Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Atwater, William

ATWATER, WILLIAM (1440–1521), bishop of Lincoln, was, according to his epitaph, born about 1440. Wood connects his parentage with Davington, in Somersetshire; but no such place is known. A family of the name was, however, resident near Downton, in Wiltshire, and a Philemon Attwater and a William Attwater held property in the neighbourhood in the eighteenth century (Hoare's Wiltshire, sub 'Downton,' iii. 61). Wood also states that Atwater was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was first demy and afterwards fellow. His name does not appear in the college registers, which only date from the latest years of the fifteenth century, but it is probable that he was a fellow in 1480 (Bloxam's Magdalen College Registers, iv. 27 n.). He was doubtless tutor at Magdalen when Thomas Wolsey was studying there, and thus formed an acquaintance that proved of service to him. In 1492-3 Atwater took the degree of D.D., and in 1497 became for the first time vice-chancellor of the university. Three years later he was reappointed to the office, which he held in conjunction with others till 1502. In 1500 the post of chancellor of the university, vacated by the death of Archbishop Morton, was temporarily filled by him. William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, one of the founders of Brasenose College, on succeeding Morton as chancellor, continued Atwater in the vice-chancellorship, and highly commended his 'merits and diligence.' He effectually aided the bishop in reforming academical discipline. But Atwater did not derive all his income from university work; he held an unusually large number of ecclesiastical benefices. He was appointed on 19 Dec. 1489 to the living of Hawkridge, in Wiltshire, and subsequently held, among many other small benefices, that of Ditcheat, in Somersetshire. The deanery of the Chapel Royal was conferred on him in 1602. On 21 June 1504 he became canon of Windsor and registrar of the order of the Garter. From 1506 to 1512 he was chancellor of the cathedral of Lincoln, a dignity bestowed on him by his friend William Smith, the bishop; on 30 Oct. 1512 he exchanged the chancellorship for a prebend in the cathedral. On 5 Sept. 1509 he was appointed dean of Salisbury, having become prebendary of Ruscomb in Salisbury cathedral on 20 July, and was granted a coat of arms. For a short time, between 1509 and 1512, he was archdeacon of Lewes. In Browne-Willis's 'Cathedrals' Atwater is stated to have been fellow of Eton. From 3 June 1514 till 18 Nov. following he held the archdeaconry of Huntingdon. His elevation to the bishopric of Lincoln, in September 1514, in succession to Wolsey, whose patronage had doubtless secured him many of his honours, closes the long list of his preferments. He was consecrated at Lambeth 12 Nov. 1514. He resigned the canonry of Windsor on 22 Oct. 1514, but he continued in the deanery of the Chapel Royal. On 15 Nov. 1515 he took part in the formal reception by Wolsey at Westminster of the cardinal's hat.

Atwater died at Wooburn, Buckinghamshire, 4 Feb. 1520-1, and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral. A brass above his grave stated that he was then eighty-one years old. Among the state papers is an autograph letter (11 Nov. 1516) from Atwater to Pope Leo X, praying for the appointment of a sufragan bishop at an annuity of 200 ducats. An entry in Henry VIII's accounts for 1 Oct. 1514 shows that the king lent Atwater 600l. A license to import one hundred tuns of Gascon wine was granted to Atwater 1 Dec. 1513. A popular book, printed by Pynson in 1519 and reprinted by Wynkyn de Worde, entitled 'Vulgaria viri doctissimi Guil. Hormanni Cæsarisburgensis,' was dedicated to Atwater in highly flattering terms.

[Wood's Athen. Oxon. (ed. Bliss), ii. 716; Wood's Fasti (ed. Bliss), i. 3, 6, 9; Le Neve's Fasti; Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, 1512-1516; Churton's Lives of the Founders of Brasenose College, pp. 156, 360, 496; Ames's Typograph. Antiq. (ed. Herbert and Dibdin), ii. 286-7, 479-82.]

S. L. L.