- 1722-1849 (Creation)
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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.
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The full list of pensions and portions as given in lease of 1680 (DCN 20/3/5) is as follows:
Portions of tithes at Mettingham, Wangford, Raveningham, Postwick, Cringleford, Thorpe next Norwich, Thornage, Brinton, Boyton als Bighton, Hockering, Sparham, Scarning, Shotesham, Great Bircham, Swanton Morley, Cockthorpe, South Elmham and Hoxne. And pensions, portions of tithes or yearly rents paid or that ought to be paid by Master of Hospital of St Giles, Norwich, parson of Gaywood, parson of Cressingham, Dean and Chapter of Canterbury for their church at Deopham, parson of North Creake, vicar of Wighton, vicar of Wiggnehall St Germans, parson of Blickling, vicar of St Stephen's Norwich, White Friars and Augustine Friars, Norwich, churchwardens of St Peter Mancroft Norwich, parson of Thuxton, Ashby, churches of Haverhill and Barsham, parsonage of Swaffham, churches of Blackhurst, Wormegay, Fordham or Westlebridge, Flitcham, Hockham (sic.) Postwick, Holme by the Sea, East Bradenham, Caister in Flegg, Cromer als Shipden, Fundenhall, Field Dalling, Shropham, Massingham and Islington, and out of church of St Gregory in Sudbury, Bruisyard, Sutton, Kessing of Kessingland, Westleton, Brinton, parson of Wittlesham, and by the vicar of Henley. And whatsoever was due to be paid by the late priors of Sarrow (sic.), Blackborough, Flixton, late abbot of West Dereham, prior of Pentney, prior of Westacre, prior of Castleacre, prior of Charterhouse by London, prior of Shouldham, prior of Buckenham, prior of Walsingham, prior of Woodbridge, abbot of Sibton, abbot of Loyston (sic.), abbot of Bruisyard, late Master of the Chantry in Thompson, Master of the Chapel of the Field in Norwich. And also all the rents and impropriations reserved out of impropriations within the city of Norwich at George Colegate, Martin at Oak, James, Saviour, Martin at Palace, Peter in Conesford als Permountergate, John at the Gate, John upon the Hill als Sepulchre, Gregory, Giles, Benedict, Paul, Mary Unburnt 'and all the other pensions and portions whatsoever due and payable to the Dean and Chapter except one pension of £4.00 year due and payable by the Lord Bishop for his chapel in the palace at Norwich'.
In the account book of 1805 (DCN 20/1/2) there are some changes as follows: These no longer of the list: White Friars and Augustine Friars Norwich, Blackhurst, Wormegay, Fordham, Bruisyard, Henley: dues from priors or abbots of Sarrow (sic.), Flixton, West Dereham, Westacre, Castleacre, Charterhouse, Shouldham, Buckenham, Walsingham, Woodbridge, Sibton, Loyston (sic.), Bruisyard and masters of Thompson and Chapel in the Field, the church of St Mary Unburnt Norwich. These which were not listed in 1630 occur in 1805; Albourne Suffolk, Ashill, Buxton, Framsden Suffolk, Fressingfield Suffolk, Hevingham, Kirkton, St Margaret's Chapel [not said where], Snettisham, Therberton Suffolk, Wroxham, Wingfield Suffolk, Holkham, (but Hockham in DCN 20/3/5 is perhaps mistake for Holkham).
(1) The 1680 list is interesting as giving details of the origins of the pensions etc.: by 1805 they are simply listed in alphabetical order and distinctions like 'the churchwardens of St Peter Mancroft' or 'vicar of St Stephens' are not given.
(2) Many pensions are recorded in the 1805 account book as 'never paid'.
(3) Although the tithe rent charges due from Buxton and from Hevingham and Marsham are listed in the 1805 account their status is different to the others; they are invariably listed in the Audit books among the Country Estate rates not as part of the pensions and portions account. For leases see DCN 49/9 and 29.
(4) From the 1850s the Dean and Chapter transferred many of its estates to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, receiving in return tithe rent charges of specified parishes. These are listed as DCN 50.