Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wesham, Roger de

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WESHAM or WESEHAM, ROGER de (d. 1257), bishop of Lichfield, may have derived his name from Wesham, near Kirkham, in the Fylde, Lancashire, or from Weasenham, near Fakenham in Norfolk. He was a doctor of divinity, perhaps at Oxford, where he became lecturer in the Franciscan school (Little, Grey Friars in Oxford, p. 30, Oxford Hist. Soc.). Wesham was a secular, and had already held several benefices. In 1223 he was prebendary of Elston in Lincoln Cathedral; in 1234 he was rector of Walgrave, and afterwards prebendary of Wildland in St. Paul's, London. From 1236 to 1241 he was archdeacon of Oxford, and in 1238 he held the archdeaconry of Rochester. He was an intimate friend of Robert Grosseteste [q. v.], whose favour now made him dean of Lincoln in place of William de Tournay, who had been deprived by the bishop. The chapter finally appealed to the pope to decide their quarrel with Grosseteste over his visitatorial rights, and Wesham went to Lyons, whither he was followed by the bishop (Dunstaple Annals, p. 166). The two litigants were, however, the best of friends. On 25 Aug. 1245 Innocent IV in the council of Lyons gave judgment almost wholly in favour of Grosseteste (Dunstaple Annals, p. 168; Epistolæ, pp. lxi–iii). Wesham was accused of betraying the chapter in favour of the bishop, but the chapter's case was unreasonable.

Before Innocent's decision Wesham had, through Grosseteste's influence, been papally provided to the see of Lichfield; he was on 19 Feb. 1245 consecrated by Innocent himself at Lyons with the assistance of Grosseteste and Peter of Aigueblanche [q. v.], bishop of Hereford. Henry's consent had not been obtained, and the king was the more irritated since Richard de Wyche [q. v.] had also been appointed to Chichester under similar circumstances. Wesham therefore had some difficulty in obtaining the restitution of his temporalities (Flores Hist. ii. 288–9; Le Neve, i. 548).

Wesham was a scholar rather than a man of action, and a friend of the pope rather than of the king, though he had at least one dispute with Innocent IV over an appointment (Cal. Papal Letters, 1198–1304, p. 269). He avoided public life, and devoted himself to the internal administration and reform of his diocese. The influence of the Franciscans and of Grosseteste suggested the main lines of his work. Like Grosseteste, he set great store on episcopal visitations. He issued in 1252 thirty-five visitation questions (Burton Annals, pp. 296–8), touching almost every point of church discipline. He also drew up short ‘institutes’ for his clergy, setting forth for them the chief subjects on which they should preach. He exhorted his clergy to preach often in the vulgar tongue, using practical and not subtle arguments, that all might understand them. In 1253 Wesham induced the two cathedral chapters to send an equal number of proctors to future elections of bishops. He set in order the neglected cathedral of Lichfield, annexed the rectory of Bolton to the archdeaconry of Chester as a prebend, and endowed a chantry-priest to pray for the souls of the bishops of Lincoln and Lichfield and the dean of Lincoln. On 7 Aug. 1253 Innocent IV granted him a faculty, ‘in consideration of his infirmity,’ to take a coadjutor not removable against his will (Cal. of Papal Registers; Papal Letters, i. 289). But illness did not exempt him from holding a commission with the bishops of Hereford and Winchester for raising funds for the crusade against Manfred, king of Sicily (Burton Annals, i. 350, 351).

In 1256 Wesham was smitten with paralysis. Knowing that all hope of recovery was gone, and fearing that no small danger threatened his flock (Burton Annals, p. 377), he besought Alexander IV to allow him to yield up his office. The pope unwillingly consented, and appointed Henry de Lexinton, bishop of Lincoln, to receive his resignation [see under Lexinton, John de]. This was effected on 4 Dec. at the manor of Brewood, to which Wesham had already retired on a pension of three hundred marks. He died at Brewood on Sunday, 21 May 1257, and was buried at Lichfield on the following Tuesday, Fulk de Sandford [q. v.], archbishop of Dublin, celebrating the funeral office (Burton Annals, p. 408).

[Calendar of Papal Registers, Letters, 1198–1304, Matthew Paris's Chron. Majora, vols. iv. and v., Flores Historiarum, Annales Monastici, Grosseteste's Letters (Rolls Ser.); Little's Grey Friars in Oxford (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, ed. Hardy; Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ; Beresford's Diocesan History of Lichfield (S.P.C.K.), pp. 110–17; Pegge's Memoirs of the Life of Roger de Weseham (1741) is a full but quaint biography.]

M. T.