Button, William (d.1274) (DNB00)

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BUTTON or BITTON, WILLIAM II (d. 1274), bishop of Bath and Wells, was nephew of the former bishop of the same name, and was also a relation of Walter Giffard, his immediate predecessor in the see of Bath and Wells. He was archdeacon of Wells. Giffard having been translated to the see of York in October 1266, William was elected bishop in February 1267, and received the temporalities on 4 March of that year. In view of the fact that the bishops of this see lost even the right of a seat in their chapter, it is interesting to note that in 1270 William presided over a meeting of the chapter, in which several new statutes were enacted (Ordinale, 57). This bishop was a man of a wholly different stamp from the uncle who preceded him. Little as we know of his work, he may be looked on as an example of the influence exercised by the preaching of the friars; for when Robert Kilwardby, the provincial of the Dominicans, was to be consecrated to the archbishopric of Canterbury, he declared that he would have the bishop of Bath to perform the rite on account of his eminent piety. He died 4 Dec. 1274, and was buried on the south side of the choir of his cathedral church. Though never acknowledged as a saint by the catholic church, he received the honour of popular canonisation. Crowds visited his tomb with prayers and offerings. Little progress probably had been made of late years in the work of building the church, and it seems that the effects of the storm of 1247 [see Button, William I, d. 1264] had not been repaired. The offerings brought to the shrine of ‘Saint’ William enriched the chapter, and are doubtless to be connected with a convocation held in 1284 ‘for finishing the new work and repairing the old.’ Somerset folk believed that the aid of the good bishop was especially effectual for the cure of toothache, and the belief lingered down to the seventeenth century. On the capitals of some of the pillars in the transepts of Wells Cathedral are figures representing people suffering from toothache, and it may be reasonably believed that those parts of the church were built from the offerings made at the saint's tomb soon after his death.

[Wykes, in Ann. Monast. iv. 194, 261; Matt. Paris Cont. 108; Reynolds's Wells Cathedral, Ordinale et Statuta; Somerset Archæol. Soc. Proc. xix. ii. 29; Godwin, De Præsulibus, 373; Cassan's Bishops of Bath and Wells, 141.]

W. H.