World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Walter de Merton

Walter de Merton
Bishop of Rochester
See Diocese of Rochester
Elected July 1274
Term ended 27 October 1277
Predecessor Lawrence of St Martin
Successor John Bradfield
Other posts prebendary of St. Paul's, London
prebendary of Exeter Cathedral
canon of Wells Cathedral
Consecration 21 October 1274
Personal details
Born circa (c.) 1205
probably Merton
Died 27 October 1277
Buried Rochester Cathedral
Denomination Catholic

Walter de Merton (c. 1205 – 27 October 1277) was Bishop of Rochester and founder of Merton College, Oxford.


  • Life 1
  • See also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Walter was probably born at Merton in Surrey or educated there; hence the surname. He came of a land-owning family at Basingstoke; beyond that there is no definite information as to the date or place of birth. His mother was Christina Fitz-Oliver and his father William. By 1237 both his parents were dead, and Walter was a clerk in holy orders. In 1241 Walter already held a number of livings in various parts of the country; in 1256 he was an agent for Walter of Kirkham Bishop of Durham in a lawsuit; in 1259 prebendary of St. Paul's, London; and in 1262 prebendary of Exeter and canon of Wells Cathedral. Walter was also prothonotary of the chancery in 1258; and on 12 July 1261 Henry III made him chancellor, in place of Nicholas of Ely.[1]

In 1261 Walter set aside two manors in Surrey for the priory at Merton, for the support of "scholars residing at the schools"; was the beginning of Merton College. In 1264 Walter drew up statutes for a "house of the scholars of Merton", at Malden in Surrey; ten years later these scholars were transferred to Oxford, and a permanent house established. Merton College, thus founded and endowed by Walter, is the earliest example of collegiate life at Oxford. Walter's statutes provided for a common corporate life under the rule of a warden, but as vows were to be taken and scholars entering a monastic order forfeited their scholarship, the college was really a place of training for the secular clergy.

While labouring for the establishment of Merton College, the barons triumphed and Walter was removed from the chancellorship in 1263[1] but after the civil war was restored to the government. He is mentioned as a justiciar in 1271 and he was re-appointed as Lord Chancellor on Henry III's death in 1272.[1] For the first two years of Edward I, Walter was in all but name regent of England during the King's absence abroad. On Edward's return in 1274, Walter was dismissed as Lord Chancellor in favour of Robert Burnell,[1] but was rewarded with the Bishopric of Rochester. He was elected in late July and consecrated on 21 October 1274.[2][3]

In 1270 he bought Kibworth Harcourt, Leicestershire as part of the confiscated estate of Saer de Harcourt, a supporter of Simon de Montfort

Freed of the responsibilities of government, Walter turned his attention to his college again. He redrafted the statutes and moved the scholars permanently to Oxford. They were established on the site of the parish church of St John whose advowson he had obtained in the early 1260s and where he had been buying adjoining houses and halls since 1264.

For the last three years of his life Walter divided his time between his duties in Rochester and the supervision of his fledging academic house. On a journey back from Oxford in 1277, while fording the Medway, he fell from his horse; he died two days later on 27 October 1277[2] from the effects of the accident. He was buried in Rochester Cathedral, and is described in the Annales monastici as a man of liberality and great worldly learning, ever ready in his assistance to the religious orders.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 85
  2. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 267
  3. ^ British History Online Bishops of Rochester accessed on 30 October 2007


  • British History Online Bishops of Rochester accessed on 30 October 2007
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

Further reading

  • Martin, G.H. & Highfield, J.R.L. (1997). A History of Merton College. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-920183-8.

External links

  • Merton Chapel
  • Tomb of Walter de Merton
Political offices
Preceded by
Nicholas of Ely
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Nicholas of Ely
Preceded by
Richard Middleton
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Robert Burnell
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Lawrence of St Martin
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
John Bradfield


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.