Hugh (d.1235) (DNB00)

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HUGH (d. 1235), called Hugh of Wells, bishop of Lincoln, was the eldest son of Edward of Wells, a large landed proprietor at Lanchester, two miles south-west of Wells. The family name appears to have been Trotman. Josceline [q.v.], bishop of Bath and Wells, was Hugh's younger brother. On his father's death Hugh, as the heir, was confirmed by King John in the possession of his manors, including Axbridge and Cheddar. His name appears frequently in the rolls of John's reign, especially in the charter rolls from 1200 to 1209, as 'clericus regis.' As deputy to the chancellor, Walter de Grey, afterwards archbishop of York [q.v.], and 'signifer regis' (Annals of Worcester,iv.397), he sealed royal letters-patent and other public documents (Rymer, Fœdera,i. 100, 142; Rot. Lit. Pat. p. 80) in his own name, which has led Wendover (iii. 228), Schalby (Girald. Cambr.vii. 203), and others into the error of stating that he was actually chancellor. Hugh first appears in the rolls as Archdeacon of Wells on 1 May 1204, under Bishop Savaric. He held other preferments, such as the prebend of Louth in Lincoln Cathedral, to which he was presented by John in March 1203 (Rot. Lit. Pat. p. 27), and the rectory of Aldefrith in Norfolk, where he seems to have built a new church dedicated to St. Nicholas (Rot. Lit. Claus.p.159). In 1209 John procured the election of Hugh to the see of Lincoln, which had lain vacant since the death of William de Blois, 10 May 1203.

Hugh declined to become a pliable instrument in John's hands. The country was then under the papal interdict. The king therefore sent Hugh to Normandy, to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Rouen; but Hugh disregarded the king's injunctions, and proceeded to Melun, where Archbishop Stephen Langton was in banishment, received consecration at his hands, and swore canonical obedience to him, on 20 Dec. 1209. John retaliated by seizing the revenues of the see, and Hugh remained in exile, together with his brother Josceline, who had also turned against the king, and the other partisans of Langton. On 15 Nov. 1211 Hugh and his brother were residing at St. Martin de Garenne, near Bordeaux, where the former made a still extant will, in which he bequeathed three hundred marks to the building of the cathedral of Wells, five hundred marks to that of Lincoln, five hundred marks for the foundation of a hospital of St. John the Baptist at Wells, and other legacies for the canons and vicars of the cathedral there and at Lincoln (Report of Hist. MSS. Commission on MSS. of Wells Cathedral, pp. 186-7; Lincolnshire Notes and Queries, ii. 173-6). John's charter of submission, given at Dover on 13 May 1213, authorised Hugh, Langton, Josceline, and the other banished bishops to fulfil the duties of their office, and restitution of the revenues of his see, amounting to 750l., was made to Hugh (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 542). He landed at Dover with the other bishops on 16 July in the same year, and they were received by John at Winchester on 20 July (ib. pp.542-3, 550). A large sum of money was assessed on the royal revenue as a compensation to the diocese of Lincoln, of which fifteen thousand marks were paid (Rot. Lit. Pat. p. 106). The rent of the fair at Stow Park was remitted, and the manor of Wilsthorpe was given for the yearly rent of 20l. (Annals of Dunstable,iii.37). Brian de Insula was ordered to furnish Hugh with three hundred stags for Stow Park. Hugh showed his gratitude for these royal favours by siding with the king against the barons at Runnymede in 1215, and his name stands in the introduction to Magna Charta (Matt. Paris, us. ii. 589-90; Wendover, iii. 302). Yet after the death of John he supported the cause of Louis the Dauphin and the barons. He was absent from England when the foreign forces were defeated at Lincoln on 19 May 1217, and on his return he was compelled to pay one thousand marks, `ad opus domini Papæ,' to recover his bishopric, and one hundred marks to gain the favour of Gualo the legate (Matt. Paris, iii. 32; Wendover, iv. 33). The same year the bishop's castle at Newark was seized by Robert de Gaugi, one of the freebooters of that lawless time, who held it for the barons. It was invested by William Marshal, and after an eight days' siege it capitulated, the bishop giving Robert 100l. sterling for the provisions stored in the castle (Matt. Paris, iii. 33-4; Wendover, iv. 35). In 1219 he acted as a justice itinerant (Rot. Lit. Claus. pp. 387, 403, 405).

