A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1906.
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HOUSES OF BENEDICTINE MONKS
1. THE CATHEDRAL PRIORY OF THE HOLY TRINITY OF NORWICH (fn. 1)
An intrinsic part of the great scheme of Bishop Herbert de Losinga (himself a monk) when he transferred the episcopal seat from Thetford to Norwich, was the building of a monastery for the Benedictine monks, who were to have the charge of the new cathedral church. The bishop's palace was built on the north side of the great church, and of the monastery on the south. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1096, and by the year 1101 the monastic buildings were sufficiently advanced for occupation. The bishop gathered together sixty monks, and in September, 1101, at Windsor, sealed the foundation deed, which was witnessed by the king and queen, the two archbishops, eight bishops, the papal legate, and by many earls and abbots. By this deed the bishop fixed the possessions of the see as well as those of the priory. (fn. 2)
The taxation roll of Pope Nicholas, 1291, yields £489 7s. 2d. as the total annual value of the priory. Of this sum £46 8s. came under spiritualities, consisting of portions or pensions from twenty-eight parish churches in the archdeaconries of Norwich, Norfolk, and Suffolk, varying in amount from 4s. to £4. Of the temporalities, £36 9s. 5½d. came from different parishes in the city of Norwich. The five places that yielded the largest incomes outside the city were—'Sechford,' £76 18s. 4½d.; Hemsby and Winterton, £41 11s. 2½d.; and Hindolveston, £18 0s. 7½d.
The Valor Ecclesiasticus shows a great advance in the annual value of the priory during two and a half centuries, for the income was then estimated at £1,061 14s. 3½d. The increase largely arose from the considerable number of appropriations of churches that had been gained during that period by the priory.
In the county of Norfolk the priory then held the appropriations of thirty rectories, as well as of two moieties of rectories. These produced an income of £207 6s. 10½d., the largest being Bishops Lynn £38 13s. 4d., and the smallest Riston £1 13s. 4d. They also held three small rectories in Suffolk, which added £9 6s; 6d. to their income. In addition to this they possessed the city rectories of St. Paul, St. James, St. Gregory, St. Giles, St. Martin Coslany, St. Martin at the Palace Gates, St. John Berstreet, St. John de Sepulchre, St. George Colegate, and St. Peter Parmentergate; these together with the tithes of the gardens of the Carmelites, produced an income of £21 11s. 8d.
The commissioners made an entry to the effect that the priory also held the city rectories of All Saints Fybridge, St. Vedast, St. Saviour Fybridge, St. Cross, St. Mary the Little, St. Cuthbert, and St. Etheldreda, but that no claim had been made for many years on the parishioners of these churches in consequence of the poverty of the inhabitants. A further sum of £23 1s. 4d. issued from over thirty pensions from religious houses to which churches had been appropriated; a small pension to the cathedral being the usual condition of episcopal licence to appropriate. Old established portions or pensions from different parishes brought in £16.
The small sum of £3 13s. 8½d. represented the offerings made that year at three shrines in the hands of the priory, viz. £2 19s. 7d. at the image of the Holy Trinity in the cathedral church; 13s. 7d. at St. Robert at the cell of Holme; and 6½d. at the image of St. Leonard's cell, Norwich.
The actual manors that were then held by the priory were those of Hemsby, Martham, Great Plumstead, Catton, Newton, Eaton, Field Dalling, Great Cressingham, Taverham, Hindolveston, Hendringham, 'Sechford,' Thornham, Labenham, Ambringhall, Thurberton, and Aldeby, all in Norfolk.
The historical or local incidents connected with this priory are not very numerous, nor are any of them of primary importance.
The long-continued disputes between the monks and the citizens began in the reign of John, when there were legal contests as to the respective rights of commoning on lands near the city between the priory tenants and the ordinary townsfolk. The charters of the monks are of a much older date than those of the citizens, and the priory resented the liberties granted to the borough by Richard I and his two successors. Hence they stood strenuously to what they considered the rights of their tenants in common pasture, and more especially in tollage. This so enraged the populace, that in 1232 certain of the more violent forcibly entered the monastery, robbed it of some of its contents, and set part of it on fire. The king was then at Bromholm, Norfolk, and sent the sheriff to hold an inquisition as to the affray. The burgesses refused either to allow the sheriff to hold an inquest or to hold one themselves, whereupon the king seized all their liberties. The city soon submitted, and the seizure was released. The dispute, however, broke out with fresh rancour in 1239, when the abbot of Ramsey, the provost of Beverley, and four itinerant justices vainly endeavoured to make peace. Eventually Henry III came to Norwich, and a decision was given in favour of the priory as having the older liberties. The point at issue was that the monks claimed to exercise all their liberties in their own jurisdiction and lands; whereas the citizens claimed to exercise their liberties on the priory site and lands, as they were not specially excepted in the city charters. (fn. 3)
There was comparative peace between the ecclesiastical and civil authorities for about twenty years, but in 1256 the strife broke out anew. In that year the city complained that the priory officers were taking landgable (fn. 4) in the afternoon, when the city bailiffs had taken it in the morning. This led to a great disturbance, but the courts again upheld the priory, for the prior was able to prove that he only took landgable in Holm Street, and other parts exempt from city jurisdiction. (fn. 5)
A grievous tumult arose in 1272, brought about by the old cause, namely, the priory's claim to the liberties of their own property within the city. The citizens attempted to hold a fair on 9 August on Tombland before the monastery gates, and, as this was priory property, William Burnham the prior directed the servants of the monastery to disperse the fair-holders. This led to violence, in which some of the citizens were killed. The city coroner held an inquest, found the servants guilty of murder, and issued warrants for their arrest. Upon this the prior closed the monastery gates, having procured a large force of servants and tenants to defend it. Certain of the priory party made raids upon the city, which so enraged the townsmen that they assembled in vast numbers, fired the gates, burnt all the cathedral church save the Lady Chapel, and almost the whole of the conventual buildings, killed many of the monks and their retainers in the cloisters and precincts, and sacked the church and priory of all its plate, vestments, and books, treating similarly the houses of the priory tenants. The prior fled to Yarmouth, where, instead of trying to allay the storm which was mainly of his own creation, he gathered together an armed force, and entered Norwich to the sound of the trumpet and with drawn sword, and put to rout the citizens, with the loss of many lives and much property. Meantime the Bishop of Norwich called together his clergy at Rye in Suffolk, and on 30 August excommunication was pronounced against the four bailiffs of Norwich, the town clerk, the members of the common council, and others unknown, and the whole city put under interdict.
