Thetford, chapter 16: Of the hospitals in this town

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

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Francis Blomefield, 'Thetford, chapter 16: Of the hospitals in this town', An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805), pp. 77-80. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "Thetford, chapter 16: Of the hospitals in this town", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805) 77-80. British History Online, accessed June 13, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "Thetford, chapter 16: Of the hospitals in this town", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1805). 77-80. British History Online. Web. 13 June 2024,

In this section



There were six hospitals in this burgh,

1. St. Mary Magdalen's,

Which stood out of the town, on that piece of land lying at the division of the road, leading from the Fleece to Norwich, where the Kilverstone road strikes off to the right hand, it being some distance beyond the present lime-kilns; it is still called in evidences, MawdlinAcre; right before it, at the conjunction of the three roads, stood Magdalen-Cross, at which Shropham hundred court was sometimes kept, after it was granted from the Crown: there are no remains of the hospital to be seen, only one piece of old foundation, which the plough hath not yet conquered. It was at first a parish church, but its parish being annexed to St. Cuthbert's, in Henry the Third's time, it became a chapel, which John Earl Warren, who built the hospital, gave to the master and brethren for their use, and endowed it with lands and revenues to a considerable value; he continued patron during his life, and it went afterwards to the Earl of Lancaster. In 1360, Henry Duke of Lancaster died seized of the advowson, which passed with the dominion of Thetford, till it came to the Crown, and soon after was granted to the Mayor and Commonalty of Thetford, who presented, or nominated the custos or master, till the dissolution of it by Edward VI. who by letters patents dated the third day of May, in the third year of his reign, (1549,) granted to Sir Richard Fulmerston, Knt. and his heirs, all that hospital or free chapel of St. Mary Magdalen's, together with the site, chapel, and mansion thereof, in the parish of St. Cuthbert's in Thetford, in the county of Norfolk, with all houses, liberties, lands, &c. thereto belonging, with all rents reserved, &c. together with the fair called Mawdlin fair; (fn. 1) but the Corporation putting in a claim to the hospital and lands, by virtue of their being patrons, Sir Richard was forced to satisfy them immediately, which being done, the Mayor and Commonalty released the whole to him and his heirs, viz. the site of the hospital and chapel, and land adjoining to Reymond's-Wong at Blackdon-Hill, MagdalenBeane-House and Close, liberty of common in Kilverstone, and Thetford grounds, 40 acres in Halwick-Field, 5 acres at Small-Marsh, 40 acres which were given to the hospital by John of Woddington, 28 acres, &c. in Kilverstone, and other revenues, containing in the whole, as the release expresses, 260 acres of land, and 604 acres of pasture, and bruery, with liberty of 4 fold-courses, that sometime were called Gallion's liberties of fold-course, in Thetford, Kilverstone, Croxton, &c. And thus they came to Sir Richard Fulmerston, who died seized, among other things, (as the inquisition taken after his death informs me,) of the fair or market called Maædlin fair, and 25 acres of ground, with the site of the chapel of St. Mary Magdalyne, and Mawdelyne barn, &c. all which was held of the Queen in soccage, as of her dutchy of Lancaster, by fealty only; and also of a capital messuage or tenement in Croxton, (fn. 2) which belonged to this hospital, called the Chapel-houses, with all the lands, pastures, and appurtenances thereto belonging, and particularly the fold-courses, called the Chapel, young sheep's ground, and Chapel hog's ground, otherwise Gallion's liberties of fold-course, which are held of the Queen in capite, by the service of a fortieth part of a knight's fee. Part of this farm, viz. a messuage, and 43 acres and an half of land, with a fold-coarse in Croxton was settled in 1250, by Richard de Surrie, (fn. 3) and Sara his wife, on Stephen, Master of this hospital, (fn. 4) and his successours. There was a small religious foundation near Croxton church, called Domus Dei, or God's-House, which should seem by some evidences to belong to this hospital; but by what I can see, I rather think it belonged to Domus Dei hospital in Thetford, and after to the canons. Most of the other lands of this hospital, and all the liberties thereto belonging, were sold to the Norfolk family, and joined to the manors, with which they remain at this day.

2. St. John Baptist's

Is supposed to be founded by Roger Bygod, and to stand at the corner of Earl's or Alice's-lane against St. Cuthbert's cross, its church being in the orchard belonging to that house, the dove-house there shews as if it was fixed on part of its round steeple; it was a house of lepers, and as the town increased that way, was seated too much in it, for which reason, in all appearance, John Earl Warren, when he founded Magdalen hospital, suppressed this, and carried the brethren thither, after which we often find that house called St. Mary Magdalen's, and St. John Baptist's hospital in Thetford, and is rightly so named, by Mr. Speed in his Catalogue. (fn. 5) There was a gild belonging to it, kept in honour of St. John Baptist, which was translated to Magdalen hospital, and kept there till its dissolution, and great numbers of people were admitted brethren of it.

