Colleges: College of Baily End, or Gild of St Mary, Thetford

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

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, 'Colleges: College of Baily End, or Gild of St Mary, Thetford', in A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1906) pp. 460-461. British History Online [accessed 22 May 2024].

. "Colleges: College of Baily End, or Gild of St Mary, Thetford", in A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1906) 460-461. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024,

. "Colleges: College of Baily End, or Gild of St Mary, Thetford", A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2, (London, 1906). 460-461. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024,


There was at an early period in Thetford a gild dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, consisting of brethren and sisters with their chaplains. For this gild, in the time of Edward I, Sir Gilbert de Pykenham founded a special chapel, or rather collegiate church.

At first the establishment consisted of a master or warden, who was to celebrate divine service, an alderman, who was to receive and be responsible for the profits of the house, and such brothers and sisters as were duly admitted. The master's stipend from the foundation until about 1325 was but a mark; it was then advanced, with increased duties, to £3 6s. 8d., with a chaplain at £1 13s. 4d. a year; and in the time of Henry V the salary was augmented to £6 13s. 4d, whilst each of the two chaplains had £4 13s. 4d. Each member on admission paid one or more quarters of barley, according to their ability, as well as a money fee of 3s. 4d. The annual revenue of the house in 1337 was £26 6s., mainly in rent from divers tenements in Thetford; certain rents were allotted to support a perpetual lamp and other lights in the chapel. The members of the gild at that time numbered thirty-six. Among them were several of the town clergy, including William Hard ing, who had been master of two of the Thetford hospitals. New members were admitted by the vote of the majority of the gild, who had also the power of expulsion, which was exercised in 1337 against one Edmund Caston.

In the time of Richard II the revenues of the gild were materially increased; there were two chaplains, one of whom served the chapel of St. Bartholomew, in addition to the master. The gild certificate of 12 Richard II, when there was a general inquiry into such foundations throughout the country, was to the following effect: That the chapel of the Nativity in the market-place of Thetford was founded time beyond memory for the use of a fraternity of the townsmen and outsiders; that the chapel was about half a mile distant from the parish church or any other churches, and was suitable for the hearing of Mass by those who thronged to the town on market days or days of pleas; that the fraternity sustained three chaplains, one of whom celebrated daily, another on Sundays, and the third the Requiem Masses; that the anniversaries and obits of each deceased brother or sister of the gild were kept in free alms with all due devotion and with candles burning; and that Roger de Wortham, parson of the church of Tittleshall, gave by charter in 1358 to John de Thetford, parson of the church of Heyham, and others, of whom two survive, a messuage in Thetford worth 20s. a year, for Mass in the chapel for the soul of Henry Chatrys, and for the support of the chaplains and the general sustentation of the chapel and fraternity. (fn. 2)

In 1416, the revenues were estimated at £40. In that year nine new members were enrolled, including Margaret Campleon, afterwards prioress, of the Thetford nunnery. The expenses at the annual gild feast amounted to 56s.

Henry VI in 1443 licensed William earl of Suffolk and Isabel, wife of William Gallion, to alienate to the mayor and commonalty of Thetford (as trustees for the gild) a messuage and garden in Thetford, 240 acres of land, 600 of pasture and heath, with four foldcourses in Croxton, for the purpose of procuring two chaplains to perform daily service for their souls and those of their heirs in the chapel of the Blessed Mary in Baily End. (fn. 3)

In 1446 the mayor and commonalty obtained licence for alienation in mortmain on behalf of the gild of £10 more per annum in mortmain, and the small benefactions immediately increased. The fraternity then appointed two chamberlains to receive the rents, who had to pass their accounts annually before the mayor.

This college or gild of St. Mary of Baily End possessed burial rights, and accordingly various legacies were left to it in the fifteenth century by those who desired burial in the chapel or in the yard by which it was surrounded.

Isabel Gallion, who died in 1472, made notable bequests to the college, to which she bequeathed her body to be buried at the entrance to the quire. Besides church ornaments and gifts of money Isabel also conferred upon the house the advowson and the appropriation of the church of Santon. This advowson was subsequently conveyed to the mayor and commonalty of Thetford on condition that at every vacancy they presented the master of St. Mary's, Baily End, and that he received the profits of the same.

The Valor of 1535 names John Pory as master with a stipend of £6 13s. 4d., and William Fletcher and John Gunnar the two priests, each receiving £5 6s. 8d. a year. There were also two clerks in receipt of a salary of 20s. each. The clear annual value was then only estimated at £23 14s.

In 1538, the mayor and commonalty being desirous of obtaining a charter of incorporation, sold all the valuable plate of the gild chapel for £54 15s. 5½d. towards the expenses of procuring it. Though the corporation sold most of the gild property about this date for a like alleged reason the college remained technically unsuppressed during the reign of Henry VIII, being eventually resigned into the hands of Edward VI in 1547 by John Gunnel, the last master, who had a pension of £5. The college, with its chapel, was at once demolished; and the site (with 80 acres of land and other messuages and tenements) granted in 1548 in the first instance to the Duke of Norfolk, but soon afterwards to Sir Richard Fulmerston.


  • 1. All account rolls and other documents of the college used to be in the hands of Mr. Martin the historian of Thetford. From these original sources his long description of the fraternity is mainly taken. Martin, Hist. of Thetford (1779), 203-27; Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ii, 80-3.
  • 2. Certificates of Gilds, Chancery, No. 332; this return has been overlooked by Martin and Blomefield.
  • 3. Inq. a.q.d. 21 Hen. VI, No. 57.