constituted when Carlisle was re-founded by the Red King. Ranulph de Meschines gave his manor of Wetheral to Stephen, the abbot, and to the abbey of St. Mary's, of York, as an endowment for a Benedictine cell there. The charter, as printed in Dugdale, purports to be pro anima Domini mei Regis Henrici, but the MS. transcripts in the Harleian collection and in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle read: Regis Willielmi. What is called the original register was, in the last century, in the possession of the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle, but is now missing. Its production would hardly settle the question as to whether the cell of Wetheral was founded in the reign of William II or Henry I, as it is itself but a copy, though of high authority and antiquity, of the original charters.

We have already, in writing of the claims of the see of Glasgow, a little anticipated matters, and mentioned that Henry I constituted the land of Carlisle into the bishopric of Carlisle, and appointed Ęthelwald or Ęthelwulf the first bishop.

"Anno MCXXXIII. mense Augusto, ante Assumptionem Sanctę Marię apud Eboracum, a Thurstino Archiepiscopo consecrati sunt Episcopus Galfiridus Cancellarius Regis Henrici ad Episcopatum Dunelmensem, Aldufus Prior de Nostla ad urbem Karleol, quam Rex Henricus initiavit ad sedem Episcopalem datis sibi Ecclesiis de Cumberland et Westmorland, quę adjacuerunt archiaconatui Eboracensi." - From JO. HAGUST.

Another account says :

"Fecit Rex Henricus novum Episcopatum apud Karduil in finibus Anglię et Scotię, et posuit ibi Episcopum Adulfum, Priorem canonicorum regularium Sancti Oswaldi, cui solitus erat confiteri peccata sua: hic autem canonicos regulares posuit in ecclesia sua." - ANN. WAVERL.

Both of these accounts mention the new bishop as Prior of St. Oswalds, and not as Prior of Carlisle: this raises some doubt as to whether the first Prior and the first Bishop of Carlisle were one and the same person; if so, he must have held high office in the Church, first prior and then bishop, from 1102 to 1156, the date of the death of the first bishop. As his name shows, Ęthelwulf, the first bishop appointed to the Norman bishopric of Carlisle was an Englishman: there are two charters by this bishop in the register of Wetheral, dated probably immediately after his consecration, by which he confirms the churches of St. Michael and St. Lawrence at Appleby, of Kirkby Stephen, of Ormeshead, of Morland, of Clibburn, of Bromfield, and of Croglin, the cell of Wetheral with the parish of Warwick and the hermitage of St. Andrew to the monks of St. Mary's Abbey of York. He and his archdeacons, Elias and Robert, also confirmed the church of Crossby Ravensworth to the Abbey of Whitby in Yorkshire.

Little is known about Ęthelwulf's doings. From 1136 his diocese, the land of Carlisle, was in the hands of the Scottish king, David, held as a fief of England by the heir to the Scottish throne. It was so held in the reign of Stephen until it was given up to Henry II in 1157. Until 1138 Ęthelwulf does not appear to have been able to obtain complete possession of his diocese, but in that year after the defeat of David, at the Battle of the Standard, Ęthelwulf accompanied the legate, Alberic, to a provincial council of Scottish bishops at Carlisle: he was then admitted to possession of his see. In 1150 he was the first witness to the charter by which Prince Henry Fitz-David founded the Cistercian house of Holm Cultram in the west of his see: and he also witnessed the confirmation thereof by King David; the other witnesses are Walter, prior of Carlisle, and several persons bearing local names. This proves that Ęthelwulf was in peaceful possession of his diocese with full consent of King David, and that it had not relapsed to Glasgow. The fact that in 1147 Ęthelwulf supported Murdac as archbishop of York against Stephen's protégé, St. William of York, indicates that he had thrown his lot in with the Scottish king. He died in 1156. His diocesan machinery appears to have been complete. His first archdeacon was named Elias,5 and his second Robert, and the archdeaconry was conterminous with the diocese. The parochial system was well developed and established. In the Augustinian house at Carlisle, the Benedictine at Wetheral, and the Cistercian at Holm Cultram, he had the assistance of centres of missionary colonisation and civilisation planted in a somewhat wild district; synodals and ancient archidiaconal dues are mentioned in one of his charters.

