Thomas Rotherham

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Thomas Rotherham
Archbishop of York
Archbishop Thomas Rotherham.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Rotherham from "Historic Notices of Rotherham", by John Guest,1879
Appointed7 July 1480
Term ended29 May 1500
Predecessor Lawrence Booth
Successor Thomas Savage
Other posts Bishop of Rochester
Bishop of Lincoln
Personal details
Born24 August 1423
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Died29 May 1500(1500-05-29) (aged 76)
Cawood Castle
Buried York Minster
Denomination Roman Catholic

Thomas Rotherham (24 August 1423 – 29 May 1500), also known as Thomas (Scot) de Rotherham, was an English cleric and statesman. He served as bishop of several dioceses, most notably as Archbishop of York and, on two occasions as Lord Chancellor. He is considered a venerable figure in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, his town of birth.

Archbishop of York second most senior bishop of the Church of England

The Archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the Province of York, which covers the northern regions of England as well as the Isle of Man. The Archbishop of York is an ex officio member of the House of Lords and is styled Primate of England.

Lord Chancellor Highest-ranking regularly-appointed Great Officer of State of the United Kingdom

The Lord Chancellor, formally the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, is the highest ranking among those Great Officers of State which are appointed regularly in the United Kingdom, nominally outranking the Prime Minister. The Lord Chancellor is outranked only by the Lord High Steward, another Great Officer of State, who is appointed only for the day of coronations. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prior to the Union there were separate Lord Chancellors for England and Wales, for Scotland and for Ireland.

Rotherham town in South Yorkshire, England

Rotherham is a large town in South Yorkshire, England, which together with its conurbation and outlying settlements to the north, south and south-east forms the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, with a recorded population of 257,280 in the 2011 census. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, its central area is on the banks of the River Don below its confluence with the Rother on the traditional road between Sheffield and Doncaster. Rotherham was well known as a coal mining town as well as a major contributor to the steel industry. Traditional industries included glass making and flour milling.




Thomas Rotherham was born 24 August 1423 in Rotherham, Yorkshire. [1] He is said to have been the eldest son of Sir Thomas Rotherham of Rotherham by his wife, Dame Alice. From the sixteenth century onwards he was also known by the alternate surname 'Scot', although that surname was not used by Rotherham himself or by his contemporaries. In his will, however, Rotherham does refer to his kinsman John Scott of Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, and it has been speculated that he was the son of Sir John Scott of Scot's Hall in Smeeth, Kent and Agnes Beaufitz. [2] However this claim is said to have been disproved. [3]

Yorkshire Historic county of Northern England

Yorkshire, formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military, and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.

Ecclesfield village and civil parish in the City of Sheffield district of South Yorkshire, England

Ecclesfield is a village settlement and civil parish in the City of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, about 4 miles (6 km) north of Sheffield City Centre. Ecclesfield civil parish had a population of 32,063 at the 2011 Census. Ecclesfield wards of the City of Sheffield had a population of 35,994 in 2011. The population of Ecclesfield village stood at 7,163 in the most recent census.

John Scott (died 1485) English Yorkist landowner in Kent

Sir John Scott of Scot's Hall in Smeeth was a Kent landowner, and committed supporter of the House of York. Among other offices, he served as Comptroller of the Household to Edward IV, and lieutenant to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.


He was first educated as a young boy by a teacher of grammar, who came, according to Thomas, "I know not by what fate save it was the Grace of God". Afterwards he was sent to the newly founded Eton College to prepare for university entrance.

Eton College school in Windsor and Maidenhead, UK

Eton College is a public school for boys aged 13-18 in Eton, near Windsor in Berkshire, England. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as Kynge's College of Our Ladye of Eton besyde Windesore, as a sister institution to King's College, Cambridge, making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference school. Eton's history and influence have made it one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

Appointments to office

Rotherham was educated at King's College, Cambridge, graduating as a Bachelor of Divinity and becoming a Fellow of his college, [4] and lectured on Grammar, Theology, and Philosophy. After his ordination as a priest, he became a prebendary of Lincoln in 1462 and then of Salisbury in 1465. He moved on to powerful positions in the Church, being appointed as Bishop of Rochester in 1468, [5] Bishop of Lincoln in 1472, [6] and then Archbishop of York in 1480, a position he held until 1500. [7]

Kings College, Cambridge college of the University of Cambridge

King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. Formally The King's College of Our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge, the college lies beside the River Cam and faces out onto King's Parade in the centre of the city.

In Western universities, a Bachelor of Divinity or Baccalaureate in Divinity is an undergraduate or postgraduate academic degree awarded for a course taken in the study of divinity or related disciplines, such as theology or, rarely, religious studies. In most modern universities, the BD as a first degree is essentially equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts degree with a speciality in divinity. Relatively few institutions award undergraduate Bachelor of Divinity degrees today, and the distinction between institutions that do award such degrees and those that award BA degrees for theological subjects is usually one of bureaucracy rather than curriculum.

A fellow is a member of an academy, learned society or group of learned people which works together in pursuing mutual knowledge or practice. There are many different kinds of fellowships which are awarded for different reasons in academia and industry. These often indicate a different level of scholarship.

In 1467, King Edward IV appointed Rotherham as Keeper of the Privy Seal. [8] He was sent as ambassador to France in 1468 and as joint ambassador to Burgundy in 1471, and in 1475 was entrusted with the office of Lord Chancellor. [9] Between 1477 and his death, Rotherham was the owner of Barnes Hall in South Yorkshire. [10]

Edward IV of England 15th-century King of England

Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 to 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist king.

