Barlow, William (d.1568) (DNB00)

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BARLOW, WILLIAM (d. 1568), successively bishop of St. Asaph, St. David's, Bath and Wells, and Chichester, was, it is said, a native of Essex, though Fuller was unable to ascertain in what county he was born. He was brought up in the houses of the canons regular of the order of St. Austin at St. Osyth in Essex and at Oxford, where, it is said, he became a doctor in the theological faculty. He is claimed without evidence as a member of Cambridge University. First a canon of St. Osyth's he soon became prior of Blackmore. Resigning this office in 1509 he became prior of Tiptree, and in 1515 of Lees. He became about 1524 prior of Bromehill, and in 1525 rector of Great Cressingham, both in Norfolk. These were his first preferments outside Essex. Wolsey's suppression of Bromehill made Barlow a violent enemy of the cardinal, and inspired him to write a long series of heretical pamphlets, whose names clearly show their general tendency. They were: 1. 'The Treatyse of the Buryall of the Masse.' 2. 'A Dialogue betwene the Gentyllman and the Husbandman.' 3. 'The Clymbynge up of Fryers and Religious Persones.' 4. 'A Description of Godes Worde compared to the Lyght.' 5. 'A Convicyous Dialoge against Saynt Thomas of Canterberye' (unpublished), which in 1529 were prohibited by the bishops. Barlow, however, soon renounced the errors of these tracts, and wrote piteously to the king, imploring pardon for his attacks on Wolsey and the church (Letters on the Suppression of the Monasteries, p. 6, Camden Society. The date, 1533, endorsed by a later hand on the manuscript, Cotton MSS., Cleo. E. iv., presents some difficulties). He now became a favourite at court, and was attached to an embassy to France and Rome (January 1529-30). An anti-Lutheran book, published in 1531, with the title of 'A Dialogue describing the Original Ground of these Lutheran Factions, and many of their Abuses,' attributed to him, appears to have been re-published in 1553. Preferment after preferment was now lavished on Barlow. The special favour of Anne Boleyn made him prior of Haverfordwest. Some letters of his to Cromwell, in 1535, show that he had already become a zealous reformer. His zeal provoked furious opposition from the clergy of the neighbourhood. They ill-treated his servants, and threatened him with violence and persecution. He bewails to Cromwell their blindness and ignorance, and complains that 'no diocese is so without hope of reformation.' Next year he was removed from his unruly flock to the rich priory of Bisham in Berkshire, and was sent with Lord Robert Howard on an embassy to Scotland. While thus engaged he was elected bishop of St. Asaph (16 Jan. 1535-6). But before he left Scotland he was translated to St. David's, certainly without having exercised any episcopal functions,and probably without having been consecrated. When on a short visit to London, Barlow was confirmed bishop of St. David's in Bow Church (21 April 1536). He immediately returned to Scotland, and there is no record of his consecration in Cranmer's registers. Mr. Haddan conjectures that he was consecrated on 11 June, after his final return from Scotland; and he certainly took his seat in parliament and possession of his see about that time. The question is a matter of controversy and assumes some importance in the light of subsequent ecclesiastical polemics. In July 1537 he surrendered his priory of Bisham, still held by him in commendam, to the royal commissioners.

From 1536 to 1549 Barlow remained at St. David's. He does not seem to have been very successful in spreading the light which he considered so wanting in Wales. He was involved in serious quarrels with his turbulent and reactionary chapter, who sent up a series of articles addressed to the president of the Council of Wales, denouncing him as a heretic. Nevertheless he carried on a constant warfare against relics, pilgrimages, saint-worship, and the like. In despair of forcing his convictions on the wild and remote district round St. David's, he sought to transfer his see to the central and populous Caermarthen. He established the later custom of the bishops residing at Abergwili, a village within two miles of Caermarthen, and by stripping the lead from the roof of the episcopal palace at St. David's, he endeavoured to make retreat thither impossible for his successors. No such charitable hypothesis, however, will palliate his alienation of the rich manor of Lamphey from the possessions of his see. His zeal for educating his diocese is the most creditable part of his career. He aspired to maintain a free grammar school at Caermarthen, and succeeded in obtaining the grant of some suppressed houses for the foundation of Christ's College, Brecon, and of a grammar school there (19 Jan. 1541-2).

Besides his work in Wales, Barlow took part in general ecclesiastical politics. He signed the articles drawn up in 1536. He shared in composing the 'Institution of a Christian Man,' and was conspicuous among his order for his zeal for the translation of the Bible. He vainly endeavoured to substitute a milder policy for the Six Articles of 1539. The extreme Erastianism, which maintained that simple appointment by the monarch was enough, without episcopal consecration, to constitute a lawful bishop, he shared with Cranmer. But the opinions hemaintained—that confession was not enjoined by Scripture; that there were but three sacraments; that laymen were as competent to excommunicate heretics as bishops or priests; that purgatory was a delusion—make it remarkable that he should have managed to retain his position during the reactionary end of Henry VIII's reign.

