Houses of Benedictine monks: The priory of St Leonard, Norwich

Page 329

A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.

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The priory of St. Leonard was built by Bishop Herbert on a hill near the city of Norwich, in Thorpwood, for the accommodation of several Benedictine monks, whilst the cathedral church and priory were in course of erection. It was afterwards continued as a cell of the great monastery under the rule of a prior appointed by the prior of Norwich and confirmed by the bishop. The prior of St. Leonard's had to account annually to his superior for all the offerings in the priory church of St. Leonard, as well as for those of the adjacent chapel of St. Michael on the Mount, which was served by the monks.

At the visitation of Norwich Priory in 1514 by Bishop Nicke, it was stated that John Sybbys, prior of St. Leonard's, had not rendered his account as master of the hospital of St. Paul, also that two barns, through his neglect, had fallen to the ground. Another monk testified as to the vicious, opprobrious, and defamatory talk that often went on at the cell of St. Leonard; and two others stated that John Sybbys had brought the office of gardener which he held to almost utter ruin through his culpable carelessness, inasmuch as sheep and other animals had common access to to the garden grounds. The visitor considered these charges proved, for in the comperta it is declared that quarrels and opprobrious language were rife in the cell of St. Leonard, and that Sybbys had failed to produce the accounts of St. Paul's, &c. The injunctions which followed ordered the prior of Norwich to dismiss Sybbys from the rule of St. Leonard and not to allow him to hold any other office. (fn. 2) The number of monks accommodated at this cell was usually seven or eight.

Blomefield states that the church of this priory was noted for a famous image of King Henry VI, which attracted many pilgrims; 'so that the offerings to this good king and the images of the Holy Virgin, the Holy Cross, and St. Anthony brought in a good round annual sum.' It is rather a curious comment on this statement to note that, under the elaborate accounts of the cathedral priory in the Valor Ecclesiasticus (1535), the only offerings named in connexion with the church of this cell are those that were made at the image of St. Leonard; and they merely amounted to 6½d. in the year 1534.

At the dissolution the site and demesnes of this priory were granted to Thomas duke of Norfolk.

Priors of St. Leonard, (fn. 3) Norwich

Richard de Blakeden, occurs 1394

Richard Walsham, occurs 1452

Nicholas Ayrich, occurs 1472

Robert Farmquth, occurs 1496

Robert Cotton, 1517


  • 1. Ibid. iv, 426-8; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 466; Taylor, Index Monasticus, 8.
  • 2. Jessopp, Norw. Visit. 75-9.
  • 3. Blomefield, op. cit.