The city of Norwich, chapter 17: Of the city in Henry IV's time

Pages 117-126

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 3, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part I. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.

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CHAPTER XVII. Of The City In Henry The Fourth's Time.

King Henry the Fourth having assumed the crown, was proclaimed King the last day of September, King Richard, who was then in the Tower, having publickly renounced, the day before, at which renunciation Sir Tho. Erpingham, Knt. Warden of the Cinque-Ports, and Lord Chamberlain, was appointed commissioner by the parliament, for the bachelors and commons of the south part of the realm, and Dionise of Lopham was one of the publick notaries that signed the instrument. (fn. 1) This Sir Thomas was a Norfolk man, and a great favourite both of King and commons, for in the 6th year of this reign, the commons in parliament petitioned the King, that it would please him to remember the service of Sir Thomas Erpingham, Sir Tho. Bempson, John Northbury or Norbury, and other valiant knights and squires, who adventured themselves with him at his coming into the kingdom, and endeavoured as much as possible to confirm him on the throne: for I find Sir Thomas was afterwards in great favour with the city, and kept correspondence with the citizens for that purpose, and in order to oblige them, sent them the King's charter of confirmation, (fn. 2) of all their former charters, dated at Westminster, the 6th of February, 1399. The witnesses to which are, Tho. Arundel Archbishop of Canterbury, Ric. Scroop Archbishop of York, Rob. Braybrook Bishop of London, John Fordham Bishop of Ely, Edm. Stafford Bishop of Exeter, Edmund Duke of York, the King's uncle, Henry de Percy Earl of Northumberland, and Constable of England, Ralph de Nevile of Westmorland, Marshal of England, John Earl of Somerset, Chamberlain, John de Scarle, Clerk of the Chancery, and John Norbury, Treasurers, Will. de Roos of Hamlak, Reginald Grey of Ruthyn, Will. de Willughby, Tho. Kempston, Steward of the Household, and Master Ric. Clifford, Keeper of the Privy-Seal. In which we may observe, that the Bishop of Norwich is not among the witnessses, the reason of which was, because Sir Hugh Spencer, his nephew, was one of the lords that conspired against the King with the Abbot of Westminster, to dethrone him, and Bishop Spencer was suspected to be in that conspiracy with his relation, and Sir Thomas Erpingham and others were then preparing an accusation against him; (fn. 3) for it appears in the acts of the congregations or assemblies held in this city, that at an assembly held on Sunday before the Feast of St. Valentine, at which the bailiffs and seventy-four more of the principal citizens were present, there were letters testimonial signed and sealed with the common seal of the city, at Sir Thomas's request, to testify certain matters objected against the Bishop of Norwich, the copy of which was left with the town-clerk: so mutable were the citizens at that time, and ready to do whatever was asked, whether right or wrong, that in order to oblige the King and court, they were willing even to sacrifice the very man that had so lately saved them, their houses, goods, and families, from death and destruction: but the earnest desire they had entertained for their new charter, which they now hoped to get, made them do any thing that the court asked; but it was to no purpose, for notwithstanding their testimonial, the Bishop cleared himself, and was not molested at all: but least any thing should be attempted, at an assembly held on Thursday after St. Valentine, it was ordered that one of the city serjeants, and two constables of each leet, should warn all persons to be ready in their best armour, in the abbey yard called the Green-Yard, every one being accoutred according to his degree, on the day before St. Matthew next, at 11 o'clock, there to be mustered, and receive orders to be in a readiness at all times, and this under penalty of the King's forfeiture. (fn. 4)

In 1400, Will. Blakehommore, Margery his wife, and Jeffry de Bixton, gave the messuage which formerly they purchased of Hugh Holland, with the lime kilns, garden, house, and shops, in the parishes of St. Edward and St. Peter per Southgate, lying between Hildebrond's hospital north, St. Peter's churchyard and glebe land, south, the street, east, and the Prioress of Carhow's land called Boteler'sHills, now Butterhills, west, to the city for ever, towards the repairs of the banks of the river Wensum. (fn. 5)

In 1401, the King's letters patents were directed to the bailiffs, commanding them to build him some new barges, towards prosecuting his wars.

