City of Norwich, chapter 41: Of the Cathedral Precinct, Bishop's palace

An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 4, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part II. Originally published by W Miller, London, 1806.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


Francis Blomefield, 'City of Norwich, chapter 41: Of the Cathedral Precinct, Bishop's palace', in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 4, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part II, (London, 1806) pp. 46-50. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

Francis Blomefield. "City of Norwich, chapter 41: Of the Cathedral Precinct, Bishop's palace", in An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 4, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part II, (London, 1806) 46-50. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Blomefield, Francis. "City of Norwich, chapter 41: Of the Cathedral Precinct, Bishop's palace", An Essay Towards A Topographical History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 4, the History of the City and County of Norwich, Part II, (London, 1806). 46-50. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,


To which there was a passage from the door of the north transept, marked (N) in the plan, which was arched over with stone like the cloister, till the late troublesome times, when it was totally demolished; an account of which building you have in Pt. I. p. 530.

This entered the palace at the great or common-Hall, on part of the site of which, the present chapel is built; the old chapel, now totally demolished, standing on the right hand between the church and it, from which it is not far distant.

The present palace, though it stands upon the same spot, was not built by the founder, that being wholly pulled down by Bishop Salmon, who not only entirely rebuilt it, but obtained license from the King to enlarge the site: the works of this prelate were truly grand, not only the present palace as we now see it being of his building, but the demolished great hall, which was 110 feet long, and 60 feet wide, extending from the southern wall of the present chapel, to the now decayed kitchen, buttery, and other offices, which almost reached the great gate built by Bishop Alnwyk (as you may see in Pt. I. p. 531,) which opens on St. Martin's Plain, and the grand gate or entrance into the said hall, which is now standing, (the chamber over it being the repository for the Bishop's evidences,) also the old chapel, now demolished, and the charnel chapel and its offices, were of his foundation; all which, by length of time, and too much negligence, were fallen into decay, till Bishop Totington substantially repaired them; the whole being afterwards much adorned by Bishop Hart, in 1449, against the King's coming to lodge there, and afterwards by Bishop Goldwell, and Bishop Parkhurst, (see Pt. I. p. 555,) whose arms, with those of divers other Bishops, as Freke, Redman, Corbet, &c. were to be seen in the windows.

In 1535, Bishop Nix, just before his death, with the consent of the prior and chapter, granted a lease to the mayor, sheriffs, and citizens, for 89 years to come, that for the honour of God and St. George, they might hold the gild and feast of St. George in the palace, and use the buttery, pantry, and kitchen at its north end, for 14 days together at the gild time, unless the King, Queen, or other nobles, were at the palace with the Bishop at that time. This hall was demolished in the Rebellion, and the lead sold, and that after the year 1656, for then it was a publick meeting-house; for at the court of mayoralty held June 13, that year, Henry Sedgwick informed upon oath, that the last Monday, "At a publique meeting in the place which formerly was the Bishops-hall, one Will. Wayneford a comber, did there in his prayer which he did openly make, use these words following, that the Lord would be pleased to throw down all earthly power, and rule, and authority, and that he would consume them that they might be no more alive upon the earth, and that he would set up the Kingdom of his Son, that they might be all taught of God."

A sad example of the doctrine, as well as folly, of those pernicious times.

There is a room in the palace, wainscotted with carved wainscot brought from the demolished abbey of St. Bennet in the Holm, on which I saw the arms of that abbey, of the Veres, Ingloses, and others, and particularly those of Sir John Fastolff, their great benefactor, handsomely carved; which shows that it was done at the expense of that great man, and the others, whose arms are thereon, and that it was made in the time of Henry V. or Henry VI.; there are also busts of divers heroes, and remarkable persons both men and women, with their names carved by them; it was brought hither by Bishop Rugg.

Bishop Reynolds had enough to do at the Restoration, to make the palace fit to be inhabited, it being then divided, and let out into so many tenements, that it was almost quite ruinated, since which time, little had been done, unless by Dr. Trimnel; so that its neatness and convenience is entirely owing to the generosity of our present diocesan.


At first, Jesus chapel in the cathedral was the Bishop's private chapel, but that being inconvenient by reason of its distance, Bishop Salmon, at his coming to the see, about the year 1300, having agreed with the prior and chapter for a peice of land lying between the church and the palace, on the east side of the way leading from the church to the palace, for an annual pension of 4l. built a chapel thereon, and dedicated it to the honour of the Virgin Mary.

It stood near the place (fn. 1) where the present chapel stands, about 10 or 12 yards more south, and was 30 feet broad, and 130 long; there were many plain monuments, under which it was thought some of the Bishops were buried, and Bishop Salmon, its founder, is said to be interred in the midst of it, before the high altar.

In this chapel was a chantry of three priests, founded by Will. de Ayreminne, Bishop here in 1331, who purchased the advowson of Thurveton or Thurlton, (fn. 2) and appropriated it to the hospital of St. Giles, the master of which house was to pay out of the annual profits of that rectory, stipends of 6 marks a year to each officiating chaplain; all which were to be in the Bishop's collation, and dwell and have apartments in the palace, and be found with meat; drink, and lodging, at the Bishop's cost; they were to pray daily for the souls of their founder and his family, for the King and his progenitors, and for the welfare of the present bishop of the see, and the souls of all his predecessors: and King Edward III. not only confirmed the foundation, but also granted, that during the vacancy of the see, they should not be molested by any one, but should continue in the palace, and be provided for as usual: they were all sworn at their admission, to serve duly according to their foundation, which was not settled till the latter end of

1342, when Peter de Bardelby and Robert de Berningham were collated; and in 1343, Tho. de Plumstede; who were the three first chaplains in this chantry.

