Walter of Kirkham was probably from Yorkshire. He became an accountant of the wardrobe but left royal service in August 1231, though he returned between May 1234 and October 1236. He was briefly dean of Penkirdge, Staffordshire, in 1226 and moved on to dean of St Mary's, Shrewsbury. In 1227, he became parson of Rudby, Yorkshire, and later in 1229, dean of St Martin's-le-Grand, London. He was granted the manor of Newport in Essex for life. He also held a canonry at York by 1232, to which was added a canonry at Lincoln in 1235 and another at Chichester by 1236. Walter became dean of York in 1244 and following the resignation of Nicholas of Farnham, Walter was elected bishop of Durham, on 21 April 1249. He was consecrated by Archbishop Walter of Gray of York on 5 December 1249. Bishop Walter died at Howden, Yorkshire, on 9 August 1260 and was buried in Durham cathedral chapter house.