LIVES OF THE BISHOPS OF EXETER
WILLIAM BRIWERE, OR BRUERE, of an ancient, noble, and religious stock, after serving the office of precentor of Exeter, was consecrated its bishop at Canterbury by Cardinal Langton on 30th April, 1224. The 'Chronicon' of our Church, as preserved in the Harleian manuscripts, most incorrectly affirms that he was consecrated at Rome by Pope Honorius III. on Easter Sunday in that year. Few men were more active in the performance of pious and charitable deeds than this excellent prelate. At the recommendation of the above-mentioned primate he introduced, in the latter part of the year 1225, a dean into his cathedral, over which the precentor had hitherto presided; and to this new officer he appropriated the churches of Braunton and Bishop's Tawton, with the latter's dependent chapels at Landkey and Swimbridge, also the church of Colaton Ralegh; and for his residence here he assigned the premises that were actually in the occupation of the Archdeacon of Totnes. Three other canons were elevated to the rank of dignitaries under the dean, viz. the precentor, the chancellor, and the treasurer. To the office of treasurer had been attached, at least as early as 1163, the estate of Beer in Honiton's Clist, Morceshull (now Marshal) in Ide, and Doulisford, but he added to it the churches of St. Probus, and further Bishop's Nympton on 24th April, 1242. (See Bishop Lacey's 'Register,' vol. iii. p.233.) Besides superiority of rank, we cannot discover any substantial emolument which he conferred on the precentor and chancellor; and yet his epitaph in the choir designated him as the founder of the four principal dignities of his church.
His venerable uncle William Briwere, "venerabilis vir W. Briwere avunculus noster," having on 29th September, 1226, granted the church of Pensigenans (now Gwennap in Cornwall) to the dean and chapter of Exeter, our prelate confirmed this appropriation. On the 28th May, 1227, he confirmed to the priest. vicars of his cathedral the donations of his predecessor Bishop Marshal, and subsequently bestowed upon them a pension of twelve marks charged on the church of Alternon in Cornwall. On 17th March, 1234, with the consent of the abbot of Shireburn, he conveyed the church of Littleham to his chapter, and he proved himself a liberal benefactor to Polslo Priory, to the Dominican Convent at Exeter which he founded, and to the abbeys of Tor and Dunkeswell.
For nearly five years Exeter had to regret the absence of her bishop in the Holy Land; but we learn from Matthew of Paris that he was actively employed with his colleague Peter de Rupibus, Bishop of Winchester, in administering to the temporal and spiritual wants of his countrymen. On his return King Henry III. selected him to accompany the Princess Isabella his sister to the court of the Emperor Frederick II., who had sued her and obtained her in marriage. The nuptial ceremony was performed on Sunday the 20th July, 1235.
We meet with our bishop in Cornwall on 26th August, 1238, when he consecrated the church of St. Berian the Virgin; and about the same period he appropriated the church of Okehampton, with its now ruinous chapel in the castle of that town, to the Benedictine Priory of Cowick near Exeter. To Michael Abbot of Glastonbury and his convent he appropriated the church of Up-Lyme on 16th December, 1238. In July, 1239, he appropriated to his chapter the church of St. Winnoc, and on the Feast of the Epiphany, 1242, he added to their emoluments the churches of Winklegh, St. Sancredus, and Trevalga. About the same time he founded a cell for a recluse near St. Lawrence's Chapel at Crediton. On 26th November, 1243, he procured from King Henry III. the confirmation to his see of the chapel of Boseham, with the manor of Chedham in Sussex, the manor of Farringdon in Hants, and the manor of Horsleigh in Surrey, and the same king granted to him and his successors the manor of Penryn, with its rights and appurtenances; and, what is remarkable, the bishop granted to the burgesses of Penryn a charter of enfranchisement very shortly after, viz. 29th August, 1236. (See 'Monasticon Exon Dioc.,' p. 415.) In fine, his days were signalised by deeds of mercy and charity. In the vigour of life, death arrested his career of usefulness on the 24th November, 1244. According to the Martyrologium his mortal remains were deposited nearly in the centre of the choir of the Cathedral. When the floor was relaid in 1763 the marble slab that covered his remains was removed, and a coffin shaped thus was discovered and opened; the body was wrapt in a coarse serge, with a leathern girdle tied round the waist; a pewter chalice lay by it, with part of a crosier.
ARMS: - Gules, two bends wavy, or.
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