Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lyhert, Walter

LYHERT, otherwise LYART, LE HERT, or LE HART, WALTER (d. 1473), bishop of Norwich, is said to have been descended from a family of Norwich citizens, and this may perhaps have some truth in it, for the anniversary of one John Lyhert was certainly kept by the monks of Norwich priory in the first half of the fifteenth century, as appears by entries in the ‘Sacrist's Rolls.’ Gascoigne, however, who must have known him personally, says he was de Cornubia, and this seems the more probable, as he was for some time a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He appears to have attracted the notice of some powerful friends very early in life, for he was presented to the rectory of Lamarsh in Essex by Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Edward, duke of Somerset, in 1427, and next year he obtained the rectory of Tillingham, which was in the patronage of the king. During the years that followed, notwithstanding that he received several minor preferments, he seems to have resided at Oxford and to have been a somewhat leading man in the university. Resigning his fellowship at Exeter he became fellow of Oriel, and was chosen provost of that college in 1444, being then a doctor of divinity. When Thomas Brown, bishop of Norwich, died (6 Dec. 1445), Henry VI wished to promote John Stanbery, provost of Eton, to the vacant see, but William Pole, earl of Suffolk, anticipated the king, having already secured the bishopric for Lyhert, who was his chaplain, by papal provision. The temporalities were accordingly restored to the bishop-elect on 10 Jan. 1446, and he was consecrated at Lambeth on 20 Feb. In the administration of his diocese he showed much sympathy with the parish priests, who had during the previous two centuries been systematically plundered by the iniquitous appropriations of their tithes for the benefit of the religious houses; and his munificence as a builder was unbounded. The fine vaulted roof of the nave of Norwich Cathedral was his work, and so was the hideously ‘restored’ screen in which the organ stands. He is often mentioned in the ‘Paston Letters,’ and always with a certain grudging recognition of his popularity in the diocese. Blomefield states (without giving any authority) that ‘he maintained 12 students in Physick Hostle in Cambridge.’ When Bishop Pecock, who was himself a fellow of Oriel, preached his famous sermon at Paul's Cross in April 1446, he handed a copy of it to Bishop Lyhert, who incurred much danger and some persecution for the favour which he showed his friend. As ambassador of Henry VI to Savoy in 1449 he is credited with having prevailed on the antipope, Felix V, to resign his claim to the papacy, and thus to have brought the schism to an end. Blomefield has given very full abstracts of his will and testament, which are still preserved in the registry at Norwich. He died at Hoxne on Whitsunday, 24 May 1472, and was buried in his own cathedral. Weever has given us some lines from the inscription upon his tomb. His rebus may be seen sculptured in many parts of Norwich Cathedral—a hart lying in the water. As to the spelling of his name, it is spelt Lyhert by his proctor at Rome in 1446, by the notary who kept his register of institutions, and by the scribe who drew out his will.

[Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 418; Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, iii. 535 et seq.; Weever's Funerall Monuments, p. 869; Gascoigne's Loci e Libro Veritatis, pp. 28, 42; Maziere Brady's Episcopal Succession, i. 44; Le Neve's Fasti; notes from the Sacrist's Rolls of the Priory of Norwich and from the bishop's own Register (No. xi.) by the present writer.]

A. J.