Walter Skirlaw

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The Right Reverend
Walter Skirlaw
Bishop of Durham
Bishop Walter Skirlaw, East Window, York Minster.jpg
Image of Bishop Walter Skirlaw in the East Window of York Minster
Church Roman Catholic
Appointed 3 April 1388
Term ended 24 March 1406
Predecessor John Fordham
Successor Thomas Langley
Consecration 14 January 1386
Personal details
Born Swine, East Riding of Yorkshire
Died 24 March 1406
Previous post Bishop of Coventry
Bishop of Bath and Wells

Walter Skirlaw (also Walter de Skirlaw, Walter Skirclaw, Walter Skirlaugh, Walter Shirlagh, or Walter Skarlawe) (born Swine parish, Holderness,[1][2] brought up at Skirlaugh; died 1406) was an English bishop and diplomat. He was Bishop of Durham from 1388 to 1406. He was an important adviser to Richard II of England and Henry IV of England.[3]


Skirlaw was Archdeacon of the East Riding from 1359 to 1385[4] and Archdeacon of Northampton from 1381.[5] In 1382, he was given custody of the privy seal, filling the office of Lord Privy Seal, which office he held until 1386.[6]:95 He was elected Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry on 28 June 1385, and consecrated on 14 January 1386.[6]:253[7] Then he was translated to be Bishop of Bath and Wells on 18 August 1386.[6]:228 On 3 April 1388, he was once again transferred, this time to the see of Durham.[6]:242 He would have become archbishop of York in 1398, but Richard II over-ruled the cathedral chapter, insisting on Richard le Scrope.[8]

Skirlaw was employed on diplomatic missions to Italy in 1381–3,[9] to Calais to negotiate with the French in 1388,[10] and to the Scots. He died on 24 March 1406.[6]:242

Skirlaw is described as "a munificent prelate. He built bridges at Shincliffe, Bishop Auckland, and Yarm; a refuge tower, a beautiful chapter-house (now in ruins) at Howden; and was a large contributor to the expense of building the central tower of York Cathedral".[11]

During his episcopacy much was added to Durham Cathedral, including its cloisters.[12] He is portrayed in the east stained-glass window in York Minster,[13] which he had made.[14]


  1. Secrets of Hylton Castle accessed on 23 August 2007
  2. A History of the County of East Riding: Swine Parish accessed on 23 August 2007
  3. The Fading Years of the Prince Bishops accessed on 23 August 2007
  4. British History – Archdeacons of the East Riding, 1300–1541
  5. Archdeacons of Northampton accessed on 23 August 2007
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology
  7. Bishops of Coventry and Lichfield accessed on 23 August 2007
  8. Welcome to York Minster accessed on 23 August 2007
  9. Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  10. May McKisack, The Fourteenth Century, p. 463.
  11. J. E. Bygate, Bell's Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Durham, Gutenberg text.
  12. Durham Cathedral Historical Survey accessed on 23 August 2007
  13. Vidimus no. 6 (April 2007): Panel of the Month accessed on 23 August 2007
  14. York Minster: The Great East Window accessed on 7 September 2007


Political offices
Preceded by
William Dighton
Lord Privy Seal
Succeeded by
John Waltham
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Robert de Stretton
Bishop of Coventry
Succeeded by
Richard le Scrope
Preceded by
John Harewell
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Succeeded by
Ralph Ergham
Preceded by
John Fordham
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Thomas Langley