Houses and Society in Norwich, 1350-1660: Urban Buildings in an Age of Transition 1783275545, 9781783275540

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Houses and Society in Norwich, 1350-1660: Urban Buildings in an Age of Transition
 1783275545, 9781783275540

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Houses and Society in Norwich 1350–1660

Houses and Society in Norwich 1350–1660 Urban Buildings in an Age of Transition

Chris King


© Chris King 2020 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of Chris King to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2020 The Boydell Press, Woodbridge

ISBN 978 1 78327 554 0 hardback ISBN 978 1 78744 932 9 ePDF The Boydell Press is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mount Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620–2731, USA website:

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Cover image: Houses behind St Lawrence church in Westwick, drawn by Henry Ninham. (NWHCM: 1912.1.1 / Reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery)

For Roberta, who first introduced me to the ‘Fine City’.


List of plates and figures


List of tables




List of abbreviations


1. Urban rebuildings, urban transitions


2 Norwich, 1350–1660: continuity and change in an English provincial city


3 Medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540


4 Early modern merchants’ houses, c.1540–1660


5 The urban elite: domestic space, social identity and civic authority


6 Medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’


7 Houses of the ‘middling sort’: buildings and the use of space


8 Housing the urban poor and immigrant communities











Plates and figures

Colour plates 1 The Sanctuary Map of Norwich, 1541 2 Plan of Strangers’ Hall undercroft/ground floor 3 Plan of Strangers’ Hall first floor 4 Plan of Bacon’s House ground floor 5 Plan of Bacon’s House first floor 6 Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: mid-sixteenth-century rear wing 7 Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: mid-sixteenth-century street range 8 Sixteenth-century funerary monuments of merchant dynasties

Figures 1 Map of Norwich showing important public buildings and streets 2 Prospect of Norwich from William Cunningham’s The Cosmographical Glasse (1559)

xvi 3

3 The four great wards and 12 lesser wards of Norwich


4 Map showing the principal merchants’ houses


5 Strangers’ Hall: the fourteenth-century undercroft


6 Strangers’ Hall: undercroft with fifteenth-century brick arcade


7 Strangers’ Hall: the great hall


8 Strangers’ Hall: bay window inserted into the great hall


9 Strangers’ Hall: spandrels in the hall roof


10 Strangers Hall: the entrance courtyard


11 Strangers’ Hall: porter’s lodge and squint


12 Strangers’ Hall: vaulted entrance porch with widow’s head


13 Strangers’ Hall: west range ‘fireplace’ lintel


14 Strangers’ Hall: west range arch spandrels



plates and figures 15 The Bridewell: fifteenth-century elevation of finely cut flint


16 The Bridewell: paired service doors


17 The Bridewell: brick-vaulted undercroft


18 Suckling House: fourteenth-century hall range


19 Suckling House: open hall with scissor-braced roof


20 Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: early sixteenth-century street range


21 Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: brick-vaulted undercroft


22 Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: roof of medieval open hall


23 Pykerell’s House: early sixteenth-century hall


24 The Great Hall, Oak Street: hall with queen-post roof


25 ‘Everard’s House’, St Martin-at-Palace Plain: excavated site plan


26 ‘Everard’s House’: fifteenth-century bay window


27 Dragon Hall, King Street: excavated plan of the site in the fifteenth century 92 28 Dragon Hall, King Street: timber-framed street range


29 Dragon Hall: interior of the first floor hall with crown-post roof trusses


30 Dragon Hall: fourteenth/fifteenth-century entrance to the hall


31 Dragon Hall: early sixteenth-century cross-passage screen


32 White Swan Inn, St Peter’s Street: medieval undercroft


33 Glass roundel from Pykerell’s house showing ‘December’


34 Strangers’ Hall: late sixteenth-century fireplace in the north parlour


35 Strangers’ Hall: street door added by Francis Cock in 1621


36 Strangers’ Hall: staircase bay inserted by Francis Cock in 1627


37 Strangers’ Hall: Oak Room: painted overmantel


38 Bacon’s House, Colegate: mid-sixteenth-century street range


39 Bacon’s House: stone plaque bearing Henry Bacon’s merchant’s mark


40 Bacon’s House: west range, first floor roll-moulded timber ceiling


41 Bacon’s House: first floor of the street range


42 The Great Hall, Oak Street: inserted seventeenth-century ceiling


43 Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: mid-sixteenth-century rear range


44 Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: door into the courtyard


45 Augustine Steward’s House at No. 14 Tombland with pedimented windows 125 46 Ground-floor plan of Augustine Steward’s house at No. 14 Tombland



plates and figures 47 Augustine Steward’s mansion at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: first-floor plan of the street range


48 Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: carved ends of the carriage arch lintel


49 Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: ground-floor brick arch


50 Curat House, Haymarket: first-floor chamber


51 St Andrew’s Street: the central range of the Rugge family mansion


52 Raven Yard, King Street: sixteenth-century street range


53 Garsett House, St Andrew’s Plain: ground floor with window openings


54 Wensum Lodge, King Street: seventeenth-century brick frontage


55 Norwich Guildhall


56 The Mayor’s Council Chamber in the Guildhall rebuilt in 1534–7


57 St Peter Mancroft church: interior looking east


58 The Market Cross, rebuilt in 1502


59 Carved magistrate’s posts, recorded by Henry Ninham


60 The church of the Dominican friary, after 1540 the Common Hall


61 Doorway from Bedford Street


62 Map showing principal archaeological excavations in Norwich


63 No. 15 Bedford Street: fifteenth-century undercroft


64 The Britons Arms, No. 9 Elm Hill


65 No. 15 Bedford Street: timber-framed shop front


66 No. 15 Bedford Street: first-floor chamber


67 No. 20 and Nos 22–26 Princes Street


68 Nos 25–29 St George’s Street: plan of the first floor


69 Nos 25–29 St George’s Street: early sixteenth-century range


70 No. 8 Tombland: arch-braced roof trusses


71 Site 149N, Nos 33–55 Pottergate: a row of houses destroyed by fire in 1507


72 Site 149N: suggested reconstruction of the Pottergate buildings


73 Site 159N, The Bottling Plant, Westwick


74 Site 302N, Alms Lane: summary plans of the site c.1450–1500 and c.1500–75 197 75 Site 351N, Nos 70–78 Oak Street: summary site sequence


76 Map of Norwich parishes affected by the 1507 fires


77 A selection of metal artefacts from the Pottergate site



plates and figures 78 Reconstructed ceramic groups from the cellars on Pottergate


79 Nos 25–33 Barrack Street prior to demolition


80 Houses behind St Lawrence church in Westwick


81 Rampant Horse Street: three-storeyed jettied building


82 St Peter’s Steps: three-storeyed building with carved brackets


83 Nos 164–178 King Street: row of smaller seventeenth-century houses


84 Nos 39–43 Timberhill: late seventeenth-century gable-fronted houses


85 Dormers with large mullioned windows


86 Rows of conjoined dormers in timber and brick


87 Larger single-cell houses with dormers


88 Nos 21–27 Elm Hill as recorded by Henry Ninham


89 No. 49 St Benedict’s Street: street-front range


90 No. 49 St Benedict’s Street: rear range with quadrant-moulded ceiling


91 Seventeenth-century flint-and-brick rear ranges


92 Nos 2–12 Gildencroft: a sixteenth-century row of houses


93 Ground-floor plan of Nos 2–12 Gildencroft


94 No. 63 St George’s Street: a flint-and-brick building with a datestone of 1670


95 Nos 2–2a Tombland Alley: late sixteenth-/early seventeenth-century single-cell houses


96 Nos 47–49 St Martin’s Lane: a pair of single-cell houses


97 Old Brew Yard, off Oak Street


98 Thoroughfare Yard, off Magdalen Street


99 Site 281N, Botolph Street: site plan


100 Site 302N Alms Lane: summary plans of the site c.1600–75 and c.1720–50 264 101 Houses once standing on the Alms Lane site: Nos. 86–88 St George’s Street and Nos. 2–6 Alms Lane


102 Map showing numbers of Strangers recorded in the lay subsidy of 1580/1


103 Excavated examples of North Holland slipware ‘cockerel’ bowls


The author and publisher are grateful to all the institutions and individuals listed for permission to reproduce the materials in which they hold copyright. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders; apologies are offered for any omission, and the publisher will be pleased to add any necessary acknowledgement in subsequent editions.



1 Dimensions of medieval halls in Norwich, c.1370–1540


2 Summary of the rooms listed in the 1589 inventory of Robert Suckling


3 List of key archaeological excavations in Norwich


4 Presence of selected named rooms in Norwich inventories, 1580–1730


5 Occupations of adult men in the Return of the Strangers, 1622




This work has been created over a long period of time and naturally there are many people and organisations to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. The primary research on which this book is based was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and was undertaken at the University of Reading. More recently, the University of Nottingham has provided generous support in both time and funding to bring the work to publication. I am grateful to colleagues in both departments for providing stimulating and supportive intellectual environments in which to conduct research. I am also grateful to Caroline Palmer and the team at Boydell for their hard work and patience in the preparation of the final text. In Norwich, my first thanks must go to the owners and occupiers of the buildings that I studied and recorded, in most cases private homes and businesses. They are too many to mention individually, but without their generosity this project would not have been possible. I would like to thank in particular: the curatorial staff of the Norfolk Museums Service, most importantly Cathy Terry at Strangers’ Hall; the staff of the Norfolk Historic Environment Record; and Brian Ayers, who has given helpful advice and comment on all aspects of the city’s archaeology. I would especially like to extend thanks to Sophie Cabot, who has provided generous hospitality and support in Norwich over many years. I am grateful to the Norwich and Norfolk Archaeological Society for use of their library and permission to reproduce Figure 75. Norfolk County Council granted free permission to reproduce illustrations from the Norfolk Archaeological Unit excavations in the city. The family of George Plunkett allowed me to reproduce his evocative photographs of Norwich from the early twentieth century. I am grateful to those organisations and individuals who granted permission for photographs of their buildings to be reproduced: in particular, Norwich City Council, Norfolk Museums Service, the Vicar and Churchwardens of St Peter Mancroft, St Andrew’s parish, the Churches Conservation Trust, Bedford’s Bar, The Strangers Club, Peter and Caroline Brimblecombe, and the City Club, Norwich. I have had the benefit of sharing the core ideas that make up the central arguments in this book with a great number of colleagues in seminars, conferences and conversations, and have been helped both by their encouragement and their perceptive and sometimes probing questions. In this regard, I would like to extend thanks to the University of East Anglia’s Department of Art History and World Art Studies, the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York, the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent and the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies at the University of Birmingham. Andrew Hopper, Matthew Johnson, Chris Loveluck, Helen Lunnon, Victor Morgan and Catherine Richardson have all provided insight and support. Most importantly, I would like to offer warm


acknowledgements thanks in particular to Kate Giles and Tara Hamling, whose scholarship has long been an inspiration to my own interest in the material world of the medieval and early modern periods, and who both provided stimulating advice on the preparation of this work; naturally, any remaining omissions or errors are my own. My final and most heartfelt thanks are offered to Roberta Gilchrist, to whom this work is dedicated, as a mentor and colleague. It was Roberta who originally stimulated my interest in an informed and interpretive medieval archaeology, and who first encouraged me to explore the buildings of the ‘fine city’ that have been such a fruitful and enjoyable subject of study, for which I will be forever grateful.



HE HMSO Mayors

Historic England (formerly English Heritage) Her Majesty’s Stationary Office B. Cozens-Hardy and E. A. Kent. 1938. The Mayors of Norwich 1403–1835. Norwich: Jarrold & Sons NAU Norfolk Archaeological Unit NHBG Norfolk Historic Buildings Group NHER Norfolk Historic Environment Record NNAS Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society NRO Norfolk Record Office NS Norwich Survey NS Report Norwich Survey unpublished building surveys (NHER) RCHME The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England


Figure 1. Map of Norwich showing important public buildings and streets (base map courtesy of Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

1 Urban rebuildings, urban transitions

• Prologue: Houses and society in an English provincial city


n 25th April 1507 the ‘fair city’ of Norwich, England’s largest and wealthiest provincial urban centre, was struck by a terrible calamity when a great fire broke out in the dense network of streets and lanes on the south bank of the river Wensum. The majority of the city’s houses were constructed of timber framing and clay walling with thatched roofs, which were quickly consumed; only the flint masonry churches and public buildings, and the stone and brick houses belonging to the city’s wealthy merchants, escaped the conflagration. The fire burned for four days, causing major destruction in a sweeping arc from the cathedral precinct and Tombland in the east to St Margaret’s parish in the west. The city had no respite once the flames were quenched, for, later that same year, in June 1507, a second fire broke out in the northern quarter of the city, ‘Over the Water’, devastating a further group of densely occupied parishes. The impact of the fires was recorded by Francis Blomefield, the celebrated eighteenth-century Norfolk antiquarian, who stated that 718 houses were destroyed (Blomefield 1806 [1745], III, 182–3). This has been calculated as representing at least 40 per cent of the city’s housing stock, and a great deal of personal property and merchandise must also have been lost (Evans and Carter 1985, 77–8). It was the most serious provincial urban fire ever recorded in early modern England, second only to the 1666 Great Fire of London (Jones et al. 1984, 5). However, the townspeople were well placed to provide an effective and co-ordinated response to these traumatic events. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Norwich was a thriving city with between 8000 and 9000 inhabitants; unlike many other towns it had experienced growth and prosperity in the late medieval period as a centre for the worsted cloth trade, with a flourishing commercial network extending through the wider region of East Anglia to London and across the North Sea to the Low Countries. Since 1404 the city had been governed as an independent county under a corporation of mayor and aldermen, advised by a common council elected by the citizenry. We can assume that the corporation took the lead in rehousing the homeless and beginning the process of reconstruction, aided by the city’s numerous craft guilds and the charitable provision of Norwich’s many religious fraternities and monastic institutions. We can see the impact of the fires both at the level of micro-scale event and in longer-term transformations of the urban environment. In 1973 archaeologists excavating at Nos 31–51 Pottergate (site 149N) uncovered the remains of a row of


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 small timber-framed houses that were destroyed by fire, almost certainly in 1507. The contents of the houses had collapsed into the brick-lined cellars, preserving within the debris fragments of the valued possessions of these ordinary households – their tools, cooking implements and imported German stoneware drinking jugs, and a pilgrim badge of the Virgin set in a wire-frame brooch. However devastating their loss was for their owners, these assemblages provide a unique insight into the everyday material culture of the artisan class of a sixteenth-century town (Evans and Carter 1985). For urban property owners who relied on their rental income – notably the cathedral priory, the city corporation and the hospital of St Giles – there was an imperative to rebuild as soon as possible, but this was undoubtedly a slow process, and the accounts of the cathedral priory almoner record a serious decline in rents in the years following the fire (Ayers 2009, 140). In 1534, Norwich was one of the first two English towns to obtain a ‘Rebuilding Statute’ – an act of parliament empowering the corporation to seize dilapidated buildings and unoccupied tenements if their owners refused to rebuild (26 Hen. VIII, c. 8). The Act made explicit reference to the devastating impact of the great fires of 1507 and the ‘great decay and voyde ground’ that remained, and this has been cited by historians as evidence for continuing long-term decay in the city’s housing stock. The other community to obtain a Rebuilding Statute in 1534 was the neighbouring Norfolk town of King’s Lynn, which was suffering a serious depression in trade following the silting of its harbour. Over 100 English towns followed this precedent in the following decade (see Tittler 1990). It is important to note, however, that urban historians have long recognised that claims of urban decay and petitions for remission of the fee farm cannot be taken at face value. It has previously been assumed that the fires had a significant impact on the urban built environment of Norwich by stimulating a widespread shift in building materials and house forms in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. This period saw the spread of combined brick-rubble masonry and timber-framed construction in place of more flimsy clay and timber building techniques, along with the introduction of upper storeys, tiled roofs and brick fireplaces and chimneys in houses below the level of the wealthy elite. A small number of sixteenth-century houses with these features survive in Norwich to the present day, and similar sequences of rebuilding have been identified on many archaeological sites throughout the city, confirming the view of this period as one of widespread transformation in the urban built environment (Ayers 2009). Two early cartographic sources have also been cited in support of this argument: the Sanctuary Map of 1541 (Plate 1) and Cunningham’s View of Norwich of 1558 (Figure 2), both of which show a large number of houses with two storeys and chimneys at a period when these features are thought to be uncommon in ordinary vernacular buildings. These two images should not be seen as accurate representations of the sixteenth-century urban landscape, as they are clearly schematized in their depiction of houses; nonetheless, it seems clear that the cartographers were struck by the distinctive skyline of the early modern city and used this to convey an easily recognised visual impression of urban buildings. However, a detailed consideration of the archaeological record from Norwich complicates a view that credits the short-term impact of the 1507 fires as a primary


Figure 2. Prospect of Norwich from William Cunningham’s The Cosmographical Glasse (1559) (NWHCM: 1954.138.Todd5. Norwich.14, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 cause of architectural change. In many instances it can be clearly demonstrated that houses were being extended and improved with the insertion of upper floors and brick fireplaces before the fires, from the last quarter of the fifteenth century onwards, as occurred in the archaeological sequence on the Pottergate site. Rebuilding also took place in the early sixteenth century on sites that were never affected by the fires, such as Alms Lane (Site 302N) and Oak Street (site 351N), both located north of the river, despite the fact that building materials and craftsmen must have been at a premium in these decades. Bringing together for the first time documentary, standing building and excavated evidence for Norwich’s urban fabric suggests that the fires merely accelerated longer-term transformations in the housing stock, which reflect wider economic and social changes in the urban community. The rebuilding of houses in more robust and fireproof materials in part reflected new strategies of investment on the part of urban property owners, but improvements in plan forms and architectural features were a result of their need to accommodate changing expectations of living standards and modes of domestic life within the wider populace. In this reading, the corporation’s attainment of their Rebuilding Statute in 1534 does not reflect a long-term decay of the city’s built environment, but rather a concerted effort to gain civic control over the few remaining pockets of dilapidated housing in a period of population expansion and a growing concern to manage the urban environment (see King 2010). As England’s ‘second city’ from the fifteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, Norwich provides a powerful lens through which we can view the momentous social, economic, political and religious transformations that accompanied the passage from the medieval to the early modern world. The conceptualisation of the period between c.1350 and c.1660 as a distinct ‘age of transition’ has been an influential premise in British social and economic history, although not one without its controversial aspects. The decline of medieval ‘feudal’ modes of production and their replacement by an increasingly capitalist, commercialised and interconnected world have frequently been associated with the dawn of early modernity in the wake of the political, ideological and economic revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, alongside this is a long-standing historiographical tradition which emphasises the rise of an increasingly urbanised, commercialised and dynamic European economy in the high medieval period. In the wake of the catastrophic impact of the Black Death, which ushered in nearly two centuries of demographic recession, scholars such as Richard Britnell (1996), Christopher Dyer (2005) and Bruce Campbell (2016) see a far-reaching transformation of social and economic life, with the decline of customary tenurial relationships and the increasing dominance of the market economy. This laid the foundation for the continued commercialisation of the early modern era, where demographic recovery was linked to urbanisation, agricultural intensification and increasing industrialisation (Wrightson 2000). Despite these contributions, the separation between the medieval and early modern worlds in the centuries on either side of c.1500 remains a firmly entrenched feature of much historical scholarship. Accordingly, the concept of an ‘age of transition’ remains a useful one, which recognises the profound transformations that were underway while


urban rebuildings, urban transitions emphasising broad trends and interconnected processes across this period. There is a danger in seeing this transition as a unilinear process, or as a progressive shift from one stable, monolithic socio-economic system to another. Instead, it was a long, drawn-out period of transformation, affecting different regions and communities in a variety of ways and subject to constant challenge and negotiation. Crucially, the transition between the medieval and early modern worlds was in part generated and negotiated through people’s changing relationships with the material conditions of their existence, including control over urban and rural landscapes, economic production, religious practices, forms of building and material consumption. Medieval and post-medieval archaeologists in Britain have demonstrated the importance of material evidence for providing a broader and deeper understanding of this wider process of change, as new social identities and relationships were structured through both continuity with the medieval past and the changing forms and contested meanings of old and new elements of the material world (Johnson 1996; Gaimster and Stamper 1997; Gaimster and Gilchrist 2003). Large-scale social and cultural transformations, rather than being simply ‘top-down’ impositions, were in part created through ongoing changes in ordinary places and everyday practices across the wider population, meaning that the remains of farmhouses, pottery and dress fittings become important sources of evidence for changing lifestyles and identities (Johnson 1993; Gaimster and Nenk 1997; Egan and Forsyth 1997). Archaeology has a vital role to play within the broader ‘material turn’ in the historiography of early modern Britain, in which interdisciplinary studies bringing together documentary sources, architecture, artworks and material objects are revealing the vital importance of the spatial and material contexts which shaped changing modes of life and social interaction in the transition from the medieval to early modern world (Hamling and Richardson 2010; 2017). In the city of Norwich, few events had as dramatic a short-term impact on the built environment as the catastrophic fires of 1507, but both underlying structural transformations in society and economy and more abrupt political and religious upheavals did have significant and often long-lasting effects on the urban landscape. In the early modern period Norwich, in common with other English towns, experienced a sustained population increase, and archaeological excavations demonstrate that this was largely accommodated through the subdivision of properties and the insertion of small, flimsy buildings into ever more overcrowded courts and lanes behind the principal streets. In this context, managing urban poverty, disease and social disorder became an increasingly central concern of the civic authorities. Religious and political change was also experienced through transformation of the urban landscape. In the most dramatic instance in the early modern era, the Protestant Reformation of the mid-sixteenth century resulted in the dissolution of the monastic institutions and religious guilds which had been vitally important elements of medieval urban culture; this represented both a major transfer of urban property and a dramatic reconfiguration of religious buildings, ritual and practice with long-term consequences for the structuring of urban landscapes and communities.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Domestic life was also transformed in the transition from the late medieval to the early modern world, in both subtle and more conspicuous ways. The underlying structure of the family and household remained largely unchanged across the period, with the nuclear family at the core of the domestic unit with its co-resident apprentices and servants. The household was the primary locale of both social reproduction and economic production, and urban houses were designed to accommodate domestic life, craft production, storage for merchandise and retail spaces. This resulted in distinctive urban house plans and architectural forms, which developed in new directions through the late medieval and early modern period. As has long been recognised, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed important transformations in the spatial organisation of houses at all levels of society, familiarly known by historians and archaeologists as the ‘great rebuilding’, marked by the abandonment of the medieval open hall and the increasing subdivision and specialisation of domestic spaces. The evidence from both standing buildings and archaeological excavations from Norwich suggests that the urban ‘great rebuilding’ occurred along more varied pathways and over a different chronology than is found in the majority of rural areas. A core argument of this book is that our narratives of architectural change in this period need to be recast in order to more fully accommodate the social and economic complexity of the expanding early modern urban sphere (Howard 2007). In all periods, houses are intimately connected in a recursive relationship to society, providing the primary spatial and material locale for day-to-day interactions, production and consumption, and the intimate cycles of the human lifecourse. The house both reflects and structures the social identities of its occupants according to culturally defined understandings of status, rank, gender and age, and it provides a material setting for the performance and negotiation of social relationships both within the household and between the household and the community. The great rebuilding has long been associated with the growing size and economic power of what has been called the ‘middling sort’ in early modern England. This is largely a historiographical construct that encompasses a range of social status groups from artisans and husbandmen to prosperous yeomen farmers and the lesser gentry in the countryside, and wealthy merchants and educated professionals in towns. These households possessed moderate and sometimes significant wealth, and the more substantial men in this group were influential members of their guild or parish communities and often office-holders or magistrates (Barry 1994a; French 2000). Medieval and early modern towns were deeply stratified along multiple social hierarchies of wealth, occupational grouping, rank and civic authority. In this context houses and material goods, ranging from furnishings, glazed windows and painted wall decoration to clothing, tablewares and foodstuffs, acquired significance as important visible markers of social position, not simply for their inherent economic value but also for their role in enabling and expressing changing modes of domestic life, appropriate behaviour and cultural identity. The domestic context was also part of the public realm; households were viewed as ‘little commonwealths’ and power exercised by the (usually male) head of the household within the family provided the foundation for social and moral order. To take the most obvious manifestation of this, for the wealthy mercantile elite of


urban rebuildings, urban transitions Norwich, who also comprised the political and judicial government of the urban community, public and private lives inevitably interconnected. Large merchants’ houses were an important arena for the display of social rank and prestige and the provision of hospitality, which was a core component of civic culture. In the face of the dramatic political, religious and economic upheavals in the early modern period, which often threatened established social norms and civic authority, the elite continually sought to control and redefine both domestic space and the wider urban landscape as a setting for their own power and authority within the urban community. Moving beyond the civic elite, this was a period of increasing material consumption at all but the lowest levels of the social hierarchy, and the cultural affiliations and aspirations of the expanding middling sort could be promoted by the changing use and meaning of spaces and objects in the domestic sphere (Hamling and Richardson 2017). Houses and domestic goods reflected developing patterns of economic production and consumption and provided a material setting for shifting social identities and relationships cutting across civic, parish and guild communities. This book is an exploration of the relationship between houses and society in England’s ‘second city’ during this vitally important period of social and economic transition, structured around the wide-ranging themes of continuity and change in the material world and the shifting contexts of public and private within the urban household. It brings together for the first time the rich archaeological evidence for urban households and domestic life in Norwich, encompassing both standing architectural remains and excavated structures and material culture. Historians have provided many important advances in our understanding of space and society in the medieval and early modern period using a wide range of documentary sources, such as testamentary records, probate inventories and legal depositions. A core aim of the present work is to demonstrate that the physical remains of urban houses are an equally valuable basis for exploring changing patterns of spatial organisation, material consumption and social interaction in the late medieval and early modern city. The remainder of this chapter explores the themes of ‘urban transitions’ and ‘urban rebuildings’, considering the distinctive role of towns in the medieval to early modern transition and how past and current scholarship views the role of buildings and space in these transformations. The age of transition was a period of both significant growth and opportunity and of social, political and religious upheaval. These changes were shaped at macro- and micro-scale through the transformation of the urban landscape and the restructuring of social relationships and domestic life within the early modern household. Chapter 2 introduces Norwich as England’s ‘second city’, discusses how this wealthy and populous urban community experienced and responded to the age of transition and introduces the reader to the rich architectural and archaeological evidence on which the study is based. The book then moves on to present the Norwich evidence in depth, dealing with the houses of the urban elite in chapters 3, 4 and 5 and moving on to consider the houses of the ‘middling sort’ and the urban poor in chapters 6, 7 and 8. The study uses a range of material evidence to assess the form and construction of urban houses and the changing use and meaning of domestic space among different social and economic groups between


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. Beyond this, it seeks to understand the role of the domestic sphere in the expression and negotiation of social relationships and identities, both within and between households. It starts from the premise that the household was not a fixed and bounded social unit but a variable and dynamic social locale that was firmly embedded in the wider social, economic and political contexts and discourses which structured urban life. As such, a study of urban households is an important step towards a fuller understanding of the social and cultural transformations that occurred across Britain and Europe in the early modern period.