1351, Will. de Blickling.

In 1368, The Master of St. Giles's hospital certified to Bishop Percy, that the profits of Thurveton rectory were so reduced by the late plague, that they did not amount to above 10l. per annum, so that he could not pay the three stipends without damage to himself and house; upon which the Bishop agreed he should drop one of the three chaplains, paying the other two, 7 marks, 3s. 4d. per annum, on giving security, that if the rectory advanced again hereafter to the old value of 20l. per annum, that he would then pay a third stipend, whenever the Bishop collated a 3d chaplain; and thus they were reduced to two only.

1374, Roger de Couteshale. 1377, William Halle, priest. 1385, Roger, son of John atte Welle of Couteshalle. 1409, William Bacon. 1418, Sir Thomas Rodeland, priest.

In 1448, Jan. 4, Walter Hart Bishop of Norwich discharged the master and brethren of St. Giles's hospital from finding the other two chaplains in this chapel, and so the chantry ceased: the master and brethren indeed obliged themselves to find a priest to sing for the founder in their own house; and certified that the profits of Thurveton were so reduced, that they would only find a parochial chaplain to serve the church; but this was a mere pretence only: the truth is, the Bishop, who was to maintain them in the palace, and find them apartments there, was glad to get rid of them, and not to have such chaplains as he was forced to keep, after he had once collated them; but liked others better that he could discharge at his pleasure, and so make them wholly dependent.

In 1619, the Bishop licensed the Walloon congregation to use his chapel during his pleasure.

The 4l. per annum pension before mentioned was always paid till Bishop Goldwell subtracted it all his time, but his executors were forced to pay it by Bishop Nix's arbitration in 1508, and it was constantly paid till Michaelmas 1642; and then the Bishop came to the dean and prebends assembled in chapter, and said, That he conceived the chapel of the palace, which ought anciently to pay 4l. per annum, was the dean and chapter's, and that they might take it into their hands, for he would pay it no longer; upon which they declared, that though the pension was due for it, yet it was not theirs, but the chapel of the Lord Bishop of Norwich, and hath been so reputed, taken, and used, time out of mind: but from this time it quite ceased. For the same year, Bishop Hall, in his Hard Measure, informs us, at p. 15, whose own words I shall use, "Sheriff Tofts and Alderman Lindsey, (fn. 3) attended with many zealous followers, came into my chapel to look for superstitious pictures, and reliques of idolatry, and sent for me, to let me know, they found those windows full of images, which were very offensive, and must be demolished: I told them they were the pictures of some ancient and worthy Bishops, as St. Ambrose, St. Austin, &c. it was answered me, that they were so many Popes; and one younger man among the rest (Townsend, as I perceived afterwards) would take upon him to defend, that every diocesan Bishop was a Pope: I answered him with some scorn, and obtained leave, that I might with the least loss and defacing of the windows, give order for taking off that offence, which I did, by causing the heads of the pictures to be taken off, (fn. 4) since I knew the bodies could not offend." But the good Bishop needed not to have been so exact, if he could have thought of the consequence; for soon after, the windows were not only quite broken in pieces, but the lead pulled off the roof and sold; so that at the Restoration it was so decayed, that Bishop Reynolds was forced to pull it down entirely; upon which, he built the present chapel, somewhat more north than the former, in which he and his successour, Bishop Sparrow, lie interred; as may be seen in Pt. I. p. 584, 587.

Besides the inscriptions for Dr. Tanner's two wives, already mentioned in Pt. I. p. 590, 636, under the account of that prelate, who was chancellor here, there are the following ones on brass plates, viz.

Antonius Filius Petri Parham M. D. & Susannæ Filiæ Rev. Patris Antonij, Episcopi Norvic: natus 7 Mens: obijt Martij 21 Anno Dni: 1680.

Rebecca Filia Petri Parham M. D. et Susannæ Uxoris, nat. 10 Mens: obijt Oct. 2do. 1682.

Thomas Filius tertius P. Parham M. D. et Susannæ Uxoris, natus 6 Hebdom: Obijt Aug: 16, An°. 1684.

Jana Webster obijt Aprilis 24, 1685.

The ancient garden belonging to the palace, is on the east part of it, and the stables, &c. join, as they always did, to the great entrance.

And now having finished the description of the cloister, and buildings belonging to the Bishop and Convent, I shall proceed to the other places to be treated of, which are within the Close or Precinct; and first of the church of


  • 1. These words by errour of the press, were left out in p. 499, note 7, Pt. I.
  • 2. See Pt. I. p. 503.
  • 3. These were two of the most furious of the sequestrators, who were led by Mr. Miles Corbet, an inveterate enemy to the church and loyalists; the rest, viz. Mr. Sotherton, Alderman Tooly, Sheriff Rawley, Mr. Greenwood, Mr. Smith, &c. listened somewhat to Sir Thomas Woodhouse, and Sir John Potts, who were then members in Parliament, and favoured the Bishop as much as they dared.
  • 4. This is the reason why in most churches we see the effigies in the windows without faces, a piece of white glass generally supplying that place.