Stichell, Bishop Robert de
Bishop of Durham
Robert de Stichell was the illegitimate son of a Scottish clergyman who had moved to Durham. He began his ecclesiastical career as a monk in Durham Priory. For his scholarship and piety, Robert was given increasing responsibilities. He was charged with obtaining the license for the election of a prior in 1244, then a Bishop in 1249, and from 1246 was charged with the safekeeping of sacred relics. In 1260 he was elected Bishop of Durham, the first monk of Finchale Priory to achieve this and despite his illegitimate birth.
Robert used his position as Bishop to increase resources of Durham Priory and provide for the community of Durham. He gave 1,300 acres of wood and moorland to Durham Priory and gifted ‘The Decretals’ a highly valuable book. Robert is best remembered, however, for his founding of the ‘The Hospital of God’ in 1273 at Greatham. The hospital was built on and funded by lands confiscated from the rebellious Simon de Montfort and charged with the care of the poor and elderly, originally for five priests and forty laymen.
The Hospital grew both in size and prosperity and by the 14th century and provided each resident comfortable rooms, fuel for heating, candles, seven loaves of bread and seven pitchers of ale a week. The charity has been reorganised several times but continues to provide 110 almshouses in Greatham, Norton and Stockton-on-Tees. It also operates two care homes, four-day centres and ‘The Bridge’, a centre providing free support for individuals and families living with dementia.
Robert fell out with the priory at Durham after several disagreements with the monks. In 1274 he left for France and resigned his see [the area of a bishop's ecclesiastical jurisdiction]. He died at l’Arbresle on the 4th of August of the same year and his heart was interned at Durham.