Colleges: Attleborough

Pages 453-454

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

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Sir Robert de Mortimer, who died in 1387, directed by his will of that year that 2,000 marks should be appropriated to found and endow a chapel in honour of the Holy Cross, in the church of Attleborough, the chaplains whereof were to celebrate for the souls of Sir Robert and Margery, his wife, and for all their ancestors. Sir Robert left to Simon, rector of Scoulton, and eight other trustees, his manors of Scoulton, Tottington, and Stanford in Norfolk, and Burton and Foxton in Cambridgeshire, the income to accumulate until there was the sum of two thousand marks out of the profits. Eventually, in 1405, the royal licence was obtained to erect the chantry, and to endow it with land in Attleborough, and with the ' advowson and appropriation of the church of Great Ellingham, due provision being made for the poor and for the vicar. (fn. 2)

The college was to consist of a warden or master, and four chaplains or fellows. They were to yield obedience to the master, and to live in common in their college or mansionhouse. All five were to hold their benefices for life, and if any were so old or infirm that they could not serve, they were nevertheless to continue in their place and be maintained for life by the college. The master's stipend was 60s., and that of each chaplain 40s., to be paid halfyearly, on St. John the Baptist's day and Christmas day. The master and chaplains were each year to have a new cloth suit, or ten shillings in lieu thereof. The master was to be chosen by the majority of the fellows and need not be a member of the college; if they elected two, the choice between them lay with the bishop. Two wax tapers of two pounds each were to be lighted yearly on the anniversaries of the founder and his wife, and five poor people were each to be given 13d. The master was to present an annual statement of accounts to the fellows on Michaelmas Day.

The college-house stood near the north-west corner of the churchyard.

On 28 January, 1493, Archdeacon Goldwell, as commissary for the bishop, visited the college of Attleborough, on that occasion called priory. John Newton, the prior, and three canons were present, and there was nothing found worthy of reformation.

At the visitation of 1514 Peter Foston was master or warden. He was subjected to examination, as well as the two chaplains, but nothing was found by Bishop Nicke worthy of reformation.

The visitation made by the suffragan bishop of Chalcedon and his fellow commissaries, on 26 June, 1520, was more searching. John Claydon, the master or provost, was absent, but appeared by proxy in the person of William Beynham; but as neither the master nor his proxy satisfied the visitation mandate, the master was pronounced contumacious and ordered to appear on the morrow. The next morning Beynham produced his sealed form of proxy and other duly executed documents, and the visitation proceeded.

John Whitlock said that the master did not observe the statutes, he had retained his salary for a year or more, and also detained a book of accounts from the time of the death of his predecessor, Master Peter Foston, up to that time. George Jekson also said that the master did not observe the foundation statutes. The bishop ordered Beynham to exhibit on 16 July, at Holt, the foundation charter of the college, together with a statement of accounts. (fn. 3)

Master John Claydon and two fellows, William Brown and Robert Wittell, subscribed to the king's supremacy on 25 August, 1534. (fn. 4)

The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 gave the annual value of the rectory of Ellingham as £10 7s. 8d., and of the college manor of Attleborough as £15 18s. 8d., yielding a total of £26 5s. 4d., but various outgoings reduced the clear value to £21 16s. 3d.

Henry VIII subsequently granted licence for the appropriation of the greater part of the valuable rectory of Attleborough, but this was never accomplished, the dissolution of the college intervening. In 1541 the site of the college and its possessions were granted to Robert earl of Sussex, who shamelessly pulled down the quire of the fine church (for the lead) oh the false plea that it had been appropriated to the college.

Masters of Attleborough College (fn. 5)

John Rykedon, 1417

Thomas Cove, 1421

John Spyrling, 1441

Richard Fishere, 1442

Robert Popy

John Cralle, 1448

Thomas Draper

John Powlyn, 1477

John Newton, 1483

John Williamson, 1485

Peter Foston, 1486

John Claydon, 1519

There is a cast of an early fifteenth-century seal in the British Museum, showing Our Lord on the cross on a hatched field. Legend:—



  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. i, 538-41; Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1400-1; Index Monasticus, 47.
  • 2. Pat. 7 Hen. IV, pt. ii, m. 22.
  • 3. Jessopp, Norw. Visit. (Camd. Soc.), 37, 94, 158-9.
  • 4. Deputy Keeper's Rep. vii, App. 2.
  • 5. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. i, 541.
  • 6. B.M. lxix, 5. Given in Dugdale, Mon. vi, 1400, and Blomefield, Norf. i, 364.