Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Waltham, John de

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WALTHAM, JOHN de (d. 1395), bishop of Salisbury and treasurer of England, was born at Waltham, near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. He was the son of John and Margaret Waltham, whose tomb still exists in the church of Waltham, bearing an inscription quoted in the ‘Archæological Journal’ (vii. 389). On 20 Nov. 1361 he became prebendary of Lichfield (Le Neve, i. 603). In the same year he resigned the prebend of Dunham in the cathedral church of Southwell (ib. iii. 418), but he was prebendary of Rampton in Southwell till 1383 (ib. iii. 453). On 25 Oct. 1368 he was nominated prebendary of South Newbald in York Cathedral, and on 7 Oct. 1370 the appointment was ratified by the king (ib. iii. 205). On 20 Feb. 1378 he was presented to the church of St. Mary, South Kelsey, in the diocese of Lincoln, in the king's gift (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1377–81, p. 124). By 20 May 1378 he had resigned that church, as on that date his successor was appointed (ib. p. 207). On 6 April 1379 Waltham was nominated to a canonry in the collegiate church of Chester-le-Street, Durham, but this appointment he did not take up, being elsewhere nominated (ib. p. 330). On 17 June ‘John de Watltham’ was presented to the church of Grendon in the diocese of Lincoln (ib. p. 354). In the same year, on 18 Sept., he was nominated to a canonry in the collegiate church of Auckland, Durham (ib. p. 367). On 27 Dec. 1379 he was presented to the rectory of St. Peter, Berkhampstead, which he resigned before 22 April 1381 (ib. pp. 408, 619). A ‘ratification of the estate of John de Waltham in the prebend of Bolinghope in Hereford Cathedral’ is dated 28 April 1380 (ib. p. 463).

On 8 Sept. 1381 ‘John de Waltham, king's clerk,’ was appointed during good behaviour keeper of the rolls of chancery (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1381–5, p. 41). As in January 1385 he was made archdeacon of Richmond (Le Neve, iii. 139), on 24 Feb. license was granted him to execute his office as master of the rolls by deputy whenever he visited his archdeaconry (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1381–5, p. 539); he was appointed about the same time master of Sherborne Hospital in Dorset. On 27 April 1383, ‘at the request of John de Waltham,’ a patent was granted by which, after the death of William de Burstall, the preceding keeper, ‘the Domus Conversorum shall remain for ever to the clerk, keeper of the rolls in chancery for the time being, and be annexed to that office … with power to the chancellor of England or the keeper of the great seal for the time being, at every voidance to institute the successive keepers and put them in possession of the same’ (ib. p. 269). License was granted on 1 Dec. for Henry de Percy, earl of Northumberland, and Matilda, his wife, to enfeoff John de Waltham, clerk, and two others, with the castle and honour of Cockermouth (ib. p. 392). As keeper of the rolls in chancery, Waltham extended the jurisdiction of the court of chancery by the introduction of the writ of subpœna. Under Henry V the commons petitioned against this novelty, but the king refused to discontinue its use, which has survived to the present (Rot. Parl. iv. 84 a). On the discharge of the chancellor, Richard le Scrope (1327?–1403) [q. v.], Waltham was one of those to whom from 11 July to 10 Sept. 1382 the custody of the great seal was entrusted. Again, from 9 Feb. to 28 March 1386 he, together with two clerks of chancery, was responsible for the great seal. From 23 April to 14 May in the same year he acted alone in the same capacity. Before 6 Nov. 1381 John resigned the prebend of Langley in the collegiate church of Lanchester, Durham (Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1381–5, p. 47). On 18 Oct. 1383 he was granted the prebend of Cristeshale in the king's free chapel of St. Martin's-le-Grand, London (ib. p. 345). In a record under 2 Dec. 1383 (ib. p. 343), Waltham is referred to as ‘parson of Hadleigh in Suffolk.’ In this same year he was appointed prebendary of Southcave in the church of St. Peter's, York, and the appointment was ratified by the king on 15 Jan. 1385 (ib. p. 518), and again on 30 Sept. 1387 (Le Neve, iii. 211). On 19 Aug. 1384 the chapel of St. Leonard, Clyn, in Flint, was granted him for life (ib. pp. 452, 457).

