A bishop - and a fine architect
PUBLISHED: 11:16 19 October 2006 | UPDATED: 13:33 04 May 2010
JOHN Alcock was born at Beverley in Yorkshire and educated at the grammar school there. Later he came to Cambridge where he took his degree in or before 1461. He went on to become Master of the Rolls and Prebendary of St Paul s and Salisbury and shared th
JOHN Alcock was born at Beverley in Yorkshire and educated at the grammar school there. Later he came to Cambridge where he took his degree in or before 1461. He went on to become Master of the Rolls and Prebendary of St Paul's and Salisbury and shared the post of Lord Chancellor with Bishop Rotherham of Lincoln. In 1476 he became Lord President of Wales and, due to his great skill as an architect, was made comptroller of the Royal Works and Buildings.
This eminent and highly influential statesman was Bishop of Ely from 1486 to 1500 and his architectural abilities can be witnessed locally 'in his Episcopal Palace of Ely' where he built a stately hall and gallery, his other palace at Little Downham and he 'also made a very neat chapel in his Cathedral Church of Ely, where he lies buried.' He also founded Jesus College, Cambridge.
The Bishop's Palace lies to the west end of the cathedral, alongside The Gallery facing on to Palace Green. Formerly the Bishop's residence, during the war it became a hospital for serviceman, and in 1946 a school for handicapped children run as an independent charity under the guidance of the British Red Cross Society. Today it is opened and run by the Sue Ryder Foundation.
During Bishop John Alcock's time the palace must have been an impressive building and Alexander Barclay, 'Black Monk and Poet', one of the last Ely Benedictines in his Eclogues alludes to Alcock in the first verse
"The pratie palace made him in the fen
The maides, widowes, the wives and men
With deadly dolour were pearsed to the hearte
when death constrayned this Shepherd to depart"
This supports other references to Alcock as being a popular and well-loved man. When he died on the October 1, 1500 at Wisbech. It is recorded that "he left behind him the character of being a pious man of admirable Temperance, for his life and behaviour unspotted and from a child earnestly given to the study of not only learning, but of all virtue and Godliness, as no one greater in those days bore a greater reputation."
Bishop Alcock's Palace in Ely Cathedral is in the Perpendicular style and was built in 1488. The chapel is very ornate and elaborately carved with a rich vaulted ceiling, also extremely elaborate. Alcock is buried in the centre of the chapel and his favourite device, a rebus of his name, a cock standing on a globe, adorns the Chapel. Bishop Alcock's Chapel is a very fitting memorial to this man of the church, leading statesman and benefactor.