John Carpenter (bishop)

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For other people named John Carpenter, see John Carpenter (disambiguation).
John Carpenter
Bishop of Worcester
("Bishop of Worcester and Westbury")
Church Catholic
See Diocese of Worcester
In office 1443–1476
Predecessor Thomas Bourchier
Successor John Alcock
Personal details
Born 4 May 1399
Westbury on Trym, Bristol, England
Died July to December 1476
Northwick, Worcestershire, England

John Carpenter (1399–1476) was an English Bishop, Provost, and University Chancellor.

Early life[edit]

Bishop Carpenter's father was John Carpenter the elder, born c. 1362 to Richard or Renaud Carpenter of Cambrai and his wife Christina of London. John Carpenter the bishop was also known as John Carpenter the elder.[1] He had three siblings, Margery, John the younger, and William. His two brothers were baptised in Hereford. He was baptised on 4 May 1399 in St Peter's Church, Westbury on Trym, Bristol, England.[2] He had a notable uncle also called John Carpenter, town clerk of London.

According to Douglas-Smith, John Carpenter was Warden of St. Anthony's Hospital, London and Rector of St. Mary Magdalen.[3] A Master John Carpenter, then King's clerk, is referred to in Patent Rolls of 17 March 1433 and 9 July 1435, the first being a grant for life of the wardenship. John Carpenter, bishop of Worcester, appears as a plaintiff in the Plea Rolls of the Common Pleas, in 1450, and is also described as the warden of the Hospital of St Anthony.[4]

Bishop and chancellor[edit]

Carpenter was Provost of Oriel College, Oxford, from 1428 to 1444,[5] and Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1437.[6] Carpenter was nominated on 20 December 1443 and consecrated as Bishop of Worcester on 22 March 1444. He resigned the see in July 1476.[7] Carpenter died in 1476 in Northwick, Worcestershire, England, and was buried in Westbury on Trym.[2]

The Church at Westbury on Trym[edit]

Bishop Carpenter was buried at Holy Trinity Church, Westbury on Trym in 1476. He had been baptised at the same church, which at that time was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul. Soon after Carpenter became bishop he sought to raise the status of St Peter's to that of a joint cathedral with Worcester, and styled himself "Bishop of Worcester and Westbury".[6][8] He had the building rededicated to the Holy Trinity.[8] Carpenter added a chancel, and a chapel dedicated to St Oswald, to the fabric.[9] He also refounded and rebuilt Westbury College.[10]

Carpenter was buried in the crypt underneath the altar. His memorial was originally a cadaver tomb, with the bishop in full episcopal attire above an enclosure containing a sculpture of a cadaver or skeleton. This tomb was broken up in 1646, during the Civil War, by soldiers from the Bristol garrison.[6] In 1851 the stone cadaver was found in the crypt of the chapel. This was incorporated in 1853 into a new canopied memorial of Purbeck marble,[10] marked on top with a bishop's crozier. Over the porch entrance doorway is a statue of Bishop Carpenter, of unknown date. At some time headless, the statue was restored in the early 20th century.[6]

Coat of arms[edit]

Medieval knight displaying an early Carpenter Coat of Arms on shield.

The coat of arms used by Bishop John Carpenter were those of the Hereford branch of the Carpenters.[n 1] At one time these arms were emblazoned in a stained glass window either in the college or the church at Westbury. This window is no longer extant.

A second representation of the arms was mounted in a window in 1477 in the Old Library at Balliol College, Oxford. The arms are described as "Paly, azure and gules, a chevron argent charged with three crosslets or, in chief a mitre or."[11] This window was destroyed. Currently the arms of Bishop Richard Carpenter ("Paly of nine ...") are the only Carpenter Arms in the Old Library.

  • The Westbury Harriers club have adapted Bishop John Carpenter's arms to use as their "crest."[12][13]
  • Pictures of the tomb of John Carpenter
  • "The first photo shows the position of the tomb in the church and you can see why it is difficult to access it easily, being behind the altar rails and almost up against the two columns.The coats of arms are on the ends."[14]
  • "The second photo shows the two on the front end, ... The coat of arms of Bishop Carpenter is stated as "Paly of six gules and azure on a chevron argent three cross crosslet or; on the top of the chevron is a mitre wrought or", which would be the right hand one."[15]
  • "The third is more of a closeup to show the 'cadaver' statue inside.[16]


