Hospitals: Domus Dei, Thetford

Page 140

A History of the County of Suffolk: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



God's House, or Domus Dei, was a house of early foundation. Blomefield believed that it dated back to the days when William Rufus removed the episcopal see from Thetford to Norwich, (fn. 1) but Martin could find no sufficient proof of this. (fn. 2) It was situated on the Suffolk side of the borough; the river washed its walls on the north, and the east side fronted the street.

It was at any rate well established before the reign of Edward II, as it was found, in 1319, that John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, held the advowson of the God's Hospital, Thetford. (fn. 3) In that year a considerable store of cattle and goods is described as having been acquired by the prudence and frugality of William de Norton, the late master, and left under the care of the bishop; his successor was enjoined not to dispose by sale or donation of any of the particulars of the inventory without leaving to the house an equivalent. (fn. 4)

The new master does not, however, appear to have followed the good example of William Norton; for he is soon found to be holding other preferment, and was probably non-resident. In 1326 William Harding, master of God's House, Thetford, and rector of Cerncote, Salisbury diocese, acknowledged a debt of eleven marks due to one Stephen de Kettleburgh. (fn. 5) In the same year he was also warden of the hospital of St. Julian, Thetford.

In 1335, John de Warenne obtained the royal licence to transfer the hospital of God's House with all its revenues and possessions to the prior provincial of the Friars Preachers; but speedily changing his mind obtained another licence for transferring it to the prior and canons of the Holy Sepulchre, Thetford. (fn. 6) By this arrangement it was covenanted that the priory should find two chaplains to sing mass for the soul of the founder of the hospital, and to find sustenance and entertainment for three poor men.

In 1347 Henry, duke of Lancaster, as patron, confirmed to the prior and canons the gift of the lands, tenements, and rents lately belonging to the hospital of God's House, but excepted the actual site of the hospital, which he conferred upon the Friars Preachers. Two of the canons were to sing daily mass in the conventual church for the souls of the founders of the hospital. The priory was also to find a house yearly for three poor people from 9 November to 29 April, giving to each of them nightly a loaf of good rye bread, and a herring or two eggs. They were also to provide three beds, and hot water for washing their feet. This charter received royal confirmation the following year. (fn. 7)


  • 1. Blomefield, Hist. of Norf. ii, 79.
  • 2. Martin, Hist. of Thetford, 92.
  • 3. Close, 12 Edw. II, m. 9.
  • 4. Norw. Epis. Reg. i, 77.
  • 5. Close, 19 Edw. II, m. 9.
  • 6. Pat. 9 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 26.
  • 7. Pat. 22 Edw. III, pt. i, m. 23.