Series NCR 18b/1-129 - Chamberlains' audited, annual accounts

Identity area

Reference code

NCR 18b/1-129


Chamberlains' audited, annual accounts


  • 1700-1835 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

129 volumes

Context area

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

When Hudson and Tingey produced their 'Revised Catalogue of the Records of the City of Norwich' in 1898 they noted that the accounts for the following years were missing: 1703-1704, 1705-1706, 1712-1713, 1715-1716, 1716-1717, 1808-1809 and 1828-1833. The volumes for 1712-1713, 1715-1716 and 1716-1717 were handed over by the Trustees of the Great Hospital in December 1906 and bear a stamp to this effect. The other volumes remain missing.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The Chamberlains were the treasurers of the City of Norwich and their accounts form the record of the Corporation's financial dealings prior to the implementation of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835. With rare exceptions (for instance, the two-year account of 1738-1740 and the 1.5-year period from 1740-1741) there is usually one volume for each financial year, normally, at the beginning of the period represented by this series, from Lady Day (25 March) to the following Lady Day until 1741, when the accounting period changed permanently to Michaelmas (29 September) changeovers. Titles are often etched onto the reversed calf leather covers, though by the mid-18th century, they carry red morrocan leather and gold embossed labels on their front covers.

Format (based on the account for 1729-1730)

The Charge (i.e., Receipts)

Landgable Rents, Castle Fee Rents, and Rents of Assize (all small token sums).
Rents under the Walls inside and without (i.e., for land adjoining the City Walls, mostly small sums).
Rents in diverse Parishes (more substantial sums).
Foreign Receipts (for various items, e.g., reimbursement from High Constable for expenses incurred in transporting felons, money arising from Weigh House).
Sundry old and late arrears which cannot be charged upon any particular tenant because now occupied by other persons.
Abstract of the Charge.

The Discharge (i.e., Expenditure)

Fees and Salaries (inc. references to sub-chamberlains).
Sermons (e.g., Restoration Sermon on 29 May, Gun Powder Sermon on 5 November).
Donations (i.e., payment of Charity money for preachers, apprentices etc.).
Taxes paid by Corporation for various properties (Workhouse, Waterworks, Brewhouse and Mint, Gaol, Butchery and Fishery, Gun House etc.).
Annuities and Interest Money (on loans to Corporation).
Payments by Bills and Orders (e.g., firing guns on public days, drink for prisoners on public days, wood for fires at Guildhall, wine, beer, sugar rolls, cleansing Guildhall, bassoon for use of City, mending clock in St Andrew's Hall).
Payments by Orders of Committee (i.e., for Gaol, Hay House, Cockies, Town Close, City, New Hall, Staithe, Castle and Fee, Hellesdon Bridge, Yarmouth Pier and Haven, Fishery and Butchery and the Melton Estate Committees).
Payments without Orders (e.g., water to Fish Market and Gun House, sheep and sturgeon for the Judges, to servants of Great Hospital, to Bishop's servants).
Arrears uncollected but chargeable
Abstract of the Discharge.
Differences from the last Account.
Signed memorandum of audit (usually dated a few months after the end of the accounting period)

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The Chamberlains' annual account books formerly had the references NCR Case 18b, c and d. This has been superseded and they now simply have the references NCR 18b/1-129.

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

A number of the account books were damaged by the water used to extinguish the Norwich Central Library fire of 1 August 1994. Some pages have water stains and some bindings have scorch marks caused by the steam. Only a few volumes are so badly damaged as to be unconsultable.

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

See also chamberlain's account books, 1801-1827 in NCR 19a/6-8.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 26/02/2007 by Droip. Modified 06/11/2019 by Catherine.Collins.


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