3. Virgin Mary And St. Julian's, (fn. 6)

Commonly called St. Julian's chapel, was founded in Henry the First's time, and most likely by that Prince himself, for the advowson of it came with the lordship to the Earl Warren, who always presented to it. Will. Hardyng was master or custos in 1325, and the year following resigned to Robert de Worcester, who was confirmed master or rector at Hardyng's resignation, 4 non. Aug. 1326, being presented by King Edward, as guardian to the heir of Ralf de Cobham, Knt. in right of the lordship of Thetford. The hospital-house, which was dedicated to St. Mary, is now standing, at the bridge-foot on the Norfolk side, being a dwelling-house; but the chapel, which was dedicated to St. Julian, and stood in the yard, is quite demolished, so that the exact place of its site is not known; it was a sort of an inn for the reception of pilgrims and poor people: I do not find when it was dissolved, nor who it was granted to, but it hath been a private property, as it now [1738] is, for many years. It was sometimes called St. Julian's Hermitage at the Bridge.

4. Domus Dei, Maison dieu, Or God's-House,

Stood on the Suffolk side, at the very corner of the canons close; the river washed its walls on the north, and the east side fronted the street; this was a very ancient house, founded, I believe, when the see was removed by William Rufus, who then had the lordship, for it appears to be erected by some lord of the town, because the advowson always belonged to the lordship; it was well endowed with lands and other revenues, viz. a house, and lands of considerable value in Croxton, (fn. 7) a great number of acres in Thetford, with a fold-course and sheeps' pasture, called Brayes, with lands in Lynford, &c. all which were taken from the hospital by John Earl Warren, in the time of Edward I. and settled on the canons of the Holy Cross in Thetford, and there continued to the Dissolution. The hospital still remained as before, in the gift of the Earl Warren, but had nothing to maintain it but the charity and alms of the people, besides such goods as were given to it by divers persons at their deaths. About this time William de Norton was master or custos of it, (fn. 8) who endeavoured all he could to hinder its total suppression, by leaving his whole substance to it; he died in 1318, and the same year, viz. 2 non. Oct. the Bishop, at Thorp by Norwich, admitted William Hardyng of Thefford, priest, to the mastership or custody of God's-House in Thefford, at the presentation of the noble John de Warren Earl of Surrey. At his admission he swore canonical obedience to the Bishop; at his entrance upon the mastership he received 3 scots, value 60s.; 10 milch cows, value 8s. each; 100 wethers, value 2s. each; 60 lambs, value 12d. each; 12 silver spoons, value 10s. each; one mazer [or copper] and other brass and wooden utensils, besides linen, corn, &c. all which the Bishop assigned to be converted to the profit of the house, they being the goods of Will. de Norton, chaplain, late master, who by his great prudence and good management had purchased and left them in the Bishop's hands to dispose of for the good of his soul, for which reason he swore the master at his admission, to leave them, or their value, to his successour, and not alien, part with, or bequeath them by will, to any one, but leave them to the house, as he found them.

And from this time the goods of the hospital daily increased, it being known that they had no certain revenues to depend upon, occasioned a greater number of gifts to them than they had before, and so the house revived and flourished, till the 22d of Edward III. (1347) and then Henry Duke of Lancaster, who was patron of it, granted the site of the hospital of Domus Dei, and all that belonged to that house, to the friars preachers that he had founded close by it, and from that time the whole site was laid into the friars preachers yard, and the hospital-house only left standing, in which one or two of their brethren resided, to get what alms they could of the passengers, for the profits of the house; and this is the reason that the friars monastery and this is often confounded in old evidences, it being called sometimes Domus Dei, Mason Dieu, or site of the Friars Preachers of the Old House. It went as the Friars Preachers did at the Dissolution, to which I refer you.

5. St. Margarets, see p. 72.

6. St. John's, see p. 71.


  • 1. This fair is now removed, and kept by St. Cuthbert's-Cross at the end of Magdalen-street, every year, on the 22d day of July, which is St. Mary Magdalen's day, and the day after the grant of it being procured by their founder.
  • 2. This whole farm was settled after his death, according to his will, on the school and hospital of his foundation at Thetford.
  • 3. I imagine he was a descendant from the family of Earl Warren and Surrey; the founder, who gave the rest of the land here.
  • 4. I take it he was the first master, and that it was not made an hospital till about 1247.
  • 5. Speed, fo. 815.
  • 6. Lib. Inst. 2, fo. 8.
  • 7. I take it Domus Dei in Croxton was a small place erected by some master of this hospital, on their lands in that town, and had always two or three brethren of this house resident there.
  • 8. Lib. Inst.