A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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67. THE HOSPITAL OF BECK
In the old village of Bec or Beck, in the parish of Billingford, a hospital was founded early in the reign of Henry III, by William de Bec, on the main road between Norwich and Walsingham. (fn. 1) This hospital, or hostelry, was dedicated to the honour of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and the adjacent chapel to that of St. Paul; it was intended for the reception and entertainment for a single night of thirteen poor travellers as they made their pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Immediately on its foundation, the bishop's official admitted Richard, the chaplain of the founder, to the mastership. On 17 November, 1224, William de Bec granted the right of patronage of this hospital to the bishop of Norwich and his successors. In the same year Simon de Hederset was admitted to the mastership. The hospital was, at an early date in its history, well endowed with the manors of Bec, Billingford, and Howe, and with certain lands and rents in upwards of thirty Norfolk parishes.
The masters of the hospital appear on one or two occasions to have come into collision with the powerful family of Curzon, who were owners of considerable estates in this county; thus Andrew Hokere complained that in 1396 he was illegally disseised of a hundred acres of land by John Curzon, and that when he endeavoured to recover this by law, the sheriff, Thomas Curzon, packed the jury, and so contrived that he not only lost his suit, but was further fined £44. (fn. 2) Apparently the Curzons were, or claimed to be, the patrons towards the middle of the fifteenth century, as when John Knollys— master about 1447—complained that during the period the hospital was vacant before his appointment, the door was broken down, and certain relics of St. Thomas, a set of vestments and other things, carried away by Edmund Dokking and John Dowe, they made the double defence of denying the accusation and of asserting that the chapel of St. Thomas was the freehold of their master, Sir John Curzon. (fn. 3)
On 20 April, 1419, the bishop of Norwich formally declared the benefice of Beck hospital compatible, i.e. capable of being held with another benefice. In the official entry, it is stated that the hospital or chapel of St. Thomas of Beck was without cure, and was then held simul et semul by Henry Kays, rector of Fakenham, and that it had been held several times in the days of the bishop's predecessors by clerks in possession of other benefices. (fn. 4)
The Valor of 1535 gave the gross annual value at £5 6s. 5d., and the clear value £4 15s. 9d. There had evidently been some alienation of the property by some of the later masters before this valor was taken.
The hospital and its possessions were granted to Sir John Perrot in 1556. It was eventually purchased by Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice, whose family built a mansion on this site.
Masters Of The Hospital Of Beck
Richard, first master
Simon de Hederset, admitted 1224
Robert de Elman, occurs 1250 (fn. 5)
William, occurs 1268
John de Geiste
Gilbert de Burlwell, (fn. 6) admitted 1309
Nicholas de Ayshefield, (fn. 7) admitted 1314
Ralph de Plechesdone, (fn. 8) resigned 1332
Roger de Hedersete, (fn. 9) admitted 1332
John de Wyneston, (fn. 10) resigned 1352
Roger Oslak, (fn. 11) admitted 1352
Robert Markayte, (fn. 12) admitted 1354
Richard Roche of Lynn, (fn. 13) admitted 1358
John de Walsham, (fn. 14) resigned 1372
John de Babbyngle, (fn. 15) admitted 1372
John Clerevaus, (fn. 16) admitted 1375
Andrew Hoken, (fn. 17) admitted 1379
John de Haldanby, (fn. 18) admitted 1387
Andrew Hokere, occurs 1396 (fn. 19)
Henry Kaye, (fn. 20) admitted 1417
William Sponne, (fn. 21) admitted 1419
John Knolles, (fn. 22) admitted 1447
William Hoper, (fn. 23) died 1454
John Selot, (fn. 24) admitted 1454
Thomas Schenckwyn, admitted 1489
Robert Honey wood, admitted 1497
Thomas Gayton, 1527
William Read, last master