File NCR 24b/1/38/1-4 - Last will and testament of John Smyth, master of St Giles' Hospital and rector of the churches of Yaxham and Couteshale with other episcopal instruments relating to the right of the Hospital to present the rector of the church of Coltishall

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Reference code

NCR 24b/1/38/1-4


Last will and testament of John Smyth, master of St Giles' Hospital and rector of the churches of Yaxham and Couteshale with other episcopal instruments relating to the right of the Hospital to present the rector of the church of Coltishall


  • Jun 1489-Sep 1519 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

4 parchments

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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.

Name of creator

(fl late 15th century-early 16th century)

Biographical history

An ordained priest, brother chaplain and, ultimately, Master of St Giles' Hospital, Norwich. Along with his fellow hospital brethren, he was respondible at various times for the oversight of several of the hospital's country estates. In the 1470s, he oversaw estates at Mundham, Seething, Norwich (the Lathes), Reppes cum Bastwick and elsewhere, and whilst being Master, he also acted as general supervisor and receiver of the hospital's income. Master of St Giles' Hospital from 1500-1504 and collated Rector of the parish church of Coltishall in March 1500.

Archival history

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Scope and content

Includes John Smyth's will dated 11 June 1489, devising lands and rents in Rollesby and Coltishall to the Hospital, the hospital to have all profits from the manor of Rollesby and all lands, tenements, rents and services of Smyth's there for the term of 80 years after his death, the Hospital finding a suitable priest to celebrate [mass] in the hospital for his soul and those of his parents, John and Joan Smyth, and of Master Peter Shelton and of all his family and benefactors, the manor to revert to his heirs after the 80 years, and also the profits, lands of Smyth in Coltishall to the Hospital for the same term of years, the Hospital to have obit masses sung each Tuesday after Holy Trinity each year for the said term of 80 years, and with other pious bequests of lands in North Walsham to St Benet's Abbey of Holme and in Billingford to the College of Holy Trinity in Cambridge, witnessed by Nicholas Hewe clerk, Robert Godfrey chaplain, John Dowe chaplain, George Verly chaplain, and Richard Newman chaplain, and with an annexed testament, leaving his body to be buried in the choir of the hospital church, monetary bequests to his fellow priests and choral clerks and 40s to the poor of the hospital, each resident pauper to receive a black gown, and each sister to have a black cap, and 10 marks to distributed to the poor attending his funeral masses, pious bequests to friars, various church gilds (inc that of Holy Trinity of Lynn), a messuage and lands in Baldeswell to his servant, Simon Syward/Sywhat, the executors being Master Stephen Bryan, notary of Norwich, Andrew Pawe of Norwich, William Hadenham and Simon Syward, with Sir Henry Heydon, supervisor, endorsed with a note of probate before Bishop James at his manor of Hoxne dated the last day of June 1489.
Also includes the deed of presentation of Oliver Dynham, archdeacon of Norfolk to the parish church of Coltishall, 20 July 1489, and of collation by Bishop [Thomas Jane] of John Jullis to the rectory of Coltishall on the resignation of the previous master, Robert Honywod, 11 March 1499/1500, and an exemplification by letters patent of the edict of Bishop James Goldwell's inquisition of 'Jus Patronatus' dated 22 April 1490, concerning the right of the Hospital to present to the rectory of Coltishall which was then disputed by the owners of the manor there, the college of the BVM and St Nicholas in Cambridge [later known as King's College], 2 September 1519.
All four parchments have been annotated and marked by antiquary, Francis Blomefield.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Formerly referenced NCR Case 24b/26a-d

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Language of material

  • Latin

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Water-stained and cockled, and all seals missing

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 08/01/2007 by Droip. Modified 03/12/2018 by Droip.


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