Bicknor, Alexander (d. 1349), archbishop of Dublin and administrator, was apparently of undistinguished English parentage. A graduate of Oxford university, Bicknor (whose name derives from Bicknor in Gloucestershire) arrived in Ireland in 1302 as clerk and attorney to a landed family. In the years that followed, he served as itinerant justice and escheator in England. In 1305 he was in Ireland for a time with John Wogan (qv). He returned to Ireland on his appointment as escheator (treasurer) in October 1307. He was by this time a canon of St Patrick's cathedral and prebendary of Maynooth. It later emerged that, during his seven years as treasurer, Bicknor engaged in forgery on a considerable scale and defrauded the royal exchequer of some £1,200; at the same time, on the orders of Piers Gaveston (qv), he advanced £2,000 towards the costs of the king's Scottish wars, for which he was never compensated.
Early in 1311 Bicknor was elected to the see of Dublin by the two cathedral chapters, St Patrick's and Holy Trinity (Christ Church), but the election was overruled by Edward II, who nominated John Lech (qv). In June that year the king appointed Bicknor to represent him at the general council at Vienne but it appears he did not attend. After Archbishop Lech's death in August 1313 Bicknor was again elected by the St Patrick's chapter, though not by Christ Church who elected instead the chancellor, Walter Thornbury. In April 1314 Bicknor resigned as escheator and subsequently travelled to Avignon to seek papal approval for his appointment as archbishop; in this he had the backing of Edward II. He seems to have remained at Avignon for three years until August 1317 when he was appointed archbishop of Dublin by Pope John XXII. Soon after his consecration in Avignon (25 August 1317), he travelled to England and was present in St Paul's in London in November 1317 when Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, was formally excommunicated. He remained in England until the following autumn. In August 1318 Edward II appointed him justiciar of Ireland, a post he held until June 1319, and in September or October he arrived in Dublin to take up his duties as archbishop and governor.
Almost immediately, Bicknor revealed himself to be an ardent defender of his archiepiscopal possessions and privileges; he enlisted the support of the king to recover revenues from the manors of Lusk, Swords, and Shankill, which had been alienated by Archbishop Richard Ferings (qv) without royal licence. In 1320 he summoned a synod of the Dublin province which passed twenty-three statutes, including one providing for the payment of tithes. He styled himself ‘primate of Ireland’, the first archbishop of Dublin to do so since Henry of London (qv) in the early thirteenth century. He built a new archiepiscopal residence at Tallaght and initiated a crackdown on vagrants and beggars, who were alleged to be adding to the social problems of the city. In 1320 Bicknor revived a plan of Archbishop Lech to establish a studium generale (college) at St Patrick's cathedral, with faculties of theology and law. Its constitution was to be based on the Oxford model, and the college was to be governed by the archbishop, with William Rudyard, dean of St Patrick's, as chancellor. Three masters were appointed in theology and one in canon law (Ann. St Mary's Dublin), but the project seems not to have proceeded much further.
Fron 1323 Bicknor was again preoccupied with royal business, though his efforts were soon to rebound on him. Two apparently failed embassies to France in 1323–4, reports of his initiatives against the Despenser faction in England, and a growing attachment to the circle of Queen Isabella doubtless prompted the king's letter to Pope John XXII in May 1325 seeking to have Bicknor demoted and excommunicated. Royal disfavour presumably accounts for accusations that the archbishop had wasted the revenues of Ireland, even before an audit, carried out that October, revealed Bicknor's former activities as a forger. Convicted at the exchequer court, the archbishop was not detained long in prison, but was nevertheless publicly disgraced and all of his possessions were taken into the king's hands. As Aubrey Gwynn (qv) suggests, it was probably his disgrace and the confiscation of his properties that caused the failure of his college at St Patrick's. In spite of his predicament, it would appear that the archbishop was party to the successful conspiracy in 1327 to have Edward II deposed and replaced by a regency in the name of his young son Edward III.
Bicknor was not viewed with particular favour by the new king, and his rehabilitation proved slow. In 1330 he attended the parliament in Kilkenny, the concerns of which included the threat posed to Cashel by the expanding power of Brian Bán O'Brien (qv). (It may have been during his absence on this occasion that the archbishop's manor of Tallaght was plundered by the O'Tooles of Imaal; Ann. St. Mary's Dublin.) In 1331–2 he advised Edward III on his intended expedition into Ireland. He was appointed papal collector in 1330 and in that capacity received a letter from Pope John XXII in 1334 instructing him that those who challenged Christ's right to possess goods were to be regarded as heretics and treated accordingly. However, displaying a seemingly cavalier attitude towards his responsibilities, Bicknor took into his protection a party from Kilkenny, seeking refuge from prosecution for heresy at the court of Richard Ledrede (qv), bishop of Ossory. The latter, on complaining to the king, was detained for some years in London. On the feast of St Vincent 1335 the archbishop initiated a visitation of Ossory, which had not taken place for forty years (Clyn's Ann.). He pursued this undertaking with such enthusiasm that the pope suspended his metropolitan power over the diocese.
It may be questioned whether Bicknor's order to report on the state of Ireland in July 1337, as crown authority continued to contract within the lordship, marks any return to royal favour. The following year he was present at the consecration of the new bishop of London, and from February to May 1341 he was acting justiciar, but it was not until 1344 that the ageing archbishop was formally pardoned by the king for his past offences. The closing years of Bicknor's archiepiscopate were marked by a renewal of the old controversy with Armagh over the primacy of Ireland. He clashed with Richard FitzRalph (qv), archbishop of Armagh, on this issue, a clash exacerbated when FitzRalph, along with Archbishop Ralph Ó Ceallaigh (qv) of Cashel, was instructed by the pope in 1347 to inquire into the state of the Dublin diocese, an intervention which led in 1349 to FitzRalph's expulsion from the city of Dublin. One of Bicknor's last undertakings was a synod at Dublin in 1348, which addressed matters of ecclesiastical discipline and government. He died 14 July 1349 in Dublin, apparently from the plague.