Bishop of Rochester and founder of Merton College, Oxford, b. probably at Merton in Surrey or educated there; hence the surname; d. 27 Oct., 1277. He came of a land-owning family at Basingstoke; beyond that there is no definite information as to the date or place of birth. We know that his mother was Christina Fitz-Oliver and his father William, and that in 1237 both parents were dead, and Walter was a clerk in Holy orders . In 1241 Walter already held a number of livings in various parts of the country; in 1256 he was an agent for the Bishop of Durham in a law- suit; in 1259 prebendary of St. Paul's, London; and in 1262 prebendary of Exeter and canon of Wells. Walter was also prothonotary of the chancery in 1258; and in 1261 Henry III made him chancellor, in place of Nicholas of Ely. It was in this same year that Walter first set aside two manors in Surrey for the priory at Merton, for the support of "scholars residing at the schools ". This was the beginning of Merton College. In 1264 Walter drew up statutes for a "house of the scholars of Merton", at Malden in Surrey; ten years later these scholars were transferred to Oxford, and a permanent house established.
Merton College, thus founded and endowed by Walter, is the earliest example of collegiate life at Oxford. Walter's statutes provided for a common corporate life under the rule of a warden, but as vows were to be taken and scholars entering a religious order forfeited their scholarship, the college was really a place of training for the secular clergy. While labouring for the establishment of Merton College, Walter was removed from the chancellorship when the barons triumphed in 1263, but was restored again on Henry III's death in 1272. He is mentioned as a justiciar in 1271, and three years later (21 October, 1274) he was consecrated Bishop of Rochester. While fording the Medway, Bishop Walter fell from his horse and died two days later from the effects of the accident. He was buried in Rochester cathedral, and is described in the "Annales monastici" as a man of liberality and great worldly learning, ever ready in his assistance to the religious orders.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online