Fonds DN/INV - Norwich Consistory Court Probate Records: Inventories of the goods of deceased persons

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Norwich Consistory Court Probate Records: Inventories of the goods of deceased persons


  • 1553-1846 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

85 boxes

Context area

Name of creator

(11th century-)

Administrative history

The Consistory Court dealt with cases arising from the bishop’s and archdeacons’ visitations and other matters, such as dilapidations of church property and the misappropriation of church goods. The Bishop attended the court at first but over time his place was taken by his legal representative, the Chancellor of the Diocese.

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Diocese of Norwich was established when Bishop Herbert de Losinga transferred the see from Thetford to Norwich in 1095 or 1096. At that time the diocese contained Norfolk (except Emneth, which was in the diocese of Ely), Suffolk (except for parishes in the peculiar deanery of Bocking) and part of south-east Cambridgeshire. This remained the case until 1837 when the Cambridgeshire portion along with the Archdeaconry of Sudbury (comprising West Suffolk) and the Liberty of Bury St Edmunds passed to the Diocese of Ely. In 1914 the Archdeaconry of Suffolk (except the deanery of Lothingland, i.e., the area around Lowestoft in north-east Suffolk), became part of the newly-created Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich whilst at the same time the Fincham and Lynn Marshland deaneries were transferred to the Diocese of Ely.

Archival history

Boxes numbered by Diocesan Registry as 1-25, 32, 35/6, 38-40, 42-74, 188-207, and 1182.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

DN/INV 69D was received by Norfolk Record Record office in 1963. All other files were received on an unknown date.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Normally filed by years running from 26 March: occasionally, but rarely, with executor's accounts annexed. Total 13,561. No inventories survive for the years 1585-1586, 1600, 1604, 1609, 1620, 1622, 1623, 1624, 1627, 1641, 1643, 1645, 1653, 1654 and 1655.

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Finding aids

Foreword by Thomas F. Barton

A short explanation of the work done in preserving the inventories and preparing these lists may be helpful.


The system originally adopted in the Registry was to start a new file for the inventories exhibited in each ecclesiastical year (commencing 26 March). The file was begun with a quantity of blank sheets used for preparing an alphabetical index as the file grew and held together by a tag or thong: behind these were placed the inventories, which were given a consecutive number as they were exhibited. Each inventory bears (or should bear) a short endorsement showing when and by whom it was exhibited. These endorsements are in Latin, always abbreviated, and often very brief. While the full endorsement is never found at length, all endorsements take their origin from some such formula as follows, though they may not include all the information:

Exhibitum fuit huiusmodi Inventarium = die
mensis = Anno Domini = stilo Anglicano in registrum
Curie Consistorialis Episcopalis Norwicensis per
executorem testamenti ultimi
administratorem bonorum iurium et creditorum in nomine
procuratorio X Y executoris etc./administratoris etc.
C D defuncti pro vero et pleno

Inventario emnium et singulorum bonorum iurium et creditorum que ad manus dicti executoris/administratoris pervenerunt sub protestacone de addendo alia bona iura et credita que imposterum ad manus dicti executoris/administratoris pervenerint quod si etc.

The inventory is usually signed at the foot by some or all of the apprizers and also in some instances by the person exhibiting it.

In the course of time many bundles had become dispersed owing to the breaking of the thongs and many individual inventories had become so fragile that it was impossible to refer to them on the original file without damage to them or to other inventories on the file.

Accordingly all loose inventories and broken files were first sorted and boxed by the year of exhibition. Next the original file was reconstituted so far as possible by the use of the original indexes where available, the original numbering and the notes of the dates of exhibition. This was remarkably successful and very few inventories remained unplaced, mostly where the heading, which contains the name of the deceased, was missing. Finally in order to prevent further damage to the individual inventories they were removed from the original files individually folded and tied in bundles of 50 following the procedure instituted by Mr F.W. Steer F.S.A. who had previously dealt with several bundles. The original numbering and arrangement has been preserved and some original files which were in good condition have been left untouched to show the original system. A small amount of repair work has also been done.

In preparing the lists the spelling of the surname as given in the heading of the inventory has throughout been preserved but Christian names and place names have mostly been modernised. There may be up to four variants of the surname: in the heading; in the endorsement; in the personal representative's signature; and finally in the index.

The references in brackets after the entry of an inventory, e.g., (12 Knightes) are to the will in the appropriate register of wills proved in the Norwich Consistory Court. These references have been furnished by inspection of the Will Indexes printed by the Norfolk Record Society and not from the original documents; they are therefore in some cases conjectural owing to differences in spelling. The absence of a will reference is not conclusive that there is no corresponding will: the entry of the will may not have been recognised under a different spelling. Clearly however there will not be a will for every inventory since many were exhibited on the death of the deceased intestate. Where the information in the will index supplements that given on the inventory e.g. in stating the occupation or identifying the place more precisely the addtional information is included in these lists but where the two conflict the information derived form the inventory is given precedence.

The first volume of lists has been taken down to 1603 to correspond with the volume of Will Indexes which ends at the same point.
Many inventories have previously been listed by other workers - Mr. F.W. Steer, Revd J.F. Williams and Mr Ryden Harris, to name the principal ones. Their lists have again been checked in preparing these lists: for any errors therefore - and errors are inevitable in a task of this magnitude - I am responsible.


There appears to have been no change in the practice in the Registry in the period 1604-1639, though the endorsements stating when the inventories were exhibited are less detailed and at times omitted. References will be found in the list of boxes to boxes DN/INV 54 and DN/INV 55; these contain bundles of inventories of mixed years.

Again these lists incorporate the results of previous workers in this field and those results have again been checked by me.


There are three boxes DN/INV 54, DN/INV 55 and DN/INV 61, which contain inventories of mixed years. However, the bundles have been endorsed as if they were normal yearly bundles. Some of the inventories in these bundles are duplicates of those appearing in the normal bundles and these mixed bundles need more examination in order to discover precisely why they were formed.

In the lists of the contents of these boxes the year of exhibition is stated against each inventory unless the entry also refers to the original will and the inventory was exhibited in the year of probate. If the date of exhibition is not endorsed the date given is the date of the inventory. Endorsements of the date of exhibition are much more sketchy than in earlier years, particularly in the middle of the period covered by this volume.

This volume includes the latest lists in point of date made by other workers and I have checked their work before including it.


This completes the listing of inventories filed as such in the Diocesan Archives. There are others among the Court files in later years though not many.

They have been listed in the same manner as in previous years but as the Wills have not been indexed, references to them have for the most part had to be omitted.

The attribution of the County, i.e., Norfolk, Suffolk or at times Cambridgeshire in general follows that given in the Inventory but is often patently wrong.

It is my only regret that I could not produce alphabetical lists but the work involved would be beyond accomplishment in the time I could give to it.

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