Early in the reign of Edward VI Barlow commended himself to the Duke of Somerset by preaching against images. Accordingly, in 1548, he was translated to the bishopric of Bath and Wells. On 20 May of the same year he sold to the duke seven manors, together with the palace at Wells, and certain other estates and profits of jurisdiction belonging to the see, for, it is said, 2,000l.; but of this sum he appears to have received only 400l He is said also to have alienated many valuable estates to the crown, receiving a few advowsons in exchange for them (Pat. Rolls, 2 Edw. VI; Rymer, xv. 171). A comparison of this grant with the 'Close Rolls' (2 Edw. VI, p. 7, 10 Oct.) shows that the surrender to the crown was simply for the purpose of a regrant. The king allowed the bishop and his successors to keep the advowsons at a yearly rent, gave back the estates granted to the crown 20 May, and, in consideration of the impoverishment of the see, permanently reduced the first fruits. Bath Place and the Minories went to the duke's brother, Lord Seymour. Barlow was lodged in the deanery (Collinson, iii. 395). Finding that Dean Goodman had annexed the prebend of Wiveliscombe, Barlow deprived him. The dean in return attempted to prove him guilty of 'præmunire,' the deanery being a royal donative. Barlow had to accept the king's pardon, but the deprivation stood, and a mandate for the installation of a new dean was sent to Wells, 4 March 1550 (Wells Chapter Docs., E., fo. 48; information supplied by Rev. W. Hunt). Barlow's appearance on the commission for the reform of the ecclesiastical laws shows his full sympathy with the rulers of the time. But he was not qualified to take a great share in anything, and Cranmer did not trust him. He was now married to Agatha Wellesbourne.

On Mary's accession Barlow resigned his see. He attempted to escape from England, but was caught and imprisoned in the Tower. There he made some sort of recantation, and the republication of the tract of 1531 against the 'Lutheran factions' was followed by his escape or release. He fled to Germany, where, Fuller says, he became minister to an English congregation at Embden.

The accession of Elizabeth brought Barlow back to England. He assisted in the consecration of Archbishop Parker, and on 18 Dec. 1559 was made bishop of Chichester, receiving the next year a prebend of Westminster as well. The see of Chichester was of less value than that of Bath and Wells, but Barlow probably disliked the idea of returning to his old diocese after his recantation, though Sir J. Harington declares that he was influenced by a foolish superstition. The marriage of one of his daughters to a son of Parker indicates a close alliance between Barlow and the new archbishop. He died in August 1568, and was buried at Chichester.

Barlow's conduct is marked by doctrinal zeal, but at the same time by moral weakness and constant change of front. There was also a vein of levity in his character that made Cranmer distrust him, and the apologist Burnet admit his indiscretion. Mr. Froude describes him as a 'feeble enthusiast.'

Barlow left a son, William (d. 1625) [q. v.], and five daughters, who were all married to bishops—Anne to Westphaling of Hereford, Elizabeth to Day of Winchester, Margaret to Overton of Lichfield, Frances, after her first husband Parker's death, to Matthew of York, and Antonia to Wickham of Winchester. His wife survived him, and died in extreme old age in 1595.

Besides the books already mentioned, Barlow is said to have written a tract entitled 'A B C for the Clergy;' 'Homilies;' 'A Brief Somme of Geography,' Royal MSS., Brit. Mus.; 'Translation of the Books of Esdras, Judith, Tobit, and Wisdom, in the Bishops' Bible,' and some 'Letters.'

[Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials, Annals, Cranmer and Parker; Wood's Athenæ Oxonienses (ed. Bliss), i. 366, ii. 375; Godwin, De Præsulibus; Collier's Church History; Fuller's Worthies; Burnet's Reformation. For Barlow's administration of his several bishoprics, see Jones and Freeman's History of St. David's; Cassan's Lives of the Bishops of Bath and Wells; Collinson's History of Somerset, iii.; Harington's Nugæ Antiquæ; Somerset Archæol. Soc.'s Proc. xii. ii. 36; Reynolds's Wells Cathedral, pref. 72; Rymer's Fœdera, xv.; MS. Pat. and Close Rolls of 1548. For all his Welsh relations his letters, printed in Wright's Letters relating to the Suppression of the Monasteries (Camden Society), pp. 77, 183, 187, and 206, are the chief original authority. For his mission to Scotland, see the abstracts of his correspondence in the Calendar of State Papers, 1535. For the much-disputed question of Barlow's consecration, see Archbishop Bramhall's Works (Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology), iii. 136-47, with A. W. Haddan's exhaustive notes and preface. The longest and best modern account of Barlow is in Cooper's Athenæ Cantabrigienses, i. 276-80.]

T. F. T.