Walter de Merton (1200-1277)
In the year 1200 a son was born to William and Christina le
the child was the only son amongst seven daughters. This child was called
Walter. Walter's mother held land in Basingstoke, her family were freeholders on
At an early age Walter was sent to Merton Priory in surrey for his education,
then onto Mauger Hall,
Oxford. Walter was known by his birthplace, Basingstoke, until in 1233 he took
the name of the priory and as Walter de Merton became Parson of Cuddington.
Between 1236 and 1242 Walter went into the service of Nicholas Farnham,
Bishop of Durham, and travelled between London and the north. When the
Bishop resigned in 1249 Walter returned south to become King's Clerk and
Walter was made Canon of St. Paul's in 1259 and from November 1272 until August
1274 he was in place of the King holding the great seal of England making him
one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. Walter was elected Bishop of
Rochester in July 1274. Walter never forgot his home town and founded a hospital
in Basingstoke to commemorate his mother. He then extended the hospital,
erecting more suitable buildings and a chapel and placed the hospital under the
king's protection. He also founded Merton College, Oxford.
On Wednesday the twenty seventh
of October 1277 walter died and was buried in the Cathedral of Rochester. Merton
College, Oxford is to this day responsible for the repair of the tomb. Although
he may be long since dead his name still lives on in Basingstoke with Merton
Road being named after him.