Towns in transition: urban landscapes, society and economy The opening section of this chapter drew attention to the impact of the fires of 1507 as a key moment within a longer-term restructuring of Norwich’s physical townscape. The transformative effects of fire connect the present work to an earlier, highly influential, exploration of an early modern urban community – David Underdown’s micro-study of seventeenth-century Dorchester, county town of Dorset (Underdown 1992). A great conflagration swept through Dorchester on 6th August 1613, destroying a large proportion of the town centre; in Underdown’s narrative the response to this ‘fire from heaven’ was not simply a physical but a social and moral rebuilding of the town. Under the direction of their radical Puritan minister John White and a powerful group of committed Protestant magistrates Dorchester was re-created as a ‘godly community’ in which secular and scriptural authority was harnessed in a programme of social and moral reform that included the punishment of drunkenness, immorality and sabbath-breaking, the regulation of poverty and vagrancy and the suppression of traditional religious ceremonies and popular festive culture. At the same time Underdown is at pains to emphasise the limits of magisterial authority and the ways in which the ‘city on a hill’ envisaged by the godly was challenged, mocked or ignored by unruly members of the urban community (Underdown 1992, 90–128, 147–66). Historical research on the changing social structure and economic fortunes of English towns and cities in the age of transition has been dominated by these powerful themes of ‘crisis’ and ‘order’. They were initially established by the body of scholarship on early modern towns which flourished in the second half of the twentieth century, stimulated by the rise of local and urban history, most notably outlined in the synthetic volumes produced by Peter Clark and Paul Slack (Clark and Slack 1972; 1976; Clark 1984a) as well as important in-depth studies of individual towns such as those of Alan Dyer (1973) on Worcester, David Palliser (1979) on York and Charles Phythian-Adams (1979) on Coventry. The centuries between 1350 and 1700 were identified as a period of profound economic, social and political difficulties for many towns at all levels of the urban system. A useful synthesis of urban history at the turn of the century is provided by Volumes I and II of the Cambridge Urban History of Britain (Palliser 2000; P. Clark 2000), emphasising the diversity of urban fortunes and experiences in this period and the varied ways in which towns were bound up with and responded to new social, economic and cultural forces.


urban rebuildings, urban transitions Our understanding of late medieval towns remains heavily influenced by the idea of a widespread and prolonged period of urban decline, brought about by their failure to recover population after recurrent outbreaks of plague, the shrinking of the wool export trade and a shift towards rural cloth manufacture under the pressure of the restrictive practices of urban guilds (Dobson 1977; Palliser 1978; Phythian-Adams 1979). This view was initially challenged by Bridbury (1981), who argued that the pleas of economic distress on the part of urban elites should not be taken at face value and suggested that continued investment in civic ceremony and public and private buildings by late medieval townspeople showed the continuing vitality of late medieval urban centres. The course of historical debate has now shifted towards a much more complex picture of general urban restructuring in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries at both a regional and a national level. Although urban populations were certainly reduced from their early fourteenth-century peak, and many places experienced economic recession, trends were experienced differently by particular towns according to their specific circumstances and position in the regional settlement hierarchy. Historians have increasingly recognised that the rhetoric of urban decline was often a trope used to negotiate more favourable terms from government or relief from taxation during periods of economic and political uncertainty, and could also be used by individual office holders keen to avoid the personal financial burden and responsibility of civic office (Kermode 1988; Tittler 1990). Some of the most significant disruption occurred in towns and ports associated with the wool trade on the east coast, including Lincoln, Boston and York, all of which suffered from declining population and economic activity; in contrast, many cities and smaller towns in East Anglia and the south-west benefited from expanding cloth production in these regions. Even in places where mercantile activity or industrial production were in decline a town might retain its role as a marketing and service centre for its wider region and benefit from the growing prosperity and increasing living standards of the agrarian and artisan population (Dyer 1991; Dyer 2002, 298–313). The early modern period too has been seen both as a time of profound social and economic dislocation and as a period of urban expansion and progress, depending on the fortunes of different regions and particular sectors of the national urban system. In general the centuries after 1500 witnessed considerbale population expansion and urbanisation. Urban population estimates vary according to the sources consulted and the assumptions and multipliers used to estimate total population figures from (usually) lists of male householders or taxpayers; nonetheless, it is clear that the population of towns expanded over and above national population trends between 1500 and 1700. By the end of the early modern period the proportion of the population living in large towns (of over 5000 inhabitants) may have increased from 5 per cent to 17 per cent (Griffiths et al. 2000, 196–7). Over half of this total comprises the population of London. When the populations of smaller towns are taken into account (although these are difficult to estimate) the ‘urban’ proportion of the total population is significantly higher, perhaps around 30 per cent by 1700 (Glennie and Whyte 2000, 169). Towns had high mortality rates, and this population increase was sustained by large-scale inward migration into urban centres. Urban fortunes,


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 however, remained vulnerable to wider economic trends, including the depression of the traditional woollen broadcloth industry, the continuing challenge of expanding rural industries and the decline of both international and regional trade in many provincial towns in the face of the growing commercial hegemony of London. Towns were fundamentally affected by the impact of the Reformation on urban economies, property markets and civic ceremonies (Phythian-Adams 1972; Tittler 1998) and the ongoing national political and religious conflicts that saw the country eventually descend into a bloody civil war that disrupted trade and exacerbated factional strife within local communities (Evans 1979; Sacks 1991, 225–48; Hopper 2018). Early studies emphasised that these trends produced increasing social and economic polarisation and instability in early modern towns (Clark and Slack 1976). This was a period of inflation and falling real wages, and the problems of poverty were particularly acute in towns, where the increase in migration was often concentrated among low-income and unskilled workers. This resulted in overcrowded living conditions, with the accompanying danger of plague and other diseases, and high levels of un- and under-employment (Slack 1988). Urban society was always characterised by extreme inequalities of wealth and political power and, while this was also true of rural communities, it can be argued that in towns increasing socio-economic divisions were more visible and were less likely to be compensated for by shared traditions and communal bonds. In contrast to this bleak view, however, it is important to note the variety of urban experience in this period, as towns were integrated into an increasingly specialised and commercialised national economy (Wrightson 2000). Alongside the dramatic expansion of London in this period, the growing industrial towns of the north and midlands, the developing spa towns and many small and medium-sized marketing centres that serviced prosperous agricultural hinterlands all experienced expansion and prosperity (Glennie and Whyte 2000). It is also the case that the largest provincial capitals, particularly Norwich, alongside Bristol, Exeter and Newcastle, avoided to some extent the extreme social and economic disruption that affected many smaller urban centres. These towns were large enough to sustain their prosperity despite cyclical economic downturns, while their share of international trade was never totally overwhelmed by the metropolis, and they extended their role as commercial and social centres for the rural gentry (Slack 2000, 350–3, passim). In other respects, however, the provincial capitals were little different from their smaller neighbours. The increase in their populations was accompanied by widespread unemployment, poverty and mortality, and the attendant social problems of alienation and conflict. Indeed, social and economic inequalities may have been more visible in these larger cities, resulting in increasing social tensions, and their size and importance as administrative and diocesan centres meant that they felt the full force of local and national conflicts unleashed by the political and religious upheavals in Church and state. In the face of economic, social and political challenges which at times seemed about to overwhelm the urban community, governing elites took vigorous steps to regulate urban populations and maintain their own corporate power. For Clark and Slack (1976, 128) ‘the growth of oligarchy’ was a defining feature of urban history


urban rebuildings, urban transitions between 1500 and 1700. Urban governments had always been dominated by wealthy merchants and tradesmen, but in many towns in this period their powers were extended at the expense of the representatives of the wider body of freemen (Tittler 1998, 139–209). As will be outlined in Chapter 2, Norwich’s urban magistrates were among the first to introduce new legislative powers to relieve the ever-increasing tide of poverty, pioneering the approach later enshrined in the national Poor Laws from 1598. Their methods incorporated both compulsory parish rates and the severe punishment and expulsion of beggars and vagrants, motivated by both feelings of charity and a fear of social disruption (Pound 1971b, 44–68; Slack 1988, 73–80). The obsession with order also extended to the intense regulation of social and moral behaviour within the urban populace and the suppression of traditional popular amusements and sociability. In this, the civic elite of Dorchester were simply a particularly effective example of a wider trend following the sixteenth-century Reformation that saw the growing influence of Protestant religion, and particularly the radical doctrines of Puritanism, tied to ideas of strong secular government and social order under the ideology of the ‘godly commonwealth’ (Collinson 1988, 28–59; Underdown 1992). This was by no means a new phenomenon; the maintenance of public order and moral regulation was a long-standing concern of both urban magistrates and village communities in the later Middle Ages (Spufford 1985; Ingram 1996; for Norwich see Maddern 2004). Norwich was an early stronghold of Protestant civic culture and its magistrates certainly attempted such a process of godly reform, although, as in Dorchester, they often encountered a significant element of resistance (McClendon 1999, 209–37; Reynolds 2005). Over the course of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, ideas of moral and social order further widened social and economic polarisation in urban communities. The regulation of popular festive traditions was part of the wider suppression of traditional Catholic rituals, and disputes over religious practice and doctrine became embroiled in both local factional disputes and growing cultural divisions at all levels of society (Clark 1979; Underdown 1985). Historians of late medieval and early modern cities have increasingly focused on the ways in which economic, social and political power were structured and reproduced through a variety of urban institutions and discourses which emphasised authority, hierarchy and deference, but also ideals of community and fraternity, many of which cross the medieval–early modern divide. Gervase Rosser has explored the role of medieval guilds as a crucial institution for economic life, sociability and spirituality in both rural and urban communities, bridging divides between their heterogeneous members and helping to integrate incomers into the urban milieu (Rosser 2015). Christian Liddy has shown that medieval towns developed a powerful and complex understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship which allowed both for popular participation in urban government and, on occasion, the mass of the urban populace to challenge the tendency towards oligarchic rule within urban elites (Liddy 2017). Such ideas continue to resonate in the early modern era, as highlighted in the work of Phil Withington, who explores the vitality of a ‘politics of commonwealth’ in the seventeenth century based on ideals of corporate governance


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 and the continued importance of both formal and informal bonds and sociability in the making of civic culture (Withington 2005). Reflecting the wider ‘material turn’ already mentioned, increasing attention has also been paid to the ways in which the urban landscape – as both a physical and social construct – was continuously reshaped and reimagined as the recursive medium through which these social and political relationships were structured, reproduced and negotiated. Urban space provided an arena where the cultural ideal of a bounded, independent urban community was formulated and presented to the outside world through complex material practices and representational strategies; through civic processions, the staging of royal entries and monumental architecture. A key concern of the governing elites of cities was to define and extend the legal extent of their independence and authority, particularly in a context where this was challenged by the existence of suburban developments or enclaves of jurisdictional freedom, often associated with the church. Urban independence was expressed through elaborate civic building projects of walled defences, town halls, market crosses and prisons; in turn, conflict over urban jurisdiction was in part negotiated through the construction, elaboration or destruction of physical boundaries and monuments. These concerns were not simply ‘symbolic’; physical and representational control over space was directly implicated in the effective exercise of economic privileges and legal responsibilities (Attreed 2002; Lilley 2002, 75–105). In the late medieval city, important urban spaces and public buildings were articulated and given meaning by the specific spatial practices of a civic culture that was underpinned by the Church, in particular through civic and religious festivals including mayor-making ceremonies, midsummer celebrations and the mystery plays and processions that accompanied the feast of Corpus Christi. Early scholars of civic ritual emphasised the role of such ceremonies in shaping a sense of communal solidarity and civic belonging which was embedded within the urban landscape (Phythian-Adams 1972; James 1983). However, it is increasingly recognised that the ideal of the urban community was a constructed discourse that could serve the social and economic power of particular groups in urban society (Kermode 1988; Rigby 1988). Medieval and early modern cities were complex, hierarchical societies that were divided along myriad social and economic lines, according to political status, wealth, occupation, gender and age. Male freemen occupied a privileged economic position as the heads of households and workshops and members of craft and trade guilds; within this group a small elite monopolised wealth and political power. Civic and guild ceremonies within the urban landscape and in public buildings such as guildhalls and churches publicly expressed and structured these social and economic hierarchies through their processions and feasts, which were ordered according to status and occupational grouping and could be actively manipulated by individuals and groups in the service of social aspiration and, on occasion, factional conflict (McRee 1994; Giles 2000; Liddy 2017). Control over urban space and ritual became increasingly important for civic authorities in the context of the dramatic political and religious upheavals of the early modern period. Robert Tittler (1998) has highlighted the impact on the urban


urban rebuildings, urban transitions landscape of the sixteenth-century Reformation – most notably the dissolution of monastic houses and religious fraternities, which released a large amount of property into the market and in many places profoundly transformed wider economic structures. At the same time the abolition or attenuation of Catholic civic and guild ceremonies and festivities seriously undermined the ritual expressions of hierarchy and community which had traditionally underpinned the stability of urban government. As confessional divisions and factional politics intensified over the course of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries public religious ceremonies and spaces became battlegrounds for different understandings of civic and moral order, with national controversies over the form of the Eucharist, the railing of altar tables or the re-edification or destruction of religious imagery being played out in urban parishes up and down the country (Fincham and Tyacke 2007). Towns in the age of transition, therefore, were confronted by a significant measure of economic and social instability, being affected by long-term structural changes in both national and international commerce and short-term economic and political crises. However, there was considerable continuity in urban society that enabled towns at all levels to accommodate changing conditions. Much historical research has focused on understanding the varied experiences of different groups in urban society and the mechanisms that existed to enable townspeople to negotiate change and maintain social stability and community relationships. Forces for stability included vital social structures and formal institutions such as the household, neighbourhood, parish and guild, which provided a means of integrating newcomers and underpinned accepted modes of behaviour and interaction (Rappaport 1989; Barry 1994b; Archer 1991; Rosser 2015). This is not to deny the profound social and economic changes in the centuries between 1350 and 1660 that brought increasing economic polarisation and cultural and political conflict, but urban governments and urban communities were largely able to contain, although never to eliminate, conflict and disorder.

Buildings in the age of transition: the ‘great rebuilding’ in town and country Architectural change is central to our wider narratives of transition between the medieval and early modern worlds, with ‘great rebuildings’ at the level of both the aristocratic elite and the middling sort seen as an expression of underlying shifts in social structure and cultural affiliation (Platt 1994; Howard 2007). In aristocratic and gentry contexts this period saw – in the most simplistic terms – a shift from fortified and enclosed castles and manor houses to new outward-facing forms of ‘country house’ architecture, the adaptation of former monastic houses to new forms of domestic space and the introduction and spread of classicism signalling an affiliation to the intellectual and cultural priorities of the Renaissance. A growth in interest in the social use of space following Mark Girouard’s seminal 1978 work Life in the English Country House has shown how early modern elites shaped their buildings to serve changing social needs. A key element of this transformation was the adaptation and eventual abandonment of the medieval great hall and the development of new


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 suites of reception and entertaining rooms including long galleries, great chambers, withdrawing rooms and closets as locales for material display, hospitality and the negotiation of rank within the aristocracy. The gradual breakup of the hierarchical ‘great household’ and the consequent separation of ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ components of elite residences reflected profound shifts in ideas of community, social display and hospitality among the early modern nobility and gentry (Girouard 1978; Heal 1990). Externally, the visible hierarchical arrangement of medieval houses which had articulated status distinctions through form, materials and architectural detailing was increasingly suppressed by classicizing symmetrical frontages, making it less easy for visitors to easily ‘read’ the interior spaces of the house without appropriate levels of cultural knowledge. The culmination of this long period of innovation and change in domestic planning was the emergence of houses with a double pile plan, a symmetrical frontage and a centralised pattern of access, a development which Cooper (1999) argues was heavily influenced by the suburban houses and villas of the metropolis. Turning to the study of vernacular buildings in the countryside, a significant body of work exists exploring in depth the widespread transformation of ordinary farmhouses and cottages across rural England. The concept of a ‘great rebuilding’ in the early modern countryside, of course, was first articulated by W. G. Hoskins, the central figure in the development of English landscape history in the post-war era. In his 1953 article Hoskins coined the term to encompass what he identified as a widespread rebuilding of the houses of prosperous yeoman farmers between the years 1560 and 1640, represented by the surviving stock of well-built stone or timber-frame houses of this era in many English regions. Hoskins proposed that the growing wealth of the middling sort in this period of rising grain prices combined with new security of tenure to enable them to build permanent houses for the first time, and they sought to adopt ‘modern’ modes of life involving an increase in material comfort and privacy brought about by the use of upper floors, chimney stacks and glazed windows; he also noted a parallel increase in the quantity and variety of domestic furnishings recorded in probate inventories (Hoskins 1953). This thesis had a profound influence on subsequent studies of regional vernacular architecture, which broadly accepted its underlying explanatory framework. However, it has not gone unchallenged, and recent studies have substantially revised both the available dataset of medieval buildings and approaches to their interpretation. One of the most important results of the growth of vernacular architecture studies has been the realisation that there exists in many regions of England a substantial surviving corpus of well-built medieval houses belonging to those below the level of the social elite – ‘peasants’, in the broad sense of the term. The detailed study of timber-framed construction methods combined with the increased use of dendrochronological dating means that the earliest known standing vernacular buildings now date to the late thirteenth century, and in many regions subject to extensive survey – notably Kent (Pearson 1994), Hampshire (Roberts 2003) and the Midlands (Alcock and Miles 2012) – there survive hundreds of peasant dwellings constructed between the Black Death and the early sixteenth century. The myth of the flimsy, impermanent peasant house has now been substantially modified; a


urban rebuildings, urban transitions large proportion of the ordinary rural population – the more prosperous farmers if not the smallholders and ‘cottars’ – were clearly able to construct substantial timber houses. Parallel to this reinterpretation of the archaeological evidence, historians have reassessed the documentary record, highlighting the active role of prosperous, entrepreneurial yeoman farmers in land acquisition and house-building in the late medieval countryside (Dyer 2005). In the light of this new evidence scholars have been forced to adopt a more systematic approach to understanding the issues of building survival and adaptation. It can no longer be assumed that the surviving sample of buildings directly reflects the number of buildings constructed in any particular area in the past, because rebuilding is affected by different social and economic factors – periods of relative economic decline in the post-medieval era may explain the survival of medieval houses in some regions (Currie 1988). Neither can we assume that the earliest surviving buildings represent the first appearance of well-built houses, because older structures may have been rejected for their form rather than their flimsy construction. In the case of medieval rural dwellings, Pearson has argued that peasant houses of the thirteenth and fourteenth century may have been as well built as their later counterparts but tended to be of single-storey form, which made them more difficult to adapt to later requirements for inserted upper floors (Pearson 1994, 45–7). We have also come to appreciate that there is no automatic relationship between economic prosperity and expenditure on domestic buildings; there were a range of alternatives for material investment, whether that was ‘traditional’ spending on religious practices or communal hospitality or the accumulation of productive capital in land or stock. Changes in house-building are therefore bound up with the changing social role of houses. Finally, economic explanations for the changing rates of building do not help to explain the changes that occur in the plan and form of houses in this period, which require an investigation of the changing use and meaning of space within the home among different status groups in early modern society. A focus on the issue of social space helps us to understand the ways in which buildings carried meaning and provided a setting for social actions, including both ritual practices and routine, everyday activities, which are structured through their material and temporal context. Buildings and material culture were not simply passive reflectors of social status but actively used in the creation, reproduction and negotiation of social identities and relationships, both within and between households. Matthew Johnson has been one of the most influential scholars to re-examine the ‘great rebuilding’ thesis in these terms, initially through a detailed analysis of farmhouses in western Suffolk dating from 1400 to 1600 and more recently through a wider national study of the social and cultural meanings of domestic architecture in the late medieval to early modern transition (Johnson 1993; 2010). He identifies a major phase of new house building in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries by prosperous yeoman farmers across much of southern and central England. It is significant that, despite regional variations in construction techniques – post-andtruss timber framing in the south and east, cruck-framed building in the Midlands and stone-built houses in the north and west – these houses shared an underlying


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 spatial arrangement, with an open hall in the centre of the house, of one or two bays, and enclosed two-storeyed end bays. The ‘upper end’ usually provided living accommodation and the ‘lower end’ tended to contain service rooms or, in a traditional medieval ‘longhouse’, animal stalls. In the prosperous wood-pasture region of western Suffolk these late medieval yeoman halls were smaller versions of the typical manorial ‘great hall’, with a screens-passage entry, a high-end with a tall window and carved dais beam, and paired buttery and pantry at the service end (Johnson 1993); similar architectural features were also widespread in the late medieval houses of Kent surveyed by Pearson (1994) and elements such as carved dais beams are also present in some Midlands cruck houses (Alcock and Miles 2012). This tripartite house plan developed over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and by the late medieval period was a standard feature of elite residences, linked to the hierarchical structure of the aristocratic great household (Girouard 1978, 14–40; Grenville 1997, 89–114). The appearance of such halls in fourteenth- and fifteenthcentury vernacular buildings can be seen as a form of social emulation and status expression; however, such explanations fail to take account of the different use and meaning of domestic space at different social levels. Gardiner (2000) argues from excavated house plans that this hierarchical ordering of space has a long history in vernacular buildings from the tenth century onwards, but the widespread rebuilding of houses in the late medieval countryside suggests that house-building took on new significance for the rural middling sort in the post-Black Death centuries. Johnson proposes that the hall was central to the reproduction of social relations in farming families through everyday social practices – especially shared meals, but also food preparation, daily and seasonal tasks and leisure time – that bound together the household in a single space but simultaneously expressed and reinforced domestic hierarchies between masters and servants, husbands and wives, and parents and children (Johnson 2010, 78–86). This hierarchical ordering of domestic space within newly built hall-houses can be seen as a manifestation of a powerful underlying spatial code or habitus within medieval society. Several studies of medieval archaeology have utilised the concept of habitus, originally developed by anthropologists and sociologists interested in ideas of social practice and performance, as a way of conceptualising social space in the past. It encapsulates those culturally specific and embodied understandings of practical logic and ‘how to go on’ in the world that are developed through ongoing processes of socialisation and interaction, especially in childhood through the daily routines of family life but also within the distinctive material conditions of communities such as religious orders (Gilchrist 1994; 2012; Giles 2000). The social relationships forged within the domestic context were embedded in the wider material environment of the ‘middling sort’ through spatial hierarchies within the parish church (Graves 2000) and public guildhall (Giles 2000). Johnson (1993, 53–9) therefore argues that yeoman farmers in the late Middle Ages sought to structure their increasing wealth and social importance within their village communities through conservative spatial forms which materialised cultural values based on hierarchy and deference running through medieval society.


urban rebuildings, urban transitions The ‘great rebuilding’ which occurs across different regions at varied timescales between the mid-sixteenth and late seventeenth centuries is a period of significant spatial reordering in both old and new houses; medieval halls are ceiled over and chimneystacks inserted, while new houses are built with two full storeys throughout and often without the traditional screens-passage entry. By 1570 in western Suffolk the standard house form is a three-cell lobby-entrance house (Johnson 1993, 64–105); similar patterns of spatial reordering have been identified along varied timescales in all major studies of post-medieval vernacular architecture across many regions (Barley 1961; Mercer 1975; Machin 1977). Johnson labels this reordering of domestic space as ‘closure’, and relates it to a series of broader social and economic changes, including the enclosure and segregation of the rural landscape, which he argues represent the foundation of agrarian capitalism, seen as a mode of production, a system of social relationships and a new cultural mentalité (Johnson 1993, 122–39; see also Johnson 1996). These fundamental arguments been widely adopted in interpretations of post-medieval buildings. They are not concerned simply with the physical closure of the open hall, but are about new ways of segregating people, and thus changing social relationships and identities. Room functions were increasingly specialised, and there was increasing segregation between high-status domestic accommodation and low-status service rooms. In the medieval open hall hierarchies within the household and within the community were maintained through face-to-face practices and shared traditions, while in the ‘closed’ house activities and people were segregated along class lines. Johnson argues that these spatial changes expressed and reinforced the increasing separation of middling farming families from their local communities, as part of the wider social and economic restructuring of early modern rural societies with the growth of ‘agrarian capitalism’ and social polarisation (Underdown 1985; Wrightson 1982). This analysis of the breakdown of the medieval spatial habitus in the early modern period gains support from the links between house form and construction techniques. The spatial hierarchies which underpinned the disposition of rooms in the medieval house were encoded and reinforced through a specific ‘grammar’ of carpentry, which has been delineated by Harris (1989), Johnson (1993) and Giles (2000). In medieval structures the bay divisions of the house articulated the spatial divisions within, and the details of frame construction were organised so that the ‘upper’ face of the timber was turned towards the ‘high’ end of the house, suggesting a shared cultural understanding of built space that was reproduced through the craft tradition. Both Johnson and Giles link the changes that occurred in spatial forms in the early modern period to changes in the practice and organisation of ways of building. Over the course of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries timber frames were increasingly designed to be economical in their use of timber, and were increasingly rendered over. Inside, the status of rooms was articulated through applied features such as panelling and fire surrounds, rather than being encoded in the primary construction of the building, and material furnishings and decoration took on greater significance in defining the function and meaning of interior spaces. The process of ‘closure’ was thus also bound up with the changing ways in which architecture carried meaning; while medieval


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 spatial practices were based on an embodied, shared understanding, early modern spaces were not directly ‘readable’ in the same way. It is important, however, not to see architectural change as a unilinear process of transition from one ‘type’ of building to another. Buildings are spaces in which multiple different individuals and groups come together with varied degrees of agency and inventiveness. While the formal layout which is encoded within the architectural features of the open hall seems to express deference and authority, on a day-to-day level the hall was only one element within a wider complex of spaces and landscapes which provided a material setting for the negotiation of social relationships within the household and community. Kate Giles suggests that we should turn our focus to an ‘inhabitation’ perspective that emphasises the complex interplay between architectural structures, plan forms and distinctive ‘ways of living’ in the past (Giles 2014, 14–15). Giles emphasises that households in both the countryside and towns made decisions about building forms and plans within distinct local contexts, determined in part by tenurial arrangements, regional economic cycles, different farming and industrial practices, and broader cultural attitudes towards investment and display. She points to examples where medieval houses do not adopt the traditional tripartite spatial arrangement: for instance, where upper chambers encroach onto the visual and spatial centrality of the open hall, or where the services are given greater prominence and may have provided expanded spaces for agricultural storage or domestic textile production. The relatively limited spaces in medieval houses were always used for a wide variety of domestic and productive tasks and are likely to have changed their function and meaning within the ongoing daily, annual and lifecycle rhythms of the household (Giles 2014, 18–22). These are useful points to bear in mind as we turn our attention to the great rebuilding in an urban context, where, as we will see, house forms are more complex and the chronology and impact of architectural change is correspondingly much more varied within and between different groups in urban society.