Waltham resigned the mastership of the rolls on 24 Oct. 1386, and was appointed keeper of the privy seal (Rot. Parl. iii. 229). He was one of the commissioners for the trial in May 1388 of Alexander Neville, archbishop of York, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford and duke of Ireland, Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, and others (ib. iii. 229 a). As keeper of the privy seal he, with the chancellor and the treasurer, had power to survey the courts of chancery, both benches, the exchequer, and the receipt, and to remove inefficient officers therefrom (ib. iii. 250 a). A writ was issued to him when bishop of Salisbury to stop the collection of new papal impositions (ib. iii. 405 b).

On 3 April 1388 Waltham was papally provided to the bishopric of Salisbury (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 601; Monk of Evesham, p. 106). On 13 Sept. the temporalities were restored to him, and the next day he received the spiritualities. He was consecrated at Barnwell Priory, near Cambridge (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 601; Stubbs, Reg. Sacrum Angl. p. 60). Immediately after this a commission was issued by John Maydenhith, dean of Chichester, to act as his vicar-general, and two suffragans were commissioned to perform the episcopal functions. Waltham's frequent absences in London made these devices necessary. In the disputes between king and people Waltham was usually on the royal side.

Waltham was one of the bishops who resisted the claim of Archbishop Courtenay to visit his diocese, and pleaded that the right of visitation had lapsed with the death of Urban VI, who had granted bulls empowering the archbishop to hold it. He tried to strengthen his position by procuring from Boniface IX an exemption for himself and his diocese. But Courtenay declared his right to be independent of papal permission or prohibition, and proceeded with the visitation. He threatened Waltham with excommunication. Two days afterwards Waltham yielded (Godwin, De Præsulibus, 1743, pp. 348, 349).

In 1390 Waltham himself got into similar difficulties with the chapter of Salisbury, which resisted his visitatorial authority. Finally, the king intervened, and an agreement was drawn up between the bishop and chapter, and confirmed by Boniface IX, which permanently settled the mode, duration, and precise limits of the episcopal jurisdiction over the chapter. By this agreement visitations of the cathedral could be held only septennially.

Waltham was made treasurer of England in May 1391 (Godwin, De Præsulibus, 1743, p. 348; Higden, Polychronicon, ix. 247; Stubbs, Const. Hist. ii. 508). The Monk of Evesham (p. 123) gives the date of appointment as the beginning of October. Waltham held this office till his death. His acts as treasurer, no less than as bishop or as keeper of the rolls, were unpopular. A complaint was made against the ‘novelty’ of his causing certain cloths to be sealed (Rot. Parl. iii. 437 b, 541 b). Complaints also were made of excessive prisage of wines taken at his order (ib. pp. 446 b, 477 b).

Waltham died on 17 Sept. 1395. Richard II honoured him in death as in life, and ordered his tomb to be erected among the kings in Westminster (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 601; Walsingham, Hist. Angl. ii. 218; Godwin, De Præsulibus, 1743, p. 348). The king overruled by costly presents the objections of the monks to the burial of Waltham in the royal chapel. A fine brass still remains in St. Edward's Chapel representing Waltham in full canonicals. This brass is one of very few remaining from the fourteenth century. He is the only person not of royal blood who is honoured with a tomb among our kings and queens (Bradley, Annals of Westminster Abbey, p. 89). His will, dated on 2 Sept. 1395, was proved on 26 Sept. (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 601).

The bishop must be distinguished from a contemporary John de Waltham, prior of Drax, a house of Austin canons, and afterwards subdean of York. The bishop was a ‘secular,’ the prior of Drax a ‘regular,’ priest. It is possible that some of the preferments attributed above to John of Waltham, afterwards bishop of Salisbury, may have fallen to this second John of Waltham. Both John de Walthams have also been confused with John de Walton (fl. 1410) [q. v.]

[Calendars of Patent Rolls, 1377–81, 1381–5; Rolls of Parliament, vols. iii. and iv.; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. vii.; Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, ed. Hardy; Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ (1741); Stubbs's Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum; Walsingham's Historia Anglicana and Higden's Polychronicon (both in Rolls Ser.); Monk of Evesham, ed. Hearne; Foss's Judges of England and Biographia Juridica; Jones's Diocesan Hist. of Salisbury; Bradley's Annals of Westminster Abbey.]

M. T.