In 1402, the grand affair of procuring the charter took up great part of their time, assemblies being held at the Chapel in the Fields, very often upon that occasion, and messengers were continually going backward and forward to London about it, but all to no purpose, for Bishop Spencer had so far convinced the King and court of his integrity, that without him they would do nothing; and he (as we may rightly judge) had really no reason to comply with their requests, considering how basely he had been used by them; but nevertheless they were obliged to send to him, and entreat his favour in the affair, and for that purpose, two of the bailiffs, Roger de Blickling, and John Yelverton the Recorder, were sent to wait upon the Bishop at his palace at North-Elmham, where he then resided, to solicit his favour, and beg that he would not continue to oppose their charter, and by their management he acquiesced; and it seems at that time, all the citizens that had signed the testimonial against him, were under excommunication; for at another assembly, orders were read directed to John Derlington the Chancellor, to absolve all persons in the city of Norwich from their excommunication: and now having no obstacles to encounter with, they agreed to lend the King 1000 marks, by which they so much obliged him, that it was signified to them, that they might frame a charter, as large and ample as they could devise, and it should be passed, upon which it was resolved in assembly, that the bailiffs and citizens should take the best advice they could, in drawing the charter, at the common expense, and then Will. de Crakeford, Rob. Baas, and John Clerk, were sent backward and forward, to and from London, concerning it, making what interest they could among the great ones there; and I find, that Henry Lord Peircy Earl of Northumberland, their great friend, was here this year, to borrow the thousand marks for the King, who was then in great want of money, for soon after, it appears, the city treasurers paid 6l. for two pipes of wine given to the Earl of Northumberland, and for 90li. of wax, twenty-seven of weyk, five quarters of oats, and making six large torches, for his retinue; and this very year, the Scots having declared open war, and the French being ready to join them, the King was under some apprehensions of their landing on these coasts, and therefore dispatched messengers to the bailiffs of the city, who immediately mustered their forces, both hoblers (fn. 6) and archers, proclaiming, that if any of the principal persons were deficient in their armour, they should forfeit 5 marks, and every archer not sufficiently arrayed, 20s. and every one should be sworn, that their harness or armour was their proper own, and no one's else; this being done, they immediately raised the city banner, on which the city arms were painted, and sent 20 armed men of their chief citizens, as Will. Sedman, John Copping, Tho. Gerard, Rob. Brasier, &c. and 40 archers, to Yarmouth, where they staid three days, and the citizens were paid 2s. a day, and the archers 1s. and then the King's ships and forces coming thither, they were discharged, with thanks for their care. (fn. 7)

In 1403, John le Latimer was dead, and left the city a legacy of 10l. several legacies being left towards procuring their charter, with which, and other money, the expenses of the charter's passing, were paid, as were also the 1000 marks lent the King, his Majesty having assigned a part of the subsidy granted him, for that purpose, which paid it all but 38l. and that was after paid by the subsidy of the town of Lyn, which was assigned for that purpose, for Warine at Hall and others were sent to the mayor and commons of Lyn, to know whether they would pay the subsidy levied upon them to the King's use, to the citizens of Norwich, or no? which at first they refused, as also a second time, but paid it the third time of going, to John Rippelay, to the use of the city. (fn. 8)

And this year the King's writ came down, by which four citizens were ordered to be returned to parliament for the city; but at that time this was so far from being thought a privilege, that they paid John de Alderford 3l. (fn. 9) to get it altered, for two only, as before; whereas when the writ was issued, it was doubtless thought a further addition to the honour of the city, upon their new charter, but being expensive, (for at that time burgesses in parliament had daily wages for their attendance,) the city got it altered, and they sent only two, as usual.