Towns and the great rebuilding For a long period urban domestic buildings did not feature as prominently as rural houses in wider arguments and debates around the great rebuilding. On one level this is surprising, as towns with their craft guilds are likely to have been centres for the development of medieval craft traditions and nodal points for the spread of innovative architectural forms. Nor can the relative lack of attention paid to urban buildings be entirely attributed to the challenges of working with the available urban dataset. It is true that the number of surviving urban buildings is much smaller than for medieval and post-medieval rural houses; in many important towns, including London, the pressures of nineteenth- and twentieth-century industrialisation, wartime destruction and post-war redevelopment mean that very few early houses survive in anything near a complete state. There are, however, towns with a substantial stock of medieval and early modern houses which have been surveyed and published by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, by Historic England, or by independent researchers, the most prominent among which include York (RCHME


urban rebuildings, urban transitions 1972; 1980), Salisbury (RCHME 1980; 1993), Exeter (Portman 1966; Parker and Allan 2015), Chester (Brown 1999), Bristol (Leech 2000; 2014), Sandwich (Clarke et al. 2010) and – of course – Norwich, the focus of the present work. Urban buildings today are often in divided ownership and tend to have been very heavily adapted, particularly where modern retail or office spaces have been inserted, all of which creates additional challenges for interpreting their original form and function. However, the principal reason that urban buildings in the medieval to early modern transition are generally less well understood lies in the fact that the scholarship has been driven in the first instance by the disciplines of landscape history and vernacular architecture studies, which have focused on rural buildings, and subsequently by scholars interested in the rise of ‘agrarian capitalism’ in the countryside. This pattern is now beginning to shift with the increasing historical interest in questions of material culture and consumption and the social lives of the ‘middling sort’. The last decade has witnessed both a new focus on the spatial and material contexts of domestic life in medieval and early modern towns and the publication of several innovative interdisciplinary studies which draw attention to the connections between architectural change and urban society, as will be discussed further in the following section (Goldberg and Kowaleski 2011; Orlin 2007; Hamling and Richardson 2017). The evidence of buildings has often been used in an uncritical way to support wider historical narratives about the economic development of English towns, particularly the issue of urban decay in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Astill (2000), however, argues that the wide date range of most archaeological evidence makes it unsuitable for the elucidation of the short-term economic shifts identified for many towns. This is certainly the case for urban buildings, where periods of intensive building activity of both public and domestic structures have been uncritically related to periods of economic prosperity, which are then sometimes used in a circular fashion to help to provide dates for buildings. Urban vernacular buildings can generally be dated only within a wide span of 25 or 50 years, although in time the use of dendrochronology may provide greater precision. Pearson has demonstrated from a comparison of dendrochronological dates from urban and rural areas that provincial towns experienced something of a building boom in the mid-fifteenth century, at a period when it was traditionally believed that there was a widespread economic slump (Pearson 2001). This highlights the need to consider the wider theoretical issue of the relationship between buildings and economic change. Urban tenurial relationships were extremely complex and there was no necessary relationship between legal property boundaries, architectural space and occupancy (Harding 2002). It was common for tenements and houses to be subdivided, or the frontage of a larger property might be developed into a series of smaller independent tenancies, and such arrangements were subject to a rapid degree of change over time. Properties, particularly in central districts, were increasingly subdivided in periods of economic prosperity, and might be reamalgamated during an economic slowdown, but such changes are often difficult to decipher in either standing buildings or excavations. Understanding the different roles of landlords and tenants is a vital part of relating the evidence of domestic buildings to wider social and economic


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 processes. In the case of York, Sarah Rees-Jones has demonstrated that, for the ecclesiastical and corporate landlords who dominated the city, the management of urban property was heavily influenced by wider political, financial and legal considerations, rather than being a simple reaction to economic trends. In fourteenth-century York many urban landlords constructed rows of houses to accommodate artisan households, several of which still survive, but as the population declined they were forced to abandon some properties and grant extended leases including maintenance costs for others, leading to a situation where some parts of the urban fabric were in decay while the standards of housing for other citizens was improving (Rees-Jones 2013, 270–309; Rimmer 2007). On a more general level, as has been shown in the wider debate over the ‘great rebuilding’, we should not assume that a significant investment in buildings is a natural and direct reflection of a flourishing urban economy. It is necessary to consider the precise purpose for which a building was intended and the position of the particular individual or group responsible for its construction. In Sandwich, the wealthy merchants of the fourteenth-century town constructed large three-storey houses with open halls; the port experienced a decline in international trade in the fifteenth century, but the development of coastal and regional trade networks provided continued prosperity for some, manifested in the construction of well-built if smaller timber-framed houses (Clarke et al. 2010). In Hampshire towns Roberts has linked an upsurge in building activity in the fifteenth century with investment by non-resident corporate landlords (Roberts 2003, 195–6). In the case of urban public buildings both Tittler (1991) and Giles (2000) argue that the construction of a guild or town hall was not necessarily related to economic prosperity, but was often an expression of corporate power or identity during periods of political change or instability. This highlights the variable nature of social and economic processes within an urban context, which were experienced in disparate ways according to an individual’s status and may have been manifested in different ways in various elements of the urban landscape and material environment (Astill 2000; Lilley 2000). The study of urban houses has followed the broad trajectory of research agendas in buildings archaeology and vernacular architecture studies outlined above. Early approaches sought to develop typologies of building forms, generally based on ground-plans. As with many typological approaches, these have a tendency to present a static view of house plans which often ignore change through time, both within individual houses and the wider building stock, separating houses from their landscape context and the wider social and economic processes that influenced their development (Grenville 1997, 165–71; Giles 2000, 4–5). Two existing classifications of town houses continue to have a strong influence on the discipline. W. A. Pantin (1962–3) divided surviving medieval urban houses according to the position of their open hall at right angles or parallel to the street frontage, based on an explicit premise that medieval town houses were adaptations of the typical rural ‘tripartite’ plan. However, this approach has been subjected to a sustained critique by Grenville (1997, 165–71) and Pearson (2005); Pantin largely ignores urban houses which did not possess an open hall, resulting in a partial account of the urban housing stock. John Schofield


urban rebuildings, urban transitions (1995) has posited an alternative classification of urban buildings based on size, distinguishing between the larger courtyard properties, three- to five-room houses with or without a side passage or yard, and smaller one- and two-room plans built in rows. This remains a useful starting point for considering the full range of pre-modern town house plans; the inclusion of houses without an open hall recognises the complexity of urban house-forms, and the multi-storey house with just one or two ground-floor rooms was an important urban type from the medieval period onwards (see Quiney 2003, 255–68; Roberts 2003, 183–7). However, Schofield’s typology is largely derived from the early seventeenth-century London surveys of Ralph Treswell, and his understanding of spatial organisation is largely based on Treswell’s labelling of rooms. This has led Schofield to suggest, in a circular manner, that urban houses were not affected by the widespread social and economic changes that have been identified in rural vernacular houses between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries (Schofield 1997). The surviving houses in provincial towns highlight the more complex processes of transformation and restructuring which affected domestic buildings between the medieval and early modern periods, and also help us to better understand the three-dimensional forms of urban houses rather than focusing on plan alone. The most recent studies of late medieval and early modern urban buildings, reflecting wider trends in buildings archaeology, have sought to move beyond classification and typological approaches towards a broader interpretive approach. Two interrelated processes have stimulated this development. Firstly, archaeologists have begun to apply sophisticated building survey techniques to surviving urban structures. Only in this way can the complex structural development of individual properties be understood, which in turn leads us away from thinking about fixed ‘types’ of house and towards an approach which prioritises the social and economic process which gave rise to different architectural forms. The majority of urban building surveys undertaken in the twentieth century focused on medieval structures, with less attention paid to the detailed recording of post-medieval phases. This is now changing, with the publication of major architectural surveys of Bristol (Leech 2014), Exeter (Parker and Allan 2015) and Hereford (Barker et al. 2018). Secondly, the wider development of the social interpretation of space in medieval and historical building studies has led scholars of urban housing, in particular Jane Grenville (1997, 2000) and Sarah Pearson (2005; 2009), to produce pioneering studies of spatial form and function, access and visibility, and similarities and differences between urban and rural houses. They highlight that urban buildings were not simply adaptations of rural models but were characterised by a wide variety of architectural forms and spatial arrangements. These were derived in part from the topographical constraints on building in crowded urban centres, but also from the manifold social and economic activities that were incorporated within the tenement and dwelling. The distinctive architectural context of urban households is delineated in the following section with an emphasis on the complex interpenetration of domestic and commercial spaces and activities within the urban tenement. When the changing structure of urban buildings in the post-medieval period has been considered, it has generally been argued that towns experienced their ‘great


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 rebuilding’ at an earlier point in time than the majority of the countryside. London and other large towns already had extensive building codes drawn up in the Middle Ages to regulate materials and construction, prevent the spread of fire and settle disputes between neighbours concerning access, privacy, light and nuisances (Harding 2002). In the early modern period towns witnessed a much more widespread shift in construction, which corresponded to broader changes in property ownership and increasing urban populations; urban houses were increasingly built in brick or stone, or substantial timber-framing on masonry plinths, with upper floors and attics, brick chimneystacks and glazed windows becoming increasingly common. These trends can sometimes be shown to have begun in towns in the early sixteenth century, or, in the case of Norwich, as will be argued in this work, in the fifteenth century. There is more debate, however, as to whether urban houses saw the more extensive reconfiguration of plan and form that occurred in rural dwellings with the closure of the open hall and the increasing segregation of domestic spaces. These trends have been explored most fruitfully to date in the study of urban public buildings. Giles has worked extensively on urban religious and craft fraternities, in organisations ranging in size and wealth from the Merchant Adventurers in York and St Mary’s fraternity of Boston to the guild chapel, hall and almshouse complex that stands in the centre of the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon (Giles 2000; Giles and Clark 2011; 2013). She highlights the ways in which spaces and objects were used to structure and reproduce both communal and individual social identities within the context of the guildhall, chapel and hospital. Shared rituals of feasting and processions symbolised the fraternal bonds binding together the guild community, while at the same time providing a set of material resources through which members could negotiate their own social position. The status of the guild elite was reinforced through the architectural hierarchies encoded in the traditional open hall, and they frequently provided themselves with additional private spaces such as parlours and muniment rooms where the business of the guild could be more carefully controlled. In the wake of the abolition of religious fraternities during the Protestant Reformation guilds were transformed into secular organisations and their medieval halls were often retained unaltered as a link with a more stable past. This analysis of built space is echoed by Tittler (2012), who also emphasises the development of more private segregated spaces such as Mayor’s Parlours and Council Chambers within urban town halls in the post-Reformation period, which, alongside a host of other material culture signifiers (such as furnishings, civic regalia and portraits), served to reinforce the oligarchic power structures of early modern corporations. There was a complex interplay between architectural innovation and deliberate conservatism in the reaction of urban institutions to a period of profound social, economic and religious change. Few scholars to date have specifically addressed the relationship between urban house-building and early modern religious and political upheavals. Howard (2007) includes urban elites and civic building projects in his wider assessment of Elizabethan and Jacobean building, which has tended to be dominated by the development of country house architecture. Graves (2009) has produced a stimulating interpretation


urban rebuildings, urban transitions of a group of Puritan merchants’ houses in Newcastle upon Tyne, relating their uniform glazed facades and decoration to the role of the civic magistrates as ‘watch and ward’ over the urban community conceived as the ‘New Jerusalem’. Roger Leech has published extensively on these topics and we now have his important survey of medieval and early modern Bristol houses (2014). Leech emphasises the continuity of medieval houses in the early modern period as important symbols of family honour. As the Atlantic economy boomed from the mid-seventeenth century, however, the hall house was replaced by the large urban terrace and accompanying suburban lodge as the preferred expression of status within Bristol’s mercantile culture. This study seeks to further explore the distinctive patterns of architectural transformation in urban centres during the age of transition. Towns certainly participated in the wider process of architectural change, including the adaptation of medieval houses and the construction of new buildings that provided accommodation on two storeys throughout, more heated rooms and new patterns of circulation and room specialisation. At the same time, urban buildings were very different in many ways from their rural counterparts. Their spatial organisation was affected by the physical constraints of building in crowded urban centres and the need to accommodate a wide range of industrial, commercial and storage functions. The relationship between public and private space was fundamentally different in towns, where properties were often rented from urban landlords and frequently divided between more than one household. As will be outlined below, the majority of medieval domestic buildings in towns do not possess a traditional open hall, so the process of adaptation and the meaning and experience of ‘closure’ in early modern towns was, by definition, very different from that seen in rural areas. While there were elements of continuity, urban domestic buildings in Norwich were subject to a long period of restructuring between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, with different chronologies and processes of development affecting the houses of the elite and lesser buildings in the city. When studying urban houses we must bear in mind potential differences in the use of space by different socio-economic groups in the town and the complexities of urban tenurial relationships, which meant that many properties were developed by landlords for rental purposes rather than being owner-occupied. Within buildings, we must pay close attention to the relationships between domestic, commercial, industrial and storage functions and activities, and the various kinds and degrees of ‘public’ access to different parts of the property. Architectural change can therefore only be understood through a consideration of the relationship between the household as a social and economic unit and the house as a spatial and material locale.

Urban houses and households: medieval to early modern The household was the primary social and economic unit of late medieval and early modern England, at every level of the social hierarchy. Individual social identities for men and women were structured in relation to the family and household, the communities and institutions of which they formed a part and the wider social


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 and economic context. Legal and political authority, whether centred in the parish, manor, guild or city corporation, was vested in the heads of households, usually male; social rank, wealth and gender- and age-related roles were dependent on the status of the household and the relative positions of its individual members (Ammussen 1988). There has been an intense historical interest in household forms, functions and relationships in the medieval and early modern periods which has produced a detailed and complex picture of patterns in household formation and their relationship to wider demographic trends. There was broad continuity in the fundamental structures of household and family organisation across the late medieval and early modern period, in common with other structuring elements of social and community relationships; the nuclear family formed the central core of most households, but there was considerable variation in the composition of families and households of different social groups (see, for an overview, Houlbrooke 1984; Abbott 1996; Fleming 2001). Household and family relationships were equally bound up with wider transformations in urban social and economic structures and embedded in shifting cultural understandings around religion, gender, authority and community. In an urban context the role of the household as the principal unit of social reproduction was both critical and precarious, given the demographic instability of urban communities with high rates of mortality and mobility, dependent on immigration from rural areas to maintain their populations (Galley 1998; Griffiths et al. 2000). Most urban households seem to have been slightly smaller on average compared with their rural counterparts, which across the country had a mean household size of around 4.7 or 4.8 (Laslett 1983, 95–6). However, it is important to note that such figures conceal wide differences in actual household size according to wealth and occupation, and also present a static view of family formation; all households were in fact in a constant process of change according to their individual circumstances and lifecycles (Abbot 1996). In early sixteenth-century Coventry the mean household size was 3.7 (Phythian-Adams 1979, 241); in early modern Southwark it was 3.8 (Boulton 1987, 122–3); in early seventeenth-century Cambridge it was 4.1 (Goose 1980, 95). The difference was probably produced by the higher levels of urban mortality and by a greater proportion of poor households in large towns. Household size was to a large degree dependent on wealth, status and occupation. Many urban households contained co-resident servants and apprentices, who were essential to the functioning of the household unit. In early sixteenth-century Coventry nearly 40 per cent of the city’s households kept at least one servant (Phythian-Adams 1979, 204–5). In the ‘middling’ groups, as defined by tax assessments and house-rent, average household sizes were larger, and as many as three-quarters contained servants (Phythian-Adams 1979, 239–41). The households of prosperous gentry, merchants and master craftsmen could contain ten or more persons (Goose 1980, 106; Alldridge 1983, 51; Boulton 1987, 32). At the opposite end of the social spectrum, poor households were usually smaller, and often included a high proportion of single women, often widows (the Norwich census of the poor of 1570 (Pound 1971a), which provides a great deal of information about poor households in the sixteenth-century city, is discussed further in Chapter 8; see also Phythian-Adams 1979, 239–41; Goose 1980, 96; Boulton 1987, 124). Urban


urban rebuildings, urban transitions households, even more than their rural counterparts, were thus fragile and unstable, in both biological and social terms. There was a high proportion of ‘composite’ families and a high rate of turnover for many household members. Furthermore, as already explored above, in the ‘age of transition’ urban communities were caught up in far-reaching processes of profound social and economic transformation, demographic expansion, and social polarisation, and the challenges to traditional bonds of religion and civic belonging. In such an environment the formal institutions and informal networks of support that bound together urban society served a particularly important role in maintaining the household as an effective social and economic unit. Marriage and the establishment of an independent household were central to gaining ‘social maturity’ and full participation in adult social life (Abbott 1996, 93–4). Household formation was dependent on a firm material foundation, either obtained through a couple’s parents or family, or from their own resources. A long period of service and apprenticeship during adolescence and young adulthood were thus central experiences of the life-course for all social levels, from artisans to wealthy merchants (Thrupp 1948, 192–5; Goldberg 1992; Brooks 1994). This provided an opportunity for young people to acquire skills, accumulate capital and gain entry into the wider social and economic institutions that governed urban life, which was particularly significant for migrants to the city. Households were the primary units of industrial production and commercial activity, and the urban domestic economy was thus intimately tied to wider shifts in the market. It is at this level that urban households interacted most directly with the formal economic and political institutions that regulated urban production, labour and prices. Most household-based production was probably small-scale and required little capital investment, and relationships within the domestic workshop were bound up with wider social, gender- and age-related identities. As industry expanded in the early modern period – particularly in the textile trades – wage labourers and pieceworkers proliferated, disrupting traditional household-based social structures. The system of craft guilds, while they certainly did not directly reflect the complexity of urban economic activities, served to integrate migrants into urban socio-economic structures and provided urban dwellers with access to essential networks of credit, connections and opportunities beyond the immediate locality of the household and neighbourhood (Epstein 1991, 111–22; Rosser 1997; Archer 1991). Equally important were the relationships and reputations formed within the residential neighbourhood (Boulton 1987; Gowing 1996) and the connections forged through voluntary religious and cultural associations (Barry 1994b; Rosser 2015). ‘Credit’ was the foundation of the urban economy and, as has long been acknowledged, this carried both a social and financial aspect, as a man’s ‘worth’ as an artisan or tradesman was measured through his reputation among his fellow townspeople (Muldrew 1998). Relationships within the household were thus the foundation of a wider system of social relationships in the town, and the source of the legal and political authority of the household head, usually male. Full economic rights were dependent on the possession of the franchise, which was usually obtained through inheritance from


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 a citizen father, the successful completion of an apprenticeship and admittance to a guild, or purchase. The economic and political institutions within which the household was embedded thus provided a ‘public’ identity for the heads of households and reinforced their authority over their dependent apprentices and employees. However, social relations within the household were in fact varied and mutable, and in practice patriarchal authority was subscribed by a range of factors. Co-residence of apprentices, servants and lodgers was widespread and created tensions between affective and contractual bonds in the exercise of household authority. Not least among these was the fact that service was as likely to be a stage in the lifecycle as a permanent status, and that household dependents might come from the same broad social class as their masters, and even from families with personal connections (Brooks 1994, 56–61). The large market for wage labour in an urban context meant that dissatisfied servants found it easy to seek better terms of employment, and servants and apprentices also made use of guild and municipal authorities to reinforce the terms of their contracts and gain redress for perceived wrongs (Meldrum 2000, 51–67). It is also well known that women were actively involved in the urban economy at every level as mistresses, wives, daughters or servants, especially in the expanding textile industries and growing retail and service sectors in the early modern period (Goldberg 1992; McIntosh 2005). Wealthy widows, single women and sometimes married women could exercise considerable independence in running urban businesses or workshops, although for the urban poor widowhood was often a time of economic vulnerability and social marginalisation (Barron and Sutton 1994; Pelling 1998). The household was thus in no sense a ‘natural’ or immutable component of urban society. Rather, it was a particular form of urban community, and like all communities it was socially constituted, defined by a wide variety of expectations, actions and experiences and formed through a continuous process of construction and renegotiation that was open to both internal conflicts and external challenges. The urban household was fully embedded and played an active role in the diverse and changing discourses at work in early modern urban society, in a period characterised by dramatic social and economic restructuring and political and religious conflict. The domestic context was a dynamic locale where both ‘public’ and ‘private’ roles and relationships were forged, reproduced and negotiated.

The material household and the urban ‘middling sort’ Understanding the urban household as a locale requires thinking of it not simply as a social formation but as a distinctly spatial and material entity embedded in a wider urban landscape. This intimate connection is not a modern conceit but was central to contemporary conceptualisations of the household as an interrelated grouping of people, spaces and things. This is an idea with a long history, as emphasised by historical work on medieval understandings of domesticity brought together in an important collection edited by Jeremy Goldberg and Maryanne Kowaleski (2011). Riddy (2011) notes that the word ‘household’ is first recorded in Middle English in the fourteenth century, and it already carries many of the same connotations of privacy, security and interiority that would later be associated with ‘domesticity’.


urban rebuildings, urban transitions Rees-Jones (2011) traces the emergence of distinctive modes of life among the prosperous merchants and artisans of medieval towns characterised by the integration of domestic and commercial or workshop spaces within the urban tenement and the provision of distinctive spaces for eating, sleeping and cooking within complex timber-framed multi-storey urban dwellings. In the same vein Goldberg (2011) compares material consumption in medieval urban and rural communities using the objects recorded in wills and inventories, emphasising the ways in which townspeople expressed their status in urban society through increasing levels of consumption of clothing, furnishings and tableware; these domestic material comforts became integral to social identities and a sense of self for the urban ‘burgeis’ community. Towns were above all characterised by variation in the size and forms of dwelling house, marking complex social and spatial hierarchies which were evident both at the level of the urban landscape in the distinction between wealthier central zones and poorer outlying parishes and within the context of smaller-scale individual neighbourhoods and even individual urban tenements. Contemporaries recognised these material markers; in late medieval Coventry a distinction was made between ‘householders’ who possessed a hall and/or a shop and ‘cottagers’ (Phythian-Adams 1979, 80–1). The topographic context of the town provided the framework for the creation of distinctive urban house forms based on architectural adaptations such as multi-storey jettied construction. In densely built urban centres houses were often placed at right angles to the street in order to maximise the availability of valuable commercial frontage, and the larger courtyard properties belonging to wealthy merchants or gentry were commonly set back from the street and fronted by rows of shops and tenements which could be leased as rental properties (Grenville 1997, 81–9; Quiney 2003, 235–54). The ‘shop-house’, with two or three rooms per floor at right angles to the street, often forming part of a multi-unit row, was a pervasive medieval and early modern urban house-type which had a considerable influence on the development of the typical post-medieval terraced house (Schofield 1995, 53; Leech 1996). The ground-floor front room was usually a shop, with a warehouse or kitchen behind, and the first-floor front room was often called the hall. Contracts for building rows of such houses exist for London from the fourteenth century (Schofield 1995, 53), and both documentary references and the physical remains of this form are known from many provincial cities, including Bristol (Leech 2014), York (RCHME 1981), Salisbury (RCHME 1980) and Exeter (Portman 1966), dating from the late fourteenth century onwards. Houses with a single room on the ground floor are one of the most common forms recorded in the Treswell surveys, found on the principal streets fronting larger properties or along the edges of churchyards and crammed into side alleys and rear courts (Schofield 1995, 53). In early modern London some of these single-cell buildings had up to five storeys, but the surviving medieval examples are generally two or three storeys. This building type had a long pedigree; shops with solars are recorded lining the principal streets in London and other towns from the twelfth century onwards, and they seem to have been common structures infilling medieval market spaces


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 (Keene 1990, 34–6; Pearson 2009). Many of the surviving medieval examples of such small houses were built by urban institutional landlords as rows of rental units; these are common in York, where two- and three-storeyed rows survive from the early fourteenth century, and examples also survive in Coventry, Tewkesbury and elsewhere (Short 1979; Meeson and Alcock 2016). Some of these smaller houses may have served as lock-up shops rather than residences; others were occupied by a range of urban dwellers from artisans of middling status to wage-earners, labourers and poor widows (Keene 1990; Pearson 2009). Jayne Rimmer has produced an important survey of the architectural and documentary evidence for rows of small houses in late medieval Norwich and York, considering their construction and materials as well as the use of space and occupancy. She highlights the value of building accounts and rentals from urban institutional landlords for understanding strategies of investment and patterns of repair and insertion of features such as fireplaces to attract tenants during a period of demographic contraction (Rimmer 2007). In the late medieval period the largest town houses typically possessed an open hall at the centre of the property, set either at right angles or, on wider plots, parallel to the street frontage. As discussed above, the open hall was a key component of domestic space in late medieval rural society at elite and middling social levels, and can be seen as a locale in which the hierarchical ordering of space structured relationships within medieval households and communities (Johnson 1993; Grenville 1997). However, the extent to which urban houses mirrored this pattern has been subjected to sustained critique, particularly by Pearson, following her detailed archaeological recording of urban houses in Kent (2009; 2012). This in turn forces us to reassess the earlier surveys by Pantin (1962–3) and the large corpus of evidence provided by the RCHME and other surveys of provincial towns. Open halls are found in many of the larger houses in most towns, but they are far from universal, and in many – perhaps the majority – of cases they do not adopt the traditional rural tripartite layout with a clear architectural division between ‘high’ and ‘low’ ends. This is partly because of the loss of more ephemeral architectural features, but is also a reflection of the complexities of urban building forms. In cases where there was no room for side access to the property the hall was entered from one end. Many urban halls are very narrow and can rise through three storeys, and some are lit only from windows set high in the walls or roof. They can be partly encroached on by upper chambers, or have galleries along one side giving access to the front and rear ranges (Pearson 2005, 52–7). In some town houses the open hall is raised onto the first floor, located deep within the house, rather than serving as the primary entrance space. While possessing some form of heated open space was clearly important for many medieval urban households, these rooms may not have served as formal reception and dining spaces, and, as we have seen, in the widespread ‘shop-house’ plan the open hall was dispensed with altogether and replaced with a ceiled chamber on the ground or first floor with a wall fireplace. The closure of the open hall seems to have begun significantly earlier in many towns than in the majority of rural houses in the south and east, where such rebuilding was concentrated in the mid-sixteenth century (Johnson 1993; Pearson 1994). There are several examples of town houses dating from the end of the fifteenth century onwards


urban rebuildings, urban transitions constructed with a single-storey ground-floor hall; examples include 166 Fore Street, Exeter, c.1500 (Portman 1966), and Paycocke’s House, Coggeshall, Essex, also c.1500 (Hewett 1980, 211). Roberts’ extensive study of Hampshire houses has explored the long process of ceiling over open halls in both the town and the countryside; in urban houses the earliest examples of a ceiled hall date to the 1480s, and no town house was built with an open hall after the 1530s (Roberts 2003). In Stamford no houses were constructed with an open hall after the end of the fifteenth century (RCHME 1977). In other towns there was a longer period of rebuilding and adaptation similar to rural areas. Urban inventories of ‘middling’ houses continue to list a room called the ‘hall’ throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Portman 1966, 92–124; Dyer 1981; Priestley and Corfield 1982, 104–6). The room was usually heated and furnished with a table, seating and dining implements. In smaller and ‘middling’ houses it served as the centre of domestic life, and might also be the principal cooking room. It could be located on the ground floor at the rear, or on the first floor at the front in a ‘row’ house (Schofield 1995, 65). It is at the upper levels of urban society that urban halls most directly parallel rural examples belonging to the gentry or aristocracy. The halls of merchant houses in London and provincial towns are often large open rooms with imposing architectural features such as impressive roof structures, a screens-passage entry or a bay window lighting the high end (Schofield 1995, 65–6). A key function for these halls was undoubtedly as a centre for hospitality to a range of social groups, including kin, fellow officeholders, business partners, customers, clients and dependents, as well as the resident household. In this, the merchant house shared the functions of its aristocratic counterpart, but the nature and degree of urban hospitality may have been different, geared more towards the entertainment of social equals rather than large households and dependent tenants (Heal 1990, 300–351). Architecturally, such differences may be expressed in the relationship between the hall and other elements of the domestic complex, such as the commercial areas of the property, even when the hall takes the traditional form. In the context of the transformative process of the great rebuilding it has been argued that in the countryside gentry houses frequently retained medieval open halls as a symbol of aristocratic status and a centre for elite hospitality (Pearson 1994, 128–35). This may also have occurred in urban houses, where, as suggested above, formal open halls may have always been more exclusively associated with the residences of the mercantile and office-holding elite. The Treswell surveys record several examples of large halls that were probably still open in early seventeenth-century London, and the majority were occupied by gentry or aldermanic families (Schofield 1995, 65). The work of Leech (2000; 2014) on Bristol houses has been particularly important for understanding the changing use of the hall by the city’s merchant class in this period of transition. He argues that at this social level the hall increasingly served as a reception space, unheated and without seating, where the display of old furniture, coats of arms and weaponry that symbolised the role of the citizen in the civic militia served to constitute the honour, antiquity and legitimacy of the mercantile elite. These ideas will be further explored in this work through the


