Nicholas Farnham

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Nicholas Farnham
Bishop of Durham
Elected 2 January 1241
Term ended 2 February 1249
Predecessor Thomas de Melsonby
Successor Walter of Kirkham
Other posts Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield-elect
Consecration either 26 May or 9 June 1241
Personal details
Died 1257
Stockton manor
Buried Durham Cathedral
Denomination Catholic

Nicholas Farnham (or Nicholas of Farnham; died 1257) was a medieval Bishop of Durham.

Farnham was probably a native of Farnham, Surrey. He studied at Oxford University before moving on to study at Paris and Bologna. At Paris he first studied theology, but later moved to medicine.[1] He taught at the University of Bologna as a teacher of medicine before moving to England.[2] He was at Paris when the riots of 1229 drove many teachers out of Paris. Farnham came to England because of King Henry III's offers of teaching chairs at Oxford to those displaced by the riots.[1]

Farnham was a royal physician[3][4] before he became confessor to the king and queen in 1237.[1] In 1239, the cathedral chapter of Coventry elected him Bishop of Coventry, but Farnham refused the office.[1] He was elected to the see of Durham on 2 January 1241 and at first he wanted to decline the office, but Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln persuaded him to accept.[1] Farnham was consecrated as bishop on either 26 May or 9 June 1241.[5]

While bishop, Farnham continued to work for the king. In 1241 he was mediating with King Alexander II of Scotland, and in 1242 he was involved in the negotiatons over the marriage of King Henry's daughter Margaret to the future Alexander III of Scotland. As a bishop, he became embroiled in a dispute with a dependency of St Alban's Priory, which was finally settled in 1248 in the priory's favor. The set of constitutions, or laws, he issued for the clergy of his diocese were heavily based on his predecessor's constitutions as well as Grosseteste's for Lincoln.[1]

Farnham was often ill. In 1244 he almost died, and had to go to the south of England where he received a miraculous cure from drinking water which had had bristles from the beard of Saint Edmund of Abingdon soaked in it. Once more in 1248, his health declined, and it was this illness that caused Farnham to seek a license to resign his see from the pope.[1] He resigned on 2 February 1249 and died in 1257.[5] On his resignation, he had three manors assigned to him for his support,[6] and it was at one of these, Stockton in county Durham, that he died, possibly on 31 July, which was the date his death was commemorated at Durham. He was buried in Durham Cathedral.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Franklin "Farnham, Nicholas of" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. Moorman Church Life in England p. 163
  3. Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 2: Monastic Cathedrals (Northern and Southern Provinces): Durham: Bishops
  4. Ferruolo "Quid dant artes nisi luctum?" History of Education Quarterly p. 11
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 241
  6. Moorman Church Life in England p. 183


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William de Raley
Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield
elected but refused office

Succeeded by
William de Manchester
Preceded by
Thomas de Melsonby
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Walter of Kirkham