The city having obliged the King by the many signal services before mentioned, his Majesty, according to promise, granted them a new charter, (fn. 10) in as ample a form as they desired. It is dated at Westminster, Jan. 28, in the fifth year of his reign, and in the year of our Lord 1403, and is witnessed by Thomas Arundel Archbishop of Canterbury, Ric. Scroop Archbishop of York, Rob. Braybrook Bishop of London, John Fordham Bishop of Ely, Henry Beaufort Bishop of Lincoln, Chancellor, John Earl of Somerset, the King's brother, Ralf Earl of Westmorland, Marshal of England, Will. Roos of Hamlak, Treasurer, Will. de Willughby, Will. Heron Lord Say, Steward of the Household, and Thomas Langley, Keeper of the Privy Seal. In the preamble of which the King recites, "that by reason of the great affection that we have and bear to our city of Norwich, and the citizens and commonalty of the said city, and in consideration of the good behaviour of the citizens of the said city towards us, and of the voluntary service by them in time past often given us, being desirous to advantage the said city, and in a special manner to provide for the profit of those citizens, their heirs and successours, of our special grace we have granted,

That the city and all the land within the city, and the liberty of the same, with the suburbs and their hamlets and their bounds, and all the land round the liberty thereof, (the old Shire-house only excepted,) shall be, and are hereby separated from the county of Norfolk, and be altogether exempt both by land and water, and are hereby made a county of, and by themselves, which shall be for ever called, The County of the City of Norwich." And by this charter, the offices of the bailiffs were extinguished, and they had power to elect a Mayor (fn. 11) yearly, which Mayor as soon as elected, and his successours, on their election, always shall be the King's escaetor, in the city and liberties thereof.

They are always every year to elect two Sheriffs for the city and its county, the citizens and commonalty being to elect both Mayor and Sheriffs.

Every Escaetor, as soon as Mayor and entered upon his office, shall take his oath to perform the office of escuetor, before some person assigned by the King's writ to receive it, but shall not be compelled to go out of the city to take such oath.

The Sheriffs are to be sworn by the Mayor, in the Gild-hall, and their names returned into Chancery.

The escaetor and sheriff of Norfolk, are not to enter the city or county of Norwich.

The Sheriffs of Norwich, like other sheriffs, are to hold their county court from month to month, on Monday, (fn. 12) and have the same liberties and privileges as other sheriffs of counties and escaetors have, and are to receive all profits thereof, as the bailiffs of the city heretofore used to hold the courts and recive the profits. (fn. 13)

No citizens are to plead or be impleaded, for or concerning any lands in the city or its county, neither before the King or any of his justices, in any court out of the bounds of the city and its county, nor for any bargain made, or transgression done in those bounds, neither are the King's justices to enter, or concern themselves in any thing thereto belonging, but all shall be done before the Mayor and Sheriffs, according to the law and custom of the city.

The Steward and Marshal of the King's Household are not to intermeddle, either in his Majesty's presence or absence, unless in cases of transgressions, bargains, contracts, and debts, in the King's household, or those which are members of the household. (fn. 14)

The citizens and commonalty are to have cognizance of all pleas, assizes, novel disseisin, (fn. 15) and mort de aunceter, (fn. 16) of all lands and tenements in the city and its county, as well those pleas that are triable before the justices of both Benches, as justices of assize or justices itinerants, all which shall be tried before the Mayor and Sheriffs in the Gild-hall.

The deputy of the escaetor and sheriffs, who must be deputed under the city seal, is yearly to account in the Exchequer for the profits, but shall not be compelled to go out of the city to account.

The Mayor, Sheriffs, citizens, and commonalty, have full power and liberty to appropriate and make the best of all gates, bridges and waste-grounds, both by land and water, in the whole liberties, to enable them to repair the gates and walls.

The Mayor is to try all causes, where the Sheriffs shall any way be charged with doing wrong, and hath power to relieve the oppressed, by punishing the sheriffs according to the offence.

The Mayor for the time being is always a justice of the peace by his office, and shall yearly choose four others, to be justices for his assistants, and no justice of the county of Norfolk, or any other justices of peace whatever, are to exercise their office in the city or its county, either by land or water.

The Mayor is not to determine any case of felony, without the King's special mandate.

The Citizens are to have all fines, issues, forfeitures, and amerciaments, accruing by virtue of the office of justice of the peace.

The Mayor, Sheriffs, &c. are to have all victuals forfeited by law, as bread wine, and ale, and all other things not belonging to merchandise.

The Mayor, Sheriffs, &c. are to have the sword which the King gave them, or some other, (fn. 17) carried before them, with the point erect, in the presence of all lords or nobles of the realm, whether they be of the royal blood or no, "our presence only excepted." (fn. 18)

The serjeants at mace belonging to the mayor and sheriffs are to carry gold or silver maces, gilt or ungilt, with the King's arms thereon, both in the King's presence, as also in the presence of the Queenconsort, or Queen-mother, in the city and its county, as their proper serjeants at arms.