Bernard, the second bishop of Carlisle, is a somewhat shadowy personage; his very existence has been doubted, and it has been stated that the see remained vacant from the death of Ęthelwulf up to 1219. Bernard, however, was a real personage; bishop from 1156 to his death in 1186, and charters by him are in the registers of Lanercost and of Wetheral. The county histories state that he consecrated Lanercost in 1169; but his name does not appear in the list of witnesses to the foundation deed, while that of Christian, bishop of Candida Casa, does. This Christian was consecrated bishop of Candida Casa at Bermondsey, by the Archbishop of Rouen, acting for the Archbishop of York. His name appears frequently in the register of Holm; he acted as assistant-bishop in the northern dioceses, and in this capacity probably consecrated Lanercost Priory. After Bernard's death the king offered the see to Paulinus de Ledes, who refused it, though the king proposed to augment the income. For the next two years its revenues are accounted for by the sheriff in the Pipe Rolls; they only amount to £50 19s. 6d. for that period, of which only 50s. reached the Treasury. The bishopric was not endowed with any landed property, but had the impropriation of the benefices of Carlton and Dalston in Cumberland, and Meaburn in Westmorland, and an annual payment of one mark from the school of Carlisle. The remainder of the income was made up from ecclesiastical dues. During the vacancy of the see the revenues and custody thereof were entrusted, as occasions arose, to the archdeacon for the time being, to Bernard, archbishop of Ragusa in 1203, and in 1215 to the Prior of Carlisle. Great confusion has been occasioned by there being two Bernards, and by Bernard, archbishop of Ragusa, being also called Archbishop of Sclavonia. There are two charters in the chartulary of Whitby, by Bernard, bishop of Carlisle, relating to the Church of Crossby Ravensworth, in Westmorland, which, from the witnesses to them, must belong to this second Bernard. [The previous owner has added in the margin the following - "Bernard Bishop of Ragusa had been Bishop of Carlisle - Papal Registry 54"].

During this period of vacancy of the see, Carlisle and the district suffered severely from invasions by the Scotch. In 1173 and 1174 William the Lion invaded the district and besieged Carlisle. In 1216 Carlisle was again besieged and taken by Alexander of Scotland. Henry III writes to Pope Honorius III that Carlisle has revolted to the Scotch, and that the canons of Carlisle

"in pręjudicium juris nostri et Ecclesię Eboracensis ad instanciam Regis Scotię inimici nostri, quendam clericum suum interdict et excommunicatum elegerunt sibi in Episcopum et pastorem,"

and requests the pope to provide for the see. Accordingly, in 1218, the legate Gualio sends the canons of Carlisle into exile, -

"eo quod regi Scottorum excommunicato, metu mortis coacti celebraverunt divina" (CHRON. LANERCOST).

Gualio also appointed to the bishopric Hugh, abbot of Beaulieu (Bello Loco), in Burgundy, and committed the possessions of the canons to him. He was consecrated by the Archbishop of York, February 24, 1219. His episcopate was a brief one, but he appears to have been a firm administrator and a redresser of injustice; his charters in the registers of Holm, Wetheral, Lanercost, and Whitby show that he took care to make the monastic impropriators of livings in his diocese provide for the wants of these livings, and he did not hesitate to make them disgorge. In two of his charters he uses the peculiar style of "Hugo dei gratia Karleolensis ecclesię vocatus sacerdos," instead of "Hugo dei gratia Karleolensis episcopus." He must also have reconstituted and re-endowed the Augustinian house at Carlisle after its canons had been expelled by Gualio. We know very little of the history of this body up to this date. The county historians give the first three priors as Ęthelwulf, Walter, and John, the two last of whom appear as parties or witnesses to charters in the local registers; so also does P. (probably Peter), priore Augustino et Rogero Canonicis Karleolensibus (Register of Wetheral), and G., prior of Carlisle (Register of Lanercost), while the Chronicle of Lanercost says that Henry de Mariscis became prior of Carlisle in 1214, probably a brother of Richard de Marisco, bishop of Durham. The county histories also state that up to this time the bishop and the convent held their emoluments in common, and that Bishop Hugh effected a division between them. This must to some extent be an error; the Pipe Rolls of 1187 and 1188 show that the bishopric had an independent, though inadequate, endowment; and the language of the Chronicle of Lanercost shows that the possessions of the canons were also independent. The bishop did, no doubt, effect a division of the property, for he restored to the reconstituted house of Carlisle only part of its old endowment, retaining for his see the manor of Linstock, and there the bishops of Carlisle long had their residence. Bishop Hugh died in 1223, and the writer of the Chronicle of Lanercost, who was probably a friar minorite of Carlisle, thus viciously records the event:

