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Norwich Cathedral Priory; c 1096-1538; benedictine; Norwich, Norfolk
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The Benedictine priory of the Holy Trinity was founded by Bishop Herbert Losinga on his removal of the seat of the bishopric from Thetford. According to the chronicler, Matthew Paris (followed by the Norwich chronicler Bartholomew Cotton), this took place on 9 April 1094, but it was more probably at some time in 1095 (see B. Dodwell, 'The Foundation of Norwich Cathedral', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., vii (1957), 1-18). The priory had a population of about 60 monks and, by the mid twelfth century, had small dependent cells at St Leonard's in Thorpe, Yarmouth, Lynn, and Aldeby in Norfolk and at Hoxne in Suffolk. It also administered the hospital of St Paul in Norwich. Bishop Herbert granted estates to the priory, including the profits of the Whitsun fair at Norwich, the manors of Hindolveston, Hindringham, Hemsby and Martham, and parts of the manor of Thorpe next Norwich. King Henry I had granted the latter to the bishop for the expenses of building the new cathedral, but Herbert retained part of it, giving to the monks instead the manor of Gnatingdon in Sedgeford and land in Thornham and Mintlyn. The largest early grants by private persons were the manor of Trowse Newton, given by Godric, and the manor of Eaton, given by Alan son of Flaald. By the fourteenth century, the priory had sixteen large estates - Plumstead, Monks' Grange (in Pockthorpe on the edge of Norwich), Eaton, Catton, Hindolveston, Hindringham, North Elmham, Gateley, Thornham, Trowse Newton, Hemsby, Martham, Taverham, Gnatingdon and Sedgeford, all in Norfolk, and Denham in Suffolk: these were known as the prior's manors. It had smaller estates and rights in churches in about thirty parishes in the city of Norwich and about 100 parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as at Chalk in Kent and Scampton in Lincolnshire.
The monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII and a capitular body of dean and prebendaries or canons established: the estates of the former priory were granted to them. There was considerable continuity of personnel: the last prior became the first dean, five of the six prebendaries were former monks and sixteen more of the monks became minor canons or lay clerks. However, the surrender to Henry VIII was considered to be invalid because the bishop of Norwich (as successor to the founder) had not given his consent. The chapter surrendered to Edward VI, who reformed the capitular body granting to it most but not all of the estates they previously held: some, such as the manor of Hemsby, were kept by the Crown and later sold, but the Cathedral also gained some estates, such as the rectory of Scalby in Yorkshire, formerly belonging to Bridlington priory. The cathedral was originally governed by statutes of Henry VIII. In 1619, Bishop Harsnett stated that no statutes had been legalised by Edward VI, Mary or Elizabeth I: James I therefore formally issued a body of statutes on 9 August 1620 and the Cathedral was from then governed by these.
The Dean and Chapter was abolished by Parliament in 1649 and by Act of Parliament cathedral estates were seized for sale on 30 April 1649. Cathedral records were then stored centrally with episcopal records in London. In November 1660, Parliament declared all sales of church land during the Commonwealth period void. Records of dioceses and cathedrals were transferred to Lambeth Palace and there sorted before being returned to their respective reinstated owners. Inevitably, there was some intermixing of the archives and over the last hundred years medieval records have been returned to Norwich from Canterbury, Lincoln, Hereford and Windsor.
The priory had peculiar rights (exempt from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon, but not that of the bishop) over the parishes of Arminghall, West Beckham, Catton, Eaton, Hindolveston, Martham, Lakenham, Great Plumstead, Sedgeford, Sprowston, Trowse Newton, Hemsby, Hindringham, Scratby, Taverham, Winterton, all in Norfolk, and the parishes of St Helen, St Mary in the Marsh, St James Pockthorpe and St Paul in Norwich. After the Reformation, the dean and chapter had peculiar jurisdiction over these parishes, apart from Hemsby, Hindringham, Scratby, Taverham and Winterton. Many of the records of this peculiar jurisdiction passed to diocesan officials and are listed among the diocesan and probate archives, but some material remained with the cathedral archives and is described in this guide.
The priory had jurisdiction over the cathedral precinct and before 1524 claimed it over other parts of Norwich, although this was disputed by the city. Jurisdiction over the leet of Newgate (Surrey Street) was granted to the citizens in 1305. The priory continued to claim jurisdiction over Tombland, Raton Row, and Holme Street (all just outside the cathedral precinct), St Paul's parish and Magdalen Hospital, while it also claimed the right to hold a fair on Tombland each Whitsun and rights over grazing land at Eaton and Lakenham. By agreement made under award of Cardinal Wolsey in 1524, the priory gave 80 acres of land (later called Town Close) in Eaton to the city and the city surrendered its claim to grazing rights elsewhere in Eaton and Lakenham. The priory also surrendered its right to hold the fair and its claim to jurisdiction beyond the precinct. After the Reformation, the dean and chapter held sessions courts with jurisdiction over the precinct, including that of coroner.
The history of the Cathedral is described in 'Norwich Cathedral: City, Church and Diocese, 1096-1996', ed. I. Atherton and others (London, 1996). The architectural history is given in detail in E.C. Fernie, 'An Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral' (Oxford, 1993).
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Created on: 26/04/2002 by Droip
'Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity, Norwich', A History of the County of Norfolk: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 317-328. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=38258 Date accessed: 18 March 2009.