The king summoned a parliament at Bury St. Edmunds on St. Giles's Day, and by their advice proceeded personally to Norwich on 14 September, when the bishop, by royal request, took off the interdict from the city. The king's justices, according to the city roll, condemned thirty-four of the offenders to be drawn with horses about the city till they died; others were hanged on the gallows; the woman who first set fire to the monastery gates was burnt alive, and divers persons forfeited their goods to the crown. On the other hand the prior was committed to the bishop's prison, and the priory with all its manors was seized into the king's hands. The king also seized the city and all the liberties that had ever been granted it, and appointed wardens to keep the city in his name. (fn. 6)
The king appointed the prior of Binham warden of the property of the Norwich priory, and left the city on 27 September. The next day Prior Burnham resigned; the convent elected William Kirkby in his place on 1 October, and the king redelivered to him the goods and revenues of the monastery.
Under its new ruler the priory demanded of the city 4,000 marks for damage, appealing in 1274 to the Roman court to enforce the claim. The pope took the wise course of referring the whole matter to the decision of the king, who determined (1) that all parties should try to be real friends; (2) that the citizens should pay 3,000 marks towards rebuilding the church, in six annual sums of 500 marks; (3) that they should give for the use of the high altar of the church a pix of gold weighing ten pounds, and worth £100; (4) that the priory might make new gates to their monastery; and (5) that some of the chief citizens should proceed to Rome at their own expense to assure the pope of the truth of the agreement, and to beg his pardon and peace. On the city complying with these terms, the king restored it to its ancient dignity. In 1276 the pope's general absolution came from Rome, and was published at Norwich on Palm Sunday by the priors of the Dominican and Franciscan houses of that city.
On Advent Sunday, 1278, William de Middleton was enthroned as bishop, and the now completely restored cathedral church was by him dedicated, in the presence of the king and queen, and of three other bishops and a great concourse of nobles. (fn. 7)
Other disputes between the priory and the city as to the respective limits of their jurisdiction took place during the reign of Edward I, but were solved by appeals to the law courts. In 1306 an important composition was agreed to with regard to the claim of the priory that Tombland, with Ratton Row, Holm Street, and Spiteland was their demesne, and that their tenants therein could sell and trade without contributing to any city tollage or tax. The agreement decided that henceforth Tombland should always be kept clear, and not used as a market, as a rope-walk, or to lay timber thereon, save that the priory might hold there their Whitsuntide fair, and that every Sunday at such times as there was a synod held at Norwich, victuals and fruit might, as usual, be sold at the priory gates; that at every fair the citizens were to choose first which half they would have for their stalls, for which they were to pay no kind of toll, and that the other half was to be the prior's; that the city coroner might hold inquests on the priory demesne, but that the prior should name a brother to act as his assessor, and that the jury should be drawn solely from the parish where the offence had occurred; that the prior and coroner might hold their leets in Holm Street and Spiteland without any city officer; and that the bailiffs were not to distrain or enter on the demesne, nor levy any tolls or customs for the city; but if any sold merchandise there they were to pay such tolls to the prior, and the prior was to answer for them to the city bailiffs. (fn. 8)
Edward III and Queen Philippa, when they visited Norwich in 1344, and Richard II and his queen, during their visit were lodged in the priory. (fn. 9)
In 1329 there was a fresh readjustment of the recurring disputes, whereby Prior William Worsted secured better terms than hitherto for his tenants in the exempt liberties, including toll-free passage on the River Wensum. (fn. 10)
A strange kind of riot, called 'Gladman's insurrection,' arose in the city in connexion with claims to mills in 1442. William Hempstede, mayor for that year, was charged with designedly raising an insurrection, declaring they had power in the city to slay both bishop and prior, and the abbot of Holm, and to spoil their goods, and that the king, by reason the city was a county by itself, had not the power to punish them for so doing; whereupon John Gladman, a city merchant, rode on horseback as a king, with a paper crown on, and a sceptre and sword carried before him, and with a great armed troop of 3,000 on horseback and foot (fn. 11) proceeded to the priory gates, calling out: 'Let us burn the priory and kill the prior and monks.' The priory gates being guarded, they dug a passage under them for entry, and carried wood thither to burn the priory, and placed guns against it. At last, by threats of killing the prior and all the monks, they obtained from them an evidence of the priory sealed with the city seal relative to the meadows by the river. This they took away, and for a week, from Monday after St. Paul's Conversion, kept the city gates shut as against the king, and would not suffer the Duke of Norfolk, nor the Earl of Oxford, or any of the king's ministers, though showing the royal commission, to enter. This extraordinary outburst ended in the liberties of the city being seized into the king's hands, and they thus continued until 1447, when Mayor Hempstede and his associates pleaded guilty and threw themselves on the king's mercy. Thereupon, after payment of a fine of 1,000 marks, the liberties were restored. (fn. 12)
Through the influence of Cardinal Wolsey, a composition was entered into between the priory and the city in 1524, whereby the latter resigned all claims to jurisdiction within the precincts to the priory, whilst the monastery gave up all claim to jurisdiction in Tombland, Holme Street, Ratton Row, and Spiteland. The city also made certain other surrenders to the priory, such as freedom from all tolls and customs, both by water and land, for all goods bought or sold for the use of the convent and their household. (fn. 13)
On 6 April, 1539, the great monastery of Norwich was dissolved. The monks were for the most part changed into prebendaries or secular canons, whilst the last prior, William Castleton, became the first dean of the new establishment.
