Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kirkham, Walter de
KIRKHAM, WALTER de (d. 1260), bishop of Durham, was apparently of humble parentage, but became one of the royal clerks. His name first appears in 1225, when he is frequently mentioned in connection with the exchequer, was clerk of the wardrobe, and is spoken of as 'specialis et familiaris master' (Cal. Rot. Lit. Clerus, in Turri Londiniensi, ii. 9 b, 49, 70 b). He received much ecclesiastical preferment, was chaplain of Eastrington, Yorkshire, in 1225, dean of Pencric in Ireland in 1226 (ib. p. 161b.), parson of Rulby, Yorkshire, in 1228, and dean if St. Martin's-le-Grand, London, on 10 Oct. 1229. He also held the prebend of Bole at York, and was appointed archdeacon of Salop some time after 1232. In 1241 he became dean of York, and on 21 April 1249, on the resignation of Nicholas de Farnham, he was elected bishop of Durham, in preference to the royal nominee, Aymer (d. 1260) [q. v.] The king would not give his consent till 27 Sept., and Kirkham was not consecrated at York till 5 Dec. His episcopate was uneventful. He appears in some commissions on affairs with Scotland, and in 1257 was at Stirling. He was present at the parliament of April 1253, and took part in the excommunication of the violators of the charters. In 1255 he was attacked by John de Baliol, some of whose servants he had excommunicated. The king, however, interfered in his favour. In the 'Osney Annaly,' where he is called 'specialis regis,' he is said to have signed a blank charter at the king's request in 1255, and to have been sent by Henry with it to the Roman curia, where he pledged the English church for nine thousand marks (Ann. Mon. iv. 109, 110). In 1258 Kirkham quarelled with Henry, and refused to come to court (Matt. Paris, v. 675). He died, at a great age, at Howden, on 9 Aug. 1260, and was buried at Durham. He is described as of a generous and kindly disposition, and is said to have enjoyed a high reputation (Chron. Lanercost, p. 69; Flores Hist. ii. 454). He is, however, alleged to have connived at an attempt to deprive Bishop Farnham, his predecessor at Durham, of his share of the revenues of the see (Matt. Paris, v. 83). He had inherited a long lawsuit with the abbey of St. Albans, which he eventually composed (ib. vi. 326-32, 395; Flores Hist. ii. u.s.) He gave the chruches of Hartburn and Eglingham for the support of hospitalities at St. Albans (Matt. Paris, vi. 317-21). He compelled one of the barons of his palatinate, as a punishment for wrongdoing, to assign a sum of money for the support of Students of Oxford. Some 'Constitutiones' which he issued in 1233 are printed in Wilkins's 'Concilia,' i. 704-8.
[Graystone's Chroncles in Hist. Dun. Scriptt. Tres, pp. 42-4 (Surtees Soc.); Matt. Paris, Annales Monastici, Flores Historiarum (these three are in the Rolls Series); Chronicle of Lanercost (Bannatyne Club); Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 458; Le Neve's Fasti, i?73, iii 121, 174, 287; Godwin, De Praesulibus, vol. Richardson, p. 742; Surtees's Hist. of Durham, i. p. xxix.]