A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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112. THE COLLEGE OF RAVENINGHAM (fn. 1)
The college of Raveningham was founded on 24 July, 1350, by Sir John de Norwich, eldest son of Sir Walter de Norwich and Catherine his wife. It consisted of a master and eight secular priests or canons who were to officiate in the parish church of Raveningham for the weal of the souls of the founder and Margaret, his wife, in honour of God and the Blessed Virgin, St. Andrew the Apostle, and All Saints. The church was dedicated to the honour of St. Andrew, but the collegiate house, according to the foundation charter, was to be named after the Blessed Virgin. (fn. 2)
The college was well endowed by the founder and his heirs with the manors of Lyng, Howe, Blackworth, Hadeston, and Little Snoring, and with the appropriation of the churches of Raveningham and Norton Subcourse, (fn. 3) as well as with lands and rents in various other parishes.
In 1382 there was a proposal to remove the college to Mettingham Castle (Suffolk). On 5 July of that year John Plays, Robert Honeard, and Roger de Boys, knights, and John de Wolterton and Elias de Byntre, rectors of the respective churches of Harpley and Carleton, paid the immense sum of £866 13s. 4d. to the crown for licence to transfer the chantry of eight chaplains from Raveningham to Mettingham Castle; to increase the number of chaplains or canons to thirteen, and to alienate in mortmain to the college the said castle and 60 acres of land, 18 of meadow, 2 of pasture, £5 10s. in rents, and much more land in various townships, three parts of the manor of Bromfield, the manor of Mellys, and the manor of Lyng, notwithstanding that the manor last named is held of the duke of Brittany as of the honour of Richmond. (fn. 4)
Some difficulty as to this transfer arose chiefly through the opposition of the nuns of Bungay, who had the appropriation of the church of Mettingham, and the college continued at Raveningham for several years after this date. On 6 August, 1387, the same applicants obtained a grant from the king, on the payment of the modest fee of one mark in the hanaper, to transfer the chantry of Sir John de Norwich's, foundation from Raveningham, where it still was, to the church which was then being newly built in the rectory of Norton Subcourse, and that in consideration of the great fine of 1382 the master and twelve chaplains and their successors at Norton should hold all the lands and possessions granted to the chantry at Raveningham with the castle of Mettingham and all lands and possessions granted when it was proposed to move the college to that castle. (fn. 5)
A proposition for this transference to Norton had been made in the reign of Edward III and licence obtained in 1371, but it came to nought. (fn. 6) Sir John de Norwich of Mettingham Castle, by will of 1373, left his body to be buried in Raveningham church by his father Sir Walter, there to rest till it could be moved to the new church of Norton Subcourse, to the building of which he bequeathed £450.
On the death of Sir John de Norwich, the last heir male of the family, his cousin, Katharine de Brews, was found heir; Sir John Plays and Sir Robert Howard and the others who obtained licence for the removal of the college to Mettingham in 1382, and to Norton in 1387, were that lady's trustees, on whom she settled the college's inheritance.
On the removal of the master and twelve chaplains to Norton the college still retained the title of the place where it was first founded; the society was termed 'Ecclesia Collegiata S. Marie de Raveningham in Norton Soupecors.' But the college merely tarried at Norton for seven years; in 1394 it was eventually removed to the castle of Mettingham, where it remained until its dissolution. (fn. 7)
Richard Shelton, the master, and nine chaplains, signed their acknowledgement of the royal supremacy of 28 September, 1534. (fn. 8)
The Valor of 1535, when Richard Skelton was master, gives the clear annual value of the temporalities in Suffolk and Norfolk of the college of the Blessed Virgin of Mettingham as £191 10s. ¾d., and of the rectories of Raveningham and Norton as £10 17s. 5¾d., giving a total clear annual value of £202 7s. 5¾d. It also appears from the Valor that the college supported fourteen boys in the house and gave them education as well as board, lodging, and clothes, at an annual charge of £28.
The college was surrendered to the crown on 8 April, 1542. The surrender was signed by Thomas bishop of Ipswich, as master or warden, with the consent of his fellows or chaplains. (fn. 9) On 14 April of the same year the college with all its possessions was granted to Sir Anthony Denny. (fn. 10)
This Denny was clerk of the Privy Chamber and keeper of Westminster Palace, and profited much by monastic and collegiate plunder. A letter from Robert Dacres of the Privy Council to Anthony Denny, dated 13 May, 1542, states that his profit had been advanced as well among the chaplains of the college as the tenants. There were secured for him two great chalices and a great pix of silver and parcel-gilt, divers rich corporas cases, and nineteen massive silver spoons, as well as palls of silk, &c. The college, notwithstanding the obsequious and servile wording of the ' voluntary' surrender, had made some endeavour to conceal certain church goods and other property from the legalized marauders; but 'one simple priest being well examined gave light to all these things, and then all the other priests confessed.' (fn. 11)