Oldham, Hugh (DNB00)

OLDHAM, HUGH (d. 1519), bishop of Exeter, founder of the Manchester grammar school, and a great benefactor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was a native of Lancashire. This fact is expressly stated in the original statutes of Corpus Christi College, where one fellowship and one scholarship were appropriated to that county in his honour, but the exact place, as well as the date, of his birth is uncertain. Mr. Cooper (Athenæ Cantabr.) thinks it was Crumpsell in the parish of Manchester, whereas Roger Dodsworth maintains that it was Oldham. William Oldham, abbot of St. Werburgh, Chester, and bishop of Man, is said to have been his brother. He was educated in the household of Thomas Stanley, earl of Derby, of whom Margaret of Richmond was the third wife, together with James Stanley, afterwards bishop of Ely, and William Smith, afterwards bishop of Lincoln, founder of Brasenose, and a great benefactor of Lincoln College, Oxford. With the latter prelate he is said to have maintained a lifelong friendship. Oldham went first to Oxford, but subsequently removed to Queens' College, Cambridge. He was chaplain to the 'Lady Margaret,' countess of Richmond and Derby (with whom, perhaps, he first became acquainted while in the household of Thomas Stanley), and was the recipient of a vast amount of preferment, among which may be enumerated, though the list is by no means exhaustive, the rectory of St. Mildred, Bread Street, the deanery of Wimborne Minster, the archdeaconry of Exeter, the rectories of Swineshead, Lincolnshire, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and Overton, Hampshire; the masterships of the hospitals of St. John, Lichfield, and St. Leonard, Bedford; the prebends of Newington in the church of St. Paul, of Leighton Buzzard in the church of Lincoln, of South Cave in the church of York, &c. That, even before his elevation to the episcopate, he was an ecclesiastic of much consideration, appears from the fact that on 24 Jan. 1503 (see Holinshed, Chronicles) he was selected, together with the abbot John Islip [q. v.], Sir Reginald Bray [q. v.] the architect (of whom he was afterwards executor), and others, to lay the first stone of Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey. Ultimately, by a bull of provision on 27 Nov. 1504, he was promoted to the bishopric of Exeter. During the period from 1510 to 1513 he was engaged, together with Bishops Foxe, Fitz-James, and Smith, in the long altercation with Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, as to the prerogatives of the archbishop with regard to the probate of wills and the administration of the estates of intestates, a cause which, having been unduly spun out in the papal court, was finally referred to the king, who decided the points mainly in favour of the bishops. It must have been some time between 1513 and 1516 that Oldham, according to the common story as told by John Hooker, alias Vowell, in Holinshed's 'Chronicles,' advised his friend Bishop Foxe [see Foxe, Richard] to desist from his design of building a college in Oxford for the reception of young monks belonging to St. Swithin's monastery at Winchester while pursuing their academical studies, and to found instead a larger establishment for the education of the secular clergy. 'What, my lord,' he is represented as saying, with remarkable prescience, if the story be accurately reported,' shall we build houses and provide livelihoods for a company of bussing monks, whose end and fall we ourselves may live to see ? No, no! it is more meet a great deal that we should have care to provide for the increase of learning, and for such as who by their learning shall do good in the church and commonwealth.' The result of this advice was the foundation of Corpus Christi College, as ultimately settled in 1516 and 1517, towards which object Oldham, besides other gifts, contributed what was then the large sum of six thousand marks. In return for these temporal gifts a daily mass was appointed by the founder, to be said in the chapel of the new college for Oldham, at the altar of the Holy Trinity — during his lifetime, 'pro bono et felici statu;' after his death, for his soul and those of his parents and benefactors. The bishop died on 25 June 1519 (more than nine years before his friend Bishop Foxe), being at that time, it is said, under excommunication on account of a dispute concerning jurisdiction in which he was involved with the abbot of Tavistock. He is buried in a chapel erected by himself in Exeter Cathedral, where there is a monument bearing a striking, though somewhat coarsely executed, recumbent figure, recently restored by Corpus Christi College. Bishop Foxe was one of the executors of his will, and he desired that, in case he died out of his diocese, he should be buried in the chapel of Corpus.

Francis Godwin, in his 'Catalogue of the Bishops of England,' says of Oldham: 'A man of more devotion than learning, somewhat rough in speech, but in deed and action friendly. He was careful in the saving and defending of his liberties, for which continual suitsVere between him and the abbot of Tavistock. . . . Albeit he was not very well learned, yet a great favourer and a furtherer of learning he was.' Godwin says that he could not be buried till an absolution was procured from Rome. Possibly Oldham's ill opinion of the monks may have been connected with the 'continual suits between him and the abbot of Tavistock.'

Oldham is now chiefly known as the founder of the Manchester grammar school. The various conveyances of the property which constitutes the endowment of the school are dated respectively 20 Aug. 1515, 11 Oct. 1515, and 1 April 1525; but the statutes, which are a schedule to the indenture of feoffment, bear the last date.

In the hall of Corpus there is a very fine portrait of Oldham, of unknown workmanship, but evidently contemporary. There is a good engraving of this portrait by W. Holl. There is also another engraving—but whether it was taken from the same original or not is difficult to say—sketched and published by S. Harding. No original is named on the print.

[The present writer's Hist. of C.C.C. published by the Oxf. Hist. Soc.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Whatton's Hist. of Manchester School; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Godwin's Cat. of the Bishops of England; Holinshed's Chronicles; Archbishop Parker, De Antiquitate Britannicæ Ecclesiæ; Espinasse's Worthies of Lancashire.]

T. F.