Sub-fonds NCR 25 - Documents relating to the country estates of God's House (aka St Giles' Hospital and later, the Great Hospital) and of other city hospitals and charities

Reference code

NCR 25


Documents relating to the country estates of God's House (aka St Giles' Hospital and later, the Great Hospital) and of other city hospitals and charities


  • nd [mid 13th century]-1944 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

45 boxes of records

Name of creator

(c 1249-)

Administrative history

Established in c 1249 by the then Bishop of Norwich, Walter Suffield and originally known as the Hospital of the Blessed Mary and St Giles, and afterwards, simply as St Giles's Hospital, Norwich, in the parish of St Helen in Holmstrete, now Bishopgate in Norwich.
Formerly known as St Giles' Hospital, the Great Hospital in Norwich is still a functioning charitable, residential institution and its archives extend from the thirteenth century to the twentieth century. Prior to the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, the Mayor and Corporation acted as trustees for a large number of City charities. The most ancient was the Great Hospital (founded by Walter Suffield, Bishop of Norwich, in 1249), whose records are the largest and most complete of any of the City charities.
While most English hospitals were dissolved at the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the Great Hospital was one of very few which survived. On Henry VIII's death in 1547, it was surrendered to the new Protestant monarch, Edward VI. The Norwich city fathers, however, were sufficiently astute to recognize the important rôle which the Hospital might play in caring for the city's poor (who then posed a serious social problem). Edward VI succumbed to local pressure and returned the ownership of the Hospital and its possessions, land and property to the corporation, which then used it to prioritise and channel charitable work in the community. Thus, through its acquisition by the corporation, the Hospital continued to function and its records became part of the city archives.
By the terms of Edward VI's charter by letters patent in 1547, forty poor people were to be accommodated in the Hospital (then called 'God's House'), looked after by the keeper of the House and a team of four matrons or women keepers, but by the end of the century, the number had risen to 54. In 1633, owing to increased revenues, the numbers of inhabitants had increased to 86 though there were still only four women keepers. Seven years later, there were 95 inhabitants, looked after by five matrons. Of these inhabitants, the original 40 provided for by charter had been augmented by two paid for by legacies in Francis Rugg's will, two more by the will of Alderman Henry Fawcett and the remainder allowed by the mayor and aldermen because of the increase in revenues. Presumably finances were tight when in 1647, numbers were down to 71 and the team of matrons only four women, but by the early Commonwealth period, there were again 95 poor and five matrons. By 1685, a hundred poor folk were accommodated in the Hospital.
The Charity Commissioners finished their enquiry into the Norwich charities in 1833 and a copy of their printed report is to be found at N/TC 63/2. By a Chancery Order dated 18 March 1837, twenty-six Charity Trustees were appointed, with responsibility to manage the charities formerly in trust with the Corporation. The charities were divided into two lists: the Church List Charities (including the Great Hospital, the Free Grammar School, Archbishop Parker's Scholarships, the Preachers' Fund and various other smaller charities) and the General List Charities (including Doughty's Hospital, the Boys' Hospital, the Girls' Hospital, the Barnham Broom Estate and many other smaller charities).
A considerable number of charity records (many of them pre-1835) were deposited in the Record Office many years after the publication of Hudson and Tingey's Revised Catalogue of the Records of the City of Norwich in 1898. They interrelate with the records in the NCR collection and are listed at N/CCH and N/MC.
The medieval records of the Great Hospital were inscribed in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in May 2011. The UK Memory of the World Register (established in 2010) helps to raise awareness of some of the UK’s exceptional, but lesser-known documentary riches by awarding them globally-recognised Memory of the World status.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Scope and content

Includes title deeds, counterpart agreements and leases and other records relating to the (mainly, country) estates (in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and elsewhere) of the several city hospitals and other charities, dating from the mid-13th to the mid 20th centuries. These documents were calendared by archivist, Miss Mary Grace in the mid-20th century and arranged loosely under parish (or, occasionally, groupings of parishes) but numbered through in one sequence. The Great Hospital's documents were listed first and were numbered from 1-1361, though numbers 634-663 inclusive were not used, and the sequence also excluded those deeds of the estates in Cringleford because these had already been calendared both by JC Tingey at the turn of the 20th century and by Frederick Johnson in the 1920s. Their handwritten calendars describing approximately 288 deeds of Cringleford estates are currently held with other manuscript finding aids and notes by past city archivists and antiquarians in NCR 29. The descriptions of the Cringleford deeds are in the process of being added to this catalogue, under sub-section 7, where they form a separately numbered series from the main sequential series.

Records for the Boys, Girls, Bethel, Doughty's and Cooks Hospitals and of other named city charities follow those of the Great Hospital in Miss Grace's sequence, and occasionally include suit papers and copies of wills, agreements and other foundation documents.

