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HALTON or HALGHTON, JOHN of (d. 1324), bishop of Carlisle, was a canon of the Augustinian convent of St. Mary's, Carlisle, which was also the cathedral of the diocese. He became prior in due course (Dugdale, Monasticon, vi. 141), and on 23 April 1292 was elected bishop (Chron. de Lanercost, p. 146). The royal assent was given on 26 May. His temporalities were restored on 18 June, and he was consecrated on 14 Sept. at York by Anthony Bek, bishop of Durham (Stubbs, Reg. Angl. p. 48; Le Neve, Fasti, iii. 234, ed. Hardy). A Gilbert de Halton who was archdeacon of Carlisle between 1311 and 1318 was doubtless a kinsman (LE NEVE, iii. 249). Halton was probably educated at Oxford, for which he very warmly claims equal privileges with the universities of France (Raine, Papers from the Northern Registers, p. 122).

Halton was hardly consecrated when he was busy with the great suit for the crown of Scotland. He was present on 17 Nov. 1292 when the king's decision was announced at Berwick, and at the homage of John Balliol on 26 Dec. at Newcastle (Fœdera, i. 780, 782). He found his cathedral town burnt down by a destructive fire on 25 May (Lanercost, p. 144). This was only the beginning of the troubles which beset Carlisle and the whole diocese during his long episcopate. He was appointed by Celestine V one of the collectors of the crusading tithe in Scotland, an office which led to constant disputes, excommunications, and difficulties. At last Boniface VIII absolved him from the impossible order to collect ten thousand marks within a poor and distracted country, now at war with England (Raine, pp. 112–14).

In 1295 Halton was sent as an ambassador to King John of Scotland, and on 8 Nov. received a safe-conduct for his return (ib. pp. 119–20). On 13 Oct. 1297 Halton was appointed custos of Carlisle Castle and of the royal domains (Cal. Doc. Scotl. ii. 244). He held this office many years, and made great exertions in repairing the works and provisioning and garrisoning them. When Wallace ravaged the country thirty miles round, the burden of defending the great border fortress rested entirely on him (ib. iii. 119). Elaborate accounts of his expenses and receipts are printed from his register by Canon Raine (Papers from Northern Registers, pp. 154–9). So exhausted did his diocese become that he sought and obtained the pope's authority to remit, sometimes a third, sometimes the whole of the papal taxation levied on the clergy (ib. pp. 151, 161). He was constantly thrown back on his own resources for fighting against the Scots, and could get little help from an exhausted treasury. Things got worse after Edward II's accession. In 1309 he was ordered by Clement V to excommunicate Bruce for the murder of Comyn. Instead of attending the Easter parliament of 1314, Halton was ordered to reside in his diocese to defend it against the Scots (Parl. Writs, ii. iii. 644; Raine, p. 219), in which object he worked along with the sheriff Andrew Harclay [q. v.] In 1318, however, he was a member of the extraordinary council which Lancaster imposed, and in 1321 he was present at the meeting of northern clergy summoned by Lancaster to Sherburn in Elmet for 28 July (Bridlington, p. 62). Yet he seems to have sent troops to fight against Lancaster in the final struggle which ended at Boroughbridge.

The Scottish war had reduced Halton to great poverty. In 1314 his houses outside Newcastle had been destroyed to build the town wall, though for this he got compensation (Raine, p. 218); but in 1318 he wrote piteously to pope John XXII begging for help, and requesting that the living of Horncastle in Lincolnshire, the manor of which was already in the hands of the Bishop of Carlisle, should be permanently annexed to his see (ib. pp. 282–4). Edward II backed up his efforts, and he obtained his request (Fœdera, ii. 378). Henceforth Horncastle became a favourite residence of the bishops when they wished to enjoy a little repose from the troubles of their warlike frontier diocese.

In 1320 Halton went on his last embassy to Scotland, and had his expenses refused by the king on the ground that he went for his own good as well as for that of the realm (Cal. Doc. Scotl. iii. 119). In 1322 he excused himself, on account of old age, infirmity, and poverty, from attending in person the famous parliament at York. In February 1324 he was excused for the same reasons, and especially on account of his want of the proper means of conveyance, from attendance at the parliament at Westminster. Yet he continued to work till the last. On 6 Aug. 1324 he administered the oaths to the commissioners of array for Cumberland and Westmoreland. On 1 Nov. he died at his manor of Rose Castle (Lanercost, p. 253). He was buried in the north aisle of his cathedral, where a much-decayed effigy is still pointed out as his (Jefferson, Hist. and Antiq. Carlisle, p. 178). His register is still preserved, and is the earliest remaining register of his see. A large number of letters from it, many of considerable political importance, have been printed by Canon Raine in his ‘Papers from the Northern Registers’ in the Rolls Series.

[Rymer's Fœdera, vols. i. and ii., Record ed.; Parl. Writs, i. 520, II. iii. 644–5; Raine's Papers from the Northern Registers (Rolls Ser.); Bridlington's Gesta Edwardi II in Stubbs's Chron. of Edward I and II, ii. 57, 62 (Rolls Ser.); Chron. de Lanercost (Maitland Club), pp. 144, 146, 253; Documents illustrative of the Hist. of Scotland, 1286–1306; Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, vols. ii. and iii.; Nicolson and Burn's Hist. of Westmorland and Cumberland, ii. 262–263.]

T. F. T.