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William Warelwast
(died 1137)

Bishop of Exeter
Died: 26th September 1137 at Plymton Priory, Devon


William Warelwast came from Veraval near Yvelot in Normandy, hence his surname. He is said to have been a nephew of the Conqueror, to whom, as well as to his two sons, Rufus and Henry Beauclerc, he was also chaplain. After his consecration to the See of Exeter in 1107, he proceeded (c. 1112) with the true architectural instincts of a Norman prelate, to remove the Saxon Cathedral of Bishops Leofric and Osbern and to erect a more sumptuous edifice on its site. Of this (commenced, but not completed, by Warelwast), the massive transeptal towers are the sole remains. It was greatly injured by fire during the siege of Exeter by Stephen in 1136. Bishop Warelwast was also the founder of the Augustinian Priory of Plympton which, under the patronage of subsequent bishops and of numerous lay-benefactors, became the wealthiest religious house in Devonshire. When bishop elect of Exeter, William Warelwast had been sent to Rome in order to support the King's cause against that of Archbishop Anselm in the famous dispute concerning investitures which had been referred to Pope Paschal II. In his latter days, he is said, like his predecessor, to have become blind. Having small joy of the World, he gave over his bishopric and became one of the religious canons in his own house of Plympton, where he died and was buried in 1136.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Southern Division" (1903).

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