Title deeds and leases to St Giles' Hospital's (and perhaps to the other hospitals') estates in Norwich itself appear to have survived in NCR 4a, and specifically those concerning the precinct of St Giles' Hospital itself are listed in the group, NCR 4a/31 (for properties in the parish of St Helen's and St Giles in Holmstreet).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Previously NCR Case 25.
Please note that the Great Hospital records were the subject of a cataloguing project in 2016/2017 and updated descriptions have been added to the catalogue. These records are now simply referenced as NCR 25a (instead of being divided between references, NCR Case 25a-d), though cross-references to their earlier catalogue marks have been retained. Miss Grace roughly arranged the deeds into series, topographically by parish names, though with a single running number sequence throughout the whole collection. For the purpose of continuity, this arrangement and numbering (though imperfect) has been retained, with, however, the addition of a sub-number for each parish group, so the Great Hospital deed series are now catalogue references, NCR 25a/1-29.

These deeds and other records listed under the topographical groupings appear to have been numbered 'as seen' without consideration to their relation to each other, or even to any strictly chronological sequence. Unfortunately, it has been considered too long a process to attempt to re-arrange them all into coherent archival order, so it is hoped that, by searching the more detailed, updated descriptions, future users will at least be able to connect related deeds together and to be able to identify other types of record where they occur in the sequence.

NCR 25a/1/1-7 Deeds relating to three pieces of land in Alderford and Swannington, and Haveringland (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/2/8-152 Deeds relating to Bixley and Trowse (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/3/153-176 Deeds relating to Burlingham, Limpenhoe and the hundred of Blofield (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/4/177-212 Deeds relating to Calthorpe, Erpingham, Ingworth, etc. (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/5/213-214 Deeds relating to Belaugh by Coltishall (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/6/215-257 Deeds relating to Costessey and Ringland (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/7/1-288 Deeds relating to Cringleford, etc. calendared by JC Tingey and Fred Johnson (Great Hospital)
Note: Having already been calendared at the time, these Cringleford deeds were never included in Miss Grace's numbering though they were counted as being within the old Case 25 arrangement. They had been instead calendared in three series, nos 1-54 undated (pre-c 1290), 1-90 dated from c 1284-1380, and 1-144 dated 1380 onwards. See ms calendars in NCR Case 29. Tingey appears to have been responsible for the first two series of pre-1380 deeds, and Fred Johnson for the descriptions of the post-1380 deeds.) All three series have now been numbered through consecutively from 1 to 288.

NCR 25a/8/258--264 Deeds relating to Hardley (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/9/265-271 Deeds relating to Horsford, Horsham, Horstead, Newton [St Faith] and Hackford (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/10/272-280 Deeds relating to Itteringham (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/11/281-328 Deeds relating to Hardley, Langley, Hales and other adjoining parishes (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/12/329-372 Deeds relating to Loddon and adjoining parishes (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/13/373-569 Deeds relating to Mundham (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/14/570-576 Deeds relating to Reedham (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/15/577-633 Deeds relating to Repps with Bastwick (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/16/664-686 Deeds relating to Thrigby, Filby, Rollesby and elsewhere in the Hundred of Flegg (Great Hospital) (2 parcels)

NCR 25a/17/687-712 Deeds relating to Salhouse, Wroxham etc. (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/18/713-782 Deeds relating to Seething and Sisland (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/19/783-785 Deeds relating to South Walsham and Upton (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/20/786-815 Deeds relating to Sprowston (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/21/816-834 Deeds relating to Thurlton and Thwait (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/22/835-847 Deeds relating to Wickmere and Wolterton (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/23/ 848-856 Deeds relating to Wymondham, Kimberley, and Wicklewood (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/24/865-1234 Deeds relating to Shropham (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/25/1235-1327 Deeds relating to Hethel and Carleton etc. (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/26/1328-1337 Deeds relating to Haddescoe, Heckingham etc. (Great Hospital 1617)

NCR 25a/27/1338-1356 Deeds relating to Fobbing and Vange in Essex (Great Hospital 1518)

NCR 25a/28/1357 East Winch deed (Great Hospital)

NCR 25a/29/1358-1361 Free School foundation records (Great Hospital)

The records of the other hospitals have not been re-listed, and their descriptions currently follow under references, NCR 25b-i. Their descriptions have not been updated.

The updating of the NCR 25a descriptions is an on-going process, which is not complete.

Conditions governing access

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Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

See separate calendar on cards in Searchroom.

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For additional title deeds, c 1260-1951, see N/MC 1/35-39, N/MC 19. Also see MS 12044-12114, 30E1 for miscellaneous medieval deeds and litigation records concerning the country estates of St Giles' Hospital.

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