Among the muniments of the city of Norwich is a copy of the charter, quaintly described as the document 'whereby the prior and monks are changed from the monkish state into a dean and chapter, and so made secular priests and altered their cowls.' (fn. 14)
Some consideration must now be given to the considerable number of old documents relating to the inner working and life of the cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity.
In the treasury of the cathedral of Norwich no fewer than 1,400 of the old account rolls of the great Benedictine priory are carefully preserved. They are 'obedientiary rolls,' that is, they pertained to the obedientiaries or chief officials of the priory, and are concerned with the yearly accounts pertaining to the office of the particular official. The earliest roll is of the year 1272; many earlier ones were probably consumed in the devastating fire of that particular year. The date of the latest of the pre-Reformation series is 1535. (fn. 15)
A general account roll of the year 1363 gives a Status Obedientiariorum, with the total receipts of each officer of the convent, beginning with the prior. The officials enumerated on this roll, under the prior, were as follows, the year after each giving the date of the earliest roll still extant of that particular office:—Cellarer (1303), sacrist (1274), chamberlain (1292), precentor (1283), almoner (1276), infirmarer (1313), commoner (1284), pittancer (1289), hostellar (1320), refectorian (1289), gardener (1340), and warden of St. Paul's Hospital (1423). The priors of four out of the five cells of this cathedral priory also sent in their account rolls— Yarmouth (1355), Aldeby (1381), Hoxne (1394), and St. Leonard, Norwich (1348).
The most interesting rolls for a history of the actual working of the great cathedral in mediaeval days are those of the sacrist; they happen, fortunately, to be more numerous than any of the others, although there are considerable as well as occasional gaps in their sequence. (fn. 16)
The income of the sacrist's office came mainly from the voluntary offerings of the faithful. The chief of these were the offerings at the high altar, to the north of which stood the costly patronal images of the Holy Trinity. In 1301 the offerings at the high altar were £43 16s. 7d., the Lady altar £14 11s. 4d., the Relics altar £8 16s. 7d., the box (trunca) of the Cross £6 17s. 2¼d., the box at the head of Walter the bishop 56s. 5d., and the box of St. Hippolitus 12s. 6d. For the next few years these offerings were of approximately similar amounts; in 1304 the high altar gifts were £46, and in 1305 £45, but soon afterwards they diminished.
The results of the Black Death, here as elsewhere, were to stimulate the devotions of many of the survivors. The rolls are, unfortunately, missing of the immediate years on each side of the great pestilence, but in 1343 (the latest before the pestilence) the total receipts of the sacrist were only £114 19s. 4¼d., whilst the total for 1364 (the first extant after the pestilence) was £188 13s. 1½d., the rise being chiefly attributable to the offerings. For this latter year they were: At the high altar, £54 7s. 1¼d.; 'ad crucem,' £21 19s. 7d.; 'ad reliquias,' £7 8s. 2¼d.; in the Lady chapel, £3 0s. 2½d.; at the image of St. Osyth, £3 6s. 4½d.; and at the image of St. Hippolitus, 11s. 7d. The two lowest of the offerings before various other images were St. Katherine 1¾d. and St. Anne 1d. This year's receipts also includes the contents of a box (21s. 0¾d.) at the door by the presbytery.
The receipts for 1369 were £192 14s. 0½d., and the expenses £190 11s. 2½d. The high altar offerings were £49 13s. 8d., and those 'ad erucem' £17 0s. 8¾d. The image of St. Katherine, which had been new made in 1364, brought in 2s, 6¼d. The expenses of that year included £2 6s. 7d. for gilding two archangels at the high altar.
In the year 1400 a considerable impetus was given to the devotional offerings owing to a bull of papal indulgence (to last for seven years) to penitents visiting the three chief altars of the priory during the feast of the Holy Trinity. This produced in 1401 the sum of £49 16s. 10d. at those altars during the dedication feast, and the offerings at the high altar during the rest of the year rose to £62. The effect of the bull of indulgence was perceptible throughout the time it was in operation; the high altar oblations in 1403 were £77.
