House of Trinitarian canons: The priory of Ingham

Pages 410-412

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

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A small priory of the Order of the Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives was founded at Ingham by Sir Miles Stapleton of Bedale, Yorkshire, in the reign of Edward III. The founder was lord of this town through marriage with Joan daughter and heiress of Sir Oliver de Ingham. This Order of Trinitarians, as they were usually termed, was founded in 1198. Their possessions were to be divided into three parts: one portion for the redemption of captives, according to the rule of St. Victor; another part for the relief of the poor; and the remaining third for their own subsistence. There were twelve houses of the order in England, of which Ingham was the last to be founded. (fn. 1)

In March, 1355, Innocent VI issued his mandate to the bishop of Norwich to grant licence to Miles de Stapleton, knight, lord of the town of Ingham, to rebuild and enlarge the church of Ingham, of the value of 26 marks, in his patronage, and to elect therein a college, in honour of the Holy Trinity and All Saints, of thirteen religious, one of whom was to be the prior or warden and another the sacrist, making it a conventual church with due statutes and ordinances, the rights of the bishop and archdeacon being preserved. (fn. 2)

Richard Marleburgh was the first prior, and John de Pevesey the first sacrist. The sacrist had charge of the parish part of the manor and of the parishioners, and lived in the two-storied parvise over the south porch. His office was a benefice, and there are two instances of sacrists being instituted in the diocesan registers, namely, in 1387 and 1426. On 2 July, 1360, the bishop licensed the appropriation of the church of Ingham to the priory; at that date there were only a prior and two brethren or chaplains. (fn. 3) In 1362 the priory was beginning to flourish, for in that year they obtained letters patent for the enlargement of their house, and three years later leave to divert a road for the same object. (fn. 4)

In July, 1379, Roger de Boys, John de Boys, and Reginald de Eccles granted to the priory property in Worstead and Scottow. (fn. 5) In 1384 the priory received from John de Saxham the advowson of the church of All Saints, Cley, and lands and tenements in 'Treston' and Little Soxham; in 1389 the manor of Thorney; and in 1392 the manor of Cockley Cley, and eight messuages, 211 acres of land, 22 of meadow, 4 of moor, and 11s. 11d. rents in Ingham, Hickling, Worstead, and divers other townships, together with the advowson of the church of Walcott. (fn. 6)

In 1401 Boniface IX sanctioned the appropriation to this priory of the churches of Walcott and Cockley Cley, value not exceeding 90 marks; each church might be served by one of their canons, or by a secular priest removable at the prior's wish. (fn. 7)

The Valor of 1535 gave the clear annual value of the priory at £61 9s. 7¾d.; their most valuable possessions were the appropriations of the churches of Ingham and Walcott, which brought in an income of £20 17s.

Thomas Catfield alias Godrede occurs as prior in 1492. In that year, on 23 October, Archdeacon Goldwell, acting as commissary of the bishop, visited the house. The prior and his brethren were severally and privately examined, with the result that nothing was found that required reformation. There were four professed brethren, John Ludham, sacrist; William Norwich, Robert Fryston, and John Ingham; and two who were not professed.

Prior Catfield was still in office when the house was again visited by commission on 18 July, 1520. The prior and four brethren testified omnia bene, but Brother John Saye complained that the prior did not present an annual statement of accounts. As a result of the visitation the prior was required to exhibit, at the next Michaelmas synod, an inventory of all valuables and movables, and to render an annual account before the senior brethren.

The same prior also received a visitation, by commission, on 18 June, 1526. Prior Catfield gave a good report, save that the house was in debt 26s. 8d. John Saye, licensed by the bishop to the cure of the parish church of Walcott, Richard Fox, serving in a similar way the church of Ingham, three other brethren, and two novices, all agreed that omnia bene.

John Saye was prior on 12 June, 1532, when Bishop Nicke visited Ingham in person. The prior and four brethren united in testifying that there was nothing worthy of reformation, and the bishop took a like view. (fn. 8)

On 5 August, 1534, Prior Saye, with six of his brethren, signed their acknowledgement of the king's supremacy. (fn. 9)

The visitors of 1535 alleged in their secret comperta that the prior and one of the brethren were guilty of incontinence.

