Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Northall, William of
NORTHALL, WILLIAM of (d. 1190), bishop of Worcester, derived his name from Northall in the hundred of Elthorne, Middlesex, where the dean and chapter of St. Paul's held property. William was probably educated in the cathedral school, though he first appears as witnessing a charter of Archbishop Theobald to St. Martin's Priory, c. 1160 (Gervase of Canterbury, ii. 289). John of Salisbury wrote to him during the early part of Becket's exile (c. 1167) hinting that a gift of money would be acceptable. William seems to have given a lukewarm support to Becket. He read the gospel in St. Paul's on Ascension day, 1169, when Berengar delivered the letters excommunicating the Bishop of London, and he refused to be present at mass afterwards, against Becket's command. At this time he was probably already canon. He held the prebend of Neasdon before 1177, and resigned it in 1186. He became archdeacon of Gloucester in 1177, and was seneschal or steward to Richard (d. 1184) [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury. In 1181 he was ‘firmarius’ of the manor of West Drayton, paying a rent of one mark to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's. He had the custody of the temporalities of the see of Rochester in 1184–5, and of the see of Worcester, 1185–6, then in the king's hands; and Henry II gave him the bishopric of Worcester at the council of Eynsham in May 1186. He was present at the council of Marlborough (14 Sept.), and was consecrated at Westminster, with Hugh of Lincoln [q. v.], by Baldwin, on 21 Sept. 1186. In February 1187 he was one of those sent by the king, at Baldwin's request, to negotiate with the monks of Canterbury in their quarrel with the archbishop. Gervase says, on this occasion, that Northall worked in secret, like a snake in the path, being a man of business, with little grace of bearing (‘usu magis quam arte peritus’). At the beginning of the next year the monks wrote urging him to persuade the archbishop to renounce his design of building the new church. He was again sent by the king in February 1188 as mediator in this quarrel, and he was present when the compromise proposed by Richard I was accepted on 1 Dec. 1189. He was in attendance on Richard at Winchester in August 1189, and assisted at the coronation. He was present at the council of Pipewell, 15 Sept. 1189, and witnessed the charter by which Richard released the king of Scots from subjection on 26 Nov. He died on 2, or more probably 3, May 1190 (MS. Cott. Domit. i. f. 150; Annals of Worcester, p. 387).
Giraldus Cambrensis relates that William forbade a certain English song to be sung in his diocese, because a priest of Worcester one morning, instead of the salutation, ‘Dominus vobiscum,’ solemnly chanted the refrain of the song ‘Swete lamman dhin are.’
[Gervase of Canterbury; Epistolæ Cantuarienses (in Chron. and Mem. of Richard I); Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, vol. vi.; Rad. de Diceto; Benedicti Abbatis Gesta Regis, Henr. II; Roger of Hoveden; Annales Monastici; Matt. Paris's Chron. Majora, vol. ii.; Giraldus Cambrensis, vol. ii.; Domesday of St. Paul's; Le Neve's Fasti; Newcourt's Repertorium; Madox's Hist. of the Exchequer; Dugdale's Hist. of St. Paul's, p. 316.]