"Hugo Carliolensis episcopus, qui conventum ejus ecclesię horribiliter dispersit et eorum possessiones fraudulenta divisione dimidiavit, justo Dei judicio, rediens a curia Romana, apud abbatiam quę Ferte dicitur, in partibus Burgundię, ingurgitatus, absque viatico et miserabiliter discessit die dominica infra octavas Ascensionis."

Bishop Hugh was at York, in 1220, when Henry III of England and Alexander II of Scotland met there and signed a truce, for the observance of which the bishop was one of the sureties. Whether he was one of the negotiators of the treaty or not does not appear; but from the very earliest establishment of the see of Carlisle up to the union of the kingdoms, to attend to Scottish affairs and truces, was part of the duties imposed upon the bishops of Carlisle.

Ęthelwulf, the first bishop, was probably a courtier: the Bernards were shadows, and Hugh an administrative reformer; the fourth bishop, Walter Malclerk, was a diplomatist, and had represented, as ambassador or agent, the interests of King John at the Papal Court during his contest with the barons. According to the Chronicle of Lanercost he was, at the time of his appointment, a canon of Carlisle, and he was also sheriff of Cumberland from the second year of Henry III to the sixteenth, an office which he frequently exercised by deputy. During the twenty-three years that he held his see he devoted himself to a political life, and underwent the vicissitudes which politicians commonly undergo; in 1232 he was appointed by Henry III Treasurer of the Exchequer, but was dismissed from office in the following year, with most of his colleagues, to make way for Poitevins, and other strangers. Bishop Walter was afterwards again in high favour, and employed as a diplomatist. He was catechist to Prince Edward, which is a curious appointment to be held by one who is said to have owed his name of Malclerk to his scant stock of learning; he was also one of the lord justices when Henry III went abroad in 1243. He was probably so taken up with the affairs of the state, as to have little time to attend to those of his diocese; considering the length of time he held office, his name rarely appears in the local chartularies. But he was able to attend to his own interests; probably by his influence his nephew, Radulf Barri, was appointed prior of Carlisle, on the death of Bartholomew, in 1231. He obtained, in 1230, from Henry III a grant of the manor of Dalston, a manor in the forest of Cumberland, lying between the river Caldew and the Roman road from Carlisle to the west, which had escheated to the Crown in the reign of Henry II. The conveyance makes no mention of La Rose, or Rose Castle, or of any manor house, and probably there was none. The sheriff of Cumberland, who collected the profits, would not require a manor house either to reside in or for the reception of the profits, as Carlisle was a more convenient place. It may be observed that none of the manors in [the] charge of the sheriff of Cumberland, as escheats, had manor houses. This grant brought the bishops of Carlisle into litigation, in which they were ultimately successful. In addition to thus securing a lasting and permanent benefit to his see, Bishop Walter Malclerk had, in 1244, a very valuable piece of picking granted to him, namely, the wardship of Walter Fitz Odard de Wigton, a babe of tender age, the owner of five fat manors within the see of Carlisle. This bishop was a great patron of the Friar Preachers, and it was under his patronage that, in 1233, the Friar Preachers, or Black Friars, and the Friar Minorites, or Grey Friars, settled in Carlisle, in localities which still retain their name [Blackfriars Street still exists; I'm not aware that a reference to the Grey Friars still exists]. The Carmelites, or White Friars, had also a house at Appleby, and the Austin Friars, or Friars Eremite, one at Penrith. In a diocese like Carlisle, which must have required strenuous missionary efforts, the assistance of these friars must have been of the utmost value in spreading true Christianity; they soon acquired great popularity, and in the next century the quatuor ordines received many legacies from inhabitants of the see.

Bishop Walter Malclerk resigned his see in 1246, joined the Friar Preachers at Oxford, and died there in 1248.

