Kirton, Edmund (DNB00)

KIRTON, EDMUND (d. 1466), abbot of Westminster, belonged to the old family called Cobbledike, but took the name of Kirton, probably from the village where he was born. Villages of that name exist in both Lincolnshire and Suffolk, and the Cobbledikes are known to have spread themselves over the two counties. In 1403 Edmund was a monk of Westminster, and, while continuing a member of that monastery, graduated B.D. from Gloucester Hall (Worcester College), Oxford. According to his epitaph he was at Rome during the pontificate of Martin V, 1417–31, and preached before him. In 1423 he was prior of the Benedictine scholars at Gloucester Hall, and in the same year he was sent by the university to lay various letters, touching subsidies for the new divinity schools and other buildings at Oxford, before a general chapter of his order at Northampton. He was selected to preach before the council, and on his motion a vote of thanks was returned to John Whethamsted, abbot of St. Albans, as the chief benefactor and second founder of Gloucester Hall. In recognition of Kirton's services the chapter appointed him a visitor of the Benedictine monasteries, and requested the chancellor of the university to grant him a D.D. degree.

In 1437 he accompanied Paul Norreys, principal of University Hall, Oxford, to the council of Basle. Both seem to have been cited to appear there before Eugenius IV, on suspicion of heresy, but the influence of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and letters from their university enabled them to exculpate themselves. After having been a monk of Westminster thirty-seven years, Kirton was elected abbot between 27 May and 20 Aug. 1440. He resigned the post twenty-two years later (1462), probably on account of increasing age and infirmities, but received till his death (October 1466) an annual pension of two hundred marks. His oratory is spoken of as remarkable. His tomb in St. Andrew's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, formed part of a screen which Kirton himself had caused to be ornamented ‘with carved birds, flowers, and cherubim, and with the arms, devices, and mottoes of the nobility,’ but tomb and screen have long disappeared.

[Dart's History of Westminster Abbey, ed. 1723, vol. ii. p. xxxv; Widmore's History of the Church of St. Peter's, Westminster, p. 114; Dugdale's Monasticon, 1817, ii. 276; Wood's History of the University of Oxford (Gutch), i. 587; Neale and Brayley's History of Westminster Abbey, i. 90.]

E. T. B.