Eglesfield, Robert of (DNB00)

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EGLESFIELD , ROBERT of (d. 1349), founder of the Queen's College, Oxford, was the son of John of Eglesfield and Beatrice his wife, and grandson of Thomas of Eglesfield and Hawisia his wife (Statutes of Queen's College, p. 7). He was presumably a native of Eaglesfield, near Cockermouth in Cumberland, and is said to have been a bachelor of divinity of Oxford. He became chaplain to Queen Philippa and rector of Burgh, or Brough, under Stainmore in Westmoreland. He bought some buildings in the parish of St. Peter-in-the-East, Oxford, in order to provide lodging for students in the university, and for this purpose obtained a charter from Edward III, dated 18 Jan. 1340-1, which established the 'Hall of the Queen's Scholars of Oxford' (Rymer, Fœdera, ii. 1144, Record ed.) In the statutes which Eglesfield issued on 10 Feb. following (not March, as Mr. Maxwell Lyte gives the date), he provided for the appointment of a provost, Richard of Retteford, S.T.P. (Wood says, of Balliol College), and twelve fellows or scholars — the names are used indifferently — who were to devote themselves to the study of theology and the canon law, and to enter holy orders. After the first nominees, the fellows were to be chosen by preference from the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, and must already have taken a degree in arts. The scheme included further the maintenance of a number, not to exceed seventy, of poor boys who should receive instruction in the hall; as well as the performance of regular religious offices and the distribution of alms. The foundation was placed under the protection of the queen-consort and her successors as patrons, and of the archbishop of York as visitor.

Eglesfield seems to have thenceforth resided in Oxford, and is known to have taken his 'commons' with the fellows in the hall he had himself founded. He died on 31 May 1349, and was buried, according to the ordinance in his statutes, in the college chapel; Browne Willis (ap. Wood, p. 164) states that his grave was under the altar; but the brass effigy which was long believed to be his has been found to belong to some one else, and the chapel itself was rebuilt on a different site early in the eighteenth century. A small casket, however, supposed to contain the founder's remains, was removed, probably at the time, from under the old altar to the present chapel; and such a casket was seen in the crypt by a college servant, who is still (1888) living, at the burial of Provost Collinson in 1827. Eglesfield bore, argent, three eagles displayed, two and one, gules; which are still the arms of the Queen's College. The founder's seal spells the name Eglefeld. His drinking horn, which is of uncommon size and beauty, is still preserved in the college. It is figured in Skelton's 'Oxonia Antiqua Restaurata,' plate 42 (see also p. 30), 2nd ed. 1843.

There was a Robert de Eglesfeld who had a grant made to him of the manor of Ravenwyke or Renwick, 1 Edw. III, which manor was subsequently given to Queen's College by the founder (see Hutchinson, Hist. of Cumberland, i. 212, 1794). Next year, 1328, Robert de Eglefield was elected knight of the shire for Cumberland (Parliamentary Accounts and Papers, 1878, xvii. l; Members of Parliament, p. 83). It is therefore possible that the founder entered holy orders late in life; for if there were two Robert Eglesfields, it is difficult to understand why the second is not named, where several are named, in the statutes of the college, especially since it was through this lay Eglesfield that it acquired the manor of Ravenwyke.

[The charter and statutes of the Queen's College are printed among the Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, 1863. See also Anthony à Wood's History and Antiquities of the University of Oxford, ed. Gutch, Colleges and Halls, pp. 138-41; Dean Burgon's notice in H. Shaw's Arms of the Colleges of Oxford, 1855; and Mr. H. T. Riley's report printed in Hist. MSS. Comm., 2nd Rep., appendix. The writer is indebted for several valuable facts and references to the kindness of the Rev. J. R. Magrath. D.D., provost of Queen's College. On the special characteristics of Eglesfield's foundation compare H.C. Maxwell Lyte's History of the University of Oxford, pp. 147-53, 1886.]

R. L. P.