Lord Privy Seal sinecure office of state in the UK

The Lord Privy Seal is the fifth of the Great Officers of State in the United Kingdom, ranking beneath the Lord President of the Council and above the Lord Great Chamberlain. Originally, its holder was responsible for the monarch's personal (privy) seal until the use of such a seal became obsolete. The office is currently one of the traditional sinecure offices of state. Today, the holder of the office is invariably given a seat in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.

Barnes Hall, South Yorkshire

Barnes Hall is an English country house near Burncross within the City of Sheffield in England. The estate includes the buildings of the adjacent Barnes Hall farm.

Involvement in intrigue

When Edward IV died in April 1483, Rotherham was one of the celebrants of the funeral mass on 20 April 1483. [11] Immediately after Edward's death, Rotherham sided with dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville in her attempt to deprive Richard, Duke of Gloucester of his role as Lord Protector of the new King, her son Edward V. When Elizabeth sought sanctuary after Richard had taken charge of the king, Rotherham released the Great Seal to her. Though he later recovered it and handed it over to Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, [12] his mishandling of the seal – indicative of questionable loyalty, led to his dismissal as Lord Chancellor. On 13 May he was replaced by John Russell, who earlier had also been his successor as Bishop of Lincoln.

Elizabeth Woodville 15th-century Queen consort of England

Elizabeth Woodville was Queen consort of England, as the spouse of King Edward IV from 1464 until his death in 1483.

Richard III of England 15th-century King of England

Richard III was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 1483 until his death in 1485. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the protagonist of Richard III, one of William Shakespeare's history plays.

Edward V of England 15th-century King of England and one of the Princes in the Tower

Edward V succeeded his father, Edward IV, as King of England and Lord of Ireland upon the latter's death on 9 April 1483. He was never crowned, and his brief reign was dominated by the influence of his uncle and Lord Protector, the Duke of Gloucester, who deposed him to reign as Richard III on 26 June 1483; this was confirmed by the Act entitled Titulus Regius, which denounced any further claims through his father's heirs.

On 13 June 1483, Rotherham was charged with being involved in a conspiracy between Lord Hastings and the Woodvilles against Richard and imprisoned in the Tower of London. [13] He was released in the middle of July. [14]


Once again appointed Lord Chancellor in 1485, [9] he was shortly afterwards dismissed by Henry VII. After this he retired from most public work.

Death and memorial

Rotherham died of the plague in Cawood near York on 29 May 1500. [7] His remains were transferred to a magnificent marble tomb in York Minster in 1506.


Rotherham built part of Lincoln College, Oxford, and increased its endowment; [15] at Cambridge, where he was four times Chancellor and Master of Pembroke Hall, he helped to build the University Library.

In 1480 Rotherham endowed a Chapel of Jesus within Rotherham parish church, providing a priest to sing masses for the souls of his ancestors. He founded the College of Jesus in Rotherham as a memorial to his first teacher. [15] The foundations of the red brick College were laid at his birthplace in Brookgate in March 1482 and a licence was granted on 22 January 1483 "for the honour and glory of the name of Jesus Christ to found a perpetual College".

The statutes of the College were dated 1 February 1483. The College of Jesus was to consist of a Provost and three Fellows, all to be in Holy Orders, who must attend church on Sundays and Holy Days. The Fellows were to teach grammar and train the six choristers of Jesus in song and music. They were also to teach promising boys who did not aspire to the priesthood reading, writing, and reckoning, free of charge. If the boys continued to show merit, they should be taught the rudiments of grammar and music. The college was dissolved around 1550 by Edward VI of England and all its possessions seized by the crown. Very little now remains of the original building, although the street is still known as College Street.

The teaching of grammar to boys continued at Rotherham after the 1550s. The Rotherham Grammar School looked upon Thomas Rotherham as its founder, took 1483 to be its year of origin, and adopted as its badge the armorial bearings of Thomas Rotherham. The school took its last intake of boys in September 1966 and was progressively phased-out over the following several years.

Rotherham is still remembered in the name of Thomas Rotherham College, which is the post-1967 descendant of the Rotherham Grammar School for Boys.


  1. Horrox 2004.
  2. Berry, William, County Genealogies; Pedigrees of the Families of the County of Sussex, (London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper), 1830 p. 310 Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  3. Bennett, Henry Leigh, Archbishop Rotherham, (Lincoln: J.W. Ruddock, 1901), pp. 6-7 Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  4. "Rotheram, Thomas (RTRN443T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. Fryde et al. 1996 , p. 268
  6. Fryde et al. 1996 , p. 256
  7. 1 2 Fryde et al. 1996 , p. 282.
  8. Fryde et al. 1996 , pp. 95–96.
  9. 1 2 Fryde et al. 1996 , p. 88.
  10. "Historic Hallamshire", David Hey, Landmark Collectors Library, ISBN   1 84306 049 3, pp. 51 & 52
  11. Ross & Edward IV , p. 417
  12. Ross & Richard III , p. 76
  13. Ross & Richard III , p. 42
  14. Davies 1995, p. 142.
  15. 1 2 Ross & Edward IV , p. 268

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Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Stillington
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
John Hales
Preceded by
John Hales
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
John Russell
Preceded by
John Alcock
Lord Chancellor
Preceded by
John Russell
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
John Alcock
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Low
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
John Alcock
Preceded by
John Chadworth
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
John Russell
Preceded by
Lawrence Booth
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Thomas Savage
Academic offices
Preceded by
Laurence Booth
Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
George Fitzhugh