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Sutton, Oliver (DNB00)


SUTTON, OLIVER (d. 1299), bishop of Lincoln, was related to the Lexington family long connected with Lincoln [see Lexinton, John]. On 19 Dec. 1244, as rector of Shelford, Cambridge, he had an indult to hold another benefice with cure of souls (Bliss, Cal. Papal Reg. i. 211). He became canon of Lincoln in 1270, and dean on 30 June 1275. His biographer, John de Scalby or Schalby, says that he had been regent in arts (perhaps at Oxford), had studied in the canon and civil law, and would have proceeded to lecture in theology but for his promotion to the deanery. On the death of Richard de Gravesend [q. v.] Sutton was elected bishop of Lincoln on 6 Feb. 1280. He was consecrated by Archbishop Peckham at Lambeth on 19 May 1280, and enthroned at Lincoln on 8 Sept. (Ann. Mon. iv. 284; Peckham, Registrum, i. 115). Sutton occupied himself chiefly with the administration of his diocese. His official position as bishop brought him into relations with the university of Oxford, then in the diocese of Lincoln. He was first involved in a dispute with the masters in 1284, and in November of that year Peckham wrote to him disapproving of his interference with the chancellor's jurisdiction. But the archbishop could not support the masters entirely, and, by his advice, they submitted to the bishop next year (ib. iii. 857–8, 887). In 1288 a dispute again arose as to the presentation of the chancellor for the bishop's approval, which Sutton insisted should be made in person. The masters resisted his claim, but the matter was arranged next year. However the dispute was renewed on the election of a new chancellor in 1290, when the question was settled before the king at Westminster, and it was arranged that the chancellor should be presented in person to the bishop (Ann. Mon. iv. 317–18, 324). Sutton was consulted by Peckham as to his dispute with the Dominicans and the circumstances of Kilwardby's condemnation of errors at Oxford (Registrum, iii. 896, 944). He officiated at the funeral of Eleanor, the queen of Edward I, at Westminster on 17 Dec. 1290 (Ann. Mon, iv. 326). In 1291 he was one of the collectors of the tithe granted by the pope to the king for the crusade (ib. iii. 367, 382, 386; Cal. Papal Reg. i. 553). In 1296 he joined with Archbishop Winchelsey in resisting the king's demands for a subsidy from the clergy, and, as a consequence, his goods were confiscated (Ann. Mon. iv. 407). His friends arranged that the sheriff of Lincoln should accept a levy on a fifth of his goods (Hemingburgh, ii. 119).

Sutton died at a great age on St. Brice's day, 13 Nov. 1299, while his priests were singing matins (Schalby, p. 212). He is described by Schalby, who was his registrar for eighteen years, as a learned man, charitable, and free from covetousness. The fines which he received from delinquents, he divided among the poor, and he would not permit the villains on his demesnes to be burdened with more than their lawful service. In Schalby's eyes his one fault was that he permitted the prebends in his church to be too highly rated under the taxation for the crusade. He gave fifty marks towards the building of the cloister, and assisted in the erection of the vicar's court, which was completed by his executors. He also provided the parish of St. Mary Magdalen, which had previously used the nave of the cathedral, with a separate church. From Edward I he obtained, in 1285, license to build a wall round the cathedral precinct (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward I, 1281–92, p. 161). One of his first acts as bishop was to endow a chaplain for his old parish of Shelford (ib. p. 81).

[Annales Monastici; Peckham's Registrum; Schalby's Lives of the Bishops of Lincoln, ap. Opera Gir. Cambrensis, vii. 208–12 (Rolls Ser.); Hemingburgh's Chronicle (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl. ii. 12, 31; Cal. of Patent Rolls, Edward I.]

C. L. K.