Walter de Islip

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Walter de Islip (died after 1335) was an English-born cleric, statesman and judge in fourteenth-century Ireland. He was the first Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer; he also held the office of Treasurer of Ireland, and numerous clerical benefices. His career was damaged by accusations of corruption and maladministration.

Personal life[edit]

Walter was born at Islip, Oxfordshire. He was a cousin of Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury,[1] and no doubt his career benefited as a result, though he appears to have been some years older than Simon. His patron in his early years was Richard de Ferings, Archbishop of Dublin; he probably arrived in Ireland in the Archbishop's entourage in 1299.

Throughout his life Walter moved back and forth between Ireland and England. In Ireland he usually lived at the Priory of Kilmainham, but later purchased the manor of Thorncastle, (modern Mount Merrion).[2] He also seems to have had a town house in Dublin since there is a reference to Dublin Corporation providing him with water.


In 1308 he was chosen as one of the Barons of the new Court of Exchequer (Ireland); he was given the title of Chief Baron in 1309, but stepped down from office in 1311. He is mentioned again as a Baron of the Exchequer in 1335.[3]

He served three terms as Lord Treasurer between 1314 and 1325. In 1325 he attended a seemingly routine Exchequer audit in London, where grave irregularities came to light. Serious questions were raised about Islip's integrity, and in one of the first examples of an official inquiry in Ireland, a Dublin jury was selected to determine the truth of the allegations of fraud and corruption against him; Alexander de Bicknor, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, was accused of the same offences. Islip was finally removed from office as Treasurer, and imprisoned for a time in the Fleet Prison, although it is not clear if the charges against him were ever proved.[4] He was subsequently appointed Custos rotulorum for Kilkenny and Escheator of Ireland.

In 1329 he was engaged in litigation with one William de London; the striking thing about the case was that de London was represented by one of Islip's colleagues on the Bench, John de Grauntsete. Such conduct seems to have been most unusual even at the time: Cohen calls it "startling" and probably without parallel.[5] De Grauntsete was soon afterwards removed from the Bench for a time, but the reason for this was not his conduct in Court, but the fact that he had read out letters of excommunication from the Pope.[6]


Although Walter, unlike his cousin, did not reach the highest ranks of the Church, his career is a striking example of religious pluralism.[7] In England he was vicar of Gresham, Norfolk and of Whittington, Derbyshire; in 1318 he became Dean of Wolverhampton. In Ireland he was a canon of St. Patrick's Cathedral, custodian of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Treasurer of Ferns Cathedral and a prebendary in the dioceses of Ossory and Waterford.


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221-1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.i p.61
  2. ^ Ball, F. Elrington History of Dublin Alexander Thom and Co. Dublin 1902-1920 Vol.2 p.4
  3. ^ Judges in Ireland p.61
  4. ^ Connolly, Philomena The Proceedings against John de Burnham Treasurer of Ireland 1343-49 in "Essays Presented to J.F. Lydon" Cambridge University Press 1993 p.63
  5. ^ Cohen, Herman History of the English Bar to 1450 1929 Sweet and Maxwell Reprinted 2005 p.272
  6. ^ Judges in Ireland p.28
  7. ^ History of Dublin p.4