A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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53. THE DOMINICAN FRIARS OF NORWICH
The Friars Preachers first took up their abode in the city of Norwich in the year 1226. The Norwich house was the third founded in England after their arrival on our shores in 1221, and ranked as one of the most important of the Dominican priories. (fn. 1)
The old parish church of 'St. John Baptist over-the-Water' was assigned to them at an early date by Sir Thomas Gelham. It stood on the north side of Black Boy Street, and by its side they created their first dwellings. (fn. 2) Their rule prohibited them from accepting any parochial charge, so that the parish of St. John Baptist must have been united to that of St. George before the gift was made.
After another Dominican house had been founded within the diocese at Dunwich, it became necessary to assign limits for their ministrations. Accordingly on 10 January, 1259, two representatives of each house, elected by their respective convents, met at the house of the Austin Canons at Herringfleet and appointed an arbitrator. His decision was in favour of the river that divided Norfolk from Suffolk being the boundary between the two houses, save that the friars of Dunwich should have a right to visit the parishes of Mundham and Rushford (?), which lay in both counties. (fn. 3)
When Henry III was at Norwich in October, 1272, he ordered the sheriff to bestow 10 marks on the Dominicans. (fn. 4) Edward I, at a visit m September, 1289, gave them 40s. for three days' food, (fn. 5) and two years later, the executors of Queen Eleanor of Castile gave 100s. to this house. (fn. 6)
In 1280 they enclosed their site within a precinct wall, and between that date and the end of the century, several extensions were granted them for enlarging their plot. (fn. 7)
Meanwhile a new but short-lived order of friars appeared in the city. The Friars of Penance of Jesus Christ, commonly known from their rough brown habit as the Friars of the Sack, or Sackites, had their origin at Marseilles in 1251, and first appeared in London in 1257. In the next year a party of them arrived in Norwich, and a site was secured in the parish of St. Peter of Hungate. Notwithstanding various small benefactions enlarging their site, and such occasional windfalls as the 6d. bequeathed them in 1272 by Thomas son of Peter of Aldburgh, (fn. 8) these Friars of the Sack never flourished, and at last there was only left the prior, William de Hoo, 'broken with old age and nearly blind.' In 1307 the end came, for Clement V suppressed the whole order. (fn. 9)
The site of the Dominicans had become too confined for their increasing numbers, and the approach was very narrow and subject to overflow of the waters. Accordingly they negotiated with success to acquire the abandoned plot of the Sackites, licence being granted by Edward II in October, 1307, to the Friars Preachers of Norwich to hold that plot of land in the city which the Friars 'de Penitentia' formerly held in chief by the service of 1½d. yearly, subject to providing. reasonable sustenance for William de Hoo, a friar of the latter order. (fn. 10) Hence the king was acknowledged as the founder of the second Norwich house, his successors as royal patrons. Sanction for this new foundation was speedily forthcoming from Clement V.
In 1317 Pope John XXII confirmed to the Friars Preachers of Norwich the grant made to them by Clement V (1306-14) of the place formerly occupied by the Friars of the Sack (Saccitarum), according to the ordinance of Thomas, cardinal of St. Sabina's. (fn. 11)
The Friars Preachers obtained in 1310 licence to acquire land adjoining their dwelling, whereon to erect a church and other buildings, and also to enlarge their cemetery and cloister. (fn. 12) Fortified by this grant and by various benefactions of small plots of contiguous lands, the friars proceeded to erect a large church, dedicated to the honour of St. John Baptist, on the site of the smaller one pertaining to the Sackites, and to provide conventual buildings for the accommodation of sixty religious. To house and provide for so large a number required yet further extensions, and further donations of adjoining houses were made by the faithful. The friars also strained their rules by purchasing others at some little distance. The citizens took alarm at this appropriation of so many houses in their midst, and urged that the king should not permit this without the usual inquisition and royal licence. Therefore the crown seized the distant messuages, and returned the purchase money of £60 to the friars. In 1345 an inquest was held at Norwich as to any damage that might accrue from the friars holding the lands in their custody. A verdict favourable to the Dominicans was returned, and a royal pardon was therefore granted for all contraventions of mortmain, with licence to retain all they then held. (fn. 13)
In the course of the next few years they built another and yet larger church. 'In all likelihood, the old church was then or soon afterwards converted into the library, leaving, however, intact the large groined-roof crypt, which was the chapel of St. Thomas a Becket, with its altar. (fn. 14)
During a royal visit to Norwich in January, 1325-6, there was a pleasant interchange of gifts. Edward II gave an alms of 17s. 8d. for a day's food for the fifty-three friars then in residence, and on the morrow they presented him with fifty-three apples. Edward III when passing through Norwich in 1328, repeated the same alms for a like number of religious.
