Anthony Bek- Warrior, Bishop & Patriarch of Jerusalem
Antony Bek is believed to have been born around the year 1245.
One of three sons of Walter Bek a knight and Lord of Erseby in Lincolnshire, he was a major figure in the court of Edward I, holding both secular and religious positions.
As a young man in his very early twenties he entered the service of Henry III when he was asked to lead an inquiry into the lands held by supporters of the recently defeated rebel Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. A task that he must have done well as the following year in 1266 he was designated a king’s clerk.
The following year saw him go to Oxford University as one of the first students at the recently established Merton College. Along with his brother he stayed at the university for three years. In 1270 he left university and joined Prince Edward , later Edward I, on crusade. This was a crucial period in his career as it forged a strong bond between those who participated. Edward later bestowing his patronage on those who had had gone on crusade with him.
Returning to England in 1272 Bek was used by Edward in a number of roles being appointed Constable of the Tower of London in 1275, a position which saw him oversee the military preparations for war against the Welsh and take part in diplomatic missions.
His ecclesiastic career developed with his appointment in 1276 as Precentor of York and Arch Deacon of Durham and in 1283 Edward secured his appointment as Bishop of Durham. His role as Bishop did not prevent Bek from continuing to be a key member of the Royal administration.He played a major role both diplomatically and militarily in Scotland.
As Bishop of Durham he extended the rights of the Bishopric at the expense of the Crown and was able to do so because of his links with Edward I and his ability to provide men and material for the King’s campaigns. Inevitably as he tried to secure more rights several disputes arose between Bishop Bek and the king, Bishop Bek and local nobles and Bishop Bek and Durham Priory which was a Benedictine institution and along with the Bishop a major landowner in County Durham. These disputes were often taken to the Pope for arbitration and in 1306 Pope Clement V made Bek Patriarch of Jerusalem and therefore the most senior member of the clergy in England. This established the primacy of the Bishop of Durham over the Priory. In 1309 he visited the Priory perhaps as an act of asserting his rights as Bishop.
Anthony Bek as a Bishop of Durham would have had some influence and dealings with Stockton but it was the granting of a charter in 1310, which stated – ‘to our town of Stockton, a market upon every Wednesday for ever’ which has had the most lasting affect on Stockton. The market celebrated its 700th anniversary in 2010.