File NCR 20d/1 - Great Hospital lease book

Identity area

Reference code

NCR 20d/1


Great Hospital lease book


  • Jul 1530-Aug 1645 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1 large volume

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.

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

'Liber A' of the index referenced NCR 20d/8.
Includes a table of contents at the front of the volume supplying folios numbers and details of the, '...indentures & other writings...belonging to Goddes Hows...' With copies of leases, associated bonds for the performance of covenants and other instruments from, initially, the several Masters and their co-brethren of the Hospital of St Gyles, and afterwards from the Mayor, Sheriffs, Citizens and Commanalty (the Corporation) of the City of Norwich concerning the estates of the Great Hospital. The texts are written in many hands and were probably copied into the register at a nearly contemporary time with the leases themselves.
Also includes, inter alia, indentures re Vangewyk and Bolyf Marshes in Essex, 1530, schedule of the individual court rolls and other writings belonging to the Manor of Cringleford, as delivered by the Surveyors of the Hospital, Alderman Thomas Codde and Robert Suckelyng to the farmer of the manor, George Redmayne of Norwich, grocer, Dec 1557 (ff.5d-6d), agreement with Corpus Christi College, Cambridge for the admittance of three scholars under the Matthew Parker scholarships, 1567 (f.65), and a terrier of lands belonging to 'Goddes House in Holmstreet', lying in the town and fields of Rollesby and in adjoining parishes let to William Cappes of Acle on 20 April 1569 (ff. 81d-83r). Also includes copies of deeds from the prior of St Faiths re Astle Wood, nd, and at the end of the volume, is a copy view and valuation of the timber trees and coppice wood leased to John Kitchingman in Great Melton, June 1643.

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Language of material

  • Latin
  • English

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Brown buckram bound paper volume, having been repaired and rebound in the 1930s. The textblock has sufferd much old water damage, and many folios (including those of the table of contents) survive in part only. An older, parchment cover labelled 'A' has been retained and is kept in a separate box. Includes some decorative penwork on capitals (doodled faces and foliage, etc.).

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Related units of description

See NCR 24c for Cringleford Manor court rolls and accounts.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 08/01/2007 by Droip. Modified 06/11/2019 by Catherine.Collins.


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