Walter Branscombe

Walter Branscombe[a] (c. 1220–1280) was Bishop of Exeter from 1258 to 1280.

Walter Branscombe
Bishop of Exeter
Arms of Walter Branscombe: Or, on a chevron sable three quatrefoils of the field two keys in chief and a sword in base argent[1]
Elected23 February 1258
Installed14 April 1258
Term ended22 July 1280
PredecessorRichard Blund
SuccessorPeter Quinel
Other postsArchdeacon of Surrey
Ordination9 March 1258
Consecration10 March 1258
by Boniface of Savoy
Personal details
Bornc. 1220
Died22 July 1280
BuriedExeter Cathedral
Monument with effigy of Walter Branscombe, Exeter Cathedral. The effigy is contemporary with the bishop, but the chest-tomb and canopy were added in the 15th century to match the monument of Bishop Edmund Stafford (1344-1419) on the opposite side of the Lady Chapel


Nothing for certain is known of Walter Branscombe's origins and education, but he is thought to have been born in Exeter in about 1220.[2] In the opinion of William George Hoskins he was a member of the family of de Branscombe seated at the manor of Edge in the parish of Branscombe east Devon, situated about 16 miles east of Exeter;[3] although others appear to dispute this. John Prince (1643-1723), in his Worthies of Devon, says he was a native of Exeter, and "born there of poor and mean parentage". Prince appears to be quoting an earlier authority, Bishop Francis Godwin (1562-1633), who writes of Walter Bronscombe:"Patre natus Exoniensi cive, sed tenuissimae sortis et ex plebe infimâ",[4] and it is not clear that the Branscombe family, who filled various positions of responsibility and authority in the fourteenth century,[5] married into the high Devonshire families of Courtenay and Champernowne, held land at Colyton, and took their name from the parish ever lived at Edge, Branscombe which, from the reign of King Edward III, was home to the Wadham family.


Branscombe held a prebend in of St Nicholas's College at Wallingford Castle, as well as a number of other benefices.[2] He also was archdeacon of Surrey.[6] In 1250, he acted as King Henry III of England's representative at the papal curia, and was appointed the king's proctor the next year. Besides being a royal clerk, he was often named as a papal chaplain also. Before 1254 he became a canon of Exeter Cathedral.[2]

Branscombe was elected to the see of Exeter on 23 February 1258 and consecrated on 10 March 1258.[7] He was ordained a priest on 10 March 1258, with both rites being performed by Boniface of Savoy, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was enthroned at Exeter on 14 April 1258.[2]

Maurice Powicke's opinion was that, having been trained in the royal service, Branscombe settled down to become an assiduous diocesan bishop.[8] He faced some problems at the start of his time as bishop, for right after the death of the previous bishop, Richard Blund, a number of Blund's officials and clerks had used Blund's seal to forge letters giving away benefices as well as Blund's property. This left Branscombe with debts and administrative issues.[9] He also continued to perform diplomatic missions for the king, as he was at Paris in 1258 and 1263. He attended a general council of the church held at Lyons in the summer of 1274.[2]

Branscombe's register of his diocesan administration is the earliest episcopal one surviving from Exeter. He was a founder of a number of churches in his diocese, and issued sets of instructions for his cathedral church as well as others in his diocese. His last years were occupied with a dispute with Edmund the Earl of Cornwall over the earl's infringement of ecclesiastical rights.[2]

Branscombe died on 22 July 1280[7] at Bishopsteignton. He was buried in Exeter Cathedral, where his tomb, with the bishop's effigy, still survives.[2] It remained unscathed during the Exeter Blitz, being protected by sand bags.[10]


  1. ^ Also spelled Bronscombe, Branescombe, 'Bronescombe, or Bronescomb


  1. ^ Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.473: "Brounscombe, Bishop of Exon". The blazon contravenes the heraldic "Rule of Tinctures"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Denton "Bronescombe, Walter of" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ Hoskins Devon pp. 344-345
  4. ^ Godw. de praes. in Episc. Exon. Page 146
  5. ^ Both as Members of Parliament for Plympton Erle and Devon and as Sheriff of Devon
  6. ^ Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: volume 2: Monastic cathedrals (northern and southern provinces): Archdeacons: Surrey
  7. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 246
  8. ^ Powicke Thirteenth Century p. 485
  9. ^ Moorman Church Life p. 173
  10. ^ S C Carpenter (1943) Exeter Cathedral 1942. London: SPCK p. 1-2


  • Denton, J. H. (2004). "Bronescombe, Walter of (c.1220–1280)" ((subscription or UK public library membership required)). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Revised ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37225. Retrieved 12 April 2008.
  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1971). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Archdeacons: Surrey. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 7 April 2008.
  • Hoskins, W. G. (1959) [1954]. Devon. A New Survey of England. 2. London: Collins. OCLC 351627072.
  • Moorman, John R. H. (1955). Church Life in England in the Thirteenth Century (Revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. OCLC 213820968.
  • Powicke, F. Maurice (1953). The Thirteenth Century 1216–1307. Oxford History of England. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. OCLC 300724.

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Richard Blund
Bishop of Exeter
Succeeded by
Peter Quinel