Sylvester de Everdon, archdeacon of Chester, his successor in the see, was again a bishop of another type, a man of parchment, a lawyer, a clerk in the Chancery, who acquired, by practice in the engrossing of writs and deeds, a knowledge of law, which made him first vice-chancellor, and then, in 1244, chancellor of England, an office which he resigned in 1246, on his appointment as Bishop of Carlisle, wishing to devote himself to the affairs of his see; but he continued to take a leading part in the political and religious movements of the day, and was one of four prelates (viz., Canterbury, Winchester, Salisbury, and Carlisle) who, in 1253, called upon Henry III as a deputation to remonstrate with him on his frequent violations of their privileges, the oppressions with which he had loaded them, and all his subjects, and the uncanonical, and forced elections which were made to vacant dignities. The king, in words of biting sarcasm, turned the tables on the prelates by suggesting that, as they had been thus elected, they had better resign:-

"Et te, Sylvester Carleolensis, qui diu lambens cancellariam clericorum meorum clericulus extitisti, qualiter postpositis multis theologis et personis reverendis te episcopatum sublegavi."

The remonstrances of the prelates had this effect, that in 1255 the king ratified the great charter in most solemn manner, and the said prelates, with several others in equally solemn form, cursed all breakers of charters. In that same year Bishop Sylvester fell from his horse and broke his neck. He was more than once engaged in litigation for the protection of the rights of his see.

A bishop of another type now comes on the scene, a type of which many instances will appear, the local man. Thomas de Vipont, or Veteripont, member of a well-known local family, and rector of Graystock [Greystoke], a church in the diocese, succeeded Sylvester de Everdon, but he merely walks across the scene. Elected November, 1255, consecrated, in company with Henry, bishop of Candida Casa at St. Agatha's, Richmond, in Yorkshire, on February 7, 1255-6, he died in October, 1256. There is a solitary charter by him in the register of Holm Cultram, but his episcopate is memorable for the successful claim made by the Bishop of Durham to the profits of the benefices belonging to the bishopric of Carlisle, sede vacante.

The next bishop was Robert de Chauncy, or Chauncey: his name has been made into Chause and into de Chalize; but he was of the family of Chauncy de Chauncy, near Amiens, and afterwards of Scirpenbeck, near Pocklington, in Yorkshire. The name appears in documents in the chartulary of Whitby as Chauncy. He was, when appointed to Carlisle, archdeacon of Bath. He was brought up to medicine, and was physician to Eleanor, queen of Henry III, who presented him to a church worth 100 marks per annum. He was sheriff of Cumberland for a year and a half at the end of the reign of Henry III, and brought two Yorkshiremen, Robert and Roger de Pockington [perhaps in error for Pocklington], to act as his deputies. Machel says he was sheriff for the first two years of Edward I, but this is doubtful. Richard de Crepping was sheriff at the accession of Edward I, having succeeded the bishop shortly before the death of the old king. There was evidently a quarrel between the two, for the sheriff, in the first year of Edward I, informed the Lord Chancellor that the bishop had forbidden his tenants to take the oath of fealty to the new monarch, who was then abroad; this the prelate denied, saying the sheriff was at fault in not having attended to receive their fealty. The bishop, shortly after this, excommunicated the sheriff for levying an illegal distress on the convent of Holm Cultram, but a writ of prohibition compelled the bishop to retract. Bishop Chauncy appears to have played no part in the great political struggles of the reign of Henry III. That doubt should be cast upon the readiness of his tenants to pay fealty to Edward I may indicate that his sympathies were liberal. During the episcopate of this bishop much litigation took place about the church of Crosby Ravensworth, in the diocese of Carlisle, which the abbey of Whitby held under various charters and archiepiscopal and episcopal confirmations. An account of the proceedings is in the chartulary of Whitby, published by the Surtees Society. The result is not known, but these proceedings, and the charters of Crosby Ravensworth, introduce several officials of the diocese of Carlisle, whose names we do not remember to have seen in the local chartularies, such as the official of the Archdeacon of Carlisle, and the magister stolarum there. The officials, both of the bishop and the archdeacon, held their courts in the cathedral of Carlisle, as did special judges appointed by the pope, an appointment held by this bishop at Carlisle, before he was appointed to the see. The Chronicle of Lanercost sums up the character of this bishop thus:-

"Divini honoris fervidus, amator humanitatis, et urbanitatis promptus executor, qui quam dapsilis et largus extiterit fine nobis mundus attestari poterit."

