Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Grandison, John

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GRANDISON, JOHN (1292?–1369), bishop of Exeter, second son of William de Grandison (d. 1335), who was summoned to parliament 1299–1325, and Sybil (d. 1334), younger daughter and coheiress of John de Tregoz, also a baron by writ, and granddaughter of Juliana, sister of Thomas de Cantelupe [q. v.], bishop of Hereford, was born at Ashperton or Ashton in Herefordshire, about 1292, and studied theology in Paris under James Fournier, afterwards Pope Benedict XII. He seems to have been appointed to a prebend at York in 1309. He was made archdeacon of Nottingham on 12 Aug. 1310, received another prebend at Lincoln in 1322, and was also a canon of Wells. He was chaplain to Pope John XXII, and probably resided at his court, for he was in England as one of the papal ambassadors when, on 16 Jan. 1327, he and his colleague, the Archbishop of Vienne, held an assembly of the clergy at St. Paul's, and demanded a subsidy for the pope, which was refused (Annales Paulini, p. 324). Later in the year he returned to Avignon on a mission from the king, and on 28 Aug. was appointed to the see of Exeter by a bull of provision in spite of the capitular election of John Godley, dean of Wells (Murimuth, p. 54). He was consecrated at Avignon by the cardinal-bishop of Præneste, left for England on 23 Dec., arrived at Dover on 3 Feb. 1328, and two days later made profession to the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, the archiepiscopal see being then vacant. As the king was then at York he journeyed thither, and received the temporalities of his bishopric on 9 March. After staying for some time at his father's seat at Oxenhall, near Gloucester, he entered his diocese, and was installed on the octave of the Assumption (22 Aug.). As his predecessor, James Berkeley, had held the bishopric only four months, and the bishop before him, Walter Stapledon, had been slain in London, the possessions of the see had suffered considerably. Money was urgently needed, for the rebuilding of the cathedral church was half done, the whole eastern part was new, the nave still remained as it was in the twelfth century. Grandison was eager about the work; on 18 Dec. he consecrated the choir, and wrote to Pope John and the cardinals, saying that when the whole was finished ‘it would surpass in beauty every building of its own sort in England and France.’ He wrote to his cousin, Hugh Courtenay, baron of Okehampton, asking for a loan of 200l. Courtenay refused his request, and advised him to be less magnificent. The bishop replied defending himself. He requested the archbishop, Simon Mepeham, to excuse him from attending a council to be held in London, alleging that it would be inconvenient to leave his diocese, that the people of Devon were ‘enemies of God and his church,’ and that his house in London had been wrecked at the time of Bishop Walter's murder. When Mepeham was about to make a provincial visitation, Grandison appealed to the pope to delay his coming to Exeter. The archbishop arrived in June 1332, and the bishop caused the door of the cathedral to be shut, and had his men drawn up in battle array to prevent his entrance. The king made the archbishop give up his visitation. Grandison was a magnificent and diligent prelate. He acquired great wealth through his family, and spent it liberally. He caused the clergy of the diocese to make large contributions to the rebuilding of the cathedral. The splendid episcopal throne was built or finished by him, and in 1332–3 contracts were made for columns for the nave. It is supposed, though a contrary opinion has been advanced, that he added four bays to the nave, and that when these were completed he began the rebuilding of the old part of the nave on 20 May 1353, the date given in the chapter records for the ‘beginning of the new work in front of the great cross’ (compare works as below of Oliver and Dr. E. A. Freeman and Archdeacon Freeman). He made a burial-place for himself in St. Radegunde's Chapel. He lived to complete the nave of the church, and probably consecrated it on 21 Nov. 1367. The death of his eldest brother Peter without issue in 1358 added largely to his possessions, and he held lands in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Berkshire. He founded the college of St. Mary Ottery, and was a benefactor to the nunnery of Canonslegh, the church of Crediton, and the hospital of St. John at Exeter. On 8 Sept. 1368 he made his will, which is extant (Oliver, p. 444), and died on 15 July 1369. He was buried in St. Radegunde's Chapel in his cathedral; his tomb was ransacked at the end of the sixteenth century. In 1366 he presented to his church two volumes, still extant, ‘Lessons from the Bible’ and ‘Legends of the Saints,’ the latter apparently compiled by himself. He wrote a ‘Vita S. Thome Martyris,’ probably extracted from his ‘Legenda de Sanctis,’ and two volumes, perhaps pontificals, and also copied and presented to Archbishop Simon Islip, for him and his successors, a splendid volume containing the letters of St. Anselm, now in the British Museum.

[Oliver's Lives of the Bishops of Exeter, pp. 75, 87, 444; Freeman's Exeter, pp. 185, 189 (Historic Towns Ser.); Archdeacon Freeman's Architectural Hist. of Exeter Cathedral, p. 51; Fuller's Worthies, ii. 37; Hook's Lives of the Archbishops, iii. 507; Annales Paulini, Chrons. of Edward I and Edward II, i. 324, 356 (Rolls Ser.); Murimuth, pp. 54, 205 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Wilkins's Concilia, ii. 549–51; Anglia Sacra, i. 18, 443; Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 17, and Monasticon, vi. 697, 1346; Bale's Scriptt. Brit. Cat. cent. vi. 39; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 339.]

W. H.