Richard Swinefield

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Richard Swinefield
Bishop of Hereford
Hereford Cathedral.jpg
Exterior view of Hereford Cathedral, where Richard Swinefield is buried.
Elected1 October 1282
Term ended15 March 1317
Predecessor Thomas de Cantilupe
Successor Adam Orleton
Other posts Archdeacon of London
Consecration7 March 1283
Personal details
Died15 March 1317
Buried Hereford Cathedral

Richard Swinefield (or Richard de Swinfield; died 15 March 1317) was a medieval Bishop of Hereford, England. He graduated doctor of divinity before holding a number of ecclesiastical offices, including that of Archdeacon of London. As a bishop, he dedicated considerable efforts to securing the canonisation of Thomas de Cantilupe, his predecessor, for whom he had worked during his lifetime. Active in his diocese, he devoted little time to politics. He was buried in Hereford Cathedral where a memorial to his memory still stands.

Bishop of Hereford Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Hereford is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Hereford in the Province of Canterbury.

The Archdeacon of London is a senior ecclesiastical officer in the Church of England. They are responsible for one of two archdeaconries within the Two Cities episcopal area of the Diocese of London – that episcopal has no area bishop but is under the direct care of the diocesan Bishop of London.

Thomas de Cantilupe 13th-century Bishop of Hereford and saint

Thomas de Cantilupe was Lord Chancellor of England and Bishop of Hereford and was canonised in 1320 by Pope John XXII.


Rise in the Church

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. No other information about his family and upbringing, including his date of birth, has emerged. He was a doctor of divinity degree, but where he graduated is not known. [2]

Folkestone town in the Shepway District of Kent, England

Folkestone is a port town on the English Channel, in Kent, south-east England. The town lies on the southern edge of the North Downs at a valley between two cliffs. It was an important harbour and shipping port for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

By 1264 Richard Swinefield was a member of the household of Thomas de Cantilupe, later to be made Bishop of Hereford in 1275. [2] By 1279 Swinefield held the prebend [lower-alpha 1] of Hampton within the diocese, [1] before 1279 and was to hold it until he became a 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]

Medieval household

The medieval household was, like modern households, the center of family life for all classes of European society. Yet in contrast to the household of today, it consisted of many more individuals than the nuclear family. From the household of the king to the humblest peasant dwelling, more or less distant relatives and varying numbers of servants and dependents would cohabit with the master of the house and his immediate family. The structure of the medieval household was largely dissolved by the advent of privacy in early modern Europe.

A prebendary is a member of the Anglican or Roman Catholic clergy, a form of canon with a role in the administration of a cathedral or collegiate church. When attending services, prebendaries sit in particular seats, usually at the back of the choir stalls, known as prebendal stalls.

Diocese of Hereford

The Diocese of Hereford is a Church of England diocese based in Hereford, covering Herefordshire, southern Shropshire and a few parishes within Worcestershire in England, and a few parishes within Powys and Monmouthshire in Wales. The cathedral is Hereford Cathedral and the bishop is the Bishop of Hereford. The diocese is one of the oldest in England and is part of the Province of Canterbury.


Richard 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 he entered into possession 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]

John Peckham 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury and writer

John Peckham was Archbishop of Canterbury in the years 1279–1292. He was a native of Sussex who was educated at Lewes Priory and became a Friar Minor about 1250. He studied at the University of Paris under Bonaventure, where he would later teach theology. From his teaching, he came into conflict with Thomas Aquinas, with whom he debated on two occasions. Known as a conservative theologian, he opposed Aquinas' views on the nature of the soul. Peckham also studied optics and astronomy, and his studies in those subjects were influenced by Roger Bacon.

Archbishop of Canterbury senior bishop of the Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. Welby is the 105th in a line which goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury, the "Apostle to the English", sent from Rome in the year 597. Welby succeeded Rowan Williams.

Spiritualities is a term, often used in the Middle Ages, that refers to the income sources of a diocese or other ecclesiastical establishment that came from tithes. It also referred to income that came from other religious sources, such as offerings from church services or ecclesiastical fines.

During Richard 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. He also resolved a dispute over the boundary between the diocese of Hereford and the Welsh diocese of St Asaph, to the advantage of Hereford. In his disagreements with the town of Hereford, he was little inclined to give way and on one occasion threatened excommunication. [2]

Parliament of England historic legislature of the Kingdom of England

The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England, existing from the early 13th century until 1707, when it united with the Parliament of Scotland to become the Parliament of Great Britain after the political union of England and Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Diocese of St Asaph Church of England diocese in Wales

The Diocese of Saint Asaph is a diocese of the Church in Wales in north-east Wales, named after Saint Asaph, its second bishop.

Bishop 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, and was vigilant over monastic houses. 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

Richard Swinefield died on 15 March 1317, [6] and was buried in Hereford Cathedral, where a memorial in the transept's north wall depicts him in bishop's robes 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 at that 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 the University of Oxford. [9] The record has been edited a number of times, including by the Camden Society in 1853-1855. [2]


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


  1. 1 2 Barrow Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: Volume 8: Hereford: Bishops
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 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. 1 2 3 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

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