(Bishop of Worcester and Ely)

Born: ABT 1430, Beverley, Yorkshire, England

Died: 1 Oct 1500, Wisbech Castle

Father: William ALCOCK

Mother: ¿?

He was born at Beverley in Yorkshire, the son of William Alcock, a burgess of Kingston-upon-Hull. After studies at the grammar school in Beverley, he went to Cambridge. About 1461, he was presented to the Rectory of St. Margaret's, London, and to the deanery of St. Stephen's, Westminster. His subsequent promotion was rapid in both church and state. In the following year he was made Master of the Rolls; in 1468 Prebendary of St. Paul's, London; and in 1470 was sent as Ambassador to the court of Castile. In 1470-71 he was Privy Councillor. He was consecrated Bishop of Rochester in 1472 and was successively translated to the sees of Worcester (1476) and Ely (1486). In 1476, he also became Lord President of Wales. In 1474, he briefly shared the post of Lord Chancellor of England with Thomas Rotherham, Bishop of Lincoln. This joint tenure of the office appears to be unique in English history. He showed great ability in the negotiations with James III of Scotland.

Alcock was made tutor to the young King Edward V, but was removed from the post by the Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. During the latter’s usurpation of power, as Richard III, Alcock’s career fell under a cloud, but at the accession of Henry VII, in 1485, he returned to royal favour and was appointed the Controller of the Royal Works and Buildings and a Commissioner of the Royal Mines. He baptized Prince Arthur. In 1486, he was again appointed Lord Chancellor, and was consecrated Bishop of Ely.

Alcock was one of the leading pre-Reformation divines; he was a man of deep learning and also of great proficiency as an architect. Besides founding a charity at Beverley and a grammar school at Kingston-upon-Hull, he restored many churches and colleges; but his greatest achievement was the building of Jesus College, Cambridge, which he established on the site of the former convent of St Radigund. He also endowed Peterhouse.

Alcock's published writings, most of which are extremely rare, are: Mons Perfectionis, or the Hill of Perfection (London, 1497); Gallicontus Johannis Alcock episcopi Eliensis ad frates suos curatas in sinodo apud Barnwell (1498), a good specimen of early English printing and quaint illustrations; The Castle of Labour, translated from the French (1536), and various other tracts and homilies. Alcock is also thought to have written a metrical work in English on the Seven Penitential Psalms. Bale says of him that he "made such a proficiency in virtue that no one in England had a greater reputation for sanctity". Alcock was a distinguished cononist, but made no provisions for the study of this branch in Jesus College.

He was an architect of great merit and was buried in a fine chapel which he had erected for himself in Ely Cathedral.


Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1885)

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