The first year that this indulgence at the Trinity dedication festival came into operation (1401) a special feature was introduced into the services, probably at the time of high mass. The figure of an angel in the roof of the body of the church descended with a great censer, censing the doubtless vast congregation in the nave. The charge for preparing the figure this year was 9s. 1d. The angel was generally brightened with silver foil year by year, a charge for which constantly occurs. After a time the like solemnity was also enacted at the feast of Corpus Christi, and an entry constantly occurs of 2s. for the man in charge of the apparatus for lowering and raising the censing angel at those two feasts. At Easter, 1487, Henry VII was present at Norwich, and in his honour the pageant occurred a third time that year. This solemnity was interrupted by the great fire of 1463, when the roofs of the cathedral were destroyed, and was not resumed until 1474.
The offerings steadily decreased; those of the high altar, in round numbers, were £54 in 1442, £33 in 1452, £26 in 1462, £20 in 1482, £18 in 1491, £13 in 1504, and in 1536 only £4. 15s. 3d.
The second source of the sacrist's income was from the appropriated churches of Scrouteby (Ormesby) £37 1s. 2½d., Hemsby, £18 10s., Banburgh £17 8s. 2d., and Eaton £11 13s. 5¾d. The figures given are those from the roll of 1301, when these four churches brought in an income of £84 12s. 10¼d., but tithes were exceptionally high that year; in 1328 the four churches only produced £47, in 1403 £43.
A third source of income was from tithes and rents. Latterly, a variety of pensions granted to the mother church of the diocese by religious houses at the time of the appropriation of rectories were assigned to the sacrist. A fourth small source of income, of a fluctuating character, arose from legacies of usually quite small sums. Bequests in wills to the cathedral church all went to the sacrist.
With regard to the sacrist's expenditure, as there was no separate master of the fabric at Norwich, the most important items are those concerned with the upkeep of the church and the conventual buildings. (fn. 17) The ornaments of the church naturally came under the charge of the sacrist. A few items are here given from the expenditure side of the rolls under this head.
The shrine of St. William was beautified in 1305, the sum of 6s. 8d. being spent on 140 leaves of gold and 11d. for 150 leaves of silver. White lead, vermilion, and orpiment (yellow arsenic) cost 2s. 2d, and oil for painting 10d., while Simon the painter and his boy received 25s. 6d. in wage and victuals for nine weeks. In 1369, fixing three basins with cords and pulleys, each carrying a wax taper to burn continually before the high altar (Holy Trinity), 26s. 6½d.; 1386, for a beautiful lantern hanging in the choir, nothing, because Alice de Reppis gave it; 1400, for making two chalices, 26s. 8d.; 1404, for a jewel bought for the body of Christ at the feasts of the Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi, £12; 1406, for chains for the great thurible that serves from the roof of the church on the feast of the Holy Trinity, and mending the same, 2s. 3d.; 1494, for the repair of the pix in which was kept the milk of the Blessed Virgin, 3s. 4d., and for cleaning the crowns of the Holy Trinity, 5d.; 1505, Thomas Worcester, goldsmith, for making the shoes of the Holy Trinity, 22s. 10d.; 1510, for a ladder with a carrying stand made with iron-work to put the tunics and crown upon the second person of the Holy Trinity at fit times, 2s.
The repair and renewal of the church vestments, as well as of the church napery, also came under this department, the entries being of a kind common in such accounts and presenting no particular features of interest. The clock entries are numerous and interesting right through the accounts; mending the clock cost 6s. 5d. in 1290; and in 1325, when a large sum was expended on an elaborate new clock and chimes, with two dials and beautifully decorated, a regular clock warden was appointed, Robert Orologiarius, who received, in addition to money payment, a furred robe valued at 16s. Organ repairs are also of constant occurrence: Adam the organist in 1333 received a robe worth 13s. 4d., and a new pair of organs for the quire in 1510 cost £16.
Each of the obedientiaries, in addition to what was done by the almoner proper, made certain payments of an eleemosynary character. Thus, in 1301, the sacrist, besides contributing 40s. to the scholars from the priory at Oxford, gave 6s. to poor scholars. In the same year over £4 was given to the poor of the appropriated parishes. There was an invariable contribution to the lepers of St. Mary Magdalen Hospital, and frequently gifts of cloth and shoes to the poor of Norwich. Among other payments of usual occurrence may be mentioned strewing rushes three times a year in church, cloister, and dormitory; strewing herbs round the high altar; providing mats for church, cloister, and refectory; painting and gilding the paschal candle, and providing gravestones for the deceased monks.
It may be mentioned that the sacrist had six regular assistants under him for the charge of, the great church and keeping it clean, namely, the sub-sacrist, the master of the high altar, and four servants. The first two of these were always monks; the last four were probably originally lay brothers and so continued for some time, but later they were paid servants, receiving a wage of nearly £2 each, in addition to a certain amount of board.
Though somewhat fewer in number and a good deal shorter than those of the sacrist, the rolls of the precentor come next in general interest as affecting the story of the church. The earliest is for the year 1283, the next is for 1314. There are twenty-seven more of the fourteenth century, upwards of fifty of the next century, and seven of the sixteenth.
A most interesting item of the precentor's receipts, which begins to occur on the rolls towards the end of the fourteenth century, is that for sealing. In 1385 the using the common seal brought in 36s. 8d.; in 1395, 18s. 4d.; in 1407, 56s. 8d.; in 1427, 100s.; in 1437, 6s. 8d.; and in 1471 the seal 'ad causas' 20d., and the common seal 3s. 8d.
