The city of Norwich, chapter 11: Of the city in King John's time

Pages 39-41

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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John, after the death of his brother Richard, was proclaimed King of England, in April 1199, and was crowned in May following; and upon the French King's invading Normandy, he soon after went thither; but though he was out of the realm, the citizens found means to apply to him, by the interest of John de Grey, (fn. 1) a Norfolk man born, who the year following was made Bishop of Norwich, who promising the King 300 marks to be paid by the citizens, which was accordingly performed the next year, obtained a confirmation of all their liberties, which charter is still extant in the gild-hall at Norwich, with his broad seal of green wax still appendant thereto; (fn. 2) it bears date at Caen in Normandy, September 28, Ao Domini 1199, and was passed or sealed by the hands of Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury, the King's Chancellor, Henry Bishop of Salisbury, Simon Archdeacon of Welles, John de Grey aforesaid, John de Brauncester, Ralph Earl of Chester, William Earl of Arundel, Robert Earl of Leicester, Philip Fitz-Robert, and Will. de Huntingfeld, being witnesses. It is word for word the same as the charter of Richard I. only in the style, the King hath the additional title of "Lord of Irland," and in the direction, these words, "to all Provosts and Bailiffs," are added; and in the reservation of the fee-farm, instead of the words "esterlings by tale" it is, "sterling blanch," (fn. 3) that is, white or silver money.

In 1202, the ordinance for the assize of bread was proclaimed throughout the whole realm, as most necessary and profitable for the commonwealth, which assize was approved and assessed by the baker of Jeffry Fitz-Peter, Lord Chief Justice of England. And all were to obey it, under penalty of the pillory. (fn. 4)

In 1203, the citizens tried, convicted, and hung, (fn. 5) several assayers (fn. 6) or triers of money, that were arrested in this city, under pretence of their charter; but it appearing, that all persons belonging to the mint, were excepted out of their jurisdiction by the very words of their charter, in 1205, the King seized all their liberties for this offence, by the hand of the sheriff of Norfolk. (fn. 7)

In 1210, the Jews all over England were grievously taxed, and many, for want of payment thereof, vexed and imprisoned, but most of those of this city met with but little difficulty, they paying without any trouble.

In 1213, Alfrid of Norwich, clerk, one of a noble or good family, who pleaded and produced the Pope's bull in a certain cause in the Exchequer, was called to an account for that presumptuous action by the King, he having commanded the contrary, and was imprisoned for it at Notingham, and so loaded with fetters that he died. (fn. 8)

In 1212, Roger Bigot Earl of Norfolk attended the King into Poictou; (fn. 9) but afterwards, in 1215, he sided with the rebellious Barons, against their prince, upon which the castle was seized, and William Marshall Earl of Pembrook, being then associated with John FitzRobert in the sheriffalty of Norfolk and Suffolk, were by patent made constables of the castles of Norwich and Orford in Suffolk, but were soon discharged of those trusts; (fn. 10) for on the 19th of July, in the same year, Hubert de Burgh, (fn. 11) a Norfolk man born, (fn. 12) and afterwards Earl of Kent, was made governour of the castles of Norwich and Orford: in this same year, (fn. 13) King John retiring from his Barons into the isle of Wight, dispatched the Bishops of Norwich and Worcester beyond sea, to raise him forces, and meet him about Michaelmas at Dover, which they did, with such forces as they had got out of Poictou and elsewhere, and had not Hugh de Boves (to whom the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk were allotted for services to be done) setting out from Calice with 40,000 more, (men, women, and children) been by a sudden tempest drowned in the sea, he had made a universal conquest of his kingdom, for with those he had, in half a year's time he recovered all his castles, which forced the Barons, in the year 1216, to solicit Lewis, the French King's son, to come and take upon him the crown of England, who landed at Sandwich in Kent, May 21, with 680 vessels, upon which, King John (who at first designed to give him battle) withdrew, and fled towards Gilford: Lewis went to Canterbury, which, with all Kent, submitted to him; thence he came to London, and was honourably received of the citizens, who did homage to him; then taking divers castles, he hasted to Winchester, to give the King battle, which when King John heard, he fled: the city submitted to Lewis, and there almost all the Earls and Barons of the realm met him; then taking the castle of Odiham, and the tower of London, he returned into Kent, and on the 22d of July, besieged Hubert de Burgh, till Oct. 14, in his castle of Dover, who being not able to abide the assault any longer, obtained truce to send to King John for succour, who all this while went about the land, wasting with fire and sword the possessions of his barons, and so marching through Norfolk and Suffolk, he came to Linn, where the townsmen received him with great joy, and honoured him with large gifts, and passing from thence over the marshes, he came to Swynested abbey, thence to Newark-Castle, where he died, Oct. 19, 1216. (fn. 14) This King, to raise money, as also to gain the affections of his people of the principal places of his realm, granted a great number of charters of privileges, so that he made more corporations than any one of his predecessors or successours; he incorporated Linn, Eye, Dunwich, Ipswich, Yarmouth, &c. in Norfolk and Suffolk, and first granted the citizens of London to have a mayor. (fn. 15)

In this King's time, the contest between the monks and citizens began, concerning their right of commoning, with the prior's tenants, on the lands between Eaton, Lakenham, Herford-Bridges, and Norwich, but at last the matter was adjusted by fine levied in the King's court.


  • 1. Hist. Norff. vol. i. fo. 577. the Pipe Roll. 3 Johis.
  • 2. It was the custom anciently, when any charter or evidence of consequence was made, to make and seal several originals, and accordingly we see several old charters in the gild-hall, exactly alike, and marked on the back, sometimes duplicatur, intimating that there were two made and sealed: others have the words, prima, secunda, tertia, when there were three made, and quarta, quinta, &c. if such a number were made. And to this day there remain several duplicates, and sometimes triplicates, of these old charters, with their seals to them, in the gild-hall. This was an excellent method, that if one was burnt or lost, or by being carried about for evidence, was any way injured, the others remained safe and entire.
  • 3. Johannes, &c. Dominus Hybernie, &c. prepositis et omnibus ballivis, &c. Sterlingorum blanceas, &c. Data per manum H. Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi, Cancellarij nostri apud Cenomanniam xxii° die Sept. A. regni nostri primo; it is marked on the back (Carta Tertia) it being the third charter extant among those evidences, and I believe there was a duplicate of it.
  • 4. Hol. vol. 1. fo. 166.
  • 5. Rot. Claus. 5. Joh. M. 21, 23.
  • 6. These assayers were persons deputed by the King, to survey the mints, and see that the money was not too much debased, and instead of performing their duty, many of them took bribes of the mintmasters, and so the current coin was made of scarce any value.
  • 7. Rot. Claus. 7 Joh. M. 21.
  • 8. Inter. Coll. Le Neve.
  • 9. Dug. Bar. fo. 133.
  • 10. Dug. Bar. vol. i. fo. 699.
  • 11. Ibid. 693.
  • 12. Whatever others say, Mr. Le Neve proves, that this great man was born at Burgh, in Flegg, being son of Reyner de Burgh, who married Joan, daughter and coheir of John Ponchard, lord of N. Tudenham in Norfolk, brother to Jeffry de Burgh Archdeacon of Norfolk, and Bishop of Ely.
  • 13. Daniel, fo. 122, 3.
  • 14. Stow, 174.
  • 15. Bale de Script. p. 101.