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 analysis of the physical remains of urban halls in Norwich, assessing the changing form and meaning of the hall in the post-medieval period and its role in the constitution of elite social identities. The commercial and industrial occupations of urban households had an impact on the organisation and use of space, necessitating the incorporation of shops, warehouses, counting houses, workshops and storage areas. There was considerable complexity and inter-penetration between ‘domestic’ and ‘commercial’ activities and interactions within the urban dwelling. The majority of provincial merchants operated in both wholesale and retail trade, requiring both shops and large amounts of storage. Merchant houses were provided with extensive ranges of warehouses and undercrofts, and those located on the waterfront often possessed a private quay (Parker 1971; Schofield 1995, 74–80; Quiney 2003, 208–14). Several houses in Sandwich show evidence for the use of upper rooms for storage, which were provided with moveable joists and openings for hoists (Clarke et al. 2010, 192–4). Many town houses with undercrofts provided commercial space on two storeys, with ranges of ‘first-floor’ shops connected by galleries and stairs (extensively reviewed by Harris 1994). The most famous example of this is the integrated system of raised covered walkways known as the ‘Rows’ in Chester (Brown 1999), but smaller blocks of property with commercial space on two storeys are known from London (Schofield 1995, 74–81) and Oxford (Pantin 1962–3, 217–18). ‘Shops’ in this period could serve multiple functions, as both industrial workshops and retail spaces. Their principal characteristics have been identified from both architectural and documentary sources (Stenning 1985; Keene 1990; D. Clark 2000; Alston 2004). Surviving shops typically possess large open windows, occasionally with evidence for benches and shutters, and could be either connected to the main domestic quarters or able to function as a self-contained unit. For smaller urban houses, however, gradations of privacy and specialisation of room use were not possible; domestic activities took place in a small number of rooms, often in close proximity to the shop and street, and there is likely to have been a general intermixing of domestic and ‘productive’ activities throughout the house and tenement. The traditional view is that most pre-modern industry was small in scale and conducted within the household-based workshop, requiring little capital investment in equipment, tools or raw materials (Swanson 1989). In many cases this is true, and the interconnection of house, shop and yard enabled the effective functioning of the ‘middling’ household as a productive social unit (see Hamling and Richardson 2017). However, many branches of industrial activity required substantial material investment and infrastructure, such as ovens, forges, brewhouses, stables and dyeing works, which required a large amount of space and separate buildings. We must also bear in mind the widespread operation of wage labour and putting-out systems in many trades; some townspeople worked at home but many others left their dwelling each day to work elsewhere. The existing archaeological literature on pre-modern industry is largely devoted to technological and functional issues (Blair and Ramsey 1991; Schofield and Vince 1994, 99–127; Crossley 1990), but the character of domestic production and the implications this may have had for social relationships within


urban rebuildings, urban transitions the urban household is a potentially fruitful avenue of shared historical and archaeological enquiry. A final important point to bear in mind is that, just as urban households did not conform to a single social structure, nor can they be automatically identified with a clearly defined spatial unit called a ‘house’. Although the majority of household servants and apprentices were expected to reside within the household, many urban workshops also employed day labourers. In an urban context, properties and buildings were divided in complex ways to accommodate changing numbers of inhabitants. A large merchant’s residence might be fronted by a row of smaller houses that were leased to various tenants, houses could be physically subdivided into different occupational units horizontally and vertically, households could occupy varied spaces in different parts of a building complex, and rooms were frequently occupied by lodgers with access to shared domestic facilities including kitchen hearths, privies, yards and wells. It is necessary to consider the changing configurations of families, households and house-fuls, and how these were affected by wider processes of urbanisation and economic development in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As we have seen, the idea of a single ‘great rebuilding’ of vernacular houses in the post-medieval period has been replaced by a more complex view that emphasises the variable degree and chronology of change in different regions (Johnson 2010). Within a picture of broad continuity in house plans and forms between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, post-medieval town houses witnessed a series of changes that had a dramatic impact on the nature of domestic space. The most prominent of these was the impact of widespread urban population growth in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which, as we will see in the examination of the Norwich excavations, resulted in the subdivision of properties and the infilling of courtyards and side streets in urban centres, alongside the post-medieval suburban expansion evident in many towns. Documentary surveys from urban probate inventories have been an important source of information about the subdivision of properties and changes in standards of domestic comfort (Dyer 1981; Priestley and Corfield 1982). Both documentary and archaeological sources point to an increase in the number of rooms in urban buildings, but this does not necessarily mean that individual families had more living space, as urban properties were often more heavily subdivided. Merchant houses continued to serve as both domestic and commercial centres, incorporating retail and storage spaces arranged around a courtyard, and there may have been increasing specialisation of room functions and access arrangements in these properties. There was an increasing trend toward upwards expansion in crowded urban centres with the addition of extra storeys and the provision of attic spaces, enabled by the use of queen-post and side-purlin roof framing and dormer windows. Attics are known from medieval houses in London, Exeter and elsewhere, but they do not seem to have become common until the post-medieval era, when they were widely inserted into older structures. They were used for a range of activities, including storage and sleeping accommodation, and in cloth-producing districts it has been suggested that many attics with large dormer windows served as weaving workshops; this is supported in the case of Norwich through the evidence of probate


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 inventories (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 117). This expansion and subdivision of early modern urban houses necessitated the development of architectural solutions to the practical problems involved, including the insertion of multi-storey chimney stacks and the development of fully framed staircases. It is important to stress, however, that all of these architectural features had been available to medieval builders, and had long been present in elite houses. Their relatively widespread introduction in houses across the social scale in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicates a significant restructuring of the material culture of early modern townspeople. It is thus necessary to tease out the elements of continuity and change in the form and function of different spaces, and their relationship to one another. The architectural transformations that occurred in the cities, towns and villages across early modern England have often been interpreted in relatively simple ways, as an expression of an underlying desire for ‘privacy’ and ‘comfort’ in the domestic context. The great rebuilding has frequently been associated with the growth in prosperity and security of the ‘middling sort’ in early modern society; the larger yeoman farmers in the countryside and the merchants and artisans in the towns who benefited from an increasingly commercialised national economy. Yet such grand narratives ignore the complex relationship between space and society in the early modern world. In both domestic and public buildings spaces set aside for private entertaining and sleeping could be venues for the display of hospitality and status to a selective audience; control over space could extend and materialise distinctions of wealth and rank within the household and the urban community. Privacy was a contested concept in both imagination and social practice; while elite men and women might possess a closet for religious meditation or personal study, ‘private’ space was difficult to find and difficult to conceptualise in the crowded streets and houses of early modern England, where individual action was always subject to close observation and moral regulation by the wider community (Gowing 1996; Ingram 1987; Orlin 2007). Scholars of the domestic world have increasingly turned to materiality as a key theme which binds together the multi-faceted experience of the home and the interdisciplinary practices which are needed to uncover those experiences. A focus on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has tended to characterise much work on the history of consumption, with a focus on new goods and patterns of behaviour. However, these exist within a broader transformation of the material environment across the late medieval and early modern periods which parallels the development of new architectural forms (Schama 1987; Sarti 2002; Hamling and Richardson 2010). Medieval historians and archaeologists have discussed the wider idea of ‘closure’ as a cultural phenomenon of using material resources to demarcate and negotiate discourses around status and identity through, for instance, sumptuary legislation to regulate consumption and control access to material goods (Hinton 2005; Rigby 1995). Work on testamentary practices has been a major part of this endeavour, using the patterns of bequests and the language of description to trace the economic, affective and symbolic values of domestic objects as they passed through the family, kin and wider social networks of the community (Liddy 2015; Richardson 2013).


urban rebuildings, urban transitions Probate inventories which list goods room by room have allowed historians to address a host of issues, from changing patterns of production and consumption to the use of space and daily activities within early modern dwellings (Overton et al. 2004; Buxton 2015). In this move towards a serious consideration of everyday objects it is clear that archaeologists have a vital role to play in uncovering the variety and richness of past material worlds. Brian Ayers, for instance, has traced the development of a strongly interconnected North Sea urban culture in the late Middle Ages which connected merchants, artisans and seafarers through networks of commerce, travel, and cultural and material exchanges (Ayers 2016). It is also the case that we need to move beyond status as a primary explanatory factor and think more broadly about people’s past experiences. Roberta Gilchrist’s innovative study of the medieval lifecourse uses a range of material and documentary sources to explore the bodily human experience in the village, church and home, thinking about inter-generational relationships, gender identities and the intimate and everyday connections between people, spaces and things (Gilchrist 2012). In a remarkably comprehensive and insightful new study entitled A Day at Home in Early Modern England, Tara Hamling and Catherine Richardson (2017) have brought together a breadth of evidence to delineate the cultural meanings and experience of the household for the early modern middling sort, encompassing architecture and decoration, material objects, and documentary records ranging from probate inventories and court depositions to household account books and personal diaries, and literary sources from didactic works on household management to representations of domestic conflict in stage tragedies. Structured around the spaces, furnishings and decoration of the house and the daily and seasonal rhythms of domestic activities – rising and dressing, working and making, buying and selling, cooking and eating, raising children, saying family prayers – they situate the great rebuilding and the rise of material consumption by the middling sort as central to the social identity of this important, albeit highly varied, status group. There were naturally great differences in household size and wealth between a prosperous merchant in a provincial port city such as Exeter or Southampton and a humble glovemaker in Stratford-upon-Avon, but they shared a common concern with the appropriate material setting for domestic life and orderly conduct within the household, which was central to their public reputation within their urban community. As the authors argue, ‘it is precisely because status within the middling ranks was so mutable that investment in buildings, decoration and furnishings became so notable and significant a priority for those engaged in consolidating and exhibiting their social position’ (Hamling and Richardson 2017, 9). Among the upper levels of the middling sort, those who most commonly served as parish, guild or civic office-holders, the spatial structure and decoration of their halls and parlours regularly included fixed tables and benches for formal dining and religious scenes or scriptures painted onto walls or carved into panelling and overmantels. These material contexts could express ideas of patriarchal authority within the household and the wider community and provide spaces for shared hospitality away from the service areas of the house and a setting for devotional routines of family prayers and bible readings that shaped the distinctive


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 religious identities of pious ‘godly’ households. In lesser middling households, domestic spaces such as halls and kitchens were often closely connected to the shop and workshop, street and yard, and were used for a wide range of activities including food preparation, eating, storage and craft activity; such spaces brought together family members, servants and apprentices, customers and neighbours through the daily routines of the household and community. The close interpenetration of public and domestic lives in the early modern town thereby enabled members of the middling sort to measure one another’s social standing and moral worth through close observation of household practices and behaviour, and to demarcate themselves as a social group against the increasingly crowded and impoverished domestic experiences of the growing ranks of the urban poor.

• Interdisciplinary approaches to the social life of the past are very easy to commend in principle and often very difficult to achieve in practice. This book is naturally a product of my own disciplinary training as a buildings archaeologist, and it therefore retains a primary focus on the structural analysis and social interpretation of architectural space which has been such a fruitful mode of enquiry within British archaeology and vernacular architecture studies. The principal aim of the present work is to present a case study of a contextual approach to the investigation and interpretation of urban domestic architecture in England’s ‘second city’, which is explicitly concerned with the changing forms, functions and meanings of domestic spaces in this period of transition. As will be made clear in the following chapter, Norwich presents us with a unique opportunity to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the changing spatial and material context of the urban household between the late medieval and early modern periods through a combination of architectural, archaeological and documentary evidence. Norwich is one of England’s best preserved historic urban centres; the increasing concentration of commercial and industrial expansion in the north and west of the country during the industrial revolution meant that Norwich escaped many aspects of widespread urban destruction and development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and this is reflected in the large numbers of medieval and early modern houses that survive across the city and form the principal focus of this study. In my interpretation of the physical evidence I seek to explore the role of the domestic context in the constitution of a distinctive urban culture and in the material expression and negotiation of changing power relationships, economic structures and social identities in the pre-modern city. The evidence from Norwich both extends and challenges our existing narratives of architectural and cultural developments in late medieval and early modern England, producing a more complex and contextual view of the diversity of domestic architecture and modes of life and the active role of individuals and households in wider processes of social and economic change. For members of the civic elite domestic spaces were an important mechanism for expressing and negotiating political authority, and were bound up with the changing


urban rebuildings, urban transitions forms and contested meanings of urban public spaces in the early modern period. The evidence for lesser domestic buildings suggests that most urban houses were different from elite residences, with a distinctive chronology of development and a wide range of spatial forms and functions that cannot be encompassed within a single model of architectural ‘closure’. This study of urban buildings is offered as a contribution to a wider historical project, in the belief that archaeology, as a discipline intimately concerned with ‘the power of things’, has a significant role to play in the development of innovative and rigorous interdisciplinary narratives of the social and material transition between the medieval and early modern worlds.


2 Norwich, 1350–1660: continuity and change in an English provincial city


orwich was consistently the largest and wealthiest provincial capital in England in the late medieval and early modern era, second only to London according to every major population and taxation listing between the late fourteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century, when its position was finally overtaken by the growth of Bristol and the Atlantic ports (Slack 2000). It stood at the heart of a prosperous and densely populated agricultural region and was an important centre for textile production, particularly the flourishing worsted industry. The trade networks of the city’s wealthy merchants extended across East Anglia and the east coast, down to London and across the North Sea to the Low Countries. It was a diocesan seat and royal administrative centre, and a vibrant social, commercial, religious and cultural hub. Norwich is therefore an ideal place to explore the transformative experience of English towns in the transition between the medieval and early modern worlds. The forces described in Chapter 1, encompassing both long-term restructuring and short-term crises – population expansion and mortality, economic growth and polarisation, the realignment of social hierarchies and the revolutionary impact of religious and political conflict – were felt here with particular intensity. Norwich also demonstrates the vital significance of urban institutions and social structures as mediating forces; people experienced dramatic social and economic change within the familiar contexts of the corporation, guild, parish and household, and through the transformation of these communities, networks and traditions they negotiated a path through the turmoil of the age of transition. Unsurprisingly, Norwich has long been an important focus for urban historians. The corporation itself maintained an impressive series of historical records from the fifteenth century, revealing a heightened sense of corporate identity and memory (McClendon 1999, 14–17). Several antiquaries were active in the city in the first half of the eighteenth century, notably John Kirkpatrick, whose notes, edited by William Hudson, were published in the nineteenth century (Kirkpatrick 1845; 1889), and Francis Blomefield, whose multi-volume survey of the topography and history of the city and county was published posthumously in 1806. Nineteenth-century scholars made a significant contribution to a fuller understanding of the political history of the city, particularly Hudson and Tingey’s (1906–10) publication of the selected records of the corporation. In spite of this long-standing antiquarian tradition, it was not until the second half of the twentieth century that two modern analytical surveys of


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the development of the city appeared (Green and Young 1981 [1963]; Campbell 1975). Since that time, however, historical research on the city has expanded dramatically, addressing a complete range of urban social, economic and political themes. Some of the most pertinent for the present work are the extensive surveys of John Pound, covering multiple aspects of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century city, including the Elizabethan corporation (1962), the 1570 census of the poor (1971a) and the social and economic structure of the urban community (1966; 1974; 1988). Penelope Corfield has addressed the growth of Norwich as a flourishing provincial centre in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (1972; 2004). Besides these general surveys, a host of authors have addressed particular themes in more depth, including John Evans (1979), Muriel McClendon (1999), Matthew Reynolds (2005) and Andrew Hopper (2004) on the wide-ranging impacts of religious and political conflict on the urban community during the Protestant Reformation and seventeenth-century crisis. The high level of sustained historical enquiry culminated in the production of a two-volume collection on Norwich from the medieval period to the present day, edited by Carole Rawcliffe and Richard Wilson (2004a; 2004b). Its papers provide a valuable introduction to research on a wide range of urban subjects, including social and economic structures, trade and industry, urban government, health and disease, and the impact of the Reformation and the Civil War, and include useful architectural histories of the city’s churches (Finch 2004) and monastic houses (Harper-Bill and Rawcliffe 2004). Further up-to-date studies of the city’s medieval and early modern architectural fabric feature in Heslop and Lunnon (2015). As will be demonstrated below, Norwich is equally famous for its impressive medieval and post-medieval archaeological remains as well as its large number of surviving historic buildings. Brian Ayers, Norfolk’s county archaeologist until 2008, has provided wide-ranging and up-to-date surveys of city’s archaeology and buildings (1991; 2004; 2009); beyond this, however, there currently exists no full and detailed published survey of the city’s domestic architecture, a gap which this work aims to rectify.

Medieval and early modern Norwich: delineating an urban society Norwich is spread over a range of hills on the north and south banks of the river Wensum, which in the medieval period were intercut by many narrow streams or ‘cockeys’ (for a map of the city see Figure 1). It lies at the river’s highest navigable point and throughout its history the principal port was at Great Yarmouth, with goods transhipped by barge to the city’s extensive quays along King Street. Norwich had its origins in the Anglo-Saxon period as a series of riverside settlements which by the tenth century had coalesced into a flourishing trading centre (Ayers 2009). The urban landscape was dramatically reshaped by the Norman Conquest, with the imposition of a major royal castle in the centre of the town and an associated new ‘great marketplace’ and French borough. The seat of the bishopric was translated to Norwich in 1094, and a magnificent cathedral with an attached Benedictine priory and bishop’s palace were laid out within the north-east meander of the Wensum (Gilchrist 2005). The importance of the city within its wider region was both created


norwich, 1350–1660 through and reflected in the size, density and grandeur of its religious institutions, which had a dramatic impact on the physical topography and architectural configuration of the late medieval and early modern townscape. Beside the cathedral priory, by the end of the Middle Ages there were a further 22 monasteries, friaries, hospitals and colleges with walled precincts and extensive landholdings within the city or its immediate suburbs. The city was divided into 58 parishes, many very small and tightly packed, with each church and churchyard being a vitally important space for the religious and social lives of the local community (Tanner 1984). In the first half of the fourteenth century Norwich was an expanding urban centre with large numbers moving in from the countryside, and the urban population may have reached c.25,000 by the 1330s (Rutledge 2004). The impact of the Black Death in 1348–9 and subsequent high mortality had a calamitous effect, resulting in the loss of over two-thirds of the population (Rawcliffe 2004, 317–18), but, as discussed below, the late medieval city remained in many respects a thriving and prosperous place. The 1525 lay subsidy lists 1414 taxpayers, which has been estimated to reflect a total population of c.8500 (Pound 1988, 28). The city grew markedly in the early modern period of urbanisation, as high mortality rates were surmounted by rapidly increasing migration. By 1579 the total urban population may have increased to around 14,000–15,000. However, some 6000 died in the severe plague of 1579–80, and a further 6000 in repeated outbreaks across the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. After 1610 the population began to increase rapidly once again, rising from c.14,000 to c.25,000 by 1630, although this growth was interrupted by several further outbreaks of plague. Around mid-century, again in line with general trends, the population seems to have stabilised at c.21,000 (although this may in part be due to under-recording during the Civil War years) (Pound 1988, 28–30). There was another significant increase over the last decades of the seventeenth century, so that by 1700 the city’s population stood at c.30,000 (Corfield 1972, 233–41). In common with other early modern towns, this increase was caused by immigration into the city from rural areas, and in Norwich in particular by a substantial influx of Dutch and Walloon refugees from the continent (further discussed below). Many migrants entered through the formal institution of apprenticeship, which might eventually lead to residence and the franchise, although by no means all apprentices remained in the city. The majority came from the surrounding area; in the sixteenth century 75 per cent of Norwich apprentices originated either in the city itself or in the county of Norfolk. This proportion increased to over 90 per cent during the seventeenth century, which may reflect the increasing regional specialisation of the rural economy and the development of Norwich as a provincial capital (Pound 1988, 46). Apprenticeship was only one way for migrants to make a place for themselves in the city. Service within the household was equally important, particularly for women, but it lacks the formal documentation of apprenticeship. The expansion of the cloth industry and the growth of the city’s service and retail sector from the late sixteenth century may have provided increased employment opportunities for women in particular.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Standing against a view of widespread late medieval urban decline, Norwich demonstrated economic resilience in the face of the dramatic reduction of its population during the Black Death and subsequent fourteenth- and fifteenth-century epidemics, quickly replacing losses among the freemen by admitting new masters and migrants. Norwich became one of the chief locations for the production of worsted cloth, and it was also the principal centre for the finishing and export of worsted produced throughout Norfolk (Dunn 2004, 213–20). In the late fourteenth century the city magistrates established a worsted seld (market hall) on the north side of the great market, where all cloths produced in the city and county were to be checked and sold, although this monopoly was not effectively enforced after the early fifteenth century (Dunn 2004, 216–17). Cloth production was the largest industry in fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Norwich; in the 1525 lay subsidy textiles accounted for nearly 30 per cent of the recorded occupations (Pound 1988, 52). Worsted was a popular lightweight woollen fabric and the market proved to be more resilient than that for traditional broadcloth, but like all medieval towns Norwich experienced peaks and troughs in its principal industry. A dramatic slump occurred in the mid-fifteenth century, a period of widespread economic recession across England, when the number of worsteds exported through the port at Great Yarmouth declined from c.12,000 to just 1,000 cloths per annum. There is, however, some indication of an uplift in the city’s fortunes in the final decades of the fifteenth century and first quarter of the sixteenth century, with an increase in worsted exports to between 5,000 and 8,000 cloths per annum (Allison 1960, 79). This coincided with the beginnings of a substantial (if not continuous) expansion of the urban population; it was this which allowed the city to rebuild relatively quickly following the 1507 fires, as highlighted in the opening chapter. A second period of significant disruption to trade occurred in the middle decades of the sixteenth century. Norwich suffered in these years from a sequence of unfortunate events reflecting wider national and international upheavals. The ongoing conflict over the direction of the English Reformation combined with high taxation and harvest failures resulted in the great uprising of Kett’s Rebellion in July 1549, when the city was over-run by a rural peasant force supported by a considerable body of discontented urban poor, only to be retaken in late August after three days of intensive street fighting by royal soldiers under the earl of Warwick; in the turmoil the homes of many prominent citizens were looted and areas of the southern and eastern parishes were burnt (see Wood 2004). Religious and political controversies continued to disrupt local government throughout the following decades; at the same time the city suffered a terrible influenza epidemic in 1558 and a major plague outbreak in 1579–80, while international trade was in recession and the city’s cloth workers faced increasing competition from continental products. These events had a significant impact on the city’s primary industry; by the third quarter of the sixteenth century the number of Norwich worsteds exported annually had declined once more to c.1000 (Allison 1960, 79); in the same period, fewer than 16 per cent of those admitted to the freedom of the city were in the textile industry (Pound 1988, 51), while in the census of the poor taken in 1570 a large number were


norwich, 1350–1660 or had been textile workers (Pound 1971a, 16). However, it would be wrong to focus solely on the decline of cloth production, as the picture of complete economic stagnation is misleading. The majority of Norwich freemen in the late sixteenth century were involved in the distributive trades, victualling, manufacturing or the service industries, providing food, drink, clothing, domestic goods, lodgings and luxuries for other inhabitants and visitors to the city, of all social degrees (Pound 1988, 55–7). Norwich was developing into an important marketing, social and cultural centre for the surrounding region of East Anglia – which itself was an increasingly densely occupied and prosperous agricultural area – and at least some sectors of the urban community continued to prosper. For example, the number of freeman grocers in the city grew from 27 in 1525 to 150 in 1569, reflecting increasing prosperity among the elite and middling sort, developing commercial networks and new habits of consumption (Pound 1966, 65–9). This continued prosperity in turn prevented the onset of a total economic depression among the city’s artisans and shopkeepers. In 1565, at the nadir of the city’s economic fortunes, mayor Thomas Sotherton obtained royal license for 30 Dutch and Walloon families, Protestant refugees from the Spanish Low Countries, to settle in the city with the explicit aim that they should introduce the manufacture of ‘bayes, arras, saies, tapestry, mockades, stamens, carsay and other outlandish commodities’ (Priestley 1990, 9). The size of these ‘Stranger’ communities increased rapidly, so that by 1579 they numbered around 6000 persons, comprising over one-third of the city’s total population of c.14,000–15,000 (Pound 1988, 57–60). The success of this move in terms of economic policy is clear; there was an exponential increase in the export of cloth, and by the 1580s the industry had returned to the position of pre-eminence which it had held at the beginning of the sixteenth century, although it took several generations for English craftsmen to adopt the new techniques (Allison 1961; Pound 1988, 58–9). The market for ‘Norwich Stuffs’ boomed in the seventeenth century, as these varied, brightly patterned and lightweight fabrics appealed to the increasingly prosperous gentry and middling sort for both clothing and furnishings (Priestley 1990). The number of apprentices and freemen admitted to the city’s textile industry dramatically increased, comprising over 40 per cent of the freemen body by the third quarter of the century, and the increasing prosperity of the master worstedweavers is shown by their growing prominence in the city government (Pound 1988, 60–2). Throughout these decades Norwich also continued to expand its role as a social and service centre for the surrounding region, with a flourishing mercantile and professional sector. By the end of our period Norwich had entered a new phase of unprecedented expansion and prosperity that lasted until the second half of the eighteenth century (Corfield 1972; 2004). Like all pre-modern towns, life in Norwich was structured through enduring status hierarchies based on wealth, social rank, occupational grouping and civic authority. Pound (1988, 31–45) provides an extensive analysis of the distribution of wealth in early modern Norwich, based on two sources which provide an overview of the community at the beginning and end of the period: the 1523–25 lay subsidies and the 1671 hearth tax returns. The two sources, of course, are not without problems


