Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Edington, William of
EDINGTON, WILLIAM of (d. 1366), bishop of Winchester and chancellor, was a native of Edington, near Westbury in Wiltshire, and is said to have been educated at Oxford. He attracted the notice of Bishop Adam Orleton of Winchester, who presented him to the living of Cheriton in Hampshire, and introduced him to the court (Lord Campbell, Lives of the Chancellors, i. 254, 3rd ed. 1848). Thenceforward his life was almost entirely spent in the public service. On 26 March 1341 he is mentioned as receiver of the subsidy of a ninth granted by parliament on this side Trent (Rymer, Fœdera, ii. pt. ii. 1154, Record edition); and in the following year, 18 Feb., he was presented by the king to the prebend of Leighton Manor in Lincoln Cathedral, an appointment which was confirmed 10 April (Le Neve, Fasti Eccl. Angl. ii. 176, ed. Hardy). On 2 May 1344 he is mentioned as holding also the prebend of Netheravon in Salisbury Cathedral (W. H. Jones, Fasti Eccl. Saresb. p. 404), which, together with his prebend at Lincoln, he held until his elevation to the bishopric of Winchester in 1346. Besides these preferments he possessed, 28 March 1345, the prebend of Putston Major in Hereford Cathedral (Le Neve, i. 526). In the same year, 10 April, he was appointed king's treasurer. This advancement was quickly succeeded, 9 Dec., by his nomination by Pope Clement VI to the bishopric of Winchester (Rymer, iii. pt. i. 64), at the king's request (W. Thorn, Chron., ap. Twysden, Hist. Angl. Scriptores Decem, col. 2082), and in spite of the election of the monks, who had chosen a certain John Devenish to be their bishop. One invasion of privilege led to another, and Devenish was compensated by the abbacy of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, when the pope's provision again superseded the monks' choice.
Edington was ‘elected’ bishop, 14 May 1346, and the temporalities were restored to him 15 July (Le Neve, iii. 14). His episcopate is notable for the architectural work which he commenced in his cathedral church at Winchester, transforming, without rebuilding, the Norman nave of Bishop Walkelin. This remarkable performance left the substance of the old piers and walls standing, the former being recased and the latter in part cut away to make room for the new Perpendicular work. Bishop Edington himself is credited only with the west front, the two first bays on the north side, and one on the south; and even here the porches and the details of the windows are more recent insertions. The completion of the nave was due to his successors, Bishops Wykeham, Beaufort, and Waynflete. The only other work in the cathedral assigned to Edington is the building of the chantry bearing his name, in the second bay from the choir on the south side of the nave. Next to Winchester, Edington devoted himself to the interests of his native village in Wiltshire. He mainly rebuilt the church and founded a college there with a dean and twelve clerks, whereof some were prebendaries (Leland, Itinerary, iv. 25), in honour of the Blessed Virgin, St. Catherine, and All Saints, about 1347 (Dugdale, Monasticon, vi. pt. i. 535, ed. 1830). This, it may be supposed, was only an extension of the ‘cantaria’ with certain chaplains already existing there (Leland, Collectanea, i. 30); but after some time, at the desire of the Black Prince, Edington changed the foundation into one of reformed Austin friars, called ‘Bonhommes,’ with a rector at their head—friars whom the Benedictine chroniclers scornfully described as ‘de ordine qui nascitur de secta fratrum de Ascherugge’ [al. ‘Asherugh’] (Chron. Angl. p. 20, ed. E. M. Thompson, Rolls Series; Walsingham, Hist. Angl. i. 266, ed. H. T. Riley). The change, which is referred to 1358, was accepted by all the members of the corporation except the dean (Leland, Itin., l. c.; Dugdale). The register of the house is contained in Lansdowne MS. 442, in the British Museum.
Edington was treasurer from 1345 until 1356. His reputation was that he loved the king's advantage more than that of the community; and his career is specially associated with the issue of base coinage in 1351 (Chron. Angl. p. 29; Walsingham, Hist. Angl. i. 275 f.) On 27 Nov. 1356 he was made chancellor (Rymer, iii. pt. i. 344), a post which he held for a little more than six years. At last, on 10 May 1366, he was elected by the royal desire to the archbishopric of Canterbury, on the death of Simon Islip; but his growing infirmities forbade his acceptance of it (Le Neve, i. 19). He died the following autumn, the date being given in Langham's register as 8 Oct., but in the ‘Obituarium Cantuariense’ (Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 317) and the ‘Eulogium Historiarum’ a day earlier, while at Salisbury his ‘obit’ was kept on 11 Oct. (Jones, l.c.) He was buried at Edington. He left his estate towards the continuation of the fabric of his cathedral and the completion of his chantry, but the amount was diminished by a claim for the dilapidations of the see, for which he was held responsible.
The name is spelled variously with i or y, t or d, with or without a g, and by Leland with an initial H.[T. Rudborne's Hist. epit., in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 286; Successio Episcoporum Wintoniensium, ib. p. 317; Birchington's Vitæ Archiep. Cant. ib. p. 46; Eulogium Historiarum, iii. 240, ed. F. S. Haydon, Rolls Series, 1863; Murray's Handbook to the Cathedrals of England, Southern Division, pt. i. pp. 1–8, 46; Woodward's Hampshire, i. 67, 100 ff.]