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Wills in the Consistory Court of Norwich Vol. I 1370-1550 & Vol. II 1550-1603
British Record Society Volumes 69 & 73
Locating the original documents
Where are the originals held?
The original wills are held at Norfolk Record Office. To obtain a copy of the original will enter the information found within this British Record Society index eg name and category (using the advance search) into Norfolk Record Office’s online catalogue.
What information from the document do I need to locate the original?
- Testator's name
- Year of will
- Name of register (see below in notes)
About the index
This is index to wills proved in the Consistory Court of Norwich 1370-1603.
The Consistory Court of Norwich had jurisdiction throughout the county of Norfolk plus Suffolk and part of Cambridgeshire.
Notes and Abbreviations used in the index
The letters "N.P." entered after the testators names means "No proof entered" (rather than "not proved").
O.W refers to an Original Will
The registers of the consistory court comprise two hundred and forty-two volumes. They are known by the names of the first testator transcribed therein, with but few exceptions. The registers listed below are those covering the years 1370 to 1550. Although not listed here the same format continued covering the whole of this volume (to 1603)
|Name||Dates||No. of Wills|
|1||Heydon||1370 - 1383||692|
|2||Harsyk||1383 - 1408||1,100|
|3||Hyrning||1416 - 1426||540|
|4||Surflete||1426 - 1436||801|
|5||Doke||1436 - 1444||752|
|6||Wylbey||1444 - 1448||419|
|7||Aleyn||1448 - 1455||547|
|8||Brosyard||1454 - 1464||845|
|9||Neve||1456 - 1457||220|
|10||Gilberd||1472 - 1477||104|
|11||Betyns||1457 - 1471||320|
|12||Jekkys||1464 - 1472||648|
|13||Cobald||1465 - 1468||380|
|14||Gelour||1472 - 1479||539|
|15||Paynot||1473 - 1473||286|
|16||Hubert||1473 - 1491||273|
|17||A Caston||1479 - 1488||698|
|18||Normande||1485 - 1493||165|
|19||Awbreye||1479 - 1493||460|
|20||Typpes||1486 - 1498||258|
|21||Woolman||1488 - 1496||409|
|22||Multon||1495 - 1498||344|
|23||Sayve||i498 - 1499||75|
|24||Wight||1499 - 1500||197|
|25||Cage||1500 - 1500||292|
|26||Popy||1501 - 1504||763|
|27||Ryxe||1504 - 1506||646|
|28||Garnon||1504 - 1506||229|
|29||Spyltimbre||1507 - 1510||410|
|30||Johnson||1510 - 1513||259|
|31||Coppynger||1514 - 1514||240|
|32||Spyrlynge||1514 - 1516||222|
|33||Gyles||1516 - 1519||183|
|34||Robynson||1520 - 1520||210|
|35||Bryggs||1514 - 1527||224|
|36||Heyward||1516 - 1532||174|
|37||Alblaster||1520 - 1524||261|
|38||Herman||1522 - 1523||150|
|39||Grundisburgh||1524 - 1526||221|
|40||Palgrave||1518 - 1532||254|
|41||Alpe||1526 - 1532||138|
|42||Godsalve||1531 - 1542||322|
|43||Attmere||1527 - 1544||308|
|44||Platfoote||1530 - 1535||185|
|45||Hyll||1531 - 1536||237|
|46||Underwoode||1536 - 1538||61|
|47||Maryett||1528 - 1536||91|
|48||Cooke||1531 - 1544||210|
|49||Mingaye||1532 - 1544||238|
|50||Thyrkyll||1540 - 1543||59|
|51||Whytefoote||1541 - 1546||161|
|52||Crafford||1532 - 1547||150|
|53||Punting||1532 - 1545||211|
|54||Deyns||1537 - 1548||279|
|55||German||1545 - 1547||237|
|56||Wymer||1547 - 1549||237|
|57||Wellman||1548 - 1550||73|
Introduction to Original Volume
The episcopal jurisdiction of the See of Norwich extended over Norfolk, Suffolk, and a part of Cambridgeshire, and comprised four archdeaconries, viz, Norwich, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sudbury. One emolument of the spiritualties of the see was the probation of wills and it was established that if the deceased, the testators, had goods in two or more archdeaconries, those probates belonged to the bishop, and also in addition those of all noblemen, gentlemen of arms, rectors, vicars, the whole clergy, and others whose personals did not exceed five pounds. The court was known as the Consistory Court and the manuscripts, or copies in existence, which evidence these probates date from 1370 only. But apart from this court, and those of the archdeaconries (that of the Dean and Chapter not yet being in existence) a goodly number of wills were proved in the court of the City of Norwich, and may be found on the enrolled deeds there. As these wills begin in 1298, nearly a century before those of the consistory, the testator's names are here indexed in an appendix.
Civil authorities exercised some control over wills from the beginning of the fourteenth century, but only when such wills disposed of real property within their boundaries. In addition to Norwich, wills have been found to be proved at King's Lynn. In many cases, doubtless, the wills had been proved before the Ordinary previous to the proof before the civil magistrate.
These two courts taken together, make in point of time, the third earliest series of wills in the kingdom, London being the first and Lincoln the second. Nothing will be said here with relation to the other courts, that being reserved until such time as the calendaring or indexing in connection with such courts is done.
The names of the testators in this book were transcribed from the registers themselves, and not from the manuscript indexes in the District Probate Registry of Norwich. The registers of the consistory court comprise two hundred and forty-two volumes. They are known by the names of the first testator transcribed therein, with but few exceptions. During the Commonwealth no wills were proved in this court. The registers dealt with in this work are those covering the years 1370 1550.
