|Bishop of Durham|
|Installed||probably 3 April 1071|
|Term ended||14 May 1080|
|Successor||William de St-Calais|
|Died||14 May 1080|
William Walcher[a] (died 14 May 1080) was the bishop of Durham from 1071, a Lotharingian and the first Prince-bishop (appointed by the King, not the Pope). He was the first non-Englishman to hold that see and an appointee of William the Conqueror following the Harrying of the North. He was murdered in 1080, which led William to send an army into Northumbria to harry the region again.
Walcher was a priest in Lotharingia from Liège and a secular clerk. He was invited by William I to fill the post of Bishop of Durham, and he was consecrated bishop in 1071 and probably enthroned on 3 April 1071. During the first part of his term as bishop, he was on friendly terms with Waltheof earl of Northumbria, so much so that Waltheof sat with the clergy when Walcher held synods. After Waltheof rebelled and lost his earldom, Walcher was allowed to buy the earldom of Northumbria. Walcher planned to introduce monks into his cathedral chapter, and was remembered as encouraging monasticism in his diocese. Particularly, he was known as the patron of Aldwine, who attempted to re-establish monasticism at Whitby. Eventually, the group settled at Durham under Walcher's successor William de St-Calais. The medieval chronicler Symeon of Durham stated that Walcher had begun construction of monastic buildings at Durham as part of his plan to introduce monks into Durham.
One of Walcher's councillors was Ligulf of Lumley, who was connected by birth to the old Northumbrian line and was married to the daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia. Ligulf's presence in the bishop's council provided a link with the local aristocracy. There was a Scottish invasion in 1079, which Walcher was unable or unwilling to deal with effectively. The Scots, under Malcolm III, were able to plunder Northumberland for about three weeks unopposed before returning to Scotland with slaves and booty. Ligulf was very critical of Walcher's conduct. A feud ensued between Ligulf and two of Walcher's henchmen, his chaplain Leobwin and his kinsman Gilbert. Gilbert attacked Ligulf's hall in the middle of the night and Ligulf and most of his household were killed.
The Northumbrians were enraged at the murder of one of their leaders and there was a real threat of rebellion. In order to calm the situation Walcher agreed to travel from Durham and meet Ligulf's kinsmen at Gateshead. He travelled with at least one hundred retainers for safety. At Gateshead, he met Eadulf Rus the leader of the kinsmen and was presented with a petition of wrongs committed. Walcher rejected these and the enraged Northumbrians attacked the Norman party. Walcher and his men sought refuge in a nearby church but the Northumbrians set fire to it. Leobwin died in the blaze and when Walcher, Gilbert and the rest of his party were forced out by the flames they were killed on 14 May 1080 at Gateshead.
Walcher "purchased the earldom [of Northumbria] and thus became the first of the Prince-Bishops of Durham, a title that was to remain until the 19th century, and was to give Durham a unique status in England. It was under Walcher that many of the Castle’s first buildings were constructed. As was typical of Norman castles, it consisted of a motte (mound) and an inner and outer bailey (fenced or walled area). Whether the motte and inner bailey were built first is unknown".
Walcher was considered a well-educated bishop, and had a reputation as a pious man. Symeon of Durham portrayed him as an honest, upright man who diligently performed his episcopal duties. Walcher's successor as Earl of Northumbria was Aubrey de Coucy. William de St-Calais was the next bishop, though not earl.
Aftermath of his death
Following the killing of Walcher, the rebels attacked Durham Castle and besieged it for four days, before returning to their homes. The result of their rising and the killing of William’s appointed bishop, led William to send his half brother Odo of Bayeux with an army to harry the Northumbrian countryside. Many of the native nobility were driven into exile and the power of the Anglo-Saxon nobility in Northumbria was broken.
- Or just Walcher, sometimes Walchere or Walker
- Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 241
- "Durham Castle". Castles, Forts, Battles. 1 March 2016. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 66
- Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops
- Barlow English Church p. 152
- Douglas William the Conqueror p. 240
- Barlow English Church p. 62
- Douglas William the Conqueror p. 328
- Snape "Documentary Evidence" Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral p. 22
- Sadler Battle for Northumbria p. 51
- Barlow Feudal Kingdom of England p. 94
- Kapelle Norman Conquest of the North p. 139
- Stafford Unification and Conquest p. 123
- "Durham Castle". United Nations. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- Douglas William the Conqueror p. 327
- Kapelle Norman Conquest of the North p. 138
- Kapelle Norman Conquest of the North p. 137
- Powell and Wallis House of Lords p. 32
- Powell and Wallis House of Lords p. 36
- Kapelle Norman Conquest of the North p. 141
- Barlow, Frank (1979). The English Church 1066–1154: A History of the Anglo-Norman Church. New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-50236-5.
- Barlow, Frank (1988). The Feudal Kingdom of England 1042–1216 (Fourth ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-582-49504-0.
- Douglas, David C. (1964). William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. OCLC 399137.
- Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
- Greenway, Diana E. (1971). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 25 October 2007.
- Kapelle, William E. (1979). The Norman Conquest of the North: The Region and Its Transformation. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-1371-0.
- Powell, J. Enoch; Wallis, Keith (1968). The House of Lords in the Middle Ages: A History of the English House of Lords to 1540. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. OCLC 463626.
- Sadler, John (1988). Battle for Northumbria. Morpeth, UK: Bridge Studios. ISBN 0-9512630-3-X.
- Snape, M. G. (1980). "Documentary Evidence for the Building of Durham Cathedral and its Monastic Buildings". Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions for the year 1977. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association. pp. 20–36. OCLC 13464190.
- Stafford, Pauline (1989). Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. London: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0-7131-6532-4.
- Williams, Ann (2000). The English and the Norman Conquest. Ipswich, UK: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-708-4.
|Catholic Church titles|
| Bishop of Durham
William de St-Calais
| Earl of Northumbria
Aubrey de Coucy