The charges for sealing were paid to the precentor by the parties in whose favour the seal was used. The roll of 1477 shows to what documents the common seal was appended for that year, the charge on each occasion being 6s. 8d., viz. the presentations to the three vicarages of Catton, Bamburgh, and Hindringham, the confirmation of the priors of Birsett and 'Kyrle,' and a document relative to King's College, Cambridge.
It was the precentor's duty to see that due care was taken of the actual seals; in 1386 mending the matrix of the common seal cost 2s.; in 1425 silk cases were made for the seals at a charge of 6d. Special wax was bought by the precentor for making the seals, such as 4 lb. in 1354 at 2s. Occasionally red lead was bought for mixing with the wax, at other times it was bought ready prepared as red wax. Again, green wax was sometimes bought, but oftener verdigris for mixing in the wax to produce the green. This green wax as used for spreading over the tabulae or tables suspended in the church or cloister whereon were inscribed the names of the different brethren on the rota of the masses, or other instructions as to the services. Thus in 1447 wax 'vertegrees' was bought 'pro tabula' at 4d., and the same in 1457 for the great tables at 8d. The precentor was similarly responsible for the supply of ink for the convent; at one time he bought galls, gum, and vitriol for its manufacture; at another prepared ink, as in 1315, when it cost 6s. 6d.
One of his chief duties, abundantly illustrated in these rolls, was the care of the quire and service books, as well as the books of the general library. The entries are almost continuous for general binding and repair and the purchase of chains with staples and locks, and so forth. But the chief duty of the precentor was to regulate the singing and music of the quire. There are many entries of small sums for the recreation or refreshment of chanters or choristers at the three great feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. The boys of the Blessed Mary had breakfasts given them on various occasions, and at other times small gifts of money. Now and again a special singer was hired; thus, in 1481, 2s. was given to William Glover at Christmas for singing in the quire and at the Lady Mass. There are many references to both great organs and quire organs and their repair. The usual annual fee to a servant for organ-blowing was 12d. (once 9d. and latterly 16d.), but his services were only required at the three great festivals, at other times one of the monks or lay brothers must have officiated in that capacity. In 1381, at some special function, both great and small organs were placed in the Lady Chapel at an expense of 20s., and at the same time 3s. 4d. was paid to two organ-blowers for five days. Payment was also made to one of the brethren in 1530 for making the bellows of the organs with six calf-skins.
In 1383, when Richard II and his queen visited Norwich, a gratuity of shoes, costing 8s., was given to those who cleaned the quire against their coming. No doubt there was extra music, as the precentor took 2s. 6d. out of his own fund for his labour in the quire. There was a contribution of 40s. from the precentor's fund towards the entertaining of royalty.
The earliest infirmarer's roll is that of 1313; the next is for 1345, and then consecutively to 1350, and there is also one for 1394; there are twenty-one to 1530, and there is also one for 1394; there are twenty-one rolls of the fifteenth century and five of the sixteenth. The receipts for 1313 were £37 14s. 2d., and the expenses £27 14s. 4d. The receipts during that century kept up well, on two occasions reaching £43; and the expenses were always less than the receipts.
The infirmary had its own garden, the use of which seems to have been chiefly confined to the growing of herbs and medicinal plants, such as rhubarb, peonies (the roots, flowers, and seeds were all used in the mediaeval pharmacy), fennel, and squills. Seeds for the garden are often entered among the expenses, without specifying the kinds bought; but on one occasion they were the seeds of the white (opium) poppy. In 1400, 10½d. was paid for 'weding' in the garden and for 'wedingyrnis.' In 1461, 20d. was paid for planting saffron (croci). Fruit was also grown in the infirmary garden, probably apples and pears, which would as a rule be used by the inmates; but one year (1496) there must have been a surplus of fruit, for 5s. 8½d. is entered among the receipts for fruit growing in the garden. On another occasion there is a charge for trimming the vines.
The medicines used are seldom specified, but among the drugs and spices were liquorice, aniseed, turbit (a cathartic drug), dragon's blood, aggarik, mace, cloves, pepper, and nutmeg. Other purchases of the infirmarer were almonds, dates, figs and pomegranates, and white sugar, but these were for convent feasts. The number requiring medicine, and the names of particular cases, are sometimes entered. Thus, in 1346, twenty-four required medicine, of whom two are named, Thomas de Wisbech, whose drugs cost 8d., and Adam de Erpingham, 2s, 2d. The same year medicines for the blooded cost 13d. In 1394 dinner and drink of the physicians (medicorum) cost 3s. 8d. The sum of 3s. 7d. is entered under the head of medicines and the wages of the physician. This year there also occurs an entry, subsequently often repeated, of 2s. 6d. to the clerk (attendant) of the blooded, in earlier rolls he is called the servant (servitori minutorum). Physicians and medicines cost 41s. 11d. in 1400. A few years later the wages of Master Marck, the physician, are entered as 13s. 4d. In 1429 Master Marck received 3s. 4d. pro inspeccione urine (an entry afterwards often repeated), and 6s. 8d. for clysters given and other labour. A surgeon was called in during 1431. There are occasional entries of medicine given to the poor outside the infirmary.
In 1446 begins the definite entry at the two feasts of the Conception and Assumption of the Virgin of the number of monks in the house, on each of whom 12d. was spent in 'spices' or extra sweets. This went on down to the dissolution, and similar entries are made on some of the precentors' rolls. This enables us to form a fairly correct estimate of the fluctuating numbers of the priory monks for the last century of their existence. The numbers cannot be taken as precisely accurate, for on two of the three occasions where there are returns for the same year both on the precentor's and the infirmarer's rolls they do not exactly tally. The average number works out at about forty-five. (fn. 18) It would generally also happen that two or three of the Norwich monks would be absent for health's sake at their cells of either Lynn or Yarmouth.