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 of interpretation, and they are not strictly comparable; all taxation records are likely to significantly under-estimate the real value of an individual’s total estate and exclude a sizeable proportion of the poorest members of society as well as servants or apprentices. Nevertheless, the broad trends identified from these important sources are suggestive. In 1525, 6 per cent of the taxable population owned 60 per cent of the wealth; this included 29 men who owned moveable goods worth between £100 and £1000, and a further 52 men taxed on goods worth between £40 and £99. This group included most of the city’s wealthiest merchants and civic office-holders such as Robert Jannys, Thomas Aldrich, Edward Rede and Thomas Pykerell, most of them living in the central wards of St Peter Mancroft and Middle Wymer, some of whose houses are examined in later chapters of this book. A total of 204 households were assessed on goods worth over £10 and a further 141 on goods valued between £5 and £9, forming a broad group of prosperous artisans and tradespeople. There was a considerable gulf between this relatively small group of comfortably off residents and the bulk of the city’s population; 416 households (30 per cent of the tax-paying townspeople) held goods worth between £2 and £4 and 570 households (forming 40 per cent of the tax-payers) were wage-earners with little taxable property. Below this were those who were not householders or were too poor to contribute to the tax; their number is unknown but it is generally estimated that they formed at least a quarter of the total urban population (Pound 1988, 31–8). The 1671 hearth tax returns provide a valuable snapshot of wealth and social structure across the city which is directly tied to housing in terms of the number of hearths recorded for each household, but they are equally problematic sources to interpret (see Barnwell and Airs 2006). The property with the largest number of recorded hearths was the palace of the duke of Norfolk in St John Maddermarket, which contained 60 hearths. Overall there were 88 houses listed with ten or more hearths, and a further 261 houses with between six and nine hearths; together these larger houses belonged to the wealthiest 8 per cent of the city’s population, comprising merchants, professionals and prosperous tradesmen. A further 710 houses (16 per cent) contained between three and five hearths, and over 1000 houses (25 per cent) were listed with two hearths. It cannot always be assumed that the number of hearths is a direct reflection of status, however. Hearths associated with industrial functions were supposedly exempted from the tax, but, for instance, inns could contain a great number of taxable hearths, while many townspeople across the social spectrum lodged in houses which had been subdivided or were in multiple occupancy, which again may skew the relationship between households and numbers of hearths. A key aspect of the Norwich hearth tax returns is that the numbers who were released from payment on the grounds of poverty were accurately recorded; this occurred when they occupied a dwelling with only a single hearth or, if they possessed two hearths, when they were below the minimum income threshold or the house was worth less than 20s per year. In 1671 over 50 per cent of the city’s houses possessed only a single hearth, and in total those excused comprised nearly 60 per cent of the recorded households (Pound 1988, 42–5; Seaman 2001).


norwich, 1350–1660 One of the most important aspects of Pound’s comparative socio-economic analysis is the consideration of Norwich in relation to other major provincial cities. In 1525 the distribution of wealth in Norwich was very similar to that seen in other large towns; a small merchant class holding a significant proportion of the town’s taxable property is found in many places, including Bristol, Exeter and York. In contrast, by the later seventeenth century the 60 per cent of the population exempted from paying the hearth tax on the grounds of poverty was distinctly higher in Norwich than elsewhere – the comparable figures are between 30 and 40 per cent in Exeter, Ipswich and Leicester, and 20 per cent in Bristol and York (Pound 1988, 42–3). It is therefore clear that, given the overall economic prosperity of the city in this phase of industrial and commercial growth, the processes of economic and social polarisation which have been identified for the country as a whole in the early modern period were played out in Norwich with particular force. In both periods, the bulk of wealth was in the hands of the governing classes, the vast majority of whom were engaged in the distributive trades. Pound estimates that merchants formed 15 per cent of the nearly 700 individuals recognisable as freemen in the 1525 lay subsidy returns, but these men together owned nearly half of the taxable wealth in the city (Pound 1988, 36–7). As the seventeenth century progressed there were an increasing number of worsted weavers, professionals and other service tradesmen within the group of civic office-holders; the rise in status of these trades is further shown by a growing willingness of rural gentlemen, clergymen and yeomen to apprentice their sons within these occupations (Pound 1988, 46–8). The ‘middling sort’ within the urban community also benefited from this increase in trade and prosperity. In the century and a half between 1525 and 1671 there are no city-wide taxation records, but probate inventories of household goods survive in large enough quantities to enable the assessment of wealth distribution across a broad spectrum of the urban community, albeit a sample which is heavily biased towards the urban elite and prosperous middling sort. Pound (1988, 37–44) provides an analysis of the changing value of Norwich inventories from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth centuries. General prosperity and an increasing investment in domestic goods among the middling orders is demonstrated by the steady increase in the median value of all inventories from the city; this rises from £15 in the period 1584–1600 to £31 in the first quarter of the seventeenth century and £74 by the third quarter of the seventeenth century. The greatest increases in the value of household goods were found among the city’s merchants and the textile trades, which rise in median value over the same period from £38 to £116, and £8 to £92, respectively. Changes are not limited to these groups, however, as there is also an increase in the value of the household goods of many craftsmen and labourers. The documentary records of the surviving probate inventories and the hearth tax returns clearly indicate that the citizens of Norwich were fully engaged in the wider transformation of domestic space and material culture which characterised the great rebuilding, as outlined in Chapter 1. A primary aim of this study therefore is to extend this analysis of the material lives of the early modern townspeople to include new evidence from archaeological excavation and standing buildings, and to


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 explore in more detail the motivations behind changing patterns of consumption and investment in material culture among different social groups.

Governing the city The dramatic expansion of urban populations and the restructuring of the urban economy, with an accompanying increase in social and economic polarisation as highlighted by the hearth tax returns, created significant ongoing challenges of poverty, vagrancy and mortality for early modern urban governments. In the second half of the sixteenth century, during the major slump in the textile industry described above, Norwich became one of the first English towns to create an integrated and consistent approach to the problem of poverty, providing a model for other towns and ultimately national legislation (Slack 1988, 73–80). In 1570 the corporation undertook a detailed census of the poor, providing historians with an unparalleled view of the household composition, occupations, social position and housing of this elusive sector of the urban population (discussed more fully in Chapter 8). One suggested reason for the compilation of the census at this specific moment is that it was a response by the corporation to an abortive rebellion in Norwich in May 1570, which exacerbated the concerns of both local and national government about social disorder in the city. Over 800 poor households were identified in the census, containing more than 2300 individuals. Over half of the poor households were employed in the textile industry, reflecting the ambiguous benefits of the city’s role as an industrial centre. In response to these findings the magistrates undertook a thorough reform of the city’s poor law, expanding the parish rate for the ‘deserving’ poor, while strict settlement requirements were enforced. Beggars and vagrants entering the city were turned away, and persistent offenders were liable to be whipped or placed in a new civic institution, the Bridewell. In addition, a city corn stock was established to provide food during times of high prices, and a number of hospitals and schools were maintained for the poor, providing education and training for poor children (Pound 1971a; Pound 1988, 125–34). In all of this, as in other towns grappling with their collective response to the challenges of urban governance in the age of transition, the magistrates were motivated by a mixture of charity and a growing fear of social disorder in the face of economic and social change (Pound 1988, 140–9). The city government was increasingly concerned to regulate the growing number of ‘masterless’ young men and women in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; those living outside the authority of a household, particularly single women, were perceived as a potential threat to civic order. ‘Subsistence’ migrants to the city, who were not accommodated within the formal social and political institutions governing the urban economy, were likewise seen as a potential threat. Their numbers were increasing all over England from the sixteenth century as a result of long-term economic shifts and short-term crises; in Norwich, the prosecution of non-resident vagrants in the mayor’s court increased dramatically in years of famine (Griffiths 1996, 157–9). While there is little doubt that this type of movement was on the increase, the reaction of the corporation


norwich, 1350–1660 was as much a reflection of the fear of social disruption and the obsession with order that accompanied the social and economic dislocation of the period. In Norwich, the magistrates were largely successful in containing the level of begging and vagrancy to manageable levels as part of their wider scheme for poor relief introduced after 1570. A distinctive aspect of migration in early modern Norwich was the rapid expansion of the immigrant Dutch and Walloon communities after their arrival in 1565, already highlighted above. The Stranger community is well documented but lacks a comprehensive modern history. In the nineteenth century Moens (1887–8) produced a major compilation of documents related to the French Church, which, however, was much the smaller of the two Norwich congregations; the larger Dutch community features in more modern scholarship by Esser (1995; 2007), Goose and Luu (2005) and Williamson (2014). The economic, social and cultural position of the immigrants within the city is a vitally important area for further historical and archaeological research (see King 2011). While they had a significant impact on the revival and expansion of the city’s textile trades through the introduction of the so-called ‘New Draperies’, the Strangers were forced to exist under difficult economic and social restrictions. While some Stranger merchants and professional men gained wealth and position, the majority of the Dutch and Walloon communities worked in the textile industry and were concentrated in the city’s poorer, outlying parishes. The rapid population increase in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries arising from this increase in both regional and international migration resulted in deteriorating living conditions for the city’s workforce. Archaeological excavations throughout the poorer quarters of the city have revealed the subdivision of properties and infilling of courtyard areas with new houses to accommodate the increase in population (Atkin and Evans 1984). The Stranger community is discussed further in Chapter 8, which presents the archaeological evidence for Stranger households and their distinctive cultural and domestic identities within a wider presentation of the evidence for the houses and living conditions of the urban poor in the city’s outer parishes. A second area in which Norwich exemplifies wider trends in national urban history is the development of its institutions of civic government. The expansion of Norwich as a prosperous urban centre in the medieval period was matched by a concerted effort on the part of its leading citizens to extend their economic and political independence. In the fourteenth century the city was governed by four bailiffs, elected annually, and a council of 24 who were growing in importance (Campbell 1975, 12–15). In 1404 the city obtained a charter of incorporation, making it an independent county in its own right, outside the jurisdiction of the royal sheriff of Norfolk. The city was to be governed by an ‘upper house’ of 24 aldermen who were elected for life and served as justices of the peace, one of whom served each year as mayor; he was supported by two sheriffs with responsibility for the administration of taxation and justice, and a ‘lower house’ of 60 common councillors. A second ruling (known as the ‘Composition’) of 1415, endorsed by royal charter two years later, confirmed the structure of the corporation and consolidated the political position of the freemen (Frost 2004, 236–7). In contrast to the political exclusion faced by the freemen of many other early modern cities (Clark and Slack 1976, 128–9), in Norwich


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the freemen retained the right to elect the aldermen, councillors and one of the sheriffs, and to nominate the candidates for mayor (Evans 1979, 28–30). In Norwich, as in all pre-modern towns, wealth and political power were intimately linked. Throughout the late medieval and early modern period the corporation was dominated by the small group of men, mostly within the distributive trades, who have already been identified above as a distinct status group possessing a substantial share of the city’s taxable wealth and moveable goods. The mercantile elite functioned to a large extent as a self-selecting oligarchy. Between 1404 and 1499 mercers, merchants, grocers and drapers provided 68 of 98 mayors; between 1500 and 1599 the total was 75 of 102; and between 1600 and 1699 it was 53 of 104 (Mayors). Prosperous craftsmen could also serve as mayor, but less salubrious trades were excluded; the declining proportion of mercantile mayors in the seventeenth century is largely explained by the increase in the numbers and prosperity of men in the textile industry. Access to high civic office was governed by a well-defined cursus honorem of civic offices, from the initial franchise through the ranks of ward constable, common councillor, city chamberlain, sheriff and alderman (Pound 1988, 71–8; Frost 2004, 239–40). While this enabled a degree of social mobility, whereby those who prospered in their trade could attain civic office, in fact there was a strong advantage for those who already possessed wealth and connections within the elite. Men who reached the mayoralty began their civic careers at a younger age and advanced more quickly through the ranks of government than the majority of the common councillors (Pound 1988, 78). The men who served in high civic office were frequently bound together by kinship, marriage and apprenticeship; the levels would undoubtedly be much higher if the maiden names of more of their female relatives were known (Frost 2004, 240–2; Pound 1988, 80–4). Strong inter-familial connections that reinforced both economic and social power are a recognised feature of urban elites, being found in medieval London (Thrupp 1948, 28), medieval and early modern York (Palliser 1979, 94–9; Kermode 1998, 77–90), early modern Exeter (Hoskins 1961) and early modern Gloucester (Clark 1984b, 312–19). This also meant that elite urban women played a key role in maintaining connections and transferring capital within the mercantile class. Historians have emphasised the relative fragility of urban elite groups as a self-contained oligarchy, arguing that mercantile families were rarely able to establish dynasties of more than two or three generations because of the high levels of urban mortality and the susceptibility of urban fortunes to economic downturns. They have also emphasised the frequent dispersal of urban elite families and wealth through a strong tendency to abandon the city and establish the family on a landed estate (Thrupp 1948, 191–233; Kermode 1998, 11–21). However, these trends should not be over-exaggerated. In the case of Norwich there were several notable families who provided many generations of magisterial service at the same time as investing in rural property. Pound (1988, 80–4) does argue that a process of ‘gentrification’ was advancing within the corporation in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as increasing numbers of apprentices into the wealthy distributive trades had gentry origins. Members of the corporation invested increasing amounts in rural property and maintained increasingly strong social and familial connections with Norfolk gentry families.


norwich, 1350–1660 Archaeology has a crucial role to play in gaining a fuller understanding of the status and identity of urban elites in this period, through an analysis of their investment in a wide range of material practices. These included the public buildings through which their political authority within the city was maintained, but the merchant class were also prominent patrons of city churches and religious guilds, which were important locales for elite sociability and the expression and negotiation of social status within the urban landscape. A chief concern of the present work is to examine the equally significant role played by investment in domestic buildings in constituting a distinctive and shared cultural identity within the elite and their shifting relationship with public spaces in the late medieval and early modern city, which forms the focus of analysis in Chapter 5.

Norwich: the social geographies of the urban landscape The urban community existed within a deeply stratified physical and social urban landscape which structured economic activity, political authority and religious identity. As established in Chapter 1, the individual household was a central locale – social and material – embedded within a wider network of institutions and relationships. Some of these associations operated spatially, fixing the household and its members in the urban landscape as an element within a residential neighbourhood, parish or ward, or within a regulated craft association. Other institutions and networks of association drew together households and individuals from across the city, and might cut across or challenge the formal institutional structures of urban authority through their interaction within the urban market economy or religious and cultural associations that bound together certain elements of the urban community while excluding others. Throughout this period, the manifold social identities and relationships that existed within a fragmented and highly volatile urban society were created, expressed and negotiated within the intimate and quotidian local topographies in which the inhabitants interacted on a daily basis. A striking feature of recent medieval and early modern historiography has been an upsurge of interest in questions related to the development of the urban landscape and its role in the everyday lives and social relationships of the townspeople. Rawcliffe has pioneered the study of medical and charitable provision in late medieval Norwich through an in-depth analysis of St Giles’s hospital (Rawcliffe 1999), a quasi-monastic institution which at the Reformation was refounded by the corporation as the ‘Great Hospital’. Two valuable wider studies of the urban landscape by Rawcliffe (2013) and Fay (2015) together demonstrate that the city’s late medieval and early modern governors developed a growing interest in the provision of clean water, street paving and refuse collection in the service of ideals of public health and cleanliness within a wider cultural understanding of a well-ordered urban community as a healthy ‘body politic’. By the sixteenth century Norwich’s civic leaders were at the forefront of national trends in the regulation of the urban environment. The magistrates provided a public water supply through a system of lead pipes and conduits, banned flammable roofing materials, ordered the rebuilding of dilapidated or void tenements,


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 prevented the dumping of noxious waste in the city’s waterways and open spaces and ordered citizens to keep the streets and drains in front of their houses in good repair and free of muck (Fay 2015, 141–66, 168–73). In the context of the decline of the city’s textile industry in the mid-sixteenth century and concerns over dilapidated and over-crowded tenements and recurrent outbreaks of plague, the urban landscape became an index of wider civic concern over poverty, vagrancy, disease and social and moral order in the urban community. Fiona Williamson has extended these themes into the seventeenth century, emphasising that urban space was a dynamic aspect of multiple social relations and identities. The corporation sought to regulate and control urban space in the face of the challenges posed by immigration, poverty and public disorder – an important theme to which this work will repeatedly return (Williamson 2014). As noted above, a central feature of the history of the city from the late medieval period onwards was the gradual extension of political independence to the citizen body, a campaign that was marked through an explicit concern to gain control over urban space. Throughout the medieval period the citizens were in conflict with the cathedral priory and other ecclesiastical institutions over the boundaries of their respective jurisdictions, a contest that erupted in violent attacks on the cathedral precinct in 1272 and again in 1443, after which the city’s liberties were temporarily revoked (Campbell 1975, 12–13; Gilchrist 2005, 27–30). The drive for corporate autonomy was marked by a series of civic building projects, most prominently the city wall with its 12 gates, constructed between 1297 and 1343, both defining the boundaries of the urban community and symbolising its independence. Within the city, the great marketplace developed into a vital locale for the expression of civic power through the regulation of economic activity and the collection of tolls and fines, the construction of prominent civic structures such as the market cross and tollhouse, the punishment of offenders in the pillory, and the public enactment of political and social hierarchies through civic and guild ceremonies that bound together secular and religious monuments within the urban landscape (Priestley 1987, 7–16). The incorporation of the city as a county in its own right in 1404 was marked by the construction of a new city guildhall overlooking the great market that symbolised both the newly won autonomy of the corporation and its power and authority over the wider citizen body (Dunn and Sutermeister 1977). The city was divided into a series of administrative units known as wards. There were four ‘great wards’ or leets – Wymer, Mancroft, Conesford and Ultra Aquam or Over-the-Water – each of which was further divided into three lesser wards (see Figure 3). The division into wards had occurred before the thirteenth century, and they continued to operate as the principal administrative divisions for the government of the city: elections to the common council and aldermanry were organised on a ward basis. The smallest units of formal administration were the individual parishes. These had formed a vital part of the social and cultural life of the inhabitants throughout the late medieval period, but in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the parish was formally reconstituted as a political and administrative community, with responsibility for taxation and poor relief. Even after the transformation of religious life in the wake


Figure 3. The four great wards and 12 lesser wards of Norwich.

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 of the Protestant Reformation and the attacks on sacred furnishings and decoration the parish church remained a central locale for the negotiation of social hierarchies and identities within local communities; status, gender and lifecycle identities were expressed and negotiated through the seating arrangements and funerary monuments within the church. The offices of parish government were dominated by the middling orders, who used their position to extend their authority over their poorer neighbours and as a vital stepping stone to achieve greater status and political power within the town (Wrightson 1996). In the case of Norwich, archaeologists and historians have already contributed a great deal to our understanding of the complex social geographies of the city’s inhabitants. In the medieval period a certain amount of clustering of craft activity can be identified in the enrolled deeds of urban properties in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, with concentrations of dyers in the parishes on either side of the river, metal workers in the central parishes around the marketplace, butchers and leather workers in the southern parishes of Conesford and tanners in the outlying parishes to the north, east and west – patterns which continued in the early modern period (Rutledge 2004, 161–2). Pound’s (1988) analysis of the distribution of economic wealth and craft groupings between 1525 and 1671, already outlined in the first half of this chapter, provides an important baseline for understanding the social and economic character of different zones in the early modern city. The population of the city was most highly concentrated in the wards of Wymer and Over-the-Water, on either side of the river. These areas contained a dense cluster of streets and open spaces where a great many of the city’s craftsmen lived, in particular the cloth workers who formed such a sizeable proportion of the townspeople, but also the metal, leather and woodworking trades (Pound 1988, 53). The lesser ward of Mid Wymer was one of the wealthiest areas of the city, centred on a group of parishes including St Andrew’s, St John Maddermarket and St Peter Hungate, where many prosperous merchants resided. There were also wealthy parishes north of the river centred on Colegate, including St Mary Coslany, St Michael Coslany, St George Colegate and St Clement’s. Many of the surviving houses built by members of the civic elite can be found in these two zones. The other principal concentration of wealth was in the lesser ward of St Peter Mancroft, which included the great marketplace with the principal civic buildings, filled with rows of two-storey stalls and surrounded by merchants’ houses and inns. The entire ward formed one large parish, and St Peter Mancroft church was the biggest and most prestigious in the city, patronised by the gentry and mercantile elite. Certainly by the seventeenth century, if not before, gentry families clustered in this parish, rather than in the equally wealthy but more industrialised central parishes. The duke of Norfolk’s palace on the riverside in Mid Wymer ward was a notable exception, and was criticised by contemporaries for its insalubrious location (Ayers 1991, 5–6). The other noticeable concentration of gentry residents in the early modern city was within the cathedral close, which by the later seventeenth century was increasingly developing a distinctive character as a ‘polite’ enclave in the wider city (Gilchrist 2005, 231–5).


norwich, 1350–1660 In contrast to these more prosperous central areas, the outlying parishes of the city were often poorer, although parts of them were also densely populated. The whole southern ward of Conesford was the poorest area of the city in both the 1525 lay subsidies and 1671 hearth tax returns (Pound 1988, 35, 43–44). This was where the city quays were located, and in the medieval period wealthy merchants had congregated here, but by the sixteenth century the main craft groupings were butchers and brewers and it contained many poorer craftsmen, labourers and river-workers who lived in single-hearth houses and possessed little taxable wealth. Poverty was also noticeable in the ward of ‘Over-the-Water’, north of the river. Although there were some wealthy merchants and craftsmen living in these parishes, they were outnumbered by poorer craftsmen and labourers, a great many of whom were employed in the textile industry. As noted above, as the population increased in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries these areas were characterised by overcrowding; in the 1570 census poor households are revealed to be present across the city but concentrated in the outlying parishes, where they occupied the subdivided houses crammed into urban tenements which feature so prominently in the archaeological record of these areas (Pound 1988, 125–7). These outlying parishes also became home to a large proportion of the rapidly expanding Stranger community, further exacerbating the effects of overcrowding. Urban historians have regularly emphasised the homogeneity of the early modern townscape, stressing that the daily interaction of rich and poor was a vital aspect of the creation and functioning of a sense of shared urban community (Friedrichs 1995, 5–7). While this is true on a broad level – all areas of Norwich contained a mix of richer and poorer inhabitants, and various craft groups – it is clear that there were spatial divisions between the location of rich and poor households, which impacted on the formation of social identities. Beyond the formal administrative structures of parish and ward, the most important locale for the negotiation of urban social relationships was the more immediate topography of streets and open spaces that constituted the residential neighbourhood. Although in Norwich many parishes were small and their residents could be expected to know one another, the form of the urban landscape provided other points of contact and interaction which might play a more diffuse, but equally significant, role in the social lives of the townspeople. Divisions between households within an individual parish may have been expressed and maintained within the urban landscape through the ‘micro-geographies’ of individual streets and lanes, which might cut across formal ward and parish boundaries; wealthy houses might be set back from the street and fronted by rows of rental properties, while over the course of the early modern period courtyards and back lanes became increasingly densely occupied by the expanding urban poor and migrant communities. Thus, when assessing the archaeological evidence for household identity and interaction, the parish provides only the first scale of analysis: it is necessary to consider the placement of houses in relation to the individual streets which constituted the immediate local environment of their inhabitants.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Norwich houses: buildings, archaeology and documents Norwich’s distinctive topography and morphology had a significant impact on the development of the city’s domestic architecture. The sweeping arc of the thirteenthcentury defences encompassed large areas of open ground to the north and south-west, as shown on the earliest surviving view of the city by Cunningham produced in 1558 (Figure 2); the walled area was greater than any other English city, including London (Campbell 1975, 11–12). Norwich thereby benefited from an unusually spread-out pattern of building. Unlike more tightly enclosed urban centres, pre-modern Norwich did not develop extensive suburbs, apart from small settlements at Heigham in the west and Pockthorpe in the east. In many respects, as shown by archaeology, the outlying intra-mural parishes had the character of typical suburban areas, including a concentration of noxious industries and housing for the urban poor (Atkin and Evans 1984). In consequence, most Norwich houses adopted relatively spreading plans, with the majority constructed parallel to the street and, with the exception of those in the central area, rarely more than two storeys high. Archaeological excavations show the development of housing in rear lanes and courtyards from the later sixteenth century, and with the early modern growth in population there was a substantial increase in the density of occupation of the urban core, as revealed in the Hochstetter map of 1789. However, even at this time there were still open spaces within the walls, and there was no widespread suburban expansion before the beginning of the nineteenth century (Barringer 2004). The sources of evidence for reconstructing housing and living conditions in the medieval and early modern city can be defined broadly under three categories: buildings surviving as standing structures; the results of archaeological excavation; and documentary and pictorial sources. All three bodies of evidence tell us about different aspects of the domestic built and material environment; they each have their own histories of preservation and interpretation, and have distinctive chronological, geographical and social coverage across the period between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The analysis of Norwich houses presented in this work is the first attempt to bring together these varied sources into a coherent story, and naturally it makes use of a considerable body of material that has been amassed by previous scholars working in the city. By far the most important of these are the reports of the Norwich Survey, established in 1971 under the directorship of Alan Carter in order to study and record the physical remains of Norwich’s past in the face of the threat posed by urban redevelopment (Atkin and Evans 2002, 1–4). The Norwich Survey conducted a significant programme of archaeological excavations and standing building recording across the city between 1971 and 1978, and adopted a wide-ranging approach to the study of the city’s medieval and post-medieval past. The Survey identified 214 standing domestic buildings in the city dating from before 1700 and produced basic historic building assessments which are held in the Norfolk Historic Environment Record (NHER NS reports). These reports were produced by volunteer recording groups and in most cases are fairly simple


norwich, 1350–1660 records with usually only a sketch floor plan. Only a limited range of the standing building component of the Norwich Survey’s work has been published, in relatively brief summary form (Smith and Carter 1983). Robert Smith (1990) has built on the Norwich Survey material to produce a fuller account of domestic architecture in the city in his unpublished University of East Anglia PhD thesis. This provides a gazetteer of the surviving houses, a detailed architectural analysis of a sample of buildings and a useful summary of the development of construction methods and plan-forms; it has been an invaluable source for this work. More recently Jayne Rimmer (2007) has produced a comparative study of medieval small houses in York and Norwich, which provides a survey of three surviving medieval row houses and also considers documentary archives relating to institutional landlords – specifically the account rolls of St Giles’s hospital and the city corporation – to explore their construction, repair and spatial arrangements. I have drawn extensively on the architectural assessments produced by the Norwich Survey combined with primary archaeological recording of a select number of surviving structures, where the degree of preservation allows a more detailed discussion of the development and function of different spaces in the house. Although the evidence is limited, it is possible to provide some general conclusions about the chronology of building construction and materials. It is also possible to discuss the use of space in some of the better-preserved structures, and to use this to interpret the more fragmentary remains of other buildings. It is important, however, to bear in mind the fragmentary preservation of many of these structures, and the chronological and social limitations of the standing building evidence. Only a small number of the houses date from before the early sixteenth century; the city has over 50 medieval brick undercrofts, but only eight or nine above-ground medieval structures that permit a more detailed reconstruction of their original form. One key reason for this sparse survival of medieval domestic buildings is the dramatic impact of the two major fires of 1507 introduced in the first chapter. Masonry structures such as undercrofts and halls dominate the stock of early standing houses, largely representing the homes of the city’s elite mercantile class; it is only from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the homes of the middling sort and poorer elements of urban society survive in any great number. The lack of surviving medieval buildings below the level of the elite is particularly striking in Norwich when compared with other provincial centres such as York (RCHME 1972; 1981) or Salisbury (RCHME 1980). It results from a combination of factors, including the use of timber- and clay-walled construction methods for the medieval structures in contrast to more robust forms of timber framing, compounded by the destructive effects of the fires of 1507 and the subsequent rebuilding, and the continued prosperity of the city in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which resulted in an ongoing process of reconstruction of earlier housing stock. The early modern period saw the widespread construction of new buildings across the city, as well as a great deal of adaptation of existing buildings in contrast to total rebuilding, as has been suggested for other towns (Schofield 1997). In Norwich, the principal changes are the extension and subdivision of existing buildings, the increasing use of attic spaces and the beginning of the replacement of timber-framed