On 4 May, 1413, a grievous fire broke out at Norwich, and consumed the greater part of the city. The house and church of the Dominicans, with all their contents, were destroyed, and two of the friars perished in the flames. (fn. 15) The friars were now thankful that they had retained their old house and church across the water, known as the Black Hall. There they continued until 1449, when they returned to their newly built convent and church. (fn. 16)
The church was restored on a magnificent scale between 1440 and 1470, mayors and other leading citizens vying with one another in the generosity of their gifts. There were two gilds attached to this church, the gild of St. William mentioned in 1251, and the gild of the Holy Rood in 1527. (fn. 17)
Edmund Harcock, one of the last of a long series of Dominican priors of this house, preached a long sermon on Easter Monday, 1534, before the mayor and aldermen of the city, taking for his text the words from the Psalms, Obscurentur oculi eorum, ne videant. The mayor, on his coming down from the pulpit, took him to task for alleged political allusion, and afterwards sent for him, to which summons there was no response. Thereupon the ex-Friar Richard Ingworth, who was then at Norwich on his visitation for reducing all friars to the royal supremacy, arrested Harcock, and made him write out an abstract. This abstract was sent to Cromwell on 1 May, with a request to know what was to be done with the prisoner; Harcock, who had already accepted the supremacy, was alarmed, and offered to submit himself to correction. Sir Roger Townsend was ordered by Cromwell to arrest the prior and bring him before the council. (fn. 18) Apparently he made good his case, for he returned as prior to Norwich. About a year later Harcock was again in trouble. When preaching at St. Leonard's-without-Norwich, on Ascension Eve, 1535, he said in his prayer, 'Ye shall pray for our Sovereign Lord King Harry, of the Church of England chief head so called.' This sentence, together with an equivocally worded extract from his sermon, was sent up to London to the council. (fn. 19) What was his fate cannot now be discovered, but at all events, he ceased to be prior.
The priory was suppressed by Ingworth in November, 1538. On 5 September the mayor and council foreseeing the suppression of the friars, begged Cromwell to secure for their use the Black Friars, which was in the midst of the city. (fn. 20) A fortnight later the Duke of Norfolk wrote to Cromwell telling him that the Dominicans had sold their great bell. (fn. 21) On 7 October the duke again wrote to Cromwell enclosing a petition from the unhappy priors and convents of the Black and White Friars of the city begging that the surrender of their houses might be taken. 'The old and small charity in these days is insufficient to live on, and they have been fain to sell their goods; have made no waste, but are slandered and inquieted by light persons breaking their glass windows.' The duke told Cromwell that they were 'very poor wretches'—a distinct compliment to those of mendicant orders—and that as he had already given the worst of the Grey Friars 20s. for a raiment, it was a pity if these should have less. (fn. 22)
The appreciation generally entertained for these friars in the city where they were established, is shown by the very long list of gifts and bequests from 1355 to 1529 given by Father Palmer. (fn. 23)
Priors of the Dominican Friars of Norwich (fn. 24)
An imperfect impression of the circular ad causas seal (2½ in.) of this house shows the Baptism of Our Lord by St. John Baptist, with dove descending; in the field a sun on the left and crescent moon on the right. Legend:—
+ SIG . . . . . CONVEN . . . . . . RIVICO . AD CAS (fn. 25)
SIGILLUM . COMUNE . . . CWICATORU . . . (fn. 26)
There is an indistinct impression of the thirteenth-century seal of the prior of the Sackites (1¼ in. by 1 in.), with St. Edmund bound to a tree and pierced with arrows. (fn. 27)
54. THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF NORWICH
The Franciscan or Grey Friars arrived at Norwich in 1226, and were established on a site given them by John de Hastingford, between the churches of St. Cuthbert and St. Vedast in Conisford. They gradually increased in numbers, until, sixty years after their arrival, it was decided to build a large church with suitable conventual buildings. As their rule prohibited them accepting any fresh grants of lands or tenements save those that adjoined their house for purposes of extension, it became necessary, in this as in so many other cases, to obtain sanction for closing intervening thoroughfares. (fn. 28)
