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Bubwith, Nicholaslocked

(c. 1355–1424)

Bubwith, Nicholas (c. 1355–1424), administrator and bishop of Bath and Wells, was born at Menthorpe in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and brought up in nearby Bubwith. T. S. Holmes speculated that he was the son of Thomas and Isabel Bubwith and had two brothers, Henry and Thomas. His protégé and servant, Thomas Bubwith (son of William), was almost certainly a kinsman. If he was ever at Oxford University, he left no mark. His family evidently had existing contacts with royal administration, and he may well have been a chancery clerk as early as June 1379, enjoying church preferment regularly thereafter, although only on 7 February 1387 was he first called 'king's clerk'.

Bubwith's career in chancery remained solid if unspectacular throughout the 1390s. During Richard II's two Irish expeditions (in 1394–5 and 1399), he served as attorney in England for many leading participants. Early in 1399 he was promoted master in chancery. The revolution of 1399 affected him not at all. Briefly, in 1402, he became Henry IV's secretary, proof of that king's continuing difficulty in running an effective government rather than of special intimacy. He returned to his chancery career as keeper of the rolls from 24 September 1402.

In these years Bubwith was frequently a proctor for prelates and religious institutions in parliament. In March 1404 he was nominated to serve on the king's council, again as proof to sceptics of the king's intentions to provide competent government. None the less, he did not attend until his appointment as keeper of the privy seal on 2 March 1405, a post he held until his promotion to the episcopate. In faction-ridden and difficult times for governments Bubwith's value had been his simple ability to keep the machinery of state in motion, and for that he was well rewarded. In March 1403 his numerous benefices were reckoned to be worth over £800 a year.

Since July 1400 Bubwith had been archdeacon of Dorset, absentee but perhaps not without interest. In 1401–2 he briefly also held the powerful northern archdeaconry of Richmond. On 26 September 1406 he was consecrated at Mortlake after his promotion to the see of London. In a period of fraught domestic politics and Anglo-papal aggravations Bubwith was twice translated in reshuffles in 1407, first to Salisbury (which he never visited as bishop) and then, on 7 October, to Bath and Wells, not unwillingly. The temporalities were restored on 2 December. Still a councillor, he was persuaded on 15 April 1407 to assume the office of treasurer of the realm, and he rode out yet another financial crisis before retiring on 14 July 1408. Even thereafter, when factional purges were regular, Bubwith was always named to the council. In fact he rarely came out of Bath and Wells, where he was proving a conscientious diocesan, predictably of a brisk, administrative turn of mind.

Such congenial rustication was unexpectedly disturbed by Bubwith's appointment as a principal envoy of Henry V to the Council of Constance on 20 October 1414. While his colleague Robert Hallum of Salisbury was chosen to provide the intellectual lustre, Bubwith was selected for his reliability. Only in spring 1418 could Bubwith return to England and his diocese. His vigour left him in September 1422. His deathbed will of 10 October 1424 reflected him fairly: considerable wealth, portioned out in particular for the completion of ambitious rebuildings of Bubwith church (£300) and Wells Cathedral (£667), roadworks in Somerset (£667), and prayers for his soul, especially by poor priests in Oxford and friars in London and his diocese (£667). It was in character that he referred to detailed oral instructions about all this. He died on 27 October 1424 and was buried in Wells Cathedral, in the chantry chapel which, of course, he had already constructed.


  • Emden, Oxf., 1.294–6
  • J. Otway-Ruthven, The king's secretary and the signet office in the XV century (1939)
  • T. S. Holmes, ed., The register of Nicholas Bubwith, bishop of Bath and Wells, 1407–1424, 2 vols., Somerset RS, 29–30 (1914)
  • GL, MS 9531/4, fols. 21–36v
  • register of Richard Mitford and Nicholas Bubwith, Wilts. & Swindon HC


  • Wilts. & Swindon HC, register

Wealth at Death

£2300 monetary wealth: will, Jacob, ed., Register

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham
A. B. Emden, , 3 vols. (1957–9); also (1974)
Canterbury and York Society
Guildhall Library, London