Thetford, chapter 23: Of the school and hospital

Pages 128-131

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1805.

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There was a school in this town very early, and a very large one too, as is evident from the many collations to it by the Bishop, in whose donation it was.

1328,6 non. Oct. The Bishop collated Edmund de Mendham, priest; to the mastership of the grammar scholars in Thetford, to have and enjoy that place during his pleasure.

1329, 5 id. Aug. John de Mordon, accolite, was collated.

1342, 20 April, Robert de Hulm, who was confirmed for life, May 10, 1343.

1374, 24 Oct. Peter Rolf of Elveden, priest, was made perpetual master.

1402, 22 Aug. Edward Eyr, collated.

1424, 23 Sept. Hugh Anderton, A. M. collated.

1434, 12 March, John Wale, clerk, was collated.

1496, William Rudston, A. M. was collated master for life. After whose death I meet with no more collated by the Bishop, so that in all appearance the school dropt, till Sir Richard Fulmerston's time, who erected a school, and paid the master during his life, and at his death, by will dated in 1566, ordered his heirs to erect and establish a free grammar school in Thetford, (fn. 1) and build a convenient house for that purpose, either in Trinity churchyard, or the BlackFriars-Yard; and he further ordered his executors to find a preacher, for ever, to preach the word of God within the parish church of St. Maries, four times in the year, who should have for each sermon 10s.; he settled three tenements in St. Maries parish, to be made a dwellinghouse for the master and usher, and other tenements in that parish, to be made a habitation for four poor people, two men and two women, and for the better maintenance of the preacher, schoolmaster, and poor people, he gave 35l. per annum, lying in Croxton, in the county of Norfolk. Soon after Sir Richard's death, his heirs built a school-house upon one corner of the Black-Friars-Yard, with a chamber for the schoolmaster, but none for the usher, and made no foundation, or assurance of the land, according to the will, nor yet repaired the houses for the poor people, upon which, the Mayor and Commonalty, in the eighth year of King James I, petitioned that King for relief, setting forth, that for the first twenty years after building the school, the master received yearly 20 marks a year and no more, the usher 5l. per annum, the preacher 40s. and the poor, 12d. apiece every week, and no more; and that for fourteen years last past, the master had 20l. per annum, the usher 10l. but the preacher and poor had no manner of increase, the residue of the profits being received by Sir Richard's heir, and converted to his own use, to the defrauding the charitable uses of the will, upon which, by the assistance of the Lord Chief Justice Coke, (fn. 2) an Act of Parliament was passed, constituting the preacher or master of the school and hospital, schoolmaster, usher, and the four poor people, viz. two widowers, and two widows, a body politick, and an incorporation, by the name of The Master and Fellows of the School and Hospital of Thetford, founded by King James, according to the last Will of Sir Richard Fulmerston, Knt. The Act ordered an house to be built in another piece of the ground, called Black-Friars-Yard, (fn. 3) for the preacher, who should be henceforth obliged to preach in St. Mary's church once every week at least, and at four several times in the year should make mention in his sermons of the said Sir Richard Fulmerston, and give God thanks for his Godly and charitable foundation, and that the said school should be kept by the master and usher, in the school-house already built, and that the said hospital for the poor people should be by St. Mary's church, where the said Richard had placed them, and that they may take and receive lands, &c. as a body politick, and sue and be sued, and have a common seal, with the arms of the said Richard engraven thereon; and whereas the lands in Croxton, of 35l. per annum value, when given, were risen to above 100l. per annum clear of all outgoings, a dispute arose between the corporation and trustees, about the increased rent, whether the salaries should be augmented with it, or the trustees have it; but it being an important case, it was referred to the two Chief Justices of the King's Bench, and Common Pleas, viz. Thomas Fleming, and Francis Gaudy, Knt. and by the Parliament, to Justice Walmsley, who resolved it thus, that the increase ought to be for the advantage of the devisees, because if the rents had fallen, it would have been their loss, and so ought to be their advantage as they increased, upon which the old stipend being settled for three years, the Mayor and Corporation were to receive the overplus, and fit up a house for the schoolmaster and usher, and another for the poor people; (fn. 4) and after the three years, the Mayor, Burgesses, and Commonalty were to be governours, overseers, and receivers of the rents for ever, and to pay yearly to the preacher or master of the hospital 30l. to the schoolmaster 40 marks, to the usher 20l. and to each of the poor people weekly 2s. the payments to be constantly paid quarterly at Lady, Midsummer, Michaelmas, and Christmas, by equal portions, and the weekly payments to be made every Saturday, and with the remaining overplus the Corporation shall repair the houses belonging to the preacher, schoolmaster, usher, poor people, and farm in Croxton, or alter, repair, enlarge, or new build, any of them, and what still remain shall be distributed every three years among them all. The Mayor, Burgesses, and Commonalty, are to choose and name the preacher, schoolmaster, usher, and poor people for ever, and have power to remove, or displace them, for any just or reasonable cause; and all leases made without their consent are to be void, and so are all leases made for above twenty-one years, or for any time, if there be any income given. They had also license to purchase, receive, or hold any lands, &c. in mortmain to the value of 100 marks more. And also by this act, the Mayor, Burgesses, and Commonalty, shall appoint the curate of St. Mary's, for the time being, if any such do serve, to be the preacher, and if no curate serve there, then they may name any other person their preacher, which preacher shall be first presented to the Bishop, and be by him licensed before he takes upon him the place of preacher; and it is also provided, that the preacher, schoolmaster, usher, and fellows, chosen by the Corporation, must be allowed by the Bishop of the diocese, and the Justices of Assize of that circuit, for the time being.

On the school gate against the street is this inscription,

This HOSPITAL with perpetual Maintenance for a Preacher and a Grammar School, was founded by King JAMES, by Act of Parliament, according to the last Will of Sir Richard Fulmerston, Knight, A. D. 1610.

Over the door of the school porch are these words on a scroll,

Loyaute Me Oblige.

In the window of the schoolmaster's chamber are the arms of Edward the Confessor, and the West-Saxons, a red rose, and round it,
Vivat in Æternum Excellentissimus Rex Noster Henricus 8s.

On the alms-house is this, Quod Egenis, Christo fit, Mat. 25, 40.

For the masters of the hospital, or preachers, see p. 67.


1610, Rev. Mr. Wm. Jenkinson,—

Rev. Mr. Keene.

Rev. Mr. John Tirrell.

Rev. Mr. John Price.

1738, Rev. Mr. Tho. Eversdon, Master.


Mr. Tho. Browne, appointed by the Act.

Mr. Bings.

Mr. John Barber.

Mr. Stephen Swift. Mr. Tho. Eversdon.

The usher's place is now void.


  • 1. All freemen's sons are to be taught gratis.
  • 2. The Case is in Coke's Reports.
  • 3. There was a house built at the north end of the school, which belongs to the preacher, as doth Trinity churchyard, at this time. The school and house were built on the ruins of the old friars church, formerly the cathedral.
  • 4. This was done effectually by the the master, usher, and poor people, and the houses are now enjoyed by everybody.