To the first two of these registers, viz. Heydon and Harsyk, there is no index, the manuscript indexes commencing with the third register book called Hyrning. Register Harsyk, which contains the greatest number of wills in any book, doubtless owed its dilapidated state to its bulk, to its age, to damp, and careless handling. Its decaying sheets of paper, reduced to fragments by these agents, especially during the past century, made one almost despair of reading anything therein. However, it is now (1941) reclaimed from such a state, as it has been repaired most carefully by the Public Record Office, and made less bulky by being divided into three separate parts, and enclosed in covers which preclude further damage, so thereby being more easily handled.
Between this and register Hyrning there is a hiatus of eight years, doubtless due to the loss of a register; but from Hyrning to Gilberd there is none. Now register Gilberd is accounted for in the manuscript index, but its existence was unknown to the late Mr. H. Harrod and Mr. J. L'Estrange when he compiled his list, for they make no mention of it, and in the manuscript index the late Mr. F. Johnson has written "This register is now lost". But a part of it was discovered in 1939 by the compiler of this index, and the names extracted. The remaining names in the manuscript index are included in this work to show that though the wills are lost from the register, they were the names of the erstwhile testators and are differentiated by the dating 1472-7 prefixed.
From this time to the Commonwealth the registers are in sequence, after which they begin again and continue to 1858, when the ecclesiastical courts were extinguished by 20th. and 21st. Victoria Cap. 77.
In the eighth volume of the Institution Books in the diocesan registry may be found about eighteen wills, and the names of the testators are included in this volume as the wills themselves were proved in the consistory court.
The original wills of this court commence in 1521, and consist of three hundred bundles. This alone shows the necessity of taking care for the future of those registers prior to this date.
Will registers are a basis for much information relating to the three counties in general, viz. genealogical (as they commence approximately two hundred years before parish registers, and in the City of Norwich court earlier still), topographical, and historical. They supplement manor rolls, hundred rolls, and charters, besides revealing obscure and unchronicled matter. Altogether some 18,472 testators' names have been indexed for this period 1370 to 1550 in this consistory court; and 446 names from the court of the City of Norwich between 1298 and 1508.
The wills proved in the consistory court were not always proved in Norwich itself, but at such places where the bishop and his court were for the time being: and especially where he had his manors. Among the various places are :
Aylsham, Butley, Charing, Eccles by the sea, Gaywood Hoxne, Ipswich, Lynn Episcopi, Sudbury, Terling, Thetford, Thornage, Thornham, Thorpe Episcopi, Woodbridge, and Yarmouth.
The Old Style is used throughout, the year commencing on 25th March. The letters "N.P." entered after the testators names means "No proof entered" (rather than "not proved"). Sometimes a short preamble prefaces the will, and annexed to the will itself is a schedule or inventory of goods, etc., as circumstances admitted or required. The language of these wills is generally Latin, very often abbreviated, but there are several examples of English, French, and of the vernacular. The heraldic seals on the original wills are few in number.
The name of any testatrix who was married more than once is indexed under the several surnames of her husbands. The variants of the same surname are several in number, in many cases, but the rule adopted when writing the slips direct from the registers was that the name which first appeared in the will or testament should have the prior claim, and if another was added it was that which appeared immediately in the margin or at the head of the will. The variations in the initial letter; of the surname are also here carefully noted. Occasionally the aspirate is added, or omitted. Then there are those letters which are interchangeable as F. V. Ph. These occur in many names, whilst G and J interchanged exist, but in less degree.
The manuscript calendars (more properly indexes) from 1370 to 1858 are eleven in number:
- 1. 1416 to 1530
- 2. 1520 to 1557
- 3. 1556 to 1559 3 & 4 these are duplicates
- 4. 1556 to 1591
- 5. 1592 to 1625
- 6. 1626 to 1649
- 7. 1650 to 1719 omitting years 1651 to 1659 inclusive, as no wills were proved in this court
- 8. 1720 to 1763
- 9. 1764 to 1820
- 10. 1821 to 1844
- 11. 1845 to 1858
Distinct from these are the following:
- 1. Administration Act Book with index 1700 to 1699
- 2. Administration Act Book with index 1673 to 1688
- 3. Administrations index only 1700 to 1811
- 4. Administrations index only 1811 to 1812
No administrations are indexed in this volume. They are far too numerous. From 1370 to 1666 there are sufficient for a printed volume such as this; from the latter date the manuscript indexes continue to 1858 and are contained in four volumes. But there are several books, unindexed, which contain marriage licences and administrations beginning 1549 and overlapping the administration books proper to 1689.
Every care has been taken to ensure that the place of abode is recognized. The place names of the parishes in which the testators resided are in many cases much alike in Norfolk and Suffolk; but are distinguishable from one another by the dedication of their churches (as few of the Saints are duplicated in parishes of the same cognomen): or the names of the hundreds in which they are situate. Now among these parishes are the various Acres, Bactons, Bartons, Belaughs, Beestons, Brandistons, Brettenhams, Broomes, Burghs, and Bumhams, followed by the Carltons, Eccles, Elmhams, Fakehhams, Frittons, Guntons, Houghtons, and Rocklands. The Inghams are not so many as the Ilketshalls, Lynns, Moultons, Newtons, Nortons, and Oultons. But the Raynhams, the Roydons, the Shimplings, the Stokes, the Stows, the Strattons, and the Tuddenhams are outnumbered by the numerous Thorpes, though some of these latter are distinguished quite clearly from one another as Ashweli Thorp, Morning Thorp, etc. The Walcots, Walshams, Waltons, Westons, and Wittons are duplicated and triplicated even in their dedication names. In some of the wills the place name is omitted ; but not often the burial place; so from knowledge of the family names, and other information gleaned from various and reliable sources, the place name if entered is placed in round brackets.