One other comment must be offered on the infirmarer's rolls. As they are extant from 1346 to 1350, it is only natural to turn to them with unwonted interest to see what references there are to the Great Pestilence or Black Death, which raged with such peculiar fierceness in the city of Norwich. Was the infirmary crowded? What were the drugs used? and other like queries at once occur to the mind. At first sight, however, these particular rolls seem most disappointing; but after all their very silence is eloquent, and the complete breakdown of the machinery that usually sufficed to meet the needs and the pains of sickness speaks clearly of the overwhelming character of this awful tragedy, before which human agency sank down aghast. The summer and autumn of 1348 were abnormally wet throughout England, and there was much sickness before ever the plague reached our shores. The roll for 1347-8 ends with entries of medicines for Robert de Walsingham and others of the brethren, and the very last entry is the sum of 2s. paid to Master Adam for his labour about our brethren at Yarmouth, whither some had doubtless gone for better air. The epidemic did not reach East Anglia until 1349 had begun. The roll from Michaelmas, 1348, to Michaelmas, 1349, is left unfinished. Ralph de Swantone, the infirmarer, began it, but he must have died when the plague was raging terrifically in the city (70,000 perished, whole parishes being blotted out); for John de Heders began to act as infirmarer on 10 July. Evidently the usual organization was paralyzed. True, each of the brothers had an electuary, but the whole expenditure dropped to £5 9s. 3d. Heders drew up a further roll from Michaelmas, 1349, to Christmas Eve; William de Len had another electuary, but there was merely £5 spent. At Christmas the roll ends, Heders died, and the last entry records that 52s. 1d. was stolen in the general disorganization from the infirmarer's office.
So little is known with certainty of mediaeval gardening, that the various gardeners' rolls of this priory, in addition to the herb garden references in the infirmarers' rolls are of particular value. (fn. 19) They are thirty in number, beginning in 1340 and ending in 1419.
It is obvious that the monastery gardens produced more than was required even for their great household. Among the receipts of the year 1400, are the sum of 4s. 7½d. for the sale of apples and pears; 24s. 4d. for onions; 6s. 1d. for leeks; 3s. 11½d. for garlick; and 6s. 10½d. for herbs and herb plants. The receipts for the year 1379 amounted to £4 7s., and included 16d. for onions; 18s. 5d. for garlick; 18s. for mustard seed; osiers and faggots 4s. 1d. Among the details of other years in these gardener rolls occurs the mention of peas and beans and bean-straw, though these vegetables were usually cultivated only for cattle in mediaeval England. Mention is made of filberts in 1340, of beets and carrots in 1320, and of cherries in 1452. The sacrist also had a small garden which occasionally produced filberts.
The gardener's receipts kept getting less and less, as time went on. Thus in 1521, they amounted to 49s., and in 1530 to 42s. 4d. This diminution can partly be accounted for by the gross carelessness of at least one who held the office, as described in the subsequent account of the cell of St. Leonard.
The most interesting of the hostilar or guestmaster's rolls is that of 1534, which contains a full inventory of the furniture of his department, including the chapel of St. Edmund in the great chamber or lodgings that bore the saint's name, in which chamber were two enclosed beds (lecti inclusi) called 'cryboleys,' or cribs. There were chambers bearing the names of the priors of Yarmouth and Aldeby, which were doubtless used by the superiors of those cells when attending the mother house.
The cellarer's rolls are nearly perfect from 30 Edward III to the end of Henry VII's reign. The cellarer or bursar had his lodgings hard by the refectory and kitchens on the south side of the cloister. The Norwich cellarer had to find wine on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and three days after the Circumcision, the Vigil of the Epiphany, Epiphany, Candlemas, Palm Sunday, Easter Eve, and Easter Day and three days after. He also paid the minstrels on Trinity Sunday, All Saints and Christmas Days.
There are but few early chamberlains' rolls; they are fairly perfect from Richard II. onwards.
The refectorian or comptroller of the refectory, had to see that everything was in order for the meals of the brethren; he had the charge of all the table linen, and the ordering of the lavatory.
The pittancer, whose office it was to see to the observance and supply of the pittances, had to expend 13s. 4d. in wine for the convent on St. Margaret's Day, and to provide for the whole feast on the anniversaries of Prior Kirby and Thomas de St. Omer; and on all high festivals treated the convent with almonds and raisins. (fn. 20)
The minor lay officers, or paid servants of the priory, who occur with more or less frequency in the accounts and rolls, were naturally numerous. (fn. 21)
The porters or janitors who kept the gates were several in number, but the head porter held a life office, and was nominated by the prior. In 1381, Prior Hoo granted this office for life to Nicholas de Clenchwerton, he was to receive daily a monk's loaf and a gallon of ale, and the like provision out of the kitchen as was served to monks in the infirmary; he also received a mark yearly, or a suit like those of the cellarer's servants. He occupied a chamber over the main entrance gates. (fn. 22)
The granarymen, or keepers of the garners, received and delivered the store of corn of various kinds for use in the house. (fn. 23)
There were several grooms on the regular staff of the priory. The head groom was termed stallarius, or keeper of the stalls, and next him was the provendarius, who was responsible for the due supply of provender, especially oats and horse bread. They had in their charge four kinds of horses: manni, or saddle-geldings; runcini, gallaways or pad nags; summarii, sumpter-horses; and averii, cart-horses.
