Sub-series - St Benet's Abbey

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Reference code


St Benet's Abbey


  • 1238 (Creation)

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1 piece

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Name of creator

(c 800-1539)

Administrative history

There was a Saxon monastery of St Benet of Holme from about 800AD. This was destroyed by the Danes in about 870. The house was refounded as a Benedictine monastery by Canute in about 1019. The taxation roll of 1291 shows that the abbey had property in 76 Norfolk parishes. These were mainly in east and north Norfolk. Some of the major holdings included manors or estates in Ludham, Potter Heigham, North Walsham, Neatishead, Hardley, Thwaite and Thurgarton. It also owned the manor of Heigham near Norwich and had property in Yarmouth.The abbey was beseiged during the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and the abbot forced to surrender his manor court rolls, which were burnt. The earliest surviving court roll, not surprisingly dates from 1382. In 1535, Henry VIII took for himself the estates then held by the Bishop of Norwich, giving to the Bishop the estates of the abbey and uniting the abbey to the bishopric. Because of this the abbey technically escaped dissolution and the Bishop of Norwich was entitled to sit in the House of Lords as the abbot of St Benet's (this has recently been rectified but he still holds the courtesy title of abbot).

The Archives

The main series of archives of St Benet’s passed to the diocesan archives with the exchange of 1535. These included bailiffs’ accounts; manor court rolls; obedientiary rolls; rental; surveys and extents; papal bulls. They are listed as DN/EST 1-6.
Other records have turned up elsewhere, some among the Norwich Cathedral archives, others in private hands: for example two account rolls were found among the manuscript collections of John L’Estrange by Walter Rye. These records were restored to the diocesan archives in 1962. They included title deeds; manor court rolls; bailiffs’ accounts; obedientiary rolls. They are listed as DN/EST 7-13. A further collection was returned from the Cathedral archives in 1981. These are listed as DN/EST 14.

Some records of the abbey are still among the Norwich Cathedral archives. They include a late 14th century register of charters (DCN 40/8) and estate records (DCN 95/32, 33).
There is also an abbey cartulary in the British Library (Cotton Galba Eii). This has been transcribed by J.R. West for the Norfolk Record Society volumes 2 & 3 (1932).
It is not clear when the rolls listed in DN/EST 100 strayed from the diocesan archives. A transcript of DN/EST 100/2 was found among the papers of John L’Estrange by Walter Rye together with the original rolls already mentioned. At least one of the rolls was seen by Frederick Johnson: it has his signature in pencil with the date.

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