The Friars Minor of Norwich therefore obtained leave in 1285 to close a lane, 211 feet by 12 feet, adjoining their area on the south side, for the enlargement of their close. (fn. 29) In 1292 the Franciscans received numerous grants of small parcels of land in the city from no fewer than nineteen benefactors, among whom were included the prior and convent of Norwich, the prior of St. Faith's, and the abbot and convent of Holm. (fn. 30) In 1297, they obtained leave to close a lane on the north side of their plot, 100½ feet long by 10 feet broad, for the enlargement of their dwelling. (fn. 31) Three Norwich messuages, the respective gifts of the prior of Walsingham, Hugh de Rokeland, and Roger le Mareschal, were bestowed on the friars in 1299. (fn. 32)
Having secured these considerable extensions, the Franciscans set about building a new church on a grand scale. The dimensions, as given in two places by William of Worcester, are somewhat contradictory; but it is clear that the nave was 105 feet in length, and that the cloister on the north side of the nave was a square of its full length. (fn. 33)
There were three gilds in connexion with this church, namely, those of Our Lady, of St. John the Evangelist, and of St. Barbara. (fn. 34)
Kirkpatrick and Blomefield give long lists extending from 1330 to 1529 of those who made small bequests to this house, and who were buried in the church. As an example of the more important of these testamentary gifts, that of Roger Aylmer, esquire, in 1492, may be cited: 'To the Warden and Convent of the Fryers Mynors, to the amending of their bokys and vestiments, 46s. 8d.; and I will that iche of the four fryers that shall here my body to the church of the said Fryers Minors have for his labor 20d.; also to the repair of the said church, to praye for my sowle and say a solempn mass yearly for four yeres 8 li; and that Fryer John Fyssher, of the said convent, be my prest, and go to the court of Rome on pilgrimage, and say mass for my sowle at Seala Celi, and to have 10 marks when he goeth forth, and when he cometh home 40s.' (fn. 35)
When arrangements were in active progress in the latter half of the year 1538 for the suppression of the friars, the Duke of Norfolk interceded with Cromwell to obtain the king's sanction for the securing to him of the Grey Friars. Writing to Cromwell on 21 September, the duke stated he had intended to ride into Norwich on the previous day to take the surrender of the Grey Friars, but was ill, and so sent his son Surrey and others to act for him. In a later letter the duke describes these friars as ' very poor wretches,' and stated that he gave them 40s. apiece to procure secular dress. (fn. 36)
The site, church, house, and all the possessions of the Grey Friars of Norwich were formally granted to the Duke of Norfolk by the crown on 12 March, 1539. (fn. 37)
Wardens Of The Franciscan Friars Of Norwich (fn. 38)
55. THE CARMELITE FRIARS OF NORWICH (fn. 39)
The Carmelite or White Friars settled in this city in 1256 on a site between the river and St. James's Church on the east side of a street called Cowgate. The donor of the site and the founder of the house was Philip son of Warin, a Norwich merchant, who from the place of his residence assumed the name of Cowgate. Additional gifts enabled these friars to erect dwellings and a fine church dedicated to the honour of St. Mary. Philip, the founder, in his old age took upon him the Carmelite habit, and entered the house of his own foundation, where he died in 1283. (fn. 40) Among the muniments of the city of Norwich are copies of early grants to the Carmelite Friars. (fn. 41)
Thomas Butetorte, rector of Tivetshall, and Richard de Hedersete, rector of Beighton, obtained licence to alienate to the Carmelite Friars of Norwich a certain messuage adjoining their residence. (fn. 42) In 1332 Richard de Hedersete, chaplain, and Adam de Shotesham, chaplain, gave the Carmelites small lots of land for the enlargement of their dwelling. (fn. 43)