The gaoler (carcerarius) had the charge of the prison for incorrigible monks, and also of the 'sentuery' or sanctuary, the temporary refuge of debtors and criminals. The 'swanard' or swanherd, had charge of the swans in the priory waters, and was responsible for their due marking. A great variety of other servants had their daily bread out of the convent's stores, such as the prior's butler, the cellarer's butler, the infirmary clerk, miller, cooper, maltster, carpenter, woodward, gardener's men, kitchen servants, scullions, &c.
Much light is thrown on the inner life of this monastery from the moral point of view, by the several episcopal visitations of the priory during the last fifty years of its existence, which are to be found in the volume of visitations at the Bodleian. (fn. 24)
Bishop Goldwell visited Norwich Priory in person on Friday, 5 October, 1492, with full ceremonial. He was met at the west gates by the whole chapter in solemn state, and conducted, preceded by the banner of the Holy Cross, to the high altar, the bells ringing and the organs playing. After giving the pontifical blessing the bishop proceeded with the prior and chapter to the chapter-house, accompanied by Nicholas Goldwell archdeacon of Norwich, Dr. Shankwin his official, Dr. Falke his commissary general, and John Aphorsell notary public. After the sub-prior had read the Word of God, Friar William Spynke produced the citations and other documents pertaining to the visitation, the secret and individual examination of each member began, and was adjourned on the Saturday until the following Monday. The report upon the visitation stated that the third prior was indiscreet in his corrections; that women (the wives of the barber and tailor) passed the night within the precincts; that valuables had been sold, and the office of the sacrist deteriorated by 100 marks; that due silence was not observed in choir, cloister, and dormitory; that the offices were not properly distributed, Father Denys holding the offices of commoner, almoner, infirmarer, and pittancer, and being at the same time master of St. Paul's Hospital; that the altar warden does not sleep in the church, to its jeopardy, and contrary to ancient custom; that the sacrist deals prodigally with his funds, and goes outside the monastery at night, sitting an unnecessary time with the tailor and his wife, and that the tailor and his wife both lived within the precincts; that certain jewels given to the high altar by the lady of Blakeney had been alienated by the sacrist; that the attendance in the infirmary was poor, that Denys was using one of the gardens, planted with saffron, for his own purposes; that the pensions of the chantries of Hardingham, Wakering and Tye had not been paid; that laymen sat at table with the monks; that monks sat and walked within the church and its enclosures, and talked too much with women of doubtful character; that there was not sufficient fire for the monks in winter; that the gates and doors of the monastery were not shut at night; and that there were no monks studying at Oxford.
The bishop's injunctions to the priory, based on this comprehensive report, were not dispatched until 27 April, 1493. They dealt at length with the various evils, and ordered that two monks and two novices should be sent to Gloucester College, Oxford. The visitation was then adjourned until November; as there is no entry of that date, the bishop must have been satisfied at that period as to the observance of injunction. There were forty-five members present at the visitation, in addition to the prior. (fn. 25)
Bishop Nicke visited the priory in April, 1514. William Repps, D.D., the sacrist, preached a Latin sermon in the chapter-house from the text Expurgate vetus fermentum. The prior did not appear, and made no excuse for his absence. The examination of the various members of the chapter, as briefly recorded in the register, shows grave complaints. The prior had evidently grievously relaxed the discipline of the house. The sub-prior was denounced by some as a profligate, the buildings were dilapidated, there was no regular schoolmaster, the number of the monks had fallen to thirty-five, women went in and out at pleasure, the services were conducted in a slovenly manner, and sheep fed in the cloister garth. Comperta were drawn up by the bishop's officials based on the evidence, and injunctions were issued, the visitation being kept open to see their observance. (fn. 26)
By the time of the next visitation, in 1520, there had been a great improvement; the prior answered to his name and produced his accounts. The evil sub-prior and two others against whom there had been grave charges no longer appear on the roll. The obedientiaries were unanimous in returning omnia bene, save that the chamberlain complained that sheep still grazed in the cloister garth. The bishop's consequent injunctions were of the briefest character, and were confined to a prohibition of the sheep grazing and a direction that the monks and novices should proceed in an orderly way, two and two, when going from dormitory to quire. (fn. 27)
The next visitation was in 1526, when Bishop Nicke's influence in the diocese was greatly on the wane. The visitation was conducted by the bishop's official, and the prior was absent. Dr. William Repps, the sub-prior, who subsequently became bishop of Norwich, was obviously a lax ruler. Full reports of the visitation, with its subsequent comperta and injunctions are set forth. As Dr. Jessopp remarks, there were evidently two parties in the monastery, and it is difficult to attempt to unravel the tangle of complaints and counter complaints, and sometimes of evident slander and gross exaggeration, which were not accepted by the visitor. Thomas Sall, the third prior, endeavoured to keep the novices in order, but the prior and subprior excused them their penances. Though the house was disorderly Dr. Jessopp's opinion that the serious charges broke down, and that the smaller matters were of little moment, is evidently correct. (fn. 28)
The last visitation was held in 1532, by which time Prior Catton had become abbot of St. Albans, Dr. Repps abbot of St. Benet's Holm, and William Castleton, late abbot of Wymondham, had been elected prior of Norwich. The visitation was of a very thorough character. The outcome is that the house was in a somewhat lax condition, there was much dissension, no learning, and but little seriousness; 'but of any gross vices we hear not one single word.' (fn. 29)
The poor opinion formed by Dr. Jessopp of the general character of this priory as indicated by these several visitations must be held to be correct by every student of monastic times; its condition during the last half-century of its life was distinctly below that of our other great Benedictine houses:—
The priory had nothing to boast of in its history. It was not set down in the wilderness. It had no half fabulous past to look back upon. No saint had come forth from it; no martyr or hero had ever shed the lustre of his name upon its annals; only one really eminent man with more than a local reputation had been educated within its walls.
