Button, William (d.1264) (DNB00)

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BUTTON, or BITTON, WILLIAM I (d. 1264), bishop of Bath and Wells, came of a family that took its name from Bitton in Gloucestershire, where a chantry chapel of great beauty is still to be seen, built on the north side of the parish church by Thomas Button, bishop of Exeter, nephew of this William, and consecrated 1299 (Somerset Archæol. Society's Proc. xxii. 67). William was rector of Sowy, sub-dean, and afterwards archdeacon of Wells. He was elected in the chapter-house of Bath on 24 Feb. 1247 by the monks of Bath and the canons of Wells conjointly, according to an arrangement made during the episcopate of his predecessor Roger for settling the claims of the two capitular bodies. He was consecrated at Lyons by Innocent IV on 14 June. On 21 Dec. his cathedral church was much damaged by an earthquake. The bishop gave an account of this event to Matthew Paris, telling him how fissures appeared in the walls, and how a new stone spire of great weight fell upon the church, destroying the finials and battlements, and crushing the capitals of the pillars (Matt. Paris, v. 46). During a visit to the Roman court in 1251 he helped to defeat an attempt made to deprive Nicholas, the late bishop of Durham, of a portion of the revenues assigned to him on his retirement. The reason of his visit was the necessity of resisting the oppressive extension of metropolitan claims, and on his return to England he brought a letter from the pope, forbidding the archbishop to visit secular non-collegiate churches, and fixing a maximum sum to be paid as procurations. William was present at the parliament held in April 1253, in which the bishops vainly petitioned the king to grant the church freedom in elections [see Aymer de Valence, bishop], and joined in the solemn excommunication pronounced by the bishop in Westminster Hall on 3 May against the violators of the great charter and the charter of forests. A document relating the part taken by William in the ceremony is preserved at Wells (Chapter Documents, 533). Later in the year he was sent by Henry III to Alfonso X of Castile to ask for his sister Eleanor in marriage for Edward. In January 1254 he was with the king in Gascony. He had a long contention with Roger Forde, abbot of Glastonbury, who sought to recover the possessions and rights which his house had lost to the bishopric. In the course of these proceedings the bishop made an unjustifiable and unsuccessful attempt to deprive the abbot of his office. This quarrel took the bishop to Rome to uphold his cause. The king was in favour of the abbot, and this William thought hard after the expense he had been put to by his journey to Spain. He also quarrelled with his chapter, for he tried to take from them certain grants made to them by Bishop Jocelin for their common fund. Against this oppression the chapter appealed both to Canterbury and Rome. The matter was finally arranged by the friendly intervention of the archbishop, who in 1259 decided in their favour (ib. 464). Another dispute arose in 1262 on account of a trespass committed by the bishop's pigs in Winscombe wood, a right of pannage being of no inconsiderable value in those days; in this matter also the bishop appears to have been in the wrong (MS. Reg. iii. 99). In 1258, in obedience to a letter received from the pope, he joined Bishop Giles of Sarum in investigating the claim of Robert Chance to the see of Carlisle, and in consecrating him on 14 April. He was present at the dedication of Salisbury Cathedral at Michaelmas 1258. Among the hangings given to the church of St. Albans Matthew Paris mentions a gift from Bishop William (vi. 390). He found means during his episcopate to advance the interests of his own family. A nephew William II [q. v.], afterwards bishop, was made archdeacon of Wells, another of his name was precentor, one brother was treasurer, another was provost of Combe, and was suc- ceeded by Thomas Button, afterwards dean of Wells and bishop of Exeter. Button died 3 April 1264, and was buried in the chapel of St. Mary behind the altar; on his tomb was his effigy in brass (Leland, Itin. iii. 108).

[M. Paris, v. 46, 212, 373, 375, 396, 423, 534, 590, vi. 229, 232, 390, ed. Luard; Annales Burton., Dunstapl., Theokes.; Ann. Monast. i. 156, 157, 300, iii. 205; Canon of Wells in Anglia Sacra, i. 565; Godwin de Præsulibus, 372; Cassan's Bishops of Bath and Wells, 133; Adam of Domerham, 523, ed. Hearne; John of Glastonbury, 224–34, ed. Hearne; Reshanger, 62, Camden Soc.; Dean and Chapter MSS. at Wells.]

W. H.