On the 13th of December, 1278, the canons of Carlisle elected as bishop William de Rothelfeld, dean of York; all the formalities were carried out to complete the election, but de Rothelfeld refused to accept the office. On this the chapter, without waiting for a second congé d'élire, nay, even after being inhibited by the king, proceeded to a second election and chose Ralph de Irton, a member of a Cumberland family, who was prior of Gisburne, in Yorkshire. For this the canons were attached, and made answer that they did not know they were doing wrong, and submitted themselves to the pleasure of the king, Edward I, but the bishop elect went off to Rome to urge his interests there. The pope, Nicholas III, appointed a commission to ascertain the facts; they reported that both elections were irregular, the canons having appointed a committee of their body, the prior, precentor, succentor, cellarius, and subsacrist, to elect: and that, owing to the death of the Archbishop of York difficulties had arisen as to the confirmation of the second election. The pope, by bull dated April, 1280, solved the difficulty in a highly diplomatic manner. He declared the election void as not made by all the electors, and then of his own authority appointed Ralph de Irton, bishop of Carlisle. The pope thus judiciously avoided offending the king by countenancing an election which the king had declared void; he judiciously avoided upholding the king's authority, for he declared the election void on different grounds to those on which the king had done so: and he also established a precedent for the pope appointing an English bishop. The king submitted as tamely to the pontiff as the prior and convent did to the king. The bishop returned to England on May 30, 1280, and, in September of that year, Edward I and Eleanor, his queen, visited Lanercost and hunted in Inglewood Forest. In October of that year, Bishop Irton held a convocation of his clergy in his cathedral (in ecclesia majori Karleolensi), who granted him the tenths of the churches for two years, to be paid according to the verum valorem, and out of the new money within a year. The writer of the Chronicle of Lanercost says:-

"Unde solvimus in universo viginti quatuor libras ei. Unde de ista materia dixit H. sic-

Grex desolatus, pastore diu viduatus,
Sic cito tonderi non indiget, immo foveri;
Grex desolatus, nimis hactenus exlenuatus,
Jam confortari debet, non excoriari.
Sed si pastor oves habeat tondere necesse,
Debet ei pietas, modus, et moderamen inesse

In 1281 this bishop brought to a successful conclusion the litigation about the manor and advowson of Dalston, which had arisen out of the grant thereof to Bishop Sylvester de Everdon. The king, Bishop Irton, the prior and convent of Carlisle, and the parson of Thursby, were all parties to further litigation about the tithes of Linethwaite and Curthwaite, which places were assarts or enclosures in the forest of Inglewood in the parish of Aspatria: the king was decided to have the best title, and he shortly granted them to the prior and convent of Carlisle. This is important as showing that civilisation was advancing in the diocese, and these assarts ultimately became parishes carved out of the extensive parish of Aspatria. Spite of the method of his appointment, Bishop Irton enjoyed the confidence of Edward I, and was employed in many important and confidential missions, particularly in connexion with Scotland and the claims thereto advanced by Edward I. He died at his palace at Linstock, near Carlisle, on March 1,
1292, from the effects of fatigue occasioned by a winter journey from London. The Chronicle of Lanercost describes him as-

"Vir callidus et providus sed admodum cupidus, qui visitationes ecclesiarum vertit in voraginem quęstuum et ad fabricam culminis majoris ecclesię suę sedis extorsit per totam dięcesem a simplicibuis sacerdotibus annivesariis mulctam inhonestam."

1. "Visitations in the Ancient Diocese of Carlisle," by J. E. Prescott, D.D., Archdeacon of Carlisle. Carlisle, 1888: C. Thurnam & Sons. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Co., p. 8.
2. Ante, p. 40.
3. "Letters from Northern Registers," p. 75, edited by James Raine, Canon of York. London: Longman & Co., 1873. Also Nicolson and Burn's "History of Westmorland and Cumberland," vol. ii. p. 257.
4. Ante, p. 23.
5. Cartulary of Whitby, Surtees Society, vol. lxix. pp. 38, 260.


Diocesan Histories : Carlisle,
by Richard S. Ferguson, Chancellor of Carlisle
Published by SPCK, London, 1889


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19 June 2015

© Steve Bulman