On 7 November, 1535, Cromwell received information from Richard Wharton that the prior and convent of Ingham had sold their house and lands to one William Woodhouse without the knowledge of their founder (patron) Sir Francis Calthrope, and contrary to their promise to Edward Calthrope, nephew and heir to Sir Francis, who had married a near kinswoman of the writer, to give him the first offer of it. The letter curtly offered Cromwell £100 for his favour. But on 19 November Dr. Legh wrote to Cromwell from Norwich, saying that the prior of Ingham had made no sale to Woodhouse as reported, but only conditionally in the event of his procuring the king's licence. However, another correspondent, on 15 December, reaffirmed what Wharton had stated. (fn. 10)

The four county commissioners for the Norfolk suppression wrote to Cromwell on 10 August, 1536, saying that during their survey they sent to the house of Ingham to put their books and necessaries in due order before their coming; but on their arrival they found no religious person there, because of their bargain, dated 24 December, 1534, with William Woodhouse. Woodhouse had appeared before the commissioners at Coxford, and alleged that Ingham was outside the statute, for it was a house of Crossed Friars and not. of monks or canons. The commissioners had perused the statute and thought that it was so. (fn. 11)

In the commissioners' formal report they say:—

The Priory of Ingham ys solde to one William Woodehowsse and the Religious persones in the same Dispersid and gone and the goodes and catalles wasted and spoyeled; the circumstances of whiche matter we have advertysed and sygnifyed unto you by our letters. (fn. 12)

Sir William Woodhouse seems to have been allowed to retain his purchase; he exchanged it for the priory of Hickling in 1544, and it thus became part of the estate of the bishopric of Norwich.

Priors of Ingham

Richard Marleburgh, (fn. 13) 1360

John de Trowse, (fn. 14) 1383

John Trows, (fn. 15) 1420

Thomas Netesherd, (fn. 16) elected 1429

John Blakeney, (fn. 17) elected 1439

John Norwich, (fn. 18) elected 1447

Thomas Ranworth, (fn. 19) elected 1476

Thomas Catfield alias Godrede, (fn. 20) occurs 1492, 1526

John Saye, (fn. 21) occurs 1532, last prior

Sacrists of Ingham

John de Pevesey

John de Catefeld, (fn. 22) admitted 1387

Thomas Netesherd, (fn. 23) admitted 1426

There is a cast of an imperfect impression of the fourteenth-century seal of this priory (2½ in. by 1½ in.) at the British Museum. Within a pointed oval is a representation of the Trinity within a triple-arched niche. In the base is a shield charged with a lion rampant, for Sir Miles Stapleton, the founder. Legend:—

· · · · SANCTE TRINITATIS · · · · · (fn. 24)


  • 1. The Trinitarians had at one time upwards of 250 houses throughout Christendom. It was estimated in the seventeenth century that since its foundation the order had rescued 30,720 Christian captives from the infidels.
  • 2. Cal. Papal Reg. iii, 56.
  • 3. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ix, 3 26-7; Pat. 33 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 30; 34 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 26.
  • 4. Pat. 36 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 30; 39 Edw. III, pt. ii. m. 29.
  • 5. Cal. of Pat. 3 Ric. II, pt. i. m. 37.
  • 6. Tanner, Notitia, xxxvi; Pat. 16 Ric. II, pt. i, m. 16.
  • 7. Cal. Papal Reg. v, 416.
  • 8. Jessopp, Norw. Visit. (Camd. Soc.), 27, 173, 210, 276.
  • 9. Dep. Keeper's Rep. vii, App. 2, 67.
  • 10. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ix, 264, 284, 328.
  • 11. Ibid. xi, 110. Woodhouse had evidently fallen into a not uncommon mistake of confusing the Trinitarians (who followed the Austin rule, with certain special statutes) and the Crossed or Crutched Friars, who were a distinct order founded in 1169; their first English house was at Colchester.
  • 12. Chant. Cert. Norf. No. 90.
  • 13. Norw. Epis. Reg. v, 43.
  • 14. Ibid. vi, 93.
  • 15. Ibid. viii, 59.
  • 16. Ibid. ix, 35.
  • 17. Ibid. x, 31.
  • 18. Norw. Epis. Reg. xi, 10.
  • 19. Ibid. xii, 53.
  • 20. Jessopp, Norw. Visit. 27.
  • 21. Ibid. 210.
  • 22. Norw. Epis. Reg. vi, 126.
  • 23. Ibid. ix, 19.
  • 24. B.M. lxix, 26; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1,458; Ackn. of Supr. (P.R.O.), 67.