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 construction with solid brick and flint masonry walling in the seventeenth century. The ongoing process of modification and rebuilding has had a significant impact on the preservation of early modern houses. The continuous commercial and residential use of the majority of the surviving buildings in the central district has often destroyed evidence for their original plan, particularly on the ground floor. Many had a second floor added in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, removing the evidence for early roof structures, and they were frequently refronted with a skin of brick or render. In no cases are all the original doorways and staircases preserved, and there are only a few examples where these features can be reconstructed with any certainty. The survival rate of pre-1700 houses varies across the city, and has been affected by a range of factors. It reflects both the extent and character of the built-up area in the early modern period, but also subsequent processes of urban development. The 1789 Hochstetter map shows the spread of settlement in the outlying parishes to the north and south of the city, but building was still concentrated along the main streets, with a great deal of open space within the city walls. There was, however, a high density of occupation within the built-up areas. As will be discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters, archaeological excavations show that many larger houses were divided into smaller units in the seventeenth century as the population expanded, and the poor (including the Stranger community) were increasingly concentrated in the outer parishes. There are also large numbers of purpose-built single-cell dwellings surviving from the seventeenth century. This period saw the development of a distinctive building pattern based on enclosed courts or narrow lanes, usually entered through an arch in the ground floor of the street frontage buildings. This pattern of urban settlement based on courts is clearly shown on the 1885 Ordnance Survey map of Norwich in the northern parishes along Oak Street, Pitt Street, Duke Street, St George’s Street and Magdalen Street; in Westwick along St Benedict’s Street; and to the south along King Street. Courts are also found in the central parishes, on Bedford Street, St Andrews, Queen Street and Elm Hill, where many had begun life as the central courtyards of larger houses (Campbell 1975). In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries many older buildings in the outer parishes were converted into industrial premises, particularly associated with the cloth, brewing and leather trades, and by this date many of the courts had degenerated into notorious slums. In the early twentieth century the city began a large-scale programme of slum clearance that ranged from individual condemned buildings to large areas of the early modern townscape – for instance, on the north side of Elm Hill and along Oak Street and Magdalen Street. The Blitz of 1942–4 resulted in further losses in the north, west and south-west parishes. In the second half of the twentieth century there were dramatic changes in the urban landscape, including the construction of the inner ring road, which cut across the northern part of the walled city. Large areas of surviving courts and houses were demolished and replaced with a mixture of industrial, commercial and residential buildings (Ayers 2009, 176–82; Holmes and Holmes 2015). Fortunately, many of these early modern buildings were recorded in various pictorial sources before they were demolished. The most important collections are


norwich, 1350–1660 the watercolours and engravings of the ‘Norwich School’ of artists, established in the early nineteenth century and led initially by John Crome and then by John Sell Cotman, with prominent members including David Hodgson and Henry Ninham. These artists produced a wide range of views of local landscapes, including many street scenes in the old city, which can be related to still standing and demolished structures; despite allowances for artistic licence, they provide a valuable record of buildings in the city at the turn of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century we are fortunate to possess the very extensive photographic archive produced by George Plunkett, a local amateur historian who was inspired to record extensive areas of old housing in the city in the wake of the corporation’s urban redevelopment schemes from the 1930s to the 1950s. Plunkett’s evocative photographs (hereafter referred to as the Plunkett Collection) include a large number of structures which are clearly early flint-and-brick and timber-framed structures, although in a dilapidated state, and the courts and yards which mostly disappeared in the twentieth century, including some buildings whose foundations have since been rediscovered in archaeological excavations. The extent of urban clearances and rebuilding therefore makes it difficult to compare houses in different areas of Norwich and across different socio-economic groups. Modern processes of urban development have had a particularly strong impact on the outlying districts of the city, where the houses of the lower levels of urban society were concentrated, and only a combination of standing building and excavated evidence can reconstruct the housing and living conditions in these, the most populous areas of the early modern city. The surviving sixteenth- and seventeenth-century domestic buildings do cover a comparatively wide spectrum of urban society, ranging from houses with three or more ground-floor rooms to single-cell houses. The majority were probably occupied by broadly ‘middling’ trading or artisan households, while many of the surviving single-cell houses are likely to have been occupied by households of lesser artisan or labourer status; however, the dwellings of the poorest households have not survived as standing structures. The story of modern urban archaeology in Norwich begins with the excavations undertaken by the Norwich Survey between 1971 and 1978 in advance of major urban redevelopment projects, undertaken in the period before developer-funded archaeology was incorporated into planning legislation. Although the Survey was initiated with the aim of investigating the Saxon origins of the town (a focus shared with many contemporary urban archaeological groups), the open-area excavations uncovered a wealth of well-preserved medieval and post-medieval remains (particularly at the Pottergate excavations in 1973). In consequence the comprehensive excavation of later deposits was recognised as a vital source of information on the development of urban topography, population, buildings and industry, and the Pottergate excavations were followed by two large-scale excavations of urban tenements north of the river at Alms Lane in 1976–7 and Oak Street in 1977–8, alongside a host of smaller interventions in the western and northern parishes. The real significance of the Norwich excavations in many ways is the impressive record of publication (all too rare for urban digs from the period of ‘rescue archaeology’); the principal sites have been published in


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 three volumes of East Anglian Archaeology (Carter 1982; Atkin et al. 1985; Atkin and Evans 2002), supplemented by volumes dedicated to the pottery (Jennings 1981) and material culture (Margeson 1993). The only major tenement excavation to remain unpublished is the Oak Street site (Atkin 1978). Since 1990, excavations in the city have continued as part of ongoing urban development within the planning process, primarily by the Norfolk Archaeological Unit alongside other commercial operators. The key projects have included St Martin-at-Palace Plain (Ayers 1987a), the site of the Millennium Library opposite the great marketplace (Hutcheson 2000), Norwich Castle (Shepherd Popescu 2009), St Faith’s Lane and the Franciscan friary (Emery 2007; Soden 2010), and excavations and building survey of a late medieval merchant’s complex at Dragon Hall on King Street (Shelley 2005). The archaeological excavations have produced vital evidence for the housing and living conditions of poorer and middling townspeople, for the chronology of building development in the city and for the use of space in buildings and tenements from features such as hearths, floors, ovens and cesspits. The material assemblages of ceramics and artefacts provide a window into the changing material culture of urban households across the medieval and early modern periods, allowing us a more intimate insight into household activities and domestic practices. Elements of the excavated evidence have been summarised and interpreted by Malcom Atkin and D. H. Evans, and by Ayers, presenting broad conclusions about land use and the development of tenements in the medieval and post-medieval periods (Atkin and Evans 1984; Ayers 1991; 2009). The evidence reveals a continuous process of extension and adaptation of houses in the post-medieval period and the increasing density of building development in the seventeenth-century city, providing an essential picture of change and fluidity in urban neighbourhoods which is belied by the static architectural evidence. Nonetheless, archaeological evidence comes with its own limitations and caveats. It is always difficult to reconstruct the complete form and layout of buildings from the excavated remains of the foundations alone, and here the comparison with surviving structures can help to interpret the upper floors of excavated buildings. In some instances it has also been possible to trace photographs of some of the excavated buildings before their demolition, which provide further details to aid their interpretation. In return the excavations have revealed houses across the spectrum of urban society, including evidence for a range of different house-forms and construction techniques – such as clay-walled building (Atkin 1991) – which have not survived above ground. It should also be noted, however, that while the excavations do provide evidence for a range of socio-economic groups, they primarily tell us about development in specific zones of the urban landscape, which are not necessarily applicable across the city. The principal Norwich Survey excavation sites are mapped in Chapter 6 (Figure 62). They were all located within the boundary of the medieval city wall, but in most cases the excavators discovered that these were relatively marginal locations characterised by widespread rubbish dumping and ‘anti-social’ industries including quarrying, brewing and iron-working. On many sites there is substantial evidence of domestic occupation only from c.1400. Throughout the later medieval and post-medieval period these outer parishes were dominated by mixed social groupings


norwich, 1350–1660 but with a predominance of poorer households, compared with the standing structures in the central districts, which are more likely to represent the homes of more prosperous middling and high-status townspeople. The excavations which have taken place more recently in the central districts (the castle and great marketplace) provide some counterbalance to this, but the archaeological record from these sites contained relatively little evidence of the structures themselves and were concentrated in backyard deposits (Shepherd Popescu 2009). Alongside the architectural and archaeological evidence for domestic buildings are the extensive documentary records from the city, which can inform us about a wide range of factors relevant to the study of urban houses and households, several of which – especially taxation records and probate inventories – have already been introduced in the discussion of social status and wealth in the early modern urban community. From the medieval period we have property records, most importantly the enrolled deeds transcribed under the aegis of the Norwich Survey, which provide a snapshot of the urban landscape on the eve of the Black Death (Kelly et al. 1983). There are also surviving Landgable returns from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which record property ownership and often mention void or dilapidated tenements (Rodgers and Wallace 1999), while the 1649 parliamentary survey of the property of the cathedral dean and chapter provides further insight into houses and tenements leased to individuals across the social spectrum (Metters 1986). The corporation accounts record expenditure on civic properties throughout the medieval and early modern periods (Dunn 2004; Rimmer 2007; Fay 2015; Williamson 2014). Many documentary sources provide a more intimate picture of people’s domestic spaces and material possessions; primary among these are bequests recorded in wills and, above all, the large sample of 1800 probate inventories from early modern Norwich, dating from 1580 to 1730, analysed in detail by Ursula Priestley and Penelope Corfield (1982). They provide crucial evidence for the disposition and function of domestic spaces among the middling sort, and in Chapter 7 they are used to illuminate the spatial patterns observed in standing and excavated houses. As already noted in the first part of this chapter on the social and economic structures of early modern Norwich, John Pound has used these same probate inventories to delineate the wealth of varied trade groups in the city, providing evidence of increasing consumption of domestic material culture among the city’s prosperous merchants and artisans. Pound has also studied the wills and inventories of poorer urban inhabitants, providing yet further information about the living conditions and material possessions of these households (Pound 1988, 134–40). As has been emphasised throughout this chapter, the significant corpus of surviving domestic buildings and archaeological excavations in the city of Norwich is a remarkably valuable source of primary evidence for the social and economic lives of its people, to be considered with equal weight alongside the city’s rich archive of documentary and visual sources. This book presents a detailed description and analysis of a large number of urban houses ranging across the social spectrum, from those built or occupied by members of the mercantile and civic elite of the city to the homes of the urban ‘middling sort’ and the small two- and three-roomed cottages


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 of weavers, artisans and labourers. The architectural surveys have been set within a framework provided by unpublished building records, published and unpublished archaeological excavations and historical research in order to present an extensive overview of the changing forms, construction and spatial organisation of urban houses in this period. I have endeavoured to present the archaeological evidence in such a way as to make it readily intelligible to a wide range of scholars, both archaeologists and historians, who are interested in the spatial and material context of the medieval and early modern urban household (a glossary of architectural terms is found at the end of this volume). The contextual approach draws out the various ways in which the changing use and meaning of domestic space was bound up with the wider social and cultural transformation of an urban community during a period of profound social and economic change. In this undertaking, I readily acknowledge my debt to a long list of preceding scholars, particularly the members of the original Norwich Survey. Without their dedicated and sometimes courageous efforts to record and preserve the city’s archaeological heritage for future generations it would not be possible to attempt the broad interpretive summary provided by the present work.


3 Medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540


ocumentary sources, most importantly the descriptions of properties found in the sequence of deeds enrolled before the city court between 1284 and 1311 (Kelly et al. 1983), provide some information about the character of houses in the period before and after the Black Death. These documents are concerned with property transfers between Norwich’s more substantial residents; the most important properties, called capital messuages, typically list a series of buildings and spaces such as ‘a hall, chamber and kitchen’. Property owners were also engaged in the sale of many other types of urban property, including shops, shops and solars, stalls in the marketplace, gardens, closes and kilns. The primary sequence of deeds comes to an end in the early fourteenth century, largely because of changes in recording procedures; however, individual deeds continue to be enrolled in the city’s court books throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the wills of Norwich citizens also provide evidence for property ownership and transfer of a similar range of urban property types. Depositions before the city’s leet court also provide more intimate glimpses of urban dwellings and spaces. For instance, in a shocking case in November 1263, eight men were charged with breaking into the gates and then the hall of Katherine, widow of Stephen Justice, while her husband’s body was laid on a bier within, which they proceeded to burn; they also entered the more private chamber and stole goods including weapons and armour. The following year William le Alblaster and other men were accused of setting fire to the gate of the house of John de Belaya, suggesting another large courtyard property (Hudson and Tingey 1906, 204–6). Archaeological excavations across the city have given us a great deal of information about building types and construction methods in the medieval city, and these are discussed in much greater length in Chapter 6. The majority of buildings, as we might expect, were built of timber posts or using a variety of clay-walling techniques. From the twelfth century onwards, however, some wealthier townspeople lived in stone houses. Two of these survive as standing structures in different states of preservation. The first of these is the north range of Wensum Lodge on King Street, a two-storeyed range at right angles to the street with a vaulted ground-floor undercroft and living accommodation above (this building is described in full below). The second is a house excavated in 1985 on St Martin-at-Palace Plain, located on the bank of the river Wensum, north of the cathedral. This too had more utilitarian spaces on the ground floor and living accommodation on the first floor, served by an attached garderobe. Ayers (1987a) suggests that this could be a house associated with


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 an official connected to the cathedral priory. Apart from these standing structures, Rutledge (2002) has identified over 20 documented references to stone buildings in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These are often described as prominent features in their tenements, but were usually only one part of a larger complex of timber- and clay-walled buildings. Further examples are known from archaeological evidence: two twelfth-century stone houses were excavated on the site of the Millennium Library on Bethel Street next to the great market (Hutcheson 2000) and a thirteenth-century stone house belonging to the abbot of Woburn was discovered to the rear of Dragon Hall (Shelley 2005, 48–57). Such stone houses are known in many other medieval towns. In some cases, such as 54 Stonegate, York, or the excavated example at the Brooks, Winchester, they are located behind the street frontage and may have been the urban properties of aristocratic or ecclesiastical households; in other cases, as at Lincoln, Bury St Edmunds and Canterbury, the stone houses are located directly on the street frontage and have commercial or storage spaces on the ground floor and high-quality domestic accommodation on the first floor (Quiney 2003). This chapter considers the architectural and archaeological evidence surviving in Norwich for large houses which belonged, in the main, to the wealthiest and most prominent social group in urban society, dating from the later fourteenth to the early sixteenth century (Figure 4). Their common defining feature is the possession of a sizeable open hall. After c.1540 several substantial houses were constructed without an open hall, and these are discussed in Chapter 4. The construction and occupancy of most of these residences can be tied to specific mercantile families, most of whom served as bailiffs before 1404, or aldermen and mayor thereafter. However, in some cases they were built or lived in by wealthy craftsmen who did not hold high civic office. In most of these houses the masonry hall is all that has survived of a much larger complex of buildings arranged around a courtyard, including extensive undercrofts for the storage of merchandise as well as domestic and service spaces. The chapter begins with a description and analysis of each house in turn and concludes by drawing together this evidence to discuss the relationship between domestic and commercial space in the medieval mercantile residence.

Strangers’ Hall, Charing Cross, c.1300–1540 Strangers’ Hall is a large courtyard house consisting of a series of ranges constructed and modified at various times from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century (see Plates 2 and 3 for plans). It is located on the south bank of the Wensum at the heart of Mid Wymer ward in St John Maddermarket parish, although its western section is in St Gregory’s. This was the centre of the city’s medieval cloth industry, an area also known as ‘Shearing Cross’ where dyers and fullers were prominent property-holders. The house was built and occupied by a succession of merchants, most of whom served in high civic office. The unusual later history of Strangers’ Hall means that its physical fabric has been well preserved. The house had declined in status and was divided into several tenements by the later seventeenth century. In the early eighteenth century the central part of the house was used as a lodging for the Assize judges, and a


Figure 4. Map showing the principal merchants’ houses discussed in Chapters 4 and 5 (base map courtesy of Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 panelled dining room was created within the sixteenth-century great parlour. By the late eighteenth century one of the tenements was occupied by a seminary for Roman Catholic priests, who constructed a chapel in the rear yard (now the Maddermarket Theatre); this may be when the property gained its name. In 1899 the house was saved from demolition by Leonard Bolingbroke, a canon of Norwich cathedral and local antiquarian. Bolingbroke undertook extensive restoration and opened the property to the public, making it one of Britain’s first museums of domestic life. Bolingbroke’s restorations often reused sixteenth- and seventeenth-century architectural elements salvaged from other buildings around the city, and it is not always possible to distinguish these alterations from the original fabric. In 1921 Bolingbroke donated the house to the city of Norwich, and it has been a public museum since that date; the City Council have also undertaken significant restoration and modification of various elements. Not only is the fabric of the house very well preserved, but its complex development has been well studied by many authors over the past century. Brief reports on the house have been written by Arthur Whittingham (1951) and Alan Carter (1980), and a more detailed survey was conducted by Robert Smith (1990, 70–106; see also Smith and Carter 1983, 12–13); a survey of the documentary sources related to the property has been compiled by Kelly (2004).

Strangers’ Hall: the fourteenth century The earliest surviving part of the house is a three-bay stone and brick vaulted undercroft, orientated north–south and located c.12m behind the street frontage (Figure 5). It should be noted that the house is constructed on a steep north–south slope so that this undercroft is fully subterranean at the south end, meaning that rooms on the first floor facing the entrance courtyard are on the ground floor at the rear. The undercroft is a large and finely detailed structure, with hollow-chamfered stone diagonal ribs and rendered brick wall arches rising from stone piers with scroll-moulded capitals dating to the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. It was originally well lit by windows in the east and west walls, and had an entrance in the central bay of the east wall, indicated by a deviation in the alignment of the wall rib. This structure was probably constructed by Ralph de Middleton, a merchant and citizen of Norwich, or his descendants. He purchased a plot with a house in this parish, 122ft long and 12ft broad, in 1286–7, and a further plot behind this one, 52ft from east to west. The Middleton family owned this tenement in the first three decades of the fourteenth century. By the mid-fourteenth century the property had been acquired by Roger Hardegrey, who was burgess in parliament for the city in 1358 and 1361 and bailiff in 1360. Very little is known about the rest of the property in the fourteenth century, although the undercroft was undoubtedly only one element of a larger complex of buildings. It is likely that the first floor contained domestic accommodation, and may have been timber-framed. Existing interpretations of the house argue that the L-shaped plan of the principal range dates to the fifteenth century, when the undercrofts were extended to the east and a hall and parlour were constructed above them (Wood 1965, 190–2; Smith and Carter 1983, 13). However, the evident thickening of the north-east corner of the undercroft, which incorporates an in situ


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 5. Strangers’ Hall: the fourteenth-century undercroft (photograph © Chris King).

fourteenth-century window and culminates in an ashlar buttress, suggests that the fourteenth-century building also had an eastern projection or wing which would have protected the original entrance to the undercroft.

Strangers’ Hall: the fifteenth century The house was substantially remodelled in the fifteenth century, although the work seems to have occurred in several stages which are not easy to date firmly. By c.1450 the property was owned by William Barley, a mercer and aldermen, who was sheriff in 1451 and burgess in parliament in 1452 (Ewing 1852, 208); the initial rebuilding is generally attributed to him. From 1485 the house was occupied by Thomas Caus, another mercer, who was sheriff in 1489, burgess in parliament in 1488 and 1495, and mayor in 1495 and 1503. He died in 1506, and was buried in St John Maddermarket church (Mayors, 36). He is probably responsible for the later fifteenth-century alterations to the house. In this period both the ground-floor commercial spaces and the first-floor domestic spaces were substantially extended and rebuilt. A range of cellars was constructed to the east of the fourteenth-century undercroft, including an entrance passageway along the east wall of the undercroft leading from the central courtyard to a stair


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 turret giving access to the hall above. A new doorway was also cut into the north wall of the fourteenth-century undercroft; this had a finely dressed stone surround with pyramid base-stops, creating an impressive entrance directly from the courtyard. The expanded house also incorporated the flint-rubble east range facing the courtyard, which is on a slightly different alignment to the main structure, and can be dated to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century by an ogee-moulded ceiling beam on the ground floor. On the first floor, a new open hall was constructed parallel to the street, extending over the south end of the earlier undercroft and the extended passageway and cellars to the east. There was a two-storey block to the north, over the north end of the undercroft, creating a basic L-plan structure; the corner of this block is visible from the western courtyard and it is of brick with stone quoins – an early use of this material for wall construction in the city. The hall, a large space 10.30m long and 6m wide, was built with flint-rubble walls; however, its fenestration and roof structure were replaced in the early sixteenth-century remodelling discussed below. The hall had a cross-passage at the east end, with shallow four-centred arched entrance doorways with pyramid base stops, entered by a staircase from the central courtyard; these doorways are usually dated to the later fifteenth century. Smith and Carter (1983) suggest that the original entrance to the hall was through the ground-floor entrance passage and rear stair turret, but this would be a highly unusual layout for a medieval house, and it is more likely that the hall was always intended to be entered from a cross-passage. There were further rooms to the east, which currently take the form of a pair of service rooms; however, the paired service doorways are a sixteenth-century insertion so there is no definite evidence that the fifteenth-century hall had the same layout. The two-storey north block has brick walling with stone quoins (visible on the west elevation). It was connected to the hall by a short vaulted passage in the re-entrant angle between the two ranges; it seems to have served as a parlour-and-chamber block attached to the hall, but not in the traditional ‘high-end’ location. There were further ranges to the west of the principal structure. The rectangular south-west block was built in the fifteenth century attached to the rear corner of the great hall, and now contains the Georgian Dining Room and the Oak Room above. Below these, the cellars have an arcade of two double-chamfered brick arches facing the western courtyard of the property (Figure 6). The upper storeys are likely to have originally been timber-framed above the cellars, where the flint-rubble walls are capped by a chamfered brick plinth. A small window uncovered in the 1990s had been inserted into the flint-rubble wall of the great hall and once lit a newel staircase connecting the hall and south-west block, which was replaced by a later Georgian staircase (Barker 1994). The ground-floor arcade presumably served as a loading bay for carts, which may indicate that the upper storeys were used for the storage of merchandise. A much larger example of a fifteenth-century brick arcade with a warehouse above survives in a mercantile house at Hampton Court, King’s Lynn, although here it faces a private quay (Parker 1971, 40). There was also a similar open arcade probably serving as a loading bay on the ground floor of the thirteenth-century monastic granary in Norwich cathedral close (Gilchrist 2005, 193–5).


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 6. Strangers’ Hall: undercroft with fifteenth-century brick arcade (photograph © Chris King).

Finally, the long street range which fronts the entire property was also constructed in the fifteenth century, although it has been heavily modified and the east end was rebuilt in brick in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. The street range has a flint-rubble ground floor and a jettied, timber-framed first floor with decorative herringbone-pattern framing – a unique survival in the city, where few examples of decorative timber framing have been discovered (see Chapter 7). Beneath the west end of the street range is a fifteenth-century brick undercroft with a pointed barrel vault, and further cellars extend along the length of the street range (Smith 1990, 80–2). This shows the potential commercial uses of the structure, and it is likely that the range was divided into a series of self-contained units that may have been leased separately from the main house.

Strangers’ Hall: the early sixteenth century By 1525 Strangers’ Hall was in the possession of Nicholas Sotherton, and was occupied by his descendents until the early seventeenth century. Sotherton was the son of a yeoman farmer from Ludham in Norfolk, who had entered the freedom of the city as a grocer. He had clearly prospered as a citizen, as he married Agnes Hethersett,


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 a member of one of the county’s prominent gentry families. He served as sheriff in 1530 and became mayor in 1539. He died the following year and was buried in St John Maddermarket church (Mayors, 50). Substantial alterations were made to the house in the early decades of the sixteenth century, many of which were associated with a programme of construction at the time of Sotherton’s mayoralty centred on the remodelling of the great hall and north parlour/chamber block. Inside the hall, the partition wall with the east service wing was rebuilt to provide a traditional low-end arrangement with screens passage and twin service rooms entered by a pair of four-centred doorways (Figure 7). The thickening of the wall to accommodate this inserted feature is clearly visible in the screens passage, and there remains the top rail of an associated wooden screen preserved beneath the inserted seventeenth-century gallery. A further doorway connected (via a passageway) to the east courtyard range and a flight of stairs leading to the firstfloor service chamber. However, behind the appearance of a traditional paired-service low-end, the actual arrangement of the service rooms was more complex. They were internally connected by an arched opening just inside the low-end doors, and a staircase gave access from the north service room to the cellar below. This complex arrangement of inter-connected service rooms with access to the undercroft below the hall is rare in medieval rural and gentry buildings, but, as will be made clear later in this chapter, several other medieval merchant houses in Norwich are organised so that the appearance of a traditional hall layout in fact conceals more complex access arrangements (see for comparison the Bridewell, Everard’s House and Dragon Hall). This suggests that the symbolic value and appearance of a traditional open hall may in fact have been more important to mercantile households than its precise functional relationships, a point developed further in the discussion below. The other modifications to the great hall also show an investment in the prestigious architectural features common in gentry halls. A large three-sided Perpendicular bay window was inserted at the high end of the hall, with a moulded internal arch with semi-octagonal bases and capitals and a square hood-mould with shield spandrels, probably once painted (Figure 8). The window has clearly been brought from elsewhere, as is shown on the western jamb, where several of the stones have been carefully chiselled away. Given the date of 1539–40 for the remodelling which will be argued for below, an obvious source for this impressive reused architectural feature is one of the recently dissolved monastic houses. The south wall of the hall was heightened at the same time to support a new two-bay roof, which has tall octagonal crown posts, crenellated tie-beams and wall plates, and moulded arch-braces springing from wall-posts supported on carved angel corbels. The spandrels of the arch-braces have pierced wheel ornament, and in the end trusses these include shields painted with Nicholas Sotherton’s merchant’s mark and the cross of St George (Figure 9). The guild of St George was the premier religious guild of late medieval Norwich and was intimately linked with the civic government, and Sotherton would have become master of the Guild in the year following his mayoralty (although in the event he died in this year).


