Booth or Bothe, Lawrence d. 1480, bishop of Durham, and afterwards archbishop of York, sprang from a wealthy family of good position. He was the youngest son of John Booth, of Barton in Lancashire, by his second wife, Maud, daughter of Sir John Savage, a Cheshire knight. Two of his half-brothers became bishops—William, archbishop of York; and John, bishop of Exeter. He went to Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, studied the civil and canon laws in which he became a licentiate, and was in 1450 appointed master of his college. During his residence in Cambridge he became chancellor of the university and rector of Cottenham in Cambridgeshire. While chancellor (about 1458), he started a movement for the building of an arts school and a civil law school (Mullinger, University of Cambridge to 1535, p. 300). Outside the university preferment was showered thick upon him. In 1449 he became a prebendary of St. Paul's, and, after being thrice transferred to more valuable stalls, he became on 22 Nov. 1456 dean of that cathedral. In 1452 he became archdeacon of Stow in the diocese of Lincoln, but resigned in the same year. In 1453 he was made provost of Beverley. In 1454 he was appointed archdeacon of Richmond. He was also a prebendary of York and of Lichfield
Booth's main business, however, was legal and political rather than ecclesiastical. He became chancellor to Queen Margaret, and, apparently about 1456, keeper of the privy seal (Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, i. 408). In the same year he became a commissioner to renew the existing truce with Scotland. On 28 Jan. 1457 he was appointed one of the tutors and guardians of the Prince of Wales. On 15 Sept. in the same year he was appointed bishop of Durham, by provision of Calixtus II. Henry VI had already solicited the pope to nominate his physician, John Arundell, to the vacant see, but the more energetic supplication of Queen Margaret for her chancellor, together with the request of many nobles, and the remembrance of an old recommendation of Henry himself, determined Calixtus to appoint Booth, whose position, wisdom, noble birth, northern origin, and local knowledge made him, in the pope's opinion, peculiarly fitted to be bishop of the great palatinate (Rymer, xi. 404-5). Henry did not press his physician's claims, and on 25 Sept. Booth was consecrated by his brother, the archbishop of York. On 18 Oct. the temporalities were restored to him. He still continued privy seal, and in September 1459 negotiated a truce with the Scots at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the end of the same year he attended the Coventry parliament which impeached the partisans of the Duke of York, where he swore allegiance to Henry VI, and acted as a trier of petitions. He seized as the prerogative of his franchise the numerous forfeitures of Warwick within the palatinate. Yet though apparently a decided partisan of the house of Lancaster, he attended the parliament of Edward IV that met after the battle of Towton, served as a trier of petitions, and had his right to forfeitures within the bishopric specially reserved (Rot. Parl. 1 E. IV). But he must have given some fresh cause of offence, perhaps have helped Queen Margaret in her northern campaigns, for on 28 Dec. 1462 his temporalities were seized by the crown; officers were appointed in the diocese as in the case of a vacancy; the coals, which even then formed some part of the wealth of the lords of Durham, were ordered to be sold, and he is spoken of in an official document as the late Bishop of Durham (Surtees, app. to vol. i. cxxxiii-iv). The suspension continued until 17 April 1464, when his temporalities were restored, probably in return for submission and repentance. On 15 April he was allowed as a special favour to absent himself for three years from all parliaments and councils, and live wherever he liked within England (Rymer, xi. 518). There is no record of his acts between 1464 and 1471. Within that interval of retirement he had found some means to convince Edward of his fidelity, for in 1471 he got the Warwick forfeitures within his palatinate, and took an oath to maintain the succession of the Prince of Wales. In the same year, and again in 1472 and 1473, his serving as a trier of petitions shows that he was restored to his parliamentary duties. On 21 June 1473 a royal license admitted his right to coin in Durham not only monetæ sterlingorum, as had of old been the custom with his predecessors, but also moneta obolorum (Rymer, xi. 783). During the same year the illness of Bishop Stillington, the chancellor, and the inconvenience of transacting the business of the office during the session of parliament by deputies or keepers, led to the transference of the great seal to Bishop Booth on 27 July. He presided in the parliament of that year, prorogued it, and, shortly after its reassembling, dismissed it, after having exhorted the commons to deal liberally with the king in his approaching war with France (Parl. Hist. ii. 344). But the burden of the office seems to have been too great for him, and on 25 May 1474 he was succeeded by Bishop Rotherham, who remained in office for the rest of the reign, and successfully concluded the business begun by Booth (Cont. Croyland, Gale, i. 557). There seems no good authority for Lord Campbell's story of Booth's extreme incompetence. That Booth's retirement from the chancery was not caused by want of favour at court is shown by the king putting in his custody the temporalities of the archbishopric of York within ten days of the death of the disgraced Archbishop Neville (28 June 1476. Rymer, xii. 28). This decided step of Edward's secured Booth's translation to the archbishopric. He was installed with great solemnity on 8 Sept. on the throne vacated by his brother twelve years before. He was the first bishop of Durham promoted to York, a translation rather common in later times. Both at York and Durham he succeeded a Neville, a family with which he had established a connection by marrying one of his nieces to the Earl of Westmorland. During his twenty years' tenure of the see of Durham he had rebuilt the gates of Auckland Castle and the neighbouring buildings
Booth did not long survive his appointment to York. He died on 19 May 1480, and was buried in the collegiate church of Southwell beside his brother, Archbishop William. Both brothers had made Southwell their favourite residence, and were great benefactors to the church there. Lawrence's main benefaction to the see of York was the purchase of the manor of Battersea in Surrey, the building of a house on it, and the transferring of it to the archbishopric. Up to his death he retained the mastership of Pembroke Hall, as the scholars of that society were proud of having as their head a man in such high position, and who also was a liberal benefactor of the college.
William de Chambre's Hist. Dunelm. in Anglia Sacra, i. 777, with Wharton's note, and in Raine's Hist. Dunelm. Scriptores Tres.
Rolls of Parliament
Hist. Croyland cont.
cont. of T. Stubbs's Hist. Ebor. The Torr MSS., Le Neve's Fasti, Godwin's De Præsulibus, Drake's Eboracum, and Surtees' History of Durham are more modern authorities. Booth's will is printed in Raine's Testamenta Eboracensia (Surtees Soc.), iii. 248-250. The life of Booth in Campbell's Chancellors (i. 389) is thoroughly inaccurate: that in Foss (Judges of England, iv. 420-3, Biographia Juridica, 105) is much better.
Contributor: T. F. T. [Thomas Frederick Tout]