Biographical Register of the English Cathedral Priories of the Province of Canterbury, c. 1066-1540

By Joan Greatrex | Go to book overview

NORWICH CATHEDRAL PRIORY

INTRODUCTION

The cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity at Norwich came into being when bishop Herbert de Losinga, formerly abbot of Ramsey, transferred his see from Thetford to Norwich c.1095. His aim was to have a cathedral chapter of sixty monks, a complement which he apparently soon achieved;1 at the same time he established the small dependency of St Leonard's on the outskirts of Norwich and accommodated some of the monks there while the claustral buildings across the river were being completed. St Leonard's continued to function as a cell for seven or eight monks and was soon to be one of the four founded by the same bishop, the others being at Aldeby (St Mary's), King's Lynn (St Margaret's), and Yarmouth (St Nicholas'); these last were intended for three or four monks each who were given charge of the nearby parish churches. In 1130 the chapel of St Edmund at Hoxne, Suffolk, became the fifth cell attached to Norwich with a complement of seven to eight monks.2 Every monk was professed in the cathedral priory and was a fully member of the monastic chapter no matter where he was resident at any given time, and all appointments to the cells were made by the prior of Norwich.

Statistics of the monastic population at Norwich begin to appear on the obedientiary accounts on the eve of the Black Death and continue at fairly frequent intervals for the next two centuries.3 In 1348 there were about sixty-five monks in all, half of whom died in the plague the following year; by the mid-1360s there were over fifty, and in 1389/90 this upward trend reached fifty-nine. Half a century later the total was about fifty-five, while in 1503/4 there were fifty monks. Since this last figure appears to refer only to Norwich, the total would have to be raised in order to include those members of the community who were residing in the cells but whose numbers are unknown. Twenty years on, numbers on the accounts stood at only forty-two; thirty- seven occur in the year that saw the Act of Supremacy come into force, and only eighteen names are to be found on the surrender deed. These figures must be interpreted with an awareness of their underlying ambiguities, namely that many of the later totals, probably, and the surrender deed itself, certainly, apply only to the cathedral community, which saw a mass exodus of about fourteen monks in the spring of 1538.4

References to some of the obedientary offices occur in records dating from the early

____________________
1
Dodwell, "The Foundation of Norwich Cathedral", 12, and Fernie, Arch. Hist. Norwich, 13-15. The bishop had been a monk of Féecamp and decreed that the cathedral priory should follow the customs of that house; see Tolhurst, Customary, which is a transcription of a 13thc. manuscript, now Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Ms 465.
2
Knowles and Hadcock, MRH, 58, Dodwell, op. cit., 10, MRH, 68. Durham was the only cathedral priory with more dependencies but some of them were later acquisitions.
3
The extensive collection of close to 1,500 rolls begins as early as 1263/4. Because many of these exist in duplicate and many rolls consist of consecutive years attached together, the numbering of the accounts does not follow in strict chronological sequence as one might, unless warned, expect.

Most of my figures are drawn from the accounts of St Leonard's priory which recorded annual payments to all the monks residing in the cathedral community; thus, another twelve to fifteen, full members of the Norwich chapter, are probably not accounted for the these calculations. For further statistical details see Greatrex in "Norwich Monk Students", 599-560, and in "Statistics", 183-185.

4
The circumstances surrounding the surrender will be discussed more fully below.

-466-

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Biographical Register of the English Cathedral Priories of the Province of Canterbury, c. 1066-1540
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations of Words and Phrases xiii
  • General Bibliography of Works Cited with Abbreviations xv
  • Schema for the References in Each Section xx
  • General Introduction xxi
  • Bath Cathedral Priory 1
  • Canterbury Cathedral Priory 50
  • Coventry Cathedral Priory 336
  • Ely Cathedral Priory 377
  • Norwich Cathedral Priory 466
  • Rochester Cathedral Priory 577
  • Winchester Cathedral Priory 651
  • Worcester Cathedral Priory 754
  • Appendix - Archbishops, Bishops, and Priors in Chronological Order 902
  • Index of Names 911
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