Figure 7. Strangers’ Hall: the great hall (Historic England: EP4356–054 © Historic England).

Figure 8. Strangers’ Hall: bay window inserted into the great hall (photographs © Chris King).

Figure 9. Strangers’ Hall: spandrels in the hall roof (photographs © Chris King).

medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 The north wall of the hall was also heightened and rebuilt with a large four-centred window above the entrance facing the courtyard, now preserved inside the seventeenth-century stair turret. The north parlour/chamber block had a fireplace inserted and was extended by a wide jetty over the courtyard, with a billet-moulded bressumer supported on a wide four-centre arched niche (Figure 10). The present window and corridor underneath the jetty were created in the twentieth century, blocking the older courtyard entrance to the undercroft. All of this new work was constructed of finely cut squared flints and brick set in a chequer pattern with rough galletting using large pieces of flint. Similar flint-and-brick chequerwork is used extensively in other early and mid-sixteenth-century merchants’ houses in the city, as discussed in Chapter 4. Further evidence of Nicholas Sotherton’s rebuilding is found in four carved panels bearing escutcheons which are now displayed in the hall screen, although this is a modern reconstructed feature composed of elements of different dates brought

Figure 10. Strangers Hall: the entrance courtyard as drawn by Henry Ninham (NWHCM: 1951.235.1190. B108, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).


Figure 11. Strangers’ Hall: porter’s lodge and squint (photograph © Chris King).

medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 12. Strangers’ Hall: vaulted entrance porch with widow’s head (photograph © Chris King).

from elsewhere. The panels were originally associated with the house, although their original location is unknown, as they had been placed in Norwich Castle Museum and were returned only in the 1920s. There are four shields, bearing the Merchant Adventurers’ arms, Nicholas Sotherton’s personal arms, the Grocers’ Company arms impaling his merchant’s mark, and the arms of the city of Norwich. Finally, the addition of new entrance stairs and a vaulted stone porch to the hall from the central courtyard is highly likely to be part of this general rebuilding, and if this is indeed the case it provides a firm date for the whole. The base of the porch incorporates a squint overlooking the ground-floor entrance from a porter’s lodge and controlling the entrance to the passage below the hall (Figure 11). The hall porch is entered by a flight of steps cut into the side wall of the east courtyard range and incorporates two side recesses with benches, suggesting that visitors to the hall, or at least those of lower status than the Sotherton family, would be kept waiting outside. The vault of the porch is the most interesting element, for its central boss bears a striking carving of a widow’s head in the traditional medieval veil and wimple (Figure 12). The evidence thus indicates that the re-edification of the hall and its lavish decoration with the insignia of his personal, commercial and civic status was begun by Nicholas Sotherton at the time of his elevation to the mayoralty in 1539,


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 but remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1540, and was completed by his widow. The meaning this sculpture may have had for Agnes Sotherton herself is discussed further below. Alongside the remodelling of the great hall, several other parts of the house were substantially reconstructed at this time. The upper walls of the south-west block were rebuilt in flint and brick rubble with brick quoins above the earlier fifteenth-century brick arcade, which remained in use. The ground-floor room has a ceiling of deep roll-moulded timber beams (now hidden behind a plaster ceiling) characteristic of an early to mid-sixteenth-century date, and it presumably served as a large parlour, with a great chamber above. As will be shown in Chapter 4, parlours and chambers with moulded timber ceilings were a common feature of mid-sixteenth-century mercantile residences in the city. The west courtyard range was also constructed in this period with a flint-rubble ground floor and timber-framed first-floor with a matching billetmoulded bressumer. The ground floor was heavily altered in the twentieth century by the insertion of the mullioned window and sixteenth-century roll-moulded ceiling, both reused from other buildings. The original function of this range is difficult to ascertain; it was popularly called ‘Sotherton’s counting house’, but there is no basis for this attribution, or indeed for its current presentation as a kitchen. On the west elevation one of the timber studs is moulded to form one jamb of a first-floor entrance door, possibly indicating a commercial or warehouse function. The groundfloor room currently has a large fireplace against the north gable, with a massive timber lintel with spandrels carved with Nicholas Sotherton’s mark, and the Grocers’ arms (Figures 13–14). However, this was not its original function or location; it is in fact the head of a carriage entry, with the mouldings originally continuing down the side jambs, probably from a grand entrance in the street range.

Strangers’ Hall as a late medieval mercantile residence The complex development of Strangers’ Hall is a good example of the need for detailed archaeological recording of urban structures and the dangers of subsuming buildings within a pre-existing typology, as was originally highlighted by Robert Smith and Alan Carter in their published summary of the building’s changing plan and form (1983, 13). The house had a complex pattern of expansion and rebuilding in response to the varied and changing requirements of its owners, within the restrictions laid down by the topography, the constraints posed by urban property boundaries and the need or desire to incorporate existing buildings into new work. As the complex is so well preserved, Strangers’ Hall provides an important lens through which to assess the more fragmentary remains of the other mercantile houses in the city. The structure of the house shows a complex inter-relationship between commercial and domestic functions throughout the building’s history. In the earliest phase of the house the large fourteenth-century undercroft was located deep within the property rather than being directly accessible from the street, and the original entrance was in the side wall, possibly controlled from within a range that no longer exists. However, the undercroft is finely detailed, with stone columns and vaulting ribs, and brick wall ribs that are rendered to look like stone, and was provided with at least three


Figure 13. Strangers’ Hall: west range ‘fireplace’ lintel (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 14. Strangers’ Hall: west range arch spandrels (photographs © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 windows. This suggests that the building was meant to be seen, and presumably served as a space for both the storage and display of merchandise. Direct access from the street, good lighting and fine architectural detailing are common features of many twelfth- and thirteenth-century undercrofts in English towns, which are believed to have served both storage and retail functions (Faulkner 1966; Harris 1994). In Norwich the majority of the late medieval undercrofts in the city are small brick-vaulted structures dating mostly to the fifteenth century, and were not generally commercial in function (Smith and Carter 1983, 6–9; these structures are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6). However, as will be argued further below, the houses of prosperous merchants in the city are outside this trend, having many examples of large and impressive undercrofts that were used as commercial spaces. The rebuilding of Strangers’ Hall in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries provided a further differentiation of commercial spaces within the property. The house was now organised around two courtyards. The main entrance courtyard, which gave access to the principal domestic rooms, also gave access to the older fourteenthcentury undercroft from the new courtyard door. Through the side door and passage there was access to further cellars beneath the hall and service rooms. These spaces had direct access to the hall from the rear staircase, meaning that the merchant owner and his servants could easily move between commercial and domestic domains. The construction of the porter’s lodge and squint looking over the entrance to the cellars in the early sixteenth century indicates a further need to regulate the passage of people and goods through these spaces. There was also a second, western courtyard from at least the fifteenth century, which seems to have had a primarily commercial function. The ground-floor or ‘cellar’ rooms beneath the south-west range had wide brick carriage arches facing the courtyard to allow the loading and unloading of bulky merchandise, and originally this range may have had storage on the upper floors; these spaces also seem to have had direct access to the hall via a newel staircase. The ground floor retained an open arched entry even when the upper floors were rebuilt in flint-and-brick masonry to accommodate a fine parlour and chamber. The ‘west’ courtyard range was constructed at the same time as the rebuilding of the hall in the early sixteenth century, and it may have replaced the storage or commercial functions previously housed in the upper floors of the south-west block. The construction of this range dividing the two courtyards does not indicate a separation between commercial and domestic space per se, but it may reflect a separation between bulky commodities (such as worsted cloth, wool and grain) and spaces for the display and sale of imported luxury goods. The rebuilding of the house, and in particular the reconstruction of the great hall, by Nicholas Sotherton provides an important starting point for considering the role of domestic space in the constitution of social identity and political authority within the mercantile elite. The new great hall reveals a considerable investment in the traditional architectural modes of aristocratic buildings, with its fine screens passage, bay window and moulded timber roof. Sotherton had strong social and family connections with the Norfolk gentry, particularly through his marriage to Agnes Hethersett, and he was one of the few Norwich merchants in this period to adopt a formal coat of


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 arms (one which he was almost certainly not entitled to bear (Mayors, 50)). However, this space did not necessarily function in the same way, or carry the same meanings, as the halls of the rural gentry. Sotherton did not deny his social position as a leading citizen; he decorated the hall with his merchant’s mark, the arms of his trading companies, the arms of the city and the guild of St George. His domestic accommodation remained closely integrated with the commercial spaces within the complex. The association of the rebuilding with the year of Sotherton’s mayoralty is significant, suggesting the close association of hospitality within the home as a key element of civic office. These ideas will be further developed throughout Chapters 4 and 5 of this work, where the close association of house-building with the attainment of high civic office will be shown to be a recurring phenomenon in the early modern period. The precise form of Sotherton’s hall can only be understood by interpreting it within the wider context of other mercantile residences in the mid-sixteenth-century city. As will be seen, far from being a ‘typical’ example of a late medieval town house, Sotherton’s rebuilding was an important social statement that created an impressive but conservative space, one that was deliberately archaic in style. The wider implications of these developments are explored in Chapter 5, which discusses the role of domestic space in the constitution of elite social identities and political power. Equally significant, however, is the fact that Nicholas’s widow Agnes not only completed the rebuilding of the hall and domestic complex but publicly commemorated her involvement through the placement of a sculpture of a widow’s head above the entrance porch to the new hall. If, as I will argue below, the hall was in part a symbol not merely of wealth or social status but of the public authority and civic position of the head of the household in an urban context, this is a striking material statement. As has been recognised by a number of historical studies, women of the mercantile class held an ambiguous position in urban society (Barron and Sutton 1994). As wives, they could assist in the running of a business, and they were certainly central to the dense social and familial networks that bound together elite men. As widows, they often continued to run their husband’s business and maintain an independent household, but at the same time they were denied access to the wider economic and political institutions that structured elite male social identities and relationships. Through the placement of this sculpture Agnes Sotherton was appropriating the public role of the hall in order to demonstrate her new position as the head of the household and business that were contained within the building. Her sons and grandsons were prominent in civic life throughout the sixteenth century, and Agnes herself remained active as a money lender up to her death in the 1570s.

The Bridewell, Bridewell Alley ‘The Bridewell’ was originally one of the grandest medieval residences in Norwich, although it survives in only fragmentary form. The building is located to the south of St Andrew’s parish church, separated from the churchyard by a narrow lane between Bridewell Alley on the west and St Andrew’s Hill on the east. The medieval core of the house is an L-shaped range facing the alley, constructed in at least three stages


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 between the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries (Figure 15). This is built over two ranges of brick-vaulted undercrofts which cover 300m², the most extensive surviving in the city. It was the home of a distinguished city family, the Appleyards. Bartholomew Appleyard (d. 1386) was a city bailiff and burgess in parliament; his son William (d. 1419) was bailiff three times, became the city’s first mayor under its new charter in 1404, and served again as mayor on five subsequent occasions, as well as serving as burgess in parliament ten times between 1383 and 1419 (Mayors, 15). In 1584 the property was purchased by the corporation and converted into the city’s Bridewell, or house of correction. The structure was badly damaged by fire in 1751, and most of the ground- and first-floor fabric dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The building was sold in 1828 when a new prison was constructed at St Giles Gate, and the property became a factory. In 1923 the building was purchased by Sir Henry Holmes and donated to the city as a museum.

Figure 15. The Bridewell: fifteenth-century elevation of finely cut flint (photograph © Chris King).


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 Pantin (1962–3, 236–7) reconstructs the original house as a large property with two courtyards, occupying this entire street block. The property did have rights of way onto Bedford Street to the south and St Andrew’s Hill to the east, where there remains a finely carved fifteenth-century doorcase now preserved within a later Georgian façade, but this may not be original to the site. There is a detailed description of the undercrofts in Smith and Carter (1983, 10–11; see also Smith 1990, 179–90), so the evidence is only briefly summarised here, following the published plan of the building. The central range on the ground floor contains a pair of two-centred arched service doorways (Figure 16), suggested that there was an open hall orientated north–south dividing the two courtyards, with a two-storeyed cross-wing on the line of the northern range containing the service rooms. The hall range was built over a brick-vaulted undercroft of ten quadripartite bays supported on three axial piers and a cross-wall, with windows and entrances on both sides. The north range facing St Andrew’s churchyard was constructed in several phases, above a series of undercrofts vaulted with wide transverse arches and originally lit by windows at street level. The finest element of the medieval building is the exterior façade of this range, formed of finely cut squared and coursed flints with very little mortar between them, creating a smooth glassy finish, with limestone quoins and rows of two-light windows along

Figure 16. The Bridewell: paired service doors (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 17. The Bridewell: brick-vaulted undercroft (photograph © Chris King).

the ground and first floors, the latter with ogee-arched heads. The range was extended west by two bays at some point in the medieval period, with the join barely visible as a subtle break in the flint surface. This impressive structure is conventionally dated to the early fifteenth century, which coincides with the civic pre-eminence of the Appleyard family. As part of the reconfiguration of the north range, the partition between the two service rooms was removed and a staircase was inserted connecting the service area directly to the undercroft below, supported on an added transverse brick rib (Figure 17). This indicates the complex interconnection between the domestic and commercial areas of the building already highlighted at Strangers’ Hall.

Suckling House, St Andrew’s Plain Suckling House is located next door to the Bridewell on the junction of St Andrew’s Plain on the north and St Andrew’s Hill to the west, on the opposite side of the lane from St Andrew’s parish church. This is the very heart of Mid Wymer ward, opposite the Dominican friary church and preaching yard, which became the Common Hall of the city after the Reformation. The late medieval house originally consisted of at least two courtyards divided by an east–west hall range set back 18m from the northern street frontage (Figure 18). However, all that remains now is the open hall


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 18. Suckling House: fourteenth-century hall range (photograph © Chris King).

and the two-storeyed west range, as the north courtyard was destroyed in 1899 when St Andrew’s Street was extended eastwards to accommodate a new tramline (Lane 1999, 16). An inventory for the property from 1589 (discussed in Chapter 4) lists a series of domestic, service and commercial rooms, many of which probably existed in the late medieval period. In 1923–5 the hall was restored by sisters Ethel and Helen Colman and became the foyer to the newly constructed Stuart Hall, now a cinema (Colman and Colman 1926). The hall was first surveyed in 1916 by Beecheno (1920, with an architectural description by H. Green; and Beecheno 1921), who recorded several features which have since been lost and provides details of the documented owners of the property. There are also the Norwich Survey report and the unpublished account by Robert Smith (1990, 134–42). This was a prominent city property which passed through a series of high-status families, although at various points in its history the northern street-corner plot was leased separately from the capital messuage to the south and east. In the fourteenth century the property was held first by the Fairchild family, then from 1378 by the Paulet family, both of which provided several city bailiffs. In 1414 the north part was described as a tenement with a shop above a vault of stone and lime (Beecheno 1920). At the same time the southern property was purchased by John Cambridge, a mercer, who later purchased the north tenement with its vault


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 in 1426. Cambridge was sheriff in 1418, and mayor in 1430 and from 1437 to 1440 (Mayors, 22). He died in 1442 and is buried in St Andrew’s parish church. His son Thomas, also a mercer, was sheriff in 1475 and died in 1476. In 1500 the house was purchased by Geoffrey Steward, grocer and alderman, who died in 1503. His widow Cecily subsequently married John Clerk, mercer and alderman. He was sheriff in 1507, burgess in parliament in 1511 and mayor in 1515 and 1520, and died in 1527 (Mayors, 41). By the mid-sixteenth century the house had passed to Thomas Necton, alderman and sheriff in 1530. The most prominent surviving element of the medieval house is the large open hall, constructed of flint and brick rubble with a brick-faced buttress at the end of its north wall. At the west end are opposed doorways forming a cross-passage; these have wave-moulded arches and scroll-moulded hood moulds, supporting a mid- to late fourteenth-century construction date, suggesting that the hall was built by the Fairchild or Paulet families. The hall has a scissor-braced common-rafter roof, an archaic form which supports the relatively early date for the hall’s construction. The hall was re-edified at some point during the fifteenth century, probably by the Cambridge family. An arch for a tall bay window was inserted at the east end and the central tie-beam with its tall slender crown post seems to have been inserted into the earlier roof structure (Figure 19). The two-storeyed west range along St Andrew’s Hill has four bays of quadripartite vaulting on the ground floor with brick double-chamfered ribs, which could be late fourteenth or fifteenth century in date. They are connected to the hall by a pair of service doorways with two-centred arched heads, creating a traditional service-end plan. However, the junction between the service doors and their central dividing wall and the vaulting ribs is misaligned, as noted by Smith (1990, 135–6). Consequently, the undercroft seems to originally have been a separate, four-bay range along the street, which was only incorporated into the hall range as service rooms at a later date, perhaps in the fifteenth century when the hall window bay and roof were also reconstructed. An upper doorway to the first floor of this range in the rear (south) courtyard indicates the original position of a stair turret in the re-entrant angle between the hall and undercroft range, reached from the rear entrance of the cross-passage. Beecheno (1920) records the discovery of a covered timber porch or pentice before the north entrance door of the hall, running for at least 28 feet along the side of the west range. This had an arcade of wide four-centred arches, with roll-moulded posts and roof purlins. The spandrels had pierced tracery with shields, one of which contained the Grocers’ arms. The pentice was probably added by Geoffrey Steward (the only grocer to occupy the house in the medieval period) between 1500 and 1503. In the later sixteenth century the main gatehouse to the north entrance courtyard, where vaults were also located, was in the west range, and if this was also the medieval arrangement the passageway would have connected the gateway to the hall entrance. The pentice would thus have provided covered access from the main entrance of the property and its associated storage facilities to the hall, while at the same time displaying Steward’s social position and trading status. As at Strangers’ Hall, there is


Figure 19. Suckling House: open hall with scissor-braced roof (photograph © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 a close connection between the commercial and domestic spaces within the house, suggesting that the hall served as an important reception space for conducting business. Antiquarian sources record medieval stained glass in the great parlour, including the arms of the Merchant Adventurers, the arms of the city of Norwich impaling the cross of St George, the arms of Geoffrey Steward, and those of John Clerk impaling the Mercers’ arms (Beecheno 1920). The presence of the arms of both of these men is significant; John Clerk gained ownership of the property through his marriage to Cicely Steward, Geoffrey’s widow. He retained the arms of her first husband alongside his own, demonstrating his widening network of connections within the civic elite. A carved beam bearing the motto ‘Thynk and thank God’ and a panelled doorway also date to the ownership of John Clerk, and were perhaps part of the panelling of this room.

Nos 19–21 Bedford Street The final house to be considered in this group of parishes in Mid Wymer ward is Nos 19–21 Bedford Street, which now houses ‘Bedfords’ bar. The present street range dates to the early sixteenth century and was probably built after the 1507 fire; it has a brick and flint ground floor and gable ends, including a sculpted stone jetty bracket, with a close-studded timber-framed first floor with a decorative carved bressumer (Figure 20). There is a flint-rubble rear range running at right angles behind the street frontage. This has an impressive undercroft, with four bays of quadripartite brick vaulting with chamfered ribs supported by a central octagonal stone column (Figure 21). There are trefoil-headed lamp niches in the side walls and a large moulded brick arch originally led to further undercroft spaces located beneath the street range. Above the undercroft the rear range contains the remains of an impressive open hall which once rose from the ground floor. This has a scissor-braced roof structure and a massive central cambered and moulded tie-beam with the mortices for heavy arch braces down to the side walls and a central crown post (Figure 22). The north end of this hall range was rebuilt in the seventeenth century with a side-purlin roof. While this house is not known to have been built by a mercantile or aldermanic family, its central location and the scale of the hall and undercrofts make this highly likely.

Houses north of the River Wensum There are the remains of three large medieval houses with open halls located in the parishes north of the River Wensum, all of which date to between c.1450–1530. The first of these, Pykerell’s House, is located opposite the parish church of St Mary Coslany, on the west side of a narrow lane leading to Colegate now known as Rosemary Lane. The house was the residence of Thomas Pykerell, sheriff in 1513 and mayor in 1525, 1533 and 1538. He died in 1545 and is buried in St Mary Coslany (Mayors, 46). Its later history is unknown until the nineteenth century, when it was the Rosemary Tavern. It was saved from demolition in the slum clearances of


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 20. Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: early sixteenth-century street range (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 21. Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: brick-vaulted undercroft (photograph © Chris King).


Figure 22. Nos 19–21 Bedford Street: roof of medieval open hall with cambered tie-beam (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 23. Pykerell’s House: early sixteenth-century hall built by Thomas Pykerell (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 1931 and restored by the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Trust, and restored a second time after heavy bomb damage in 1942. The following account is based on the description by Williams (1949) and photographs from the Plunkett collection (Figure 23). The flint-and-brick rubble hall range is placed behind and at right angles to a two-storeyed jettied street range, from which it is divided by a close-studded timberframed partition containing paired service doorways. The hall has a fine two-bay queen-post roof supported on steeply cambered arch-braced and moulded tie-beams with pierced spandrel carvings. The hall is also notable as having the only known example in the city of paired bay windows lighting the high end on both sides. These had moulded four-centred arches set in square hood-moulds, with shields in the spandrels. Kirkpatrick recorded one of these windows having painted glass roundels depicting the labours of the months; four of these roundels survive in the collection of Norfolk Museums Service There is a door in the west jamb of the north window bay giving access to the parlour beyond the hall and the chamber above. Kirkpatrick recorded in the parlour ‘a curious ancient portal with antique cornish, carved, painted and gilded’, which had four carved escutcheons: on one side the arms of Pykerell and Thomas Pykerell’s merchant’s mark, and on the other the arms of the city and the Mercers’ arms, with the initials T. P. (Mayors, 46). Further north in St Martin-at-Oak parish is a structure now called simply ‘The Great Hall’. Located behind the site of Nos 131–3 Oak Street (now demolished), the hall was saved from demolition during a programme of slum clearance in 1931 by Lt. Col. S. E. Glendenning and later survived the heavy bomb damage in this part of the city in the Second World War. The house is described by Barrett (1991) and the documentary history has been traced by Kelly (1987). The hall originally formed one part of a larger courtyard complex, with a two-storeyed jettied range on the street frontage. The NAU conducted a survey of the hall and a small-scale excavation on the site of the street range in 1987, but they were not able to date this structure (Ayers 1987b, 28–30). The hall runs at right angles behind the street frontage, but has a cross-passage and paired service doorways at the west end, away from the street. The two-bay roof has an arch-braced and cambered tie-beam with hollow-chamfer mouldings supporting queen-posts in a similar manner to the roof at Pykerell’s House (Figure 24). There is also a wide bay window with a moulded four-centred arch, which has been inserted into the south wall, cutting through the moulded wall-plate. St Martin-at-Oak parish was on the periphery of the medieval commercial district, but it did benefit from its location on the riverbank, and several prosperous citizens, including tanners, dyers and fishermen, owned large waterfront properties here in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Several gentry families and ecclesiastical institutions also owned properties in this area (Sutermeister, in Atkin 1978, 35–9). The c.1490 Landgable lists the property owner as Thomas Bristomer, pewterer, and the previous owner was William Martyn, tanner. Thus, unlike the other houses in this chapter, the Great Hall seems not to have been built or occupied by a known member of the civic elite, although these were clearly prosperous craftsmen. The property was subsequently owned by Thomas Horne, worsted weaver, and was subdivided in 1539 (Kelly 1987).


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 24. The Great Hall, Oak Street: hall with queen-post roof (photograph © Chris King).

The final structure with surviving medieval fabric north of the river is Bacon’s House on Colegate. It is a large courtyard house which mostly dates to the mid-sixteenth century, when it was substantially rebuilt by Henry Bacon, and is therefore discussed more fully in Chapter 4. The west range of the property is the oldest section of the surviving structure and contains a late medieval open hall (see Plate 4). The east wall, facing the courtyard, contains the arch of a bay window with perpendicular shafts and crenelated capitals, which match those found in the adjacent St George Colegate parish church dated c.1480–1500. The present bay window is largely a modern reconstruction which reuses the pre-existing flint base with its chamfered limestone plinth and the hollow-chamfered north jamb of the original window opening. Inside, the north side of the bay window had a doorway with a moulded shaft, probably giving access to the parlour and chamber block, as also occurs at Pykerell’s house. The base of an original entrance door from the courtyard is at the south end of the hall against the south range running along Colegate. The current south range dates to the sixteenth century; it has a misalignment at its juncture with the medieval range, which suggests that it follows the footprint of an earlier street range in front of this medieval hall. However, there is no evidence of service doorways at the low end of the hall into the ground floor of this range (Smith 1990, 113).


Figure 25. ‘Everard’s House’, St Martin-at-Palace Plain: excavated site plan (Ayers 1987a, Fig. 100, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

‘Everard’s House’, St Martin-at-Palace Plain This building, facing St Martin-at-Palace Plain, was demolished in 1962 and is known from the excavation of the site by NAU in 1981 (Ayers 1987a). The property is located on the western fringe of the city north of the cathedral close, running down to the River Wensum, and sits within the Prior’s Fee. The earliest structure in this area is the substantial twelfth-century stone building on the river frontage referred to at the start of this chapter, now preserved beneath the Norwich Magistrate’s Court. This went out of use by the thirteenth century, and in the fourteenth century a new building was constructed against its east wall (Figure 25). This had a two-storeyed street-range fronting an open hall at right angles, built of coursed flint with brick dressings, with a central hearth and a probable cross-passage against the street range. The latter had an undercroft with a vaulted side chamber entered by a flight of steps from the cross-passage, and one of the ground-floor rooms contained an oven and refuse pit, suggesting a service function. In the fifteenth century the hall was substantially rebuilt on a narrower plan to allow the insertion of a large bay window on the east wall without blocking the adjacent lane running down to the river; this window was saved from demolition and has been re-erected at No.10 St Martin-at-Palace Plain (Figure 26). At the same time the hall range was extended to the north and a brick chimneystack was inserted into the street range.

Figure 26. ‘Everard’s House’: fifteenth-century bay window (left: Historic England: EP4351–013 © Historic England; right: reproduced by permission from the Plunkett collection).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 The builder of the house in the fourteenth century is not known, but the tenements along the river were owned by prosperous dyers, and in 1397 the occupant of this property was Alexander Goos, a tanner. By the fifteenth century a subtle change in the character of this district had occurred, with fewer craftsmen directly associated with the waterfront, and occupation may have shifted towards larger houses on the street frontage. Several masons owned the properties here in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. These craftsmen were undoubtedly attracted to the area by the proximity to the cathedral close, as well as the easy river access and open space for the transportation and storage of materials. In 1483 the excavated house was occupied by Robert Everard, master mason of the cathedral, who built the nave vault and the spire. Everard was one of the five wealthiest people in the parish according to a tax assessment of 1472, but he was not a member of the civic elite. Although he did not own the property, he may have been responsible for the construction of the bay window; he would certainly have the expertise for such a radical structural alteration. In the later sixteenth century the house was known as ‘Everard’s’. It was not, as was once believed, the house of the Calthorpes, which was further to the east (Ayers 1987a, 149–50).

Wensum Lodge (‘The Music House’), King Street King Street is a long thoroughfare which runs south from the city centre parallel to the east bank of the river Wensum. Between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries this was a key centre for commercial activity in the city and contained many large merchant properties, but the area declined in status from the early modern period. The street was lined with private quays alongside the two public staithes owned by the corporation. The north range of the building now called Wensum Lodge is the oldest surviving domestic structure in the city, known in the first part of the twentieth century as ‘The Music House’. It is a twelfth-century stone building with a vaulted ground-floor undercroft divided into a bigger room at the west end facing the street with moulded vaulting ribs and a smaller barrel-vaulted room to the east, each lit by round-headed windows on the south side. There is the remains of a newel stair in the south-east corner. This suggests a commercial use for the undercroft space with an area for the reception of visitors and perhaps the display of merchandise, and a more private secure space behind for the transaction of private deals and the storage of valuables and documents. There was presumably living accommodation on the first floor (Smith 1990, 50–1). Standing against the south side of the undercroft is the base of an engaged pier, dated to c.1175–80 on comparison to identical piers in the cathedral infirmary. Originally believed to represent the entrance portal for an external stair porch leading to the first floor, this feature was reinterpreted by Alan Carter as one pier of a single-aisled stone hall added to the two-storey range on the line of the present south range running along the street frontage (Smith 1990, 52–3). For a long period of its history the house was reputed to have been built by Jurnet, a prominent member of Norwich’s Jewish community, and later occupied


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 by his son Isaac; however, it has now been established that Jurnet’s property was in fact the adjoining tenement. In later years the building seems to have become a large merchant’s property facing the quayside. In the fifteenth century a three-bay brick vaulted undercroft was inserted into the south range, replacing the aisled hall. A substantial first-floor chamber was created above the twelfth-century undercroft which has the base of a large window in its west gable and a scissor-braced roof which probably dates to the fourteenth or early fifteenth century; Smith argues that this was brought from another, wider building (Smith 1990, 54–6). The arrangements of the spaces in the building are somewhat unusual, with very extensive undercrofts on the ground floor of both the earlier 12th-century block and in the south range, and at least one major first-floor chamber which was impressive but unheated. This complex may not have been primarily residential at this date but a building used for the storage and display of merchandise – very similar to the nearby waterfront property at Dragon Hall, discussed below. By the early seventeenth century the building had returned to a domestic function as the town residence of the wealthy Paston family, when the present brick frontage with its moulded brick pediments was added.

Dragon Hall, King Street The final building to be considered in this chapter is rather different in form and function from the large courtyard houses described above. Now called ‘Dragon Hall’, this unique structure stands just north of Wensum Lodge on King Street. The medieval development of this complex has been reconstructed following an extensive programme of restoration and archaeological excavation by NAU, with a full architectural survey by Robert Smith and detailed documentary research by Elizabeth Rutledge. The results of these investigations are fully described in Shelley (2005). In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as noted above, grand stone buildings were constructed here at right angles to the street on either side of a lane running down to the waterfront; one of these was the property of Woburn Abbey (Shelley 2005, 48–57). This position close to the city quays would make this an ideal location for a monastic town house (Figure 27). The earliest standing structure at Dragon Hall is the south wing, a large L-plan stone building with an open hall at right angles to the street and a brick-vaulted undercroft beneath the street range. The south entrance door survives along with a pair of service doorways in the cross-passage, all three with moulded ogee-arched surrounds. The house was probably constructed by John Page, a clerk with links to the civic elite, in the 1330s. Later in the fourteenth century the house was acquired by Roger Midday, a merchant who twice served as city bailiff, and subsequently passed to the Clere family, who were members of the rural gentry, although it may have been leased to a city merchant (Rutledge, in Shelley 2005, 57). The evidence indicates that, rather than a pair of service rooms in the traditional manner, one of the service doorways in the hall actually gave access to the undercroft beneath the service range, and the moulded ogee door heads were inserted or reset in the fifteenth-century rebuilding (Smith, in Shelley 2005, 21–8).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 27. Dragon Hall, King Street: excavated plan of the site in the fifteenth century (Shelley 2005, Fig. 47, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

In the early fifteenth century this property was acquired and rebuilt by one of the city’s wealthiest merchants, Robert Toppes. The building retained the earlier open hall and cross-passage in the south range and incorporated this within a new streetfront range. On the first floor this held a magnificent seven-bay timber-framed hall divided into two rooms, with crown-post trusses, close-studded walls infilled with brick nogging and projecting oriel windows to both front and rear (Figures 28–29). One of the spandrels preserves a fine carved and painted dragon (which gives the building its current name; this was, of course, a symbol of the prominent civic guild of St George). On the ground floor this structure was supported on an open timber arcade and a wide brick arch spanning the earlier lane. An impressive new entrance surround with carved shields (Figure 30) and an external door to the undercroft from


Figure 28. Dragon Hall, King Street: timber-framed street range built by Robert Toppes in 1427 (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 29. Dragon Hall: interior of the first-floor hall with crown-post roof trusses (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 30. Dragon Hall: fourteenth-/fifteenth-century entrance to the hall (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 31. Dragon Hall: early sixteenth-century cross-passage screen (photograph © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the rear arcade were inserted. The original functions and access arrangements of this unique complex remain unclear, but it is currently interpreted as a private merchant’s trading hall. The ground-floor arcade facing the courtyard allowed merchandise to be brought up from the riverfront and the large, well-lit rooms on the first floor would have provided an impressive space to display goods, while the earlier groundfloor hall may have been retained for the reception and entertainment of important business associates and customers (Shelley 2005, 183–6). The new work has been dated from dendrochronology to 1427, when Toppes was still, remarkably, only 22 years old, but he was one of the few individuals who were fast-tracked up the civic hierarchy, purchasing the freedom in 1421 and becoming sheriff in 1430 at the age of 25. He was mayor four times between 1435 and 1458 and burgess in parliament four times. He resided in St Peter Mancroft parish, where he was a major benefactor in the reconstruction and reglazing of the church in the mid-1440s, and was buried there in 1467 (Mayors, 23; Rutledge, in Shelley 2005, 60–2; King 2004). No other example of a purpose-built private trading hall is known from archaeological or documentary sources in an English medieval town, although several of the features of Dragon Hall are found in the mixed domestic and commercial complexes of medieval merchants which share features across the wider North Sea region (Ayers 2016, 147–80). After Toppes’ death the complex was subdivided and by the early sixteenth century the ground-floor hall in the south range had been incorporated into an extensive property to the south with a timber-framed street range (Nos 125–129 King Steet). This was occupied by a succession of gentry and merchant families, including James Marsham, grocer, who was sheriff of Norwich in 1539 (Rutledge, in Shelley 2005, 61–2). The ground floor hall was provided with a roll-moulded timber screen (Figure 31), a unique survival in the city which helps in envisaging the screens-passage entries which must once have been common in the city’s elite residences.

The medieval merchants’ houses: courtyards, undercrofts and halls Norwich retains one of the largest groups of surviving architectural remains of medieval houses which were specifically built and occupied by the mercantile and civic elite in any English city. The houses which have been described above are the best-preserved examples of merchant’s houses that survive, or where a considerable amount of archaeological and documentary research has been undertaken. Several more fragmentary remains of similar houses have been recorded by antiquarian and archaeological research from the eighteenth century onwards, and these are incorporated into the following discussion where possible. The most prominent elements of these complexes are the open halls that were constructed of flint masonry, and their stone- and brick-vaulted undercrofts. These structures often formed one part of substantial courtyard properties surrounded by timber-framed and flint-rubble ranges containing domestic, service and commercial spaces, which were more vulnerable to fire and the pressures of later development and have survived only in exceptional cases such as Strangers’ Hall. The large fires across the central districts of the city in 1507 may have had a particularly significant impact on the timber-framed elements of


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 these complexes. In many ways, then, this is a self-selecting sample; the open halls and undercrofts are the most prominent elements of these houses because their masonry structures were more likely to be incorporated into later developments, and are most easily recognisable today. Nevertheless, the fact that similar spaces occur in all of the known surviving houses that can be linked to prominent mercantile families does indicate that this was the accepted form of elite residences in the late medieval city. The majority of the surviving merchants’ houses stand in the central parishes to the south and north of the River Wensum. A second group comprises the early twelfth- to fourteenth-century stone buildings located on King Street facing the city quays. In the case of Dragon Hall, and perhaps also at Wensum Lodge, by the fifteenth century these merchant residences had been incorporated into non-domestic complexes with a commercial function. It is also known that similar large properties once surrounded the great marketplace in St Peter Mancroft ward; excavations by NAU have uncovered twelfth-century stone buildings in this location (Hutcheson 2000), while later medieval undercrofts and wall paintings were also recorded within the remains of the White Swan Inn on the west side of the marketplace (Whittingham 1984). The medieval houses in this area may well have been tall, narrow buildings of three storeys, as are the surviving post-medieval structures; the rest of the surviving merchants’ houses adopt more spreading plan-forms arranged around one or more courtyards reached by carriage arches from the street front. They create a distinctive topography in the central districts of the city, which would have been dominated by these substantial merchants’ properties. The street-front ranges were built in a combination of flint-and-brick rubble and timber-framing, and many of them contain undercrofts; it is likely that in many cases they were leased as separate tenements. This has been suggested for the street range of Strangers’ Hall (Smith 1990, 85–6), and was certainly the case for Suckling House in the fourteenth century, although in the fifteenth century the street-front tenement was amalgamated into the capital messuage (Beecheno 1920, 201–2). This must have created complex ‘tenurial geographies’ within large urban plots through the interplay of land-holding, built space and relationships of dependence, patronage and trade, which would repay further interdisciplinary study (Lilley 2002, 192–211; Rees-Jones 2011, 79–84). One important feature to note in the topographical placing of the late medieval mercantile residences is their proximity to their parish church. Several of the houses discussed above – Strangers’ Hall, Suckling House, the Bridewell, Bacon’s House and Pykerell’s House – along with many other recorded examples in the city, are located next to their parish church and churchyard. In the majority of cases the wealthy citizens who constructed and occupied the surviving houses were also prominent benefactors of their parish church and are commonly buried there. This close association between elite residences and churches has long been recognised for pre-conquest towns and for the rural gentry (Morris 1989, 168–274), but not previously for late medieval urban elites. These spatial links and architectural parallels between medieval domestic and public and religious buildings are further explored in Chapter 5. As in other medieval towns, the merchants’ houses of Norwich often combined domestic quarters with extensive areas for the storage and retail of merchandise. This


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 is clearly a feature of the earliest surviving domestic buildings; the twelfth-century stone range at Wensum Lodge has a vaulted ground floor, as did the contemporary building excavated on the waterfront north of St Martin-at-Palace Plain (Ayers 1987a). The most common surviving medieval building type in the city is the brick-vaulted undercroft, of which over 50 are known to survive or have been recorded (see Chapter 6). The majority of the Norwich undercrofts date to the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and are rarely associated with an original superstructure, which may have been mostly timber-framed and clay-walled buildings. They are comparatively small and have little evidence for windows or direct access from the street (Smith 1990). The undercrofts associated with the larger mercantile residences, however, have a rather different character which suggests a more ‘public’ and commercial function. They cover an extensive area, often being extended over several centuries, and are frequently divided into two or more units; at Strangers’ Hall there are impressive undercrofts beneath the main domestic quarters with access controlled by a porter’s lodge and squint, with a separate west courtyard with an open arcade to allow the loading and unloading of carts. The mercantile undercrofts are generally provided with independent access from within the courtyard spaces, but they are also well connected to the domestic spaces; at Strangers’ Hall, the Bridewell and several other properties there is direct access from the hall service end to the undercrofts beneath, in several cases inserted at some point after the initial construction of the house. At Suckling House there was a four-bay ground-floor vaulted space at the west end of the hall which was later connected by paired service doorways. These undercrofts are also well lit with windows and lamp niches, and are characterised by their use of fine materials and decorative architectural features, including the stone piers, ribs and dressings used in the c.1300 undercroft at Strangers’ Hall, with its stone entrance portal added in the fifteenth century, and the central octagonal column and trefoil lamp niches found at Nos 19–21 Bedford Street. Another known example is the large brick-vaulted undercroft at No. 9 Princes Street; this has four side-chambers with windows above, perhaps used for the display of merchandise, and is entered from the street end of the structure (Smith and Carter 1983, 8). The late medieval undercrofts at the White Swan Inn on the marketplace had decorative lierne vaulting (Whittingham 1984, 42; Figure 32). The undercrofts found within these merchants’ houses are therefore large, well-lit and visually impressive spaces, supporting the interpretation of their use, at least in part, as spaces for the display of merchandise and the conduct of trade. Access to them was tightly regulated from within the courtyard and domestic areas of the house, highlighting the multi-functional character of mercantile households as both domestic units and commercial enterprises. The close association between prominent undercrofts and high-status domestic halls, with access provided by staircases (at Strangers’ Hall) and a courtyard gallery or pentice (at Suckling House), would also have facilitated the reception of high-ranking customers and business associates within the mercantile residence. This need to provide both a complex and integrated sequence of commercial spaces and an impressive architectural setting for the display of merchandise is what connects the more typical mixed domestic and commercial


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 32. White Swan Inn, St Peter’s Street: medieval undercroft with lierne ribbed vaulting (Historic England: EP4355–077 © Historic England).

complexes of Norwich merchants to the unique building that is Dragon Hall, constructed by Robert Toppes in 1427 as a private trading hall (Shelley 2005). The key defining feature of the domestic spaces in these merchant properties is the possession of a large open hall, which is often the most prominent and long-lived element in many of these complexes. It should be noted that the original builders and later owners of the surviving medieval halls cannot always be traced, and open halls were certainly not exclusive to the wealthy merchant or aldermanic class; the examples described above at ‘Everard’s house’ on St Martin-at-Palace Plain and the Great Hall on Oak Street were occupied by craftsmen who, however wealthy, did not hold high civic office. Nevertheless, the prominence given to these spaces in the surviving elite residences does suggest that the possession of an open hall, incorporating elements of the ‘traditional’ tripartite layout, was an important element of status and authority within the medieval city. Other halls are known to have once existed but now been lost. There was a substantial open hall with a deeply moulded central truss at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill, located behind the surviving street-front range built by Augustine Steward in the sixteenth century (discussed in Chapter 4); this


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 was the site of the Paston family townhouse in the fifteenth century. Another hall was photographed after a Second World War air raid on King Street opposite St Peter Parmentergate church; it had an arch-braced crown-post roof truss, paired service doorways and a bay window with a stone arch (Smith 1990, 40–41). Table 1 shows the dimensions of medieval halls in Norwich where this can be clearly established. Stranger’s Hall and Suckling House stand out as very large examples; these two houses have the strongest links to a succession of prominent aldermanic families, and their impressive halls are orientated parallel to the street behind a courtyard. The remaining halls are typically two-bay structures placed at right angles behind a street-front range with a courtyard or lane on one or both sides. Although the small number of surviving examples make it difficult to generalise about chronological trends, two main periods of construction are suggested by the evidence. The earliest surviving examples of open halls were constructed in the fourteenth century, at Suckling House, Dragon Hall (south range) and the Bridewell, and are all associated with prominent urban families who served as city bailiff (respectively the Fairchild and Paulet families, the Clerks, and the Appleyards). Table 1. Dimensions of medieval halls in Norwich, c.1370–1540. House


Strangers’ Hall


Length (m) Width (m) Area (m²) 10.30



Suckling House

mid-/late 14th




The Bridewell

late 14th




Bacon’s House

late 15th–early 16th




The Great Hall, Oak Street

late 15th–early 16th




Pykerell’s House

late 15th–early 16th




Everard’s House

late 14th




Dragon Hall – south range

early/mid- 14th




* These figures can only be approximate, as the length of the hall is not known.

There is a second phase of building in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, when the smaller but finely detailed halls at Pykerell’s House, Oak Street and Bacon’s house were constructed with their bay windows and decorative queen-post roofs. This period also saw the insertion of similar architectural features into many of the earlier halls, with bay windows inserted at Suckling House and Everard’s house. The most striking example of this process is Strangers’ Hall, where the rebuilding of the hall with its Perpendicular bay window, flint-and-brick masonry and new crown-post roof can be closely dated to 1539, the year of Nicholas Sotherton’s mayoralty. This association between the re-edification of the domestic context and the attainment of high civic office will be a recurring theme in the analysis of mercantile residences in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The halls in Norwich have a varied relationship with their associated service or street-front blocks. In general, where the hall is located behind a street-front building


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540 the services are located in this range. While most halls retain some evidence of a formal screens-passage entrance with paired service doors, in the majority of cases this is either modified in form or can be shown to be a later development in the plan. At Suckling House and Strangers’ Hall the low-end service doorways were inserted only in a secondary phase associated with the remodelling of the hall in the fifteenth and early sixteenth century respectively. At Dragon Hall one of the paired ogee-headed service doorways in fact led down to the undercroft beneath the street range. Access was also provided to an undercroft from the cross-passage in Pykerell’s House and ‘Everard’s house’, while at Strangers’ Hall and the Bridewell there was direct access from the service areas to an undercroft. The Great Hall on Oak Street had paired service doorways away from the street, and no evidence of any connection between the hall and the street front range which would have been its ‘upper’ end. At Bacon’s House the entrance to the hall is positioned against the partition with the street range, but no service doors existed, suggesting that the hall did not have attached service spaces. The complexity of the access arrangements between the residential, service, street-front and storage areas of these buildings suggests the ways in which mercantile households functioned as both domestic and commercial units. However, they were accommodated within an architectural arrangement that visually replicated the formal layout associated with the halls of the rural gentry, suggesting that creating the visual appearance of a traditional open hall was an important element in the reconstruction of these spaces in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The hall was usually associated with other domestic rooms, although these spaces have rarely survived. At Stranger’s Hall there was a parlour and chamber block to the north of the hall connected by a vaulted passageway, and a further chamber over the service rooms with a staircase from the cross-passage. By the early sixteenth century there was a second parlour and chamber block to the south-west of the hall, with a roll-moulded timber ceiling on the ground floor. At Pykerell’s House and Bacon’s House there was a parlour and chamber beyond the high end of the hall with access from within the bay window. The houses thus demonstrate an increasingly sophisticated and specialised organisation of domestic space in the later fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, with a large formal open hall as the central space giving access to a series of more private rooms. This parallels the arrangements identified by Leech (2000) in contemporary Bristol, from the evidence of probate inventories, where the hall was increasingly reserved for formal occasions. It is noteworthy that there is no certain evidence for permanent fireplaces in any of the Norwich halls, or even of open fireplaces in the centre of the room, although the roof timbers have in many cases been stripped and restored. This may indicate a similarly occasional and formal use for these spaces in the late medieval period. We can catch occasional glimpses of the rich decoration of these merchants’ houses through surviving fragments and antiquarian sources. Many of the hall bay windows are decorated with carved escutcheons which would have been painted, and painted window glass is recorded in the halls and parlours of many houses. Wall paintings were recorded in the White Swan Inn, located opposite St Peter Mancroft church in the great marketplace and demolished in 1961. This extensive


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 fourteenth- and fifteenth-century property was occupied by a sequence of families that provided several city bailiffs and mayors, and contained the fragmentary remains of an open hall with a bay window; the paintings depicted a knight on horseback on a background diaper pattern of rosettes and birds (Whittingham 1984). Many of the parlours and chambers probably had carved wooden panelling; fragments of this survive at Suckling House, and the house of Gregory Clerk, mayor in 1505 and 1514, contained a room lined with richly carved panels (Mayors, 38). Both the halls and parlours were decorated with heraldry, including family arms, individual merchant’s marks and the arms of mercantile companies and the city itself, most strikingly preserved in the reset carved panels in Sotherton’s great hall at Strangers’ Hall. There is also evidence for paintings of moral and religious verses on walls at the White Swan Inn (Whittingham 1984, 42), and at Suckling House the painted glass in the parlour and a carved beam installed by John Clerk bore the motto ‘Thynk and thank God’. Five sets of painted glass roundels depicting the labours of the month are also known from houses in the city, including four surviving roundels from one of the hall bays at Pykerell’s House (Marks and Williamson 2003, 296; Figure 33). This picture is enriched by the evidence for domestic furnishings and household goods recorded in the testamentary bequests of the medieval aldermen of Norwich analysed by Ruth Frost (1996), which clearly show that their houses were ‘opulent and comfortable’. Several merchants refer to ongoing building activities in their wills, and one of these explicitly refers to the construction of a great hall with carefully carved and moulded stonework and timbers comparable to the surviving architectural examples – in 1464 Richard Hoste desired that his belongings be kept intact until a new hall was built, with all that ‘thereto belongs of werkmanschepe, masons craft and wrights craft’ (Frost 1996, 116). The aldermen bequeathed a wide range of domestic goods, including large quantities of silver plate (such as spoons, flagons and gilt cups with covers) and masers, bedding and coverlets, jewellery and clothing, and chests, tables, linen and kitchen utensils. There are two surviving probate inventories belonging to medieval aldermen from the city which provide further details on the use and decoration of domestic spaces. In 1464 Richard Balles’ house had a hall which was furnished with red ‘costuryng’ (wall hangings), 12 cushions of tapestry, four red cushions, two trestles, six joined stools and a bench, worth 62s 10d. This suggests a space richly decorated and furnished for formal dining. In his parlour were a cupboard, a table, two ‘throwne’ chairs, a ‘cownternary’, a long ‘setyll’ chair, a hanging candlestick and five old cushions. In 1493 William London’s house had a green chamber and a white chamber, a buttery and a brewery, a kitchen and a press chamber (Frost 1996, 117–18). Commercial spaces were also prominent within both of these properties; Balles had a grocer’s shop well stocked with pepper, ginger, honey and other products, along with balance and weights, while London had both a counting house and a warehouse full of luxury cloth (Frost 1996, 122). The wealthy merchants of medieval Norwich clearly invested considerable sums in the construction and rebuilding of their houses between the mid-fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. With their extensive residential and commercial spaces, impressive and finely detailed open halls and luxurious decoration and furnishings,


medieval merchants’ houses, c.1350–1540

Figure 33. Glass roundel from Pykerell’s house showing ‘December’ in the Labours of the Months (NWHCM: 2012.121, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).

these properties provided a lavish setting for domestic life, business and hospitality. The living accommodation was generally set back behind a street-front range which may have been leased separately, and there was a close interrelationship between commercial and domestic spaces. The city’s aldermen, bailiffs and mayors sought to follow architectural trends found in the homes of the rural gentry, but their grand halls often had direct access to the extensive undercroft spaces, and merchant’s halls may frequently have been used for business and the display of merchandise as well as formal dining and entertaining. The next chapter will explore the rebuilding and transformation of these merchants’ houses as the city entered the middle decades of the sixteenth century. This was, as will be seen, a period of rapid architectural transformation, but one which built on the legacy of the city’s medieval inheritance.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Chapter 5 will go on to consider the relationships between domestic space and the changing social and political identities of the civic elite, providing an in-depth reconsideration of the changing forms and meanings of public and private spaces in the urban context across the transition between the medieval and early modern worlds.


4 Early modern merchants’ houses c.1540–1660


his chapter continues the discussion of the houses of the civic elite in Norwich into the early modern period, between c.1540 and 1660. It begins by following the development of the late medieval houses described in the previous chapter, examining the fate of the medieval open halls and the changes that were made to their private spaces and access arrangements. It will be shown that while some mercantile houses ceiled over the open hall and developed new ways of organising and using domestic space, others retained many aspects of their medieval past. The chapter then moves on to discuss the mercantile houses that were first constructed in the early modern period. There was a widespread phase of new building at this social level in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, from c.1520 to 1570. The new houses, in parallel with the modified medieval properties, adopt innovative plan forms and a range of distinctive spatial arrangements and architectural features. These elements continue to develop in the seventeenth century, although this period is characterised by the gradual adaptation of existing buildings rather than a widespread redevelopment of elite dwellings. The final section of the chapter draws together the evidence for both continuity and change in the merchants’ houses in the early modern period, considering these changes in terms of wider developments in elite architecture in this period.

Strangers’ Hall, Charing Cross, c.1540–1660 In 1540, as we have seen, Strangers’ Hall was the home of widow Agnes Sotherton, née Hethersett. She outlived her husband by 36 years, dying in 1576. The Sothertons were one of the city’s premier mercantile dynasties, with three generations holding high civic office. Of Nicholas’ and Agnes’ three sons, Thomas was mayor in 1565, Leonard was sheriff in 1556 and John was sheriff in 1565. Thomas Sotherton resided in St Andrew’s parish and John occupied Strangers’ Hall after his mother’s death; the two brothers were both married to daughters of Augustine Steward. John’s eldest son Thomas, who was burgess in parliament in 1596 and mayor in 1605, seems to have lived in the neighbouring property and Strangers’ was occupied by his younger brother, John. Thomas Sotherton died and was buried in 1608 in St John Maddermarket (Kelly 2004). As described in Chapter 3, Nicholas Sotherton invested considerable sums in the re-edification of the house at the time of his mayoralty in 1539, rebuilding the great hall in a deliberately conservative style and decorating it with symbols of his


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 commercial and civic status. Agnes Sotherton may have appropriated the powerful connotations of the hall as a ‘public’ space in the service of her own personal identity as a wealthy urban widow. What is most significant in the succeeding generations of the Sotherton family is the absence of substantial modifications to the public and