  1. ^ Bishop John Carpenter's basic Arms appear to be of French or Norman heritage, "Paly of six, azure and gules, a chevron argent charged with three crosslets or, in chief a mitre or."[11] – "less the "in chief a mitre or." are often referred to as the Hereford Arms, named for the later ancestral home of the Carpenter Family in Hereford, England. The Crest, supporters & motto apparently has changed several times over the centuries. A more current motto is: "Per acuta belli". See: "Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine" vol. 16, Number 2, April 1925, Page 60–70, article by J. Hatton Carpenter – "The Carpenter Family of England and the United States."
    • The Hereford Arms were granted in 1719 to Lord George Carpenter (1657–1732). He was a Lt. General and commander-in-chief of all the Crown's forces in Scotland where he was elevated to the peerage of Ireland, by patent dated 29 May 1719, as Baron Carpenter, of Killaghy, county Kilkenny, Ireland. See:"The Life of Lord George Carpenter", published 1736 in London. And – BRITISH NATIONAL RECORD ARCHIVES: Historical Manuscripts Commission, UK National Register of Archives, George Carpenter (1657–1732) 1st Baron Carpenter Lieutenant General. – See link at:
    • There is no direct male to male Carpenter descent connecting Lord George Carpenter & Sir William Boyd Carpenter. The family connection is by marriage through the females in the family.
    • Sir William Boyd Carpenter (1841–1918), an English Clergyman of the Established church of England, Bishop of Ripon, afterwards a Cannon of Westminster and Chaplain to the reigning sovereign of England, wrote in a letter dated 7 August 1907 that his family bore the Hereford Arms. Sir Noel Paton, upon painting the Family Arms, informed him that the supporters were originally was a round-handled sword, which in drawing over time became shortened, until nothing but the cross and globe were left beneath it. Those Hereford Arms were used by "John Carpenter, town clerk of London, who died 1442 A. D." See: "Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine" vol. 16, Number 2, April 1925, Page 60–70, article by J. Hatton Carpenter – "The Carpenter Family of England and the United States." His grandson John Boyd-Carpenter, Baron Boyd-Carpenter (1908–1998), continued the Arms into the new century by passing it down to his son, Thomas Boyd-Carpenter, who was himself knighted after a military career as a Lieutenant-General and in public service.
    • The Hereford Coat of Arms described above should not be confused with the Arms of Bishop Richard Carpenter (c1450s?–1503) presented in the "Visitations of the County of Oxford taken in 1566, 1574, and 1634, published in 1871, which describe the arms displayed in the buildings at the University in Oxford – "In the Lyberarye of Baliall College." – as recorded by the officials performing the visitations in those years. The Visitations describe the arms of Bishop Richard Carpenter, who is distinctly different, but often confused with Rev. Richard Carpenter, as: "Paly of nine Gu. and Az. on a chevron Arg. surmounted by a mitre Or, three cross crosslets of – nine pales alternating red and blue, with a silver chevron bearing three gold cross-crosslets. See: Visitations of the County of Oxford taken in 1566, 1574, and 1634, published in 1871.


  1. ^ This family had Flemish/Du Nord French ancestry in its names. Translations of Jean/Jehan/Jehannes become John in English. Jean & Jehan being the diminutive form became John the younger while some Jehan and all Jehannes became John the elder or rarely John the older. For more details see Jenkin.
  2. ^ a b Carpenters' Encyclopedia of Carpenters 2009 DVD, which contains Carpenter Family genealogy. John the elder Carpenter, Bishop – the subject of the article above is listed as RIN 4678.
  3. ^ "The City of London School" By A. E. Douglas-Smith, 2nd Edition, 1965, Oxford.
  4. ^ "IMG_0687". National Archives. University of Houston Law Center. Retrieved 30 October 2013. Entry number 6 
  5. ^ H. E. Salter and Mary D. Lobel, ed. (1954). "Oriel College and St Mary Hall". A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 119–131. 
  6. ^ a b c d Westbury-on-Trym Parish Church and College. From the information framed at the entrance of the Church and containing the History of the Vicars etc. Info also from "Bishop Carpenters Monument" in the Chancel of the Parish Church and directly over the Sepulchre in the little Chapel beneath the Chancel.
  7. ^ Powicke Handbook of British Chronology p. 261
  8. ^ a b "'College: Westbury-on-Trym', A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 2 (1907), pp. 106–108". British History Online. Retrieved 27 July 2010. 
  9. ^ "Westbury on Trym: The Church". About Bristol, England, UK. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Little, Bryan (1978). Churches in Bristol. Bristol: Redcliffe Press Ltd. p. 32. ISBN 0905459067. 
  11. ^ "Buildings and Stained Glass". Balliol College. University of Oxford. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Westbury Harriers Crest". Westbury Harriers. Retrieved 30 October 2013. The Westbury Harriers Crest – Heraldically, our crest is described as "Paly of six gules and azure on a chevron argent three cross crosslet or; on the top of the chevron is a mitre wrought or." 
  13. ^ "Westbury Harriers". Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Photograph by Cynthia Stiles, UK.
  15. ^ Photograph by Cynthia Stiles, UK.
  16. ^ Photograph by Cynthia Stiles, UK.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Powicke, F. Maurice and E. B. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology 2nd. ed. London:Royal Historical Society 1961
  • Peasants And Landlords In Later Medieval England by Fryde, 1996. There is major material on Bishop John Carpenter within. The author says that, "He appears to have come from Westbury near Bristol and to have descended from a family of Episcopal tenants there." (p. 169)
  • Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society: The Estates of the Bishopric of Worcester, 680–1540, Cambridge, 1980. by Dyer.
  • Burton, Edwin. "Ancient Diocese of Worcester". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 23 April 2009.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Nicholas Herry
Provost of Oriel College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Walter Lyhert
Preceded by
Thomas Bourchier
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Richard Praty
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas Bourchier
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
John Alcock