Notable Bishops of Glasgow

Although there were many Bishops of Glasgow who may have visited an episcopal palace situated in Ancrum, the below figures have either been mentioned in significant historical documents or have been linked to the local area.

William De Bondington (1233 - 1258)

The Bishop of Glasgow for much of Alexander II's reign was William de Bondington, (1232 to 1258) he was a key figure in Scotland at this time. He was also Chancellor to Alexander from 1231 to 1249, and remained on the royal council until 1255. “By 1255 Bondington was ailing and he spent much of his last years at Ancrum, Roxburghshire”*, which gives us the earliest description of an episcopal palace there.

William's time in the church is chiefly remembered for two reasons, one involving the fabric of Glasgow Cathedral and the other, the personnel of the diocese. The maintenance and expansion of the cathedral had come to a standstill at one point, partly due to accumulating debt, so William instituted a nation-wide annual Lenten collection to rectify this. Among various works, the completion of a grander choir stands out foremost, possibly with a view to the eventual adoption of the Sarum Rite, from Salisbury Cathedral, which he was to achieve in the last year of his life, 1258. He may also have provided a suitable setting for the shrine of St Kentigern. Bishop William behaved very generously to his clergy. He granted the canons the church of Hutton, Berwickshire, as part of their common property, assigning the church of Peebles to the archdeacon of Glasgow as his prebend, providing for the free election of the dean by the canons, creating the office of chancellor and confirming to the chapter, i.e. all the dignitaries and other canons together, the liberties and customs of Salisbury Cathedral.

By 1255 de Bondington was ailing and spent much of his last years in semi-retirement at his Palace in Ancrum, the earliest evidence for an episcopal residence there. It would have been at this location that, two decades earlier, three charters of Alexander II were to be granted on 3 December 1236, during de Bondington's tenure of office. It is curious that among the seven dignitaries who witnessed these deeds, Bishop William is conspicuous by his absence, although Geoffrey de Liberatione, Bishop of Dunkeld was one of them. Surely Bishop William would have been present, however, to host his King's visit during Advent.

Bondington died at Ancrum and he was also buried at Melrose, eight years after his king, Alexander II was buried there. Although the bishop normally would be expected to lie with his predecessors, in Glasgow Cathedral, and the king with his predecessors, at Dunfermline, it is interesting that both Alexander II and Bondington chose to be buried in the Scottish Borders.

Robert Turnbull

Robert Wishart

For further information on the early Bishops of Glasgow, please click here.