The city of Norwich, chapter 6: Of the city in William Rufus's time

Pages 21-22

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 VI.


Upon William Rufus's succession to the crown, Roger Bigod, who held the castle under the Conqueror, seized it, or rather retained it, which, as it happened, was unfortunate for the city, he being in the interest of Rob. Curthose Duke of Normandy, elder brother to Rufus, whom he assisted to the utmost of his power by garrisoning the castle, wasting the city and adjacent country, and spoiling such as would not join with him. The Essay on the Antiquity of the Castle, p. 21, says, that Roger Bigot had the custody of it committed to him; and quotes the Baronage, fo. 132, for this purpose; but there we find nothing of its being committed to his custody, but on the contrary, that "adhering to those great men, who put themselves in arms against the King, he fortified the castle of Norwich, on the behalf of Robert Curthose, and wasted the country thereabouts." Sure I am, that Roger was of them (meaning that favoured Curthose) who seized or garrisoned the castle at Norwich, and wasted all that land or country: (fn. 1) and accordingly Holingshed tells us, in the reign of this King, that in the year 1088, "Roger de Bigod departing from Norwich, with great forreys (or foragers) over-rode and robbed all the countreys about, and conveyed such riches as he had gotten, into the said city." But these troubles being appeased by the King's making large promises to the English, that he would restore them such favourable lawes as they wished and desired, and upon his commanding all unjust imposts, tolls, and tollages, to be laid down, and granting freehunting in the woods, chases, and forests, to his subjects, which he knew was a thing very agreeable, and much desired, he had respite from the insurrections, but yet the whole was not settled till 1091, when there was peace made between the King and his brother Robert Duke of Normandy, one article of which was, that the lands and inheritances of all such as had assisted Robert should be restored; by virtue of which, this castle, &c. was in the custody of Roger Bygot, by the King's consent, who it seems dwelt peaceably the rest of this King's reign, and answered the King his part of the profits, of the castle, city, &c. as is evident by his never being complained of for want of so doing; and from this time the city began to recover itself, which Herbert Losinga, then Bishop of Thetford, perceiving, having been quite disappointed, as well as his predecessors, as to settling the see at Bury, he determined to translate it hither, and that contributed very much to raise the city to that degree that it soon rose unto in these times; and it is plain that Roger had a great hand in this translation, it being said in the King's charters and grants made to the Bishop, that he did it at Roger's request, who seemingly had a mind to bring the see to his chief mansion, which was the Castle here; and so the see, as all agree, was by Herbert translated and fixed here Apr. 9, Ao. 1094, and in the year 1096, he laid the first stone of the cathedral church. And this confirmed the flourishing state of the city, which from this time daily increased in wealth, trade, and buildings.

At this time Alsi, Abbot of Ramsey, owned several tenements here, for the King directed his writ to Bishop Herbert, to let him have soc, sac, toll, theam, infangenthef, and all customs that his ancestors had.

Speed, fo. 437, exhibits a coin of this King coined here, round the head is [w]illem rex anglorum, and on the reverse godric MOnetarius nor[thwi]c. i.e. William King of the Englishmen, and Godric Mintmaster of Norwich.

More I find not of this King, nor any thing in reference to this place in his time, only make no doubt but that the number of Jews here much increased, as well as elsewhere, he being such a favourer of that people, who (we are not to imagine) had it for nothing. He died in the year 1100, being accidentally killed as he hunted in NewForest, by Sir Walter Tirrell, who shot at a stag, and the arrow glanced from a tree into the King's breast, so deep that he died immediately.


  • 1. [see original, page 22]