From first to last it had been a singularly useless institution as compared with any other great English monastery with equal resources. As to the character of the inmates prior to the days of Bishop Goldwell, the extant episcopal registers at Norwich are silent.
What Dr. Jessopp says of the 1492 visitation must at least have been true of its earlier history:—
That in a community of nearly fifty men of different ages, temperaments and parentage, all should be living devout and virtuous and blameless lives, it would be foolish to suppose; but there were no signs of anything like a general laxity of conduct among the Norwich monks.
There can be little doubt that the long sustained strife between the monks and the citizens had the evil effect of drawing the attention of successive superiors far too much to the secular side of their rule, and this tendency was further accentuated by the not infrequent occurrence of disputes between prior and bishop. In the appointment of East Anglian bishops, the earnest desires of the priory chapter were usually set aside by pope or king. Only three of the long roll of bishops of Norwich had been priors of the Holy Trinity (Turbe Skerning and Tottington), two of whom were of the best.
Priors of Holy Trinity, Norwich
Ingulf, occurs 1121
William Turbe, occurs 1124, bishop of Norwich, 1146
Helias, elected and died 1158
John, occurs c. 1170
Girard, (fn. 30) 1185-1201
William de Walsham, (fn. 31) 1201-18
Ralph de Warham, (fn. 32) 1218; bishop of Chichester same year
William FitzOdo, (fn. 33) 1219-35
Simon de Elenham, (fn. 34) 1235, 1251
Roger de Skerning, (fn. 35) 1257, bishop of Norwich, 1265
Nicholas de Brampton, (fn. 36) 1265-8
William de Burnham, (fn. 37) 1268-72
William de Kirkby, (fn. 38) 1272-88
Henry de Lakenham, (fn. 39) 1289-1309
Robert de Langley, (fn. 40) 1310-26
William de Claxton, (fn. 41) 1326-44
Simon Bozoun, (fn. 42) 1344-52
Lawrence de Leck, (fn. 43) 1353-7
Nicholas de Hoo, (fn. 44) 1357-82
Alexander de Totington, (fn. 45) 1382; bishop of Norwich, 1406
Robert de Burnham, (fn. 46) 1407-27
William Worsted, (fn. 47) 1427-36
John Heverlond, (fn. 48) 1436-53
John Molet, (fn. 49) 1454-71
Thomas Bozoun, (fn. 50) 1471-80
John Bonewell, (fn. 51) 1480-8
William Spynke, 1488-1502
William Baconthorp, 1502-4
Robert Bronde, 1504-29
William Castleton alias Catton, 1529; dean 1538
The first seal of the priory, eleventh century (circular, 23/8 in.), shows our Lord in half length with nimbus, sceptre in right hand, and left raised in benediction upon the cathedral church, which is a building with side towers, each having a domed roof surmounted by a cross. Legend:—
SIGILL . . IS . NORWICENSIS . . LE . . (fn. 52)
The elaborate second seal (circular, 3¼ in.) came into use in 1258.
Obverse.—The cathedral church shows arcading, stringcourse, and pediment, with three pinnacled towers. On each side of the central tower is an angel censing. Under the tower is the founder, right hand raised in benediction, left hand holding crozier; on the plinth below, Herbertus Fundator. In the arcade each side of the bishop are three monks' heads. At the sides, over the roof, are the sun and crescent moon. Legend:—
SIGILLUM . . ECCLESIE . . SANCTE TRINITATIS . . NORWICI
Reverse.—An elaborate architectural elevation, probably intended for the west (?) front of the cathedral. In the upper part is a double-quatrefoil shape compartment, in which is the halflength of our Lord with uplifted hands. In the doorway, of two pointed arches, with central pillar, over which is a trefoil compartment containing the emblem of the Trinity, is represented the Annunciation, with the words Ave Maria on the plinth below. On the roof are two birds. In the middle on either side of the central panel of the façade are two circular compartments containing heads. Legend:—
EST . MICHI . NUMEN . IDEM . TRIBUS . UNI LAUS . HONOR . IDEM . ET . BENEDICO . GREGI FAMULATUR . QUI . MICHI . REGI
On the rim of the seal:—
ANNO . DOMINI . MILLESIMO . DUCENTESIMO QUINQUAGESIMO . OCTAVO . FACTUM . EST HOC . SIGILLUM (fn. 53)
In 1544 this beautiful and striking seal was shamefully mutilated to suit the changed tastes of the time. The Annunciation was clumsily removed to make way for a shield of arms, a cross within a bordure, but the tops of the heads of the Virgin and St. Gabriel are visible. (fn. 54)
The Cells of the Cathedral Priory of Norwich
The cells of the great cathedral priory of Norwich were five in number—Aldeby, Lynn, Norwich, St. Leonard's, Yarmouth, and Hoxne in Suffolk.