Stapledon, Walter

, founder of Exeter college, and of Hart-hall, Oxford, was so named from Stapledon t: in the parish of Cookberry, the ancient residence of the family. Prince thinks he was born at Annery, in the parish of Monklegh, near Great Torrington, in Devonshire. All we have of his history begins with his advancement to the bishopric in 1307. He is said to have been of “great | parentage,” and his installation was graced by ceremonies of magnificent solemnity. On his arrival at Exeter, he alighted from his horse at Eastgate, and walked on foot, the or nnd being smoothed and covered with black cloth,

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to the cathedral; on each hand he was accompanied by a person of distinction, while sir Hugh Courtney, who claimed the honour of being steward on this occasion, walked before him. At Broadgate he was received by the chapter and choir. After the accustomed ceremonies, a grand feast was given, of such expence as the revenues of the bishopric, according to Godwin’s estimation, would not have been sufficient to defray, yet in Henry IVth’s time it was valued at 7000l. per annum, a sum scarcely credible, as the expence of an entertainment.

All the steps of his political life were marked with honours. He was chosen one of the privy-council to Edward II. appointed lord treasurer, and employed in embassies, and other weighty affairs of state, in which his abilities and integrity would have been acknowledged, had he not lived in a period of remarkable turbulence and injustice. In 1325 he accompanied the queen to France in order to negociate a peace, but her intentions to depose her husband were no longer to be concealed, and the bishop, whose integrity her machinations could not corrupt, continued to attach himself to the cause of his unfortunate sovereign, and fell an early sacrifice to popular fury. In 1326 he was appointed guardian of the city of London during the king’s absence in the west, and while he was taking measures to preserve the loyalty of the metropolis, the populace attacked him, Oct. 15, as he was walking the streets, and beheaded him near the north door of St. Paul’s, together with sir Richard Stapledon, his brother. Godwin informs us that they buried the bishop in a heap of sand at the back of his house, without Temple-l>ar. Walsingham says they threw it into the river; but the former account seems most consistent with popular malevolence and contempt. Exeter house was founded by him as a town residence for the bishops of the diocese, and is said to have been very magnificent. It was afterwards alienated from the see, and by a change of owners, became first Leicester, and then Essex house, a name which the scite still retains. It appears that the queen soon after ordered the body of the murdered bishop to be removed and interred, with that of his brother, in Exeter cathedral. In the 3d Edward III. | 1330, a synod was held at London before Simon, archbishop of Canterbury, to make inquiry into bishop Stapledon’s death; and his murderers, and all who were any way privy or consenting to the crime, were executed. His monument, in the north aile of Exeter cathedral, was erected by the rector and fellows of Exeter college. Among the mu,niments of the dean and chapter of Exeter, there is an account of the administration of his goods, by Richard Braylegh, dean of Exeter, and one of his executors; by which it appears that he left a great many legacies to poor scholars, and several sums of money, from twenty to sixty shillings, for the repairing of bridges in the county, and towards building Pilton churc.i, &c.

Walter de Stapledon was not more eminent for the judgment and firmness which he displayed as a statesman, in times of peculiar difficulty, than for his love of learnia<r. After he had engaged Hart, or Hart-hall, for the accommodation of his scholars, he purchased a tenement on the scite of the present college, called St. Stephen’s hall, in 1315, and having purchased also some additional premises, known then by the names of Scot-hall, Leding- Park-Hall, and Baltaye-Hall, he removed the rector and scholars of Stapledon, or Hart-hall to this place, in pursuance of the same foundation charter which he had obtained of the king for founding that hall in the preceding year. According to the statutes which he gave to this society, the number of persons to be maintained appears to have been thirteen, one to be instructed in theology or canon law, the rest in philosophy. Eight of them were to be of the archdeaconries of Exeter, Totness, and Barnstaple, four of the archdeaconry of Cornwall, and one, a priest, might be nominated by the dean and chapter of Exeter from any other part of the kingdom. In 1404, Edmund Stafford, bishop of Exeter, a great benefactor, changed the name from Stapledon to Exeter Hall, but it did not rise to the consequence of a corporate body until the time of sir William Petre, who, in 1565, procured a new body of statutes, and a regular deed of incorporation, increasing also the number of fellowships, &c. 1


Wood’s Colleges and Halls. Polwhele’s Hist, of Devonshire. Hist. of Oxford.