On the establishment of peace Hugh was able to devote himself to his episcopal duties, which he fulfilled to the benefit not only of his own diocese, but of the whole church of England. His great work was the ordination of vicarages in those parishes the tithes of which had been appropriated to monastic bodies. A definite portion of the revenues of the parish church — usually fixed by Hugh at one-third of the income of the benefice, together with a house and some glebe — was thus assigned to the vicar who had the cure of the parishioners' souls. He was no longer treated as the curate of the convent, removable at the convent's will, and receiving whatever stipend the convent might choose to allot. Nearly three hundred vicarages were thus established in the diocese of Lincoln before 1218, when the 'Liber Antiquus de Ordinationibus Vicariarum' was drawn up; and the work was energetically prosecuted by Hugh to the end of his life. The historians of the day, themselves usually members of conventual establishments, bitterly denounced Hugh's praiseworthy policy. He is styled by Matthew Paris 'monachorum persecutor; canonicorum, sanctimonialium et omnium malleus religiosorum' (Matt. Paris, Chron.Maj. iii. 306; Hist. Angl. ii. 375).

Hugh consecrated the church of Dunstable 18 Oct. 1213, and held a visitation there in 1220 in person, and again by his official, Grosseteste, then archdeacon of Lincoln, in 1233 (Annals of Dunstable, iii. 42, 57, 132). He also made a visitation of his whole diocese, issuing articles of inquiry to be made by his archdeacons, which present an interesting picture of the state of the church at that period (Wilkins, Concilia, i. 627-8). When an anchoress at Leicester professed to live without food, Hugh at first refused all credence to the tale, but having had her watched for a fortnight, and there being no evidence of her having taken any sustenance, he accepted the story (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. iii. 101). He sat on a commission, together with archbishop Langton and his brother Josceline of Wells, and others, in Worcester chapter-house, 3 Oct. 1224, to settle differences between the bishop and the convent (Annals of Worcester, iv. 416). In 1225 he witnessed the confirmation of Magna Charta (Annals of Burton, i. 231). He was among the first to recognise the commanding genius of Grosseteste, and was one of his earliest patrons. Grosseteste in his 'Letters' speaks of himself as Hugh's `alter ille,' with whom there was `one heart and one mind' (Grosseteste, Epistolæ, p. 136). Hugh refused Grosseteste permission to undertake a pilgrimage in 1231-2, on account of the risks he would run of falling into the hands of the Romans (ib. pp. xxxv., 22). He treated the Jews of his diocese with great sternness, joining with Archbishop Langton in 1223 in a prohibition to Christians, under pain of excommunication, to sell victuals to them—an order speedily reversed by the royal authority. The king's clemency had also to be extended to prisoners in the bishop's prisons (Rot. Lit. Claus. pp. 541, 563, 567). He zealously cooperated with his brother Josceline in the building and reorganisation of the cathedral of Wells, and joined with him in the foundation of the hospital of St. John the Baptist at that city (19 Feb.1220-21). The nave of his own cathedral at Lincoln was in building during his episcopate; he founded the chantry-chapel of St. Peter, in the south arm of the eastern transept, and the 'Metrical Life of St. Hugh' suggests that he completed the chapter-house. By his will he bequeathed one hundred marks to the fabric, and all the hewn timber throughout his episcopal estates, to be redeemed by his successor (Grosseteste) for fifty marks if he thought good. He built the kitchen and completed the hall begun by St. Hugh at the episcopal palace at Lincoln, towards which the king granted him forty trunks of trees from Sherwood Forest (Rot. Lit. Claus. p. 606); and also a hall at Thame, and a manor-house at Buckden, which subsequently became the sole episcopal palace. His later will, which contains many interesting particulars, dated at Stow Park 1 June 1233, is printed in the Rolls edition of 'Giraldus Cambrensis' (vol. vii. Appendix G, pp. 223-30), and ably commented on by Mr. Freeman (ib. pp. xc-xcv). He died 7 Feb. 1234-5, and was buried in the north choir aisle of his cathedral.

[Martirologium of John of Schalby, Girald. Camb. vii. 203, xc. xcv.; Matt. Paris's Chron. Maj. ii. 526, 528, 542, 550, 589, iii. 32-4, 101, 306; Hist. Angl. ii. 120, 139, 225, 227, 235, 375; Wendover, iii. 302, iv. 33, 35; Grosseteste's Letters, xxxv. 22, 136, 196; Rymer's Fœdera, i. 142, 146, 151; Annales Monastici, i. 231, iii. 37, 42, 57, 132, iv. 397; Canon Perry's Biography, ap. Lib. Antiq. Hug. de Wells (ed. by A. Gibbons).]

E. V.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.162
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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168 i 4 Hugh (d. 1235) : for Lanchester read Launcherley and for west read east