Neither the steward nor marshal of the King's household, nor the clerk of the market of the King's household, shall ever enter or sit within the city or its county, or exercise any jurisdiction there, or draw or force the citizens to answer them any where out of their liberty.

No purveyor or taker of victuals, (fn. 19) or other officer, shall purvey or take any victuals of the citizens, (fn. 20) without their free will, unless they take them at full price, and for the King's own use, and pay down the money at the delivery.

The city coroners are to exercise in the liberties the same privileges as other coroners, in the King's presence or absence, as they immemorially did.

And lastly, no damage is to come to the city by reason of this alteration of the bailiffs, to a mayor and sheriffs, but the mayor, sheriffs, citizens, and commonalty, by this charter have, and may use, and enjoy, as confirmed to them, all things, the same as the bailiffs, citizens, and commonalty, their predecessors, had, used, and enjoyed, before this alteration.

The Charter being finished, it was brought down, with the sword that the King presented them with, and was received with great joy by all the city; and in pursuance thereof, on the first of May 1403, they chose William Appleyerd their first Mayor, the Bailiffs bolding their office till Michaelmas following, which then expired, and they chose two Sheriffs, according to their charter.

Bailiffs of Norwich.

1400, Roger de Blickling, Barth. de Blakeney, Tho. Garard or Gerrard, Hugh Skeet or Skeyt.

1401, John Daniel, Edm. Warner, Will. Appleyard, Will. Everard.

1402, Rob. de Hunworth, John de Harleston, Will. Sedman, John Copping.

1403, Rob. Brasier, John Daniel, Rich. Purdance, Tho. Leveriche, and these were the last bailiffs of Norwich, the two first of which were chosen the first sheriffs of the city.

In 1404, there was an assembly called to settle the manner of elections of sheriffs, and it was then ordained, that for the future, there should be 80 persons elected yearly, to be at all common assemblies in a place by themselves, and that the majority of them should name three persons yearly for sheriffs, and declare their names to the commons in a place by themselves, who should refuse any they pleased of the three, and if they liked none of them, the 80 were to retire and name three more, till they named three the commons approved of, and then the town-clerk and some of the 80 were to carry the three names approved by the commons, to the mayor and chief men, (fn. 21) in another place by themselves, and the mayor was to name one of them for sheriff, and the chief men the other; and accordingly at this election, Sampson Baxter, (whom Nevile by mistake calls Barker,) John Skye and John Bylawe, were chosen by the 80, confirmed by the commons and returned to the mayor and chief men, and the mayor named Baxter, the chief men Skye; and this was the constant form of elections for some years, by which we may observe, that in the lists of the sheriffs, the mayor's sheriff is always first named,

And this year, Henry Lomynour, John Daniel, and eighteen more were chosen by the commons, to agree upon and settle all the articles and ordinances made by the court or chief men of the city, in relation to the election and oath of the mayor, and good government of the city.

In 1405, there was an act made, that no man or woman of what estate or condition they be, shall put their son or daughter to serve as apprentice, to any craft or other labour, within any city or borough in the realm, except he hath land of 20s. per annum at least, but they shall be put to other labour, as their estates doth require; (fn. 22) by which this city was so much damaged, that they got it repealed in Henry the Seventh's time, as appears in that King's reign.

And for the safety of the city, the tenement Geywood's, was let for a publick inn or reception for all foreigners staying to work here, and a penalty of 5l. was laid upon all others that took in strangers to lodge for any time. (fn. 23)

This year is also remarkable for being the first time that ever a cannon was used in England, which was against the town of Berwick, and battered down the walls, so that the King immediately took it. (fn. 24)

In 1406, his Majesty vouchsafed to visit this city, as appears by the Assembly Book, in which the money raised against the King's coming ismentioned. (fn. 25)

At this time, the citizens claimed four acres and an half of ground which belonged to the Chapel in the Field, but they were made easy in that respect by John Rekynghale, dean there, who on the 4th of July, came before John Daniel, mayor, Edm. Warner and Richard Drewe, sheriffs, in open court, Will. Sedman, and Robert Dunston, the supervisors of the city revenues, being present, and produced the grant of Hugh Prior of the canons at Old-Bukenham, in which he and his convent granted and for ever released, four acres and an half of arable land, lately given to that monastery, by Richard le Fraunceys, lying in Chapel-feld Croft, within the city ditch, on which it abutted south, for an annual pension of 10s. payable by the dean to that monastery for ever, William le Cunte, Roger de Swerdeston, &c. being bailiffs; (fn. 26) so that it was made about 1267.

In 1407 Jeffry Bixton, citizen, gave a moiety of a messuage, &c. in Norwich, to the honour of God and the profit of the city, to repair the banks of the river Wensum.

In 1408, on the third Sunday after Easter, on which day the mayors were then usally chosen, according to the custom of the city, the 80 named Roger Blickling, and Edmund Warner, and notified their nomination by the coroners and town-clerk, to the chief men, or 24, of the mayor's counsel, and they appointed Edm. Warner mayor for this year.

In 1409, at the request of the commons, (fn. 27) it was granted, that the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty of Norwich, shall for certain years, have the aulnage and survey of measuring all manner of worsteds made in Norwich or Norfolk, and none shall be sold without their seal, for which they shall take a halfpenny for each piece sealed, and such as are not measure shall be forfeited, half to the King, and half to the city; in which grant, all the terms, makings, and quantities of worsteds may be seen: this aulnage and seal was let this year to two citizens at 20 marks rent.

It appears, their old friend Sir Tho. Erpingham procured them this grant, for which they presented him with 10 marks, and Robert Dunston and Will. Ampulford, who were sent to London to solicit, were allowed 25 marks for the grant and their expenses. This answered so well, that in 1448 they got Henry VI. to renew it.

This year, to oblige the King, they let him 500 marks, which, according to the King's commission directed to the Bishop of Norwich, and Sir Thomas, who were good friends, the city raised out of their common stock, all but 200 marks, to make up the sum, which was assessed by a common tax. This was afterwards repaid, and in

1410, the city paid Richard Kolys, serjeant at arms to the King, all his expenses, and five marks reward, for coming from London to Norwich, and for riding to Yarmouth to Northwalsham, Thetford, Wigenhall, and Lyn, to make proclamation of the late statute concerning worstede clothes, and of the aulnage granted to the city, that nobody might pretend ignorance, and so sell without being sealed.

And this is all that I have found of the remarkable transactions that happened in relation to the city in this King's reign, which ended on March the 20th, in the year of our Lord 1412, when he died at Westminster, and was buried at Canterbury.

When the charter first came down, the seal of the bailiffs was disused, and a new city seal made; in the midst is our Blessed Saviour arising from his tomb, with a glory about his head, his right-hand is held up towards heaven, and in his left hand is a mound or globe, with the cross on its top; he stands in the portal of a Gothick building, having over it the arms of France and England quartered, on the right hand of him is a shield of the city arms, viz. a triple towered castle, and under it, a lion passant guardant, and on his left-hand in another shield, is a plain cross, the arms of St. George, or the English flag, the circumscription is this:

Sigillum officii maioratus (fn. 28) Siuitatis normici.

The Seal of the Office of Majoralty of the City of Norwich.

Mayors and Sherifs of Norwich.

1403, William Appleyard, mayor. Robert Brasier, John Daniel, sheriffs. John Yelverton, Esq. recorder.

1404, Will. Appleyard 2. Sampson Baxter, John Skye.

1405, Will. Appleyard 3.

1406, John Daniel 1.

1407, Walter Daniel 1.

1408, Edm. Warner.

1409, Walter Daniel 2.

1410, Robert Brasier. Jeffry Audeley.

1411, Will. Appleyard 4.

1412, Will. Appleyard 5.

John Harleston, Rich. Spurdaunce.

Edm. Warner, John Drewe.

Tho. Garrard, John Wurlich.

Tho. Parlet, John Bixley.

Walt. Mosely, John Manning.

John de Shottesham or Scotham,

John Leverich, John Wake.

Rich. White, John Crownthorp.

Burgesses in Parliament.

1 Hen. IV. Parl. at Westm. Henry Lomynour, William de Blicklyng.

2 Parl. at York, Edm. Warner, Wil. de Crakeford.

2 Parl at Westm. Edm. Warner, Walt. Eton.

3 Ditto, William Appleyerd, William de Crakeford.

5 Parl. at Lond. Will. Everard, Walt. de Eton.

7 Parl. at Westm. Walt. de Eton, John Alderford.

8 Parl. at Gloucest. Walt. de Eton, Rob. de Dunston.

10 Parl. at Westm. Rob. Dunston, Will. Ampulford.

13 Ditto. Tho. Gerard, Barth. Appleyerd.

14 Ditto. Barth. Appleyerd, J. Alderford.

14 Ditto. Will. Sedman, John Biskelee.


  • 1. Prinne's Abridgement of the Records, &c. 1 H. 4. 23 R. 2. and 12 H. 4. Hol. fo. 510.
  • 2. This charter is lost, but is in all the inspeximuses ever since Henry V.
  • 3. Hol. 514.
  • 4. Viz. of 10l.
  • 5. Domsday Civit. fo. 86. Lib. Alb. fo. 13.
  • 6. Hoblers were persons obliged by their tenure to find a little light swift horse, to certify or carry tidings of an invasion by the sea side, and so light-horsemen in general were after called hoblers, that is, riders on hobbies, as we still call them.
  • 7. Comp. Thesaurar. 4 H. 4. Mag. Cong. apud Capellam in Campis, 4 H. 4. Congr. die Lune post Dominicam Ramis Palmarum 4 H. 4. Congr. die Jovis in Festo Cene, 4 H. 4. Congr. post Fest. Sce. Marie Magd. 4 H. 4.
  • 8. Lib. Comp. Thesaur. 5 H. 4.
  • 9. Compot. Thesaur. 5 H. 4. item, (solut.) Johi. de Alderford, pro correctione cujusdam brevis pro quatuor civibus venientibus ad parliamentum, 60 sol.
  • 10. The original charter is lost, but it is exemplified at length in the inspeximus of Henry V. and ever since, and is inrolled, viz. Int. Plita. Term. Pasche, Ao. 5 H. 4. Rot. 12. coram Rege.
  • 11. Holingshed, vol. ii. fo. 172, derives the word maire or mayor; from Mar, in Hebrew, Dominus, of in English, Lord, whence it came to pass that the head officer and lieutenant to the prince, as well in London as other cities and towns of the realm, are called by the name of mayor, though in the cities of London and York, for an augmentation of honour, by an ancient custom (through ignorance what the title of mayor signifies) they have an addition, and are intituled by the name of Lord-Mayor, where mayor, simply pronounced of itself, signifieth no less than Lord, without any such addition.
  • 12. Comitatum suum ibidem per diem Lune de mense in mensem:
  • 13. The bailiffs used to hold their courts every Wednesday and Saturday.
  • 14. In 1405, the steward and marshal held a court at East-Dearham, and then the city pleaded this liberty and had it allowed.
  • 15. See p. 43.
  • 16. Mort d'ancestre is a writ which lies where any of a man's ancestors died seized of lands, and some stranger enters upon them.
  • 17. Gladium suum eis per nos datum, aut alium gladium.
  • 18. Extra presenciam nostram, vel heredum nostrorum. So that the sword is not to be carried before the mayor in the King's presence, but only with the point downwards, unless the mayor, as is usual, carries it himself with the point erect before his Majesty.
  • 19. Nullus provisor aut captor victualium, &c.
  • 20. Aliquam prisam faciat nec victualia capiat, &c.
  • 21. Probis hominibus, the chief men, as recorder, mayor, justices, council, &c.
  • 22. Keble, fo. 206.
  • 23. Rot. Congr. 3 Apr. 6 H. 4.
  • 24. Speed, fo. 405.
  • 25. Congregatio die Veneris post Festum Sci: Ambrosij. 8 H. 4. electi sunt auditores, ad audiend: Compotum de pecunijs levatis contra adventum Dni: Regis Henrici.
  • 26. Custom Book, fo. 7. b.
  • 27. Keble, 199, 208. Comp. Thes. 11 H. 4. Claus. 3 E. 3. Mem. 13. 11 H. 4. R. 48. 27 H. 6. p. 1. M. 14.
  • 28. Ita.