Licence was further granted in 1345 for the alienation by Richard Kyng and two others to the Carmelite Friars, for the extension of their house, of two more small lots of land. (fn. 44) In the same year the bailiffs and commonalty of the city granted to the friars a lane called St. James's Wente, on the west of their priory, 20 perches long and 10 ft. wide. This was done, however, without royal licence, but in the following year Edward III pardoned their defect and allowed the retention of the grant. (fn. 45) The royal licence was duly obtained four years later for the enclosing of another lane of like dimensions on the east side of their house. (fn. 46)
It was about this time that the friars were occupied in building their new and capacious church. It was ready for use in 1343, and the new churchyard was dedicated by John Paschal, bishop of Llandaff, acting as suffragan for Norwich, in the following year. It was not, however, until 1382 that the whole church was finished, when it was dedicated by Thomas, bishop of Sentari, another diocesan suffragan. (fn. 47) The dimensions of the church are given by William of Worcester. (fn. 48)
Richard II allowed the alienation to these Carmelities of another messuage adjoining their house and churchyard, the gift of Adam Pope, rector of Southrepps, and others. (fn. 49)
During the early part of the fifteenth century a certain Thomas Taverner of Walsingham petitioned the Chancellor to compel John Thorp, prior of the Carmelites of Norwich, to give up his son Alexander, aged 13, whom he was detaining contrary to the wishes alike of Thomas and his said son. (fn. 50)
In 1486 Thomas Waterpytte, the prior, and his convent petitioned the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs and citizens of Norwich to become their patrons, as their founder was a merchant and citizen. The petition was granted, and at the general chapter of the order, held at Burnham in 1488, the position of the mayor and corporation as patrons was formally ratified, with a perpetual participation in all masses, prayers, labours, &c. (fn. 51) The city authorities were evidently not ungrateful for these spiritual benefits, as at an assembly held on 3 May, 1498, the valuable privilege was granted by the city to the Carmelites of being henceforth quit of all city toll and custom of their own property, whether carried by land or by water. (fn. 52)
Bale, Weever, Kirkpatrick, and Blomefield give long lists of persons buried in the church of these once popular friars. Sir William Calthorpe, knt., by will proved in 1494, desired that he might be buried in this church:—
Also I wylle that the Whyte Fryerys aforesaid have ten marks for the repair of their churche and place, and they to pray for may sowle and frendys sowlys. Item I wyll that Fryer Thomas Waterpepe synge for my sowle and my wyfe's and frendys sowlys, by the space of three years, at the auter where my sepulture is; and that, after the gospells, he seye opynly at every masse De profundis for my sowle; and he to have six marks per annum for his labour. (fn. 53)
Bale gives lists of many of the books contained in ' the noble and very fair library' of the Carmelites of Norwich. (fn. 54)
The joint petition of the priors and convents of the Black and the White friars of Norwich to the Duke of Norfolk, early in October, 1538, asking him to take the surrender of their houses in their sore distress, has been already cited. (fn. 55) A few days later an impostor, one John Pratte a servant of Ralph Salter of Harpley, came to the White Friars, when the prior and his brethren were at dinner, asserting that he was the Lord Privy Seal's (Cromwell's) servant, and had a commission from him to suppress the house. The prior desired sight of the commission, which was not forthcoming, and being convinced he was a cheat, brought him before the mayoralty court. Whereupon John Pratte confessed to the fraud which he had committed, expecting the prior would offer him money. He was sentenced to be taken about the market on the following Saturday, with the words on paper, ' For false feynging to be the kynge's comyssioner,' and then to have both ears nailed to the pillory, and then cut off. (fn. 56)
The site of the White Friars was granted by the king, in 1542, to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlain. (fn. 57)
Priors Of The Carmelite Friars Of Norwich (fn. 58)
John Thorp, occurs after 1413 (fn. 59)
56. THE AUSTIN FRIARS OF NORWICH (fn. 60)
The Austin Friars came to Norwich about the beginning of the reign of Edward I, when they settled in a messuage provided for them by Roger Mingot, who was hence esteemed their founder. (fn. 61)
In 1293 they had so far prospered as to obtain licence from Edward I to accept five separate tenements adjoining their original site, which they proceeded to demolish in order to enlarge their own house. (fn. 62) Licence for the alienation by the abbot and convent of Langley to the Austin Friars of Norwich of a messuage in Norwich for the extension of their dwelling was granted by Edward II in 1325, (fn. 63) and ten years later pardon was granted by Edward III to the Austin Friars of Norwich for acquiring from Andrew le Barker a plot of land 100 ft. by 60 ft. for the enlargement of their house without royal licence. (fn. 64)
In 1348 they obtained the grant of the church of St. Michael Conesford from Sir Edmund de Thorp, knt. The friars were permitted to include the church within their precincts on undertaking to have there a chapel in honour of St. Michael, to the reverence of the saint and for the devotion of the faithful, who were frequently to make mention in their prayers of the deceased whose bodies rested in the churchyard. The friars further undertook never to apply the churchyard to any other use than for preaching, for sepulture, or for the building of a church, and to have three masses celebrated in the chapel every week by one of their own priests, in especial remembrance of the Thorp family. (fn. 65)
On their much enlarged site these friars proceeded to build a fine church, with cloister on the south side, of which William of Worcester gives the dimensions. (fn. 66)
One of the most interesting of the numerous bequests made to these Austin Friars, as cited by Kirkpatrick and Blomefield, is that of Margaret Wetherbey, 1457, late wife of Thomas Wetherbey, esq., who willed to be buried in the friary church by the side of her husband. She left 100 marks for building a new library, on condition that the names of her husband and herself were inscribed on the glass of the windows and on each of the book-rests.
Weever gives an account of various distinguished persons who obtained sepulture in this conventual church. His list includes such names as Bigot, Ufford, Hastings, Clifton, Morley, and Wyndham. (fn. 67)
Various gilds held their services in the nave of this church, namely, the gilds of St. Christopher, of St. Margaret, of the Holy Cross, and of St. Austin pertaining to the shoemakers. (fn. 68)
Several of the bequests refer to masses at Scala Celi in connexion with this conventual church. The Scala Celi or Ladder of Heaven was the name of a celebrated chapel and altar at Rome, to which special indulgences were granted. The Lady chapel of the Austin church at Norwich was permitted to bear this name, and a like privilege was granted to chapels at Westminster and Boston. To each of these English Scalae Celi indulgences were assigned almost as great as those at their Roman counterpart. This Austin Scala Celi was a great attraction to the devout of East Anglia. (fn. 69)
The house of the Austin Friars was dissolved on 29 August, 1538. (fn. 70) It eventually came into the hands of the Duke of Norfolk, and the site was known as 'My Lord's Garden.'
' These friars,' says Blomefield, ' to do them justice, were always reckoned a society of learned men, good disputants, and eloquent preachers, and were truly industrious in propagating literature; the most remarkable men among them were priors thereof.'
Priors Of The Austin Friars Of Norwich (fn. 71)
S' PRIORIS . ET . FRATSŪ . ORDINIS . SBĪ . AUGUSTINI . NORWICI (fn. 72)
57-59. FRIARS OF THE LESSER ORDERS, NORWICH
The Friars of St. Mary, or 'De Domina,' were in Norwich as early as 1290, for in that year Roger de Tybenham gave them a legacy. Their house stood on the south side of the churchyard of St. Julian, with the east end abutting on the street. They continued here till the Black Death of 1349, which so grievously afflicted Norwich, when they perished, and their house became private property. (fn. 73)
The Friars ' de Pica,' or Pied Friars, are said by Blomefield to have had a house at the northeast corner of the churchyard of St. Peter Mountergate. At the time when they were obliged to join one of the four principal orders their house became the property of the hospital of Bek. The master of Bek made it his city house, and their various chanting priests and others lived after a collegiate fashion. (fn. 74)