Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Barlow Brides of Bishops

William Barlow (1485-68) was the Bishop of Chichester under Queen Elizabeth I.
William was Bishop of St Asaph and St David's in 1536, then in 1548 he became Bishop of Bath and Wells. William Barlow and his family can be seen as key players in promoting the religious changes in England during the Tudor period.

William Barlow was the first Protestant Bishop in England. His elder brother Thomas had been chaplain to Queen Anne Boleyn. A third Barlow brother, John, who was also a chaplain, was also a friend to Queen Anne Boleyn. John was involved in the Great Matter, the divorce of King Henry VIII from his first wife Queen Catharine of Aragon. In 1528, it was John Barlow who discovered evidence that Cardinal Wolsey had betrayed the king whilst in Rome discussing the matter with the Pope. This only strengthened Anne Boleyn's hatred of the Cardinal and aided in his downfall in the following year. John Barlow became Dean of Worcester in 1544, and remained so until the accession of Queen Mary in 1553. Another brother, Thomas, was the Rector of Catfield, and a fourth brother Roger was a merchant and travelled to the Americas.

William Barlow was the first English Bishop to marry, before marriage was an option for clergymen in England. By 1544 William had married Agatha Wellesbourne (1505-95), and due to clerical celibacy being a requirement for Catholic bishops, William resigned his bishopric when Queen Mary I succeeded the throne in 1553. He and his family were forced to flee to Germany and Poland for the duration of Queen Mary's reign, and only returned to England after her death in 1558.

Children of William and Agatha's marriage include;

+William Barlow (1544-1625) After attending Oxford University, William took Holy Orders and eventually became Treasurer of Lichfield Cathedral in 1588. In the reign of King James I he became chaplain to the king's son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and later in 1615 he was made Archdeacon of Salisbury. He married a woman called Julia and the couple had six children together. William left university with a keen interest in mathematics, and developed key theories about magnetism.

+ John Barlow (d.1634)

William and Agatha also had five daughters, all of whom went on to marry bishops.

+ Anne (d.1597) m1. Augustin Bradbridge (d.1567)
                           m2. Herbert Westfaling (1531-1602), Bishop of Hereford (1586)
                            + Herbert Westfaling
                            + Anne Westfaling m. William Jeffries
                            + Margaret Westfaling m. Richard Edes, Dean of Worcester
                            + Elizabeth Westfaling m. Robert Walwyn

Herbert Westfaling

+ Elizabeth (1538-75) m. William Day (1529-96), Bishop of Winchester (Nov 1595- Sept 1596)
Children of Elizabeth and William were;
                                      + William Day
                                      + Richard Day
                                      + Thomas Day
                                      + Susan Day m. Mr Cox
                                      + Rachel Day m. Mr Barker
                                      + Alice Day m. Thomas Ridley
                                      + Elizabeth Day

+ Margaret (1533-1601) m. William Overton (1525-1609), Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (1580)
                                         + Susan Overton m. Thomas Playsted
                                         + Valentine Overton (1565-1646) m. Isabel Higgenson

Tobie (or Tobias) Matthew from NPG.jpg
Tobias Matthew

+ Frances (1551-1629) m1. Matthew Parker (1551-74), son of Archbishop Parker
                                       + Matthew Parker (1575-6)
                                      m2. Tobias Matthew (1546-1628), Bishop of Durham (1595), Archbishop of York (1606)
                                       + Tobie Matthew (1577-1655) MP
                                       + John Matthew (b.1580)
                                       + Samuel (d.1601)
When Tobias was given the post of Dean of Durham in 1583, the couple moved to the north of England so that he could take up the posting, this move did not please Frances and she wished to return to the south as soon as possible. Frances and Tobias fell out with, and later disinherited, their eldest son Tobie due to his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Tobias eventually forgave his son in 1623, however Frances never did. Frances also fell out with her son John, however she raised John's two daughters Frances and Dorcas. Frances had a reputation in Durham for the education of young girls. Frances' pride in her family was reflected in her memorial which read in part that 'a bishop was her father, an archbishop her father-in-law; she had four bishops her brethren and an archbishop her husband'. 

+ Antonia (1552-98) m. William Wickham (1539-95), Bishop of Lincoln (1584), Bishop of Winchester (1595)
William Wickham preached at the funeral of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587.
Children of Antonia and William were;
                                  + Henry Wickham (d.1641), Archdeacon of York
                                  + Thomas Wickham
                                  + Barlow Wickham (d.1617)
                                  + William Wickham (b.1598)
                                  + Frances Wickham m. Thomas Wolriche
                                  + Susan Wickham
                                  + Anne Wickham
                                  + Elizabeth Wickham

Agatha Barlow, nee Wellesbourne, died in 1595. She was extremely proud of her achievement of marrying all of her daughters to bishops. This was reflected in her memorial.

"Barlow's wife, Agatha, doth here remain Bishop, then exile, Bishop again. So long she lived, so well her children sped. She saw five bishops her five daughters wed". - St Mary's, Eaton, Hampshire


  1. Thanks for sharing this William Barlow was my 15th great grandfarher I enjoyed reading this historic info and gained much more knowledge of him and his life. Thanks Jeremiah from NC

  2. The bishop's son John Barlow was born in Wells c.1549, as he gives his age in a legal document of 1590 as 40.