He was born at Stow, Buckinghamshire, and began his education as a chorister in the free school of Magdalen College, Oxford. He afterwards became a demy, and in 1541 was elected a Fellow of the college. He acquired a reputation as a reformer and preacher of reformed doctrine, and soon after the accession of Edward VI was appointed one of the king's chaplains at Windsor.
During the reign of Mary I of England he went to France, where he spent most of his time in study at Paris and Orléans. Returning to England after the accession of Elizabeth I, he enjoyed rapid promotion, being made, within ten years, chaplain to Archbishop Matthew Parker, rector of Biddenden in Kent, of Sutton Waldron in Dorset, archdeacon of Stafford, chancellor in Lichfield Cathedral, and Warden of Merton College, Oxford.
He was made bishop of Chichester in 1585. Some of the returns to articles of inquiry made at his visitations have been preserved amongst the episcopal records. He died in 1596, and was buried in Chichester Cathedral on 26 May. A tablet to Bickley's memory is attached to the north wall of the lady chapel, surmounted by a small kneeling effigy of the bishop.
- Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. .
| Warden of Merton College, Oxford
|Church of England titles|
vacancy from 1582
| Bishop of Chichester