Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: Volume 7, Ely, Norwich, Westminster and Worcester Dioceses. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1992.
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Norwich was the first monastic cathedral to be supplied with a secular dean and chapter as part of Henry VIII's great scheme for the reorganization of the cathedrals and dioceses of the country on the dissolution of the monasteries. Norwich's foundation seems to have been in some respects experimental. When the bulk of the new deans and chapters were appointed to former monastic cathedrals or churches in 1541-2, the foundation charters given to all thirteen were remarkably similar and Norwich was refounded in 1547 to bring it into line. The new arrangements were first set up by royal charter on 2 May 1538 before the prior and convent had surrendered their monastery to the Crown. By royal licence they were transformed into a dean and chapter and permitted to organize their own statutes. The prior was converted into the dean, five of the monks became canons and the former prior of Horsham St. Faith made the number up to six. While the deanery was in the gift of the Crown, the new canons had the right of electing replacements to their number. The continuity with former monastic practice is very apparent. (fn. 1)
The surrender of the priory to the Crown was later alleged to be invalid, since the bishop, as the successor to the priory's founder, had not given his consent. The dean and chapter were therefore obliged to re-surrender to the Crown, and Edward VI issued a new foundation charter in November 1547, which was similar to those of the other cathedrals of the New Foundation. (fn. 2) From then on, the Crown presented to the six prebends. Queen Mary granted their advowson to John Hopton, bishop of Norwich, on 11 February 1557, for as long as he remained bishop, but after his death in 1559 the right reverted to the Crown. (fn. 3) From the first foundation, the prebends were known by their numbers. The four medieval archdeaconries of this large diocese, those of Norwich, Norfolk, Suffolk and Sudbury, continued unaffected by these changes and were in the bishop's collation.
During the Interregnum, the chapter met for the last time on 8 May 1649. Subsequently, the dean and chapter were sequestered and later dispersed. At the Restoration in 1660 only three canons remained (of whom one was in prison for debt), the others with the dean and all the archdeacons having either died or, in one case, joined the Roman Church. After the offices had been filled, the prebends ceased to be called by their numbers, and appointments merely referred to the name of the previous holder: it is possible, however, to trace the succession under numbered prebends. On 26 April 1714, Queen Anne granted the prebend of Norwich next vacant to be attached to the Mastership of Catharine Hall (later St. Catharine's College) in Cambridge. This was confirmed by act of parliament, and the next prebend vacant turned out to be the fourth, in which the Masters were thereafter automatically installed after their election. (fn. 4)
By the statute 6 & 7 Will. IV c. 77 the archdeaconry of Sudbury was transferred from the diocese of Norwich to that of Ely, together with the part of Cambridgeshire which had been in Norwich diocese. Henceforth the diocese was to consist of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, with the exception of those parts transferred to Ely. The statute 3 & 4 Vic. c. 113, which carried into effect the Fourth Report of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, reduced the number of prebends from six to four, including that held by the Master of St. Catharine's. The first and third prebends to be vacated were suspended and the requisite number was reached by 1847. (fn. 5)
As all the prebends were in the gift of the Crown one would expect to find grants of them in the patents rolls and later published in the London Gazette. In fact, the record of their grants is not consistently recorded in the patent rolls from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards and is never published in the London Gazette. Likewise, the institutions by the bishop of Norwich should have been entered in the bishop's register - the series of registers is tolerably complete, though some are in a fragile condition - but institutions to prebends are entered only on very rare occasions there. In 300 years there are only about seven such entries, although in the nineteenth century the practice developed of recording the fact that a man subscribed to the Articles, which seems to have been on the same day as he was instituted to a prebend. Archdeacons, who were collated by the bishop, are recorded fairly consistently. Consequently, the principal source for information about the canons is the dean and chapter records of all kinds which sometimes supply details concerning the royal presentation and episcopal institution. The first chapter minute book was begun in 1566, and installations are normally recorded there.
As Norwich prebends were of small value, the holders are not always of sufficient eminence to figure in such national records as the Gentleman's Magazine, where the deaths of many important clergymen are noted. Instead, in many cases, details of their deaths have to be sought in the records of the parish benefices which they held.