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Richard Swinefield

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Richard Swinefield
Bishop of Hereford
Hereford Cathedral.jpg
Exterior view of Hereford Cathedral, where Richard Swinefield is buried.
Elected 1 October 1282
Term ended 15 March 1317
Predecessor Thomas de Cantilupe
Successor Adam Orleton
Other posts Archdeacon of London
Consecration 7 March 1283
Personal details
Died 15 March 1317
Buried Hereford Cathedral

Richard Swinefield (or Richard de Swinfield; died 15 March 1317) was a medieval Bishop of Hereford, England. He earned a doctor of divinity degree as well as holding a number of ecclesiastical offices, including Archdeacon of London, before being named bishop. While bishop, he worked to secure the canonisation of Thomas de Cantilupe, his predecessor, whom he had worked for previously. Although he was active in his diocese, he spent little time in politics. He died in 1317, and was buried in Hereford Cathedral where a memorial to his memory still stands.

Rise in the Church[edit]

Swinefield's last name may come from Swingfield located near Folkestone, Kent.[1] His father was Stephen of Swinfield, who died in 1282, and his brother Stephen remained a layman. Other information about his family and upbringing is unknown, nor is his day or year of birth. He earned a doctor of divinity degree, but the location of his university studies is unknown.[2]

By 1264 Swinefield was a member of the household of Thomas de Cantilupe, who went on to become Bishop of Hereford in 1275.[2] Swinefield held the prebend[a] of Hampton in the diocese of Hereford,[1] before 1279 and held that prebend until his election as bishop.[4] Shortly after 17 April 1280 he was named Archdeacon of London, having previously held an unknown prebend in the diocese of London.[5]


Swinefield was elected to the see of Hereford, or bishopric, on 1 October 1282.[6] The election was confirmed by John Peckham, the Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 December 1282, and Swinefield was given custody of the spiritualities and temporalities, or the ecclesiastical and lay income producing properties, of the see by 8 January 1293.[2][7] He was consecrated on 7 March 1283.[6]

During Swinefield's time as bishop, he was not involved in politics, and spent most of his time in his diocese. He rarely attended Parliament, usually excusing himself on the grounds of urgent diocesan business or his own bad health. He inherited a number of lawsuits from his predecessor, which he managed to settle. Swinefield also resolved a dispute over the boundary between the diocese of Hereford and the diocese of St Asaph, a Welsh bishopric, with the settlement being not entirely to the Welsh bishop's liking. The town of Hereford also had disagreements with Swinefield, and on one occasion the bishop threatened excommunication against the town unless they submitted.[2]

Swinefield was concerned to ensure that his clergy were well treated. He worked to ensure that churches within his diocese were not misappropriated through the granting of custody to unworthy candidates, as well as trying to keep order in the monasteries. His main efforts though went toward securing the canonisation of his predecessor Thomas de Cantilupe. This did not however take place until 1320, after Swinefield's death.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Swinefield died on 15 March 1317,[6] and was buried in Hereford Cathedral, where a memorial in the transept's north wall shows Swinefield dressed as a bishop and holding a building. Two of his nephews were given offices within the diocese, with John given the precentorship in Hereford Cathedral, and Gilbert made the chancellor there. Another possible relative was Richard Swinfield, who also held a prebend in the diocese.[2]

A record of Swinefield's expenses as bishop has survived for the years 1289 and 1290. The accounts offer a rare glimpse of the organisation and expenses of a major household in the time period. During the 296 days covered by the record, his household moved 81 times, with 38 of these stops associated with him visiting his diocese during April through June.[8] The record also shows that he supported two scholars at Oxford University.[9] The record has been printed a number of times, including by the Camden Society in 1853 though 1855.[2]


  1. ^ A prebend was a stipend derived from an estate owned by the cathedral.[3]


  1. ^ a b Barrow Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 8: Hereford: Bishops
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hoskin "Swinfield, Richard" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Coredon Dictionary of Medieval Terms & Phrases p. 225
  4. ^ Barrow Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 8: Hereford: Prebendaries: Hampton
  5. ^ Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 1: St. Paul's, London: Archdeacons of London
  6. ^ a b c Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 250
  7. ^ Coredon Dictionary of Medieval Terms & Phrases pp. 263, 271–272
  8. ^ Moorman Church Life in England pp. 176–179
  9. ^ Moorman Church Life in England p. 205


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Thomas de Cantilupe
Bishop of Hereford
Succeeded by
Adam Orleton