Walter of Merton

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Bishop, chancellor, founder of Merton College, Oxford; d. Rochester, Oct. 27, 1277. His parents came from Basingstoke, Hampshire, where Walter established a hospital in their honor. He was probably educated first at the famous Austin priory of Merton, Surrey, and then at Mauger Hall, Oxford, where he made the acquaintance of adam marsh and Bp. robert grosseteste. He became a clerk in the royal chancery and as such took part in negotiating the grant of Sicily to Edmund Crouchback. For this and other services to King Henry III he received many ecclesiastical offices and, in 1261, the chancellorship of England. A keen supporter of the king in the Baronial Wars, Merton lost the chancellorship (1263) when the barons were in the ascendant, recovered it only in 1272 and retained it until 1274, when he was elected bishop of rochester. The liberality and learning that a contemporary attributed to Merton is symbolized in Merton College, Oxford, which he endowed and organized between 1261 and 1274, when he drew up its finished statutes. The collegiate system he thus established has served as a model for universities ever since.

Bibliography: c. l. kingsford, The Dictionary of National Biography From the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) 13:297299. f. m. powicke, The 13th Century (2d ed. Oxford 1962). j. wells, Oxford and Its Colleges (9th ed. London 1910).

[d. nicholl]