The city of Norwich, chapter 7: Of the city in Henry I's time

Pages 23-24

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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This King at his coming to the crown, met with opposition from several of the great men of the kingdom, who favoured Robert Duke of Normandy, his elder brother, who was then engaged in the Holy War; upon this, Roger Bigot stood true to the King, and so became a great favourite, for he was one of his witnesses to his laws, (fn. 1) and in the first year of his reign, had Framlingham in Suffolk of the King's gift, and was constable of the castle to his death: in 1104, or some say in 1103, at the request of the King and Queen, the Bishop, and his own wife, he founded the priory or abbey at Thetford, and at his death was buried in the cathedral, (fn. 2) being succeeded by

William Bygod, his son, who was also constable of this castle, and as such, sole governour of the city, steward of the King's household, and a great favourite: he was drowned in going to Normandy with the King's children, in the twentieth year of this King's reign, and was succeded in honour and estate by

Hugh Bigot, his brother, who was also steward of the household to King Henry I. constable of the castle, and sole governour of the city, and so continued till 1122, in which year the King came to Norwich, and kept his Christmas there; (fn. 3) and it is plain he much liked the accommodation and treatment of the citizens, for he then granted them by charter the same franchises and liberties as the city of London then had. And from this time they were governed by a Præpositus, Provost, or Portreve, chosen by the King, who was to collect all the King's duties, and govern the city; and this was the first grant or charter the city had, by which the government of it was severed from the castle, the constable of which till now, was always sole governour, and answered the King his two parts of the profits, and kept the third to himself; and the sheriff, who was then under him, was the officer that collected it; but now the third part of the profits remained to the castle, and was the King's liberty belonging to the castle, which belonged to the constable thereof, who governed it by the sheriff,

And the king's two parts became the citizens, who by this charter exercised all jurisdictions that the King did, in reference to those parts, and returned their fee-farm or annual profits, by the hands of their Provost, who accounted yearly for them to the King: whether this officer was recommended by the citizens to the King, which is most likely, it being annual, or whether the King named without any such recommendation, I cannot find; neither have I met with any copy of this charter, though the truth of it is confirmed not only from many evidences, but by the charter of Henry II. which mentions it.

Daniel, fo. 56, tells us that this King, "had an especial regard to the due administration of justice, that no corruption or oppression might disease his people, whereby things were carried to that eveness, between the great men and commons, as gave all satisfaction; he made divers progresses into remote parts of the land, to see how the state was ordered, and for that purpose, whensoever he was in England, he kept no certain residence, but solemnized the great festivals in several and far distant places of the kingdom, that all might partake of him." A laudable and good example, worthy the learning of this King, who deservedly had the name of Beauclerk, or the fine scholar; for Fuller says, "he was one that crossed the common proverb, the greatest clerks are not the wisest men, being one of the most profound scholars, and most politick princes in his generation." (fn. 4)

It appears from the record called Testa de Nevil, that at this time felons were imprisoned in the castle, for it is said that the lands of Bunde son of Harvy Gamel, a resident in North Erpingham hundred, who was imprisoned at Norwich on account of his wife's death, and was acquitted by Harvy Belet, were in the King's hands, but were to be restored.

To say exactly what were the liberties granted, and exercised by, the city in this King's reign, for want of copies of the records, no one can; but whatever they were, they enjoyed them peaceably to his death, in 1135.


  • 1. Dug. Bar. vol. i. fo. 132.
  • 2. It is said in several accounts that I have seen, that this year was a great plague in Norwich, which seems true, though it is omitted by many historians, for the Saxon Chronicle, under this year, says, "Grievous and lamentable was this year, by reason of the heaviest pestilence." (p. 217.)
  • 3. [see printed volume, page 23]. Sax. Cron. p. 223.
  • 4. Fuller's Chu. Hist. L. 3, fo. 13.