Walter de Stapledon

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Walter de Stapledon
Bishop of Exeter
BishopWalterStapledon ExeterCathedral.JPG
Walter de Stapledon (1261-1326), Bishop of Exeter. Detail from his effigy in Exeter Cathedral
Church Catholic
See Diocese of Exeter
In office 1308–1326
Predecessor Thomas Bitton
Successor James Berkeley
Personal details
Born 1 February 1261
Annery, Devonshire
Died 14 October 1326
Previous post Papal chaplain
Arms of Bishop Walter de Stapledon (1261-1326), Bishop of Exeter, Detail from his monument in Exeter Cathedral: Argent, two bendlets wavy sable (Stapledon) within a bordure of the last charged with six pairs of keys addorsed and interlaced the wards upwards or (bordure of Bishop Stapledon)

Walter de Stapledon (or Stapeldon) (1 February 1261 – 15 October 1326) was Bishop of Exeter 1308–1326 and twice Lord High Treasurer of England, in 1320 and 1322. He founded Exeter College, Oxford and contributed liberally to the rebuilding of Exeter Cathedral. His tomb and monument, of great architectural importance, survives in Exeter Cathedral.


Walter Stapledon was born at Annery in the parish of Monkleigh, North Devon, England, the son of Sir Richard Stapledon, descended from a noble stock. The Stapledons originated at the estate of Stapledon, in the parish of Cookbury, near Holsworthy, Devon.[1]


On 13 March 1307 Stapledon was appointed Bishop of Exeter, and was consecrated on 13 October 1308.[2] He went on embassies to France for both Kings Edward I and Edward II, and attended the councils and parliaments of his time.[3] He was twice appointed Lord High Treasurer of England, in 1320 and 1322,[4]

Founds Exeter College, Oxford[edit]

Stapeldon founded Exeter College, Oxford, which originated in Stapeldon Hall, established in 1314 by the bishop and his elder brother, Sir Richard Stapeldon, a judge of the king's bench, whose monument with effigy also exists in Exeter Cathedral near to that of his brother. The college was much frequented by sons of the Devonshire gentry for many centuries. The armorials of the college are those of Bishop Stapledon.


Stapledon was associated in the popular mind with the misdeeds of King Edward II, and consequently, after the king fled before the advancing troops of Queen Isabella, he was murdered in London by a mob on 15 October 1326.[2][3]


Monument to Bishop Walter Stapledon, Exeter Cathedral
Wall painting c. 1326 on ceiling of canopy of monument to Bishop Walter Stapledon, Exeter Cathedral

Stapledon's monument is located in Exeter Cathedral in the choir on the north side of the high altar, and is the cathedral's most important 14th-century monument.[5] It consists of a recumbent effigy within a gothic canopy all made of Beer stone. The colour scheme dates from an early 19th-century restoration[6] since restored again (see below). The effigy is shown in pontificalibus and holds in his left hand a crozier and in his right hand a book.[7] On the outside of the tomb at his feet is shown a heraldic escutcheon bearing the bishop's arms.[8] On the ceiling of the canopy, invisible to the casual observer, but looking down onto the bishop's effigy is a contemporary painting of Christ displaying his Five Holy Wounds.[9] In 1733 the monument was repaired at the cost of Exeter College, Oxford, his foundation, and was apparently re-painted with bright colours.[10] In the summer of 1805 however at the direction of Bishop John Fisher (reg.1803-1807) the removal was effected of "the gaudy colours with which the whole of the monument had been painted".[11] In the late 1950s the monument was restored and recoloured.[12] In the 1980s the mediaeval painting on the ceiling of the canopy was restored.[13]


  1. ^ John Prince, Danmonii Orientales Illustres: Or, the Worthies of Devon, first published c. 1701, 1810 edition. p. 722
  2. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 246
  3. ^ a b Buck "Stapeldon, Walter (b. in or before 1265, d. 1326)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  4. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 105
  5. ^ Erskine, Audrey, Exeter Cathedral: A Short History & Description, (revised edition of 1973 work of Hope, Rev. Vyvyan & Lloyd, John), Exeter, 1988, pp.103-4
  6. ^ Erskine, p.103
  7. ^ Erskine, p.103
  8. ^ Erskine, p.104
  9. ^ Erskine, p.126
  10. ^ Erskine, p.126
  11. ^ From a contemporary note (D & C Exeter MS 3549E, 60), quoted in Erskine, p.126
  12. ^ Erskine, p.89
  13. ^ Erskine, pp.93-4


Political offices
Preceded by
Walter Norwich
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
Walter Norwich
Preceded by
Walter Norwich
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
William Melton
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Bitton
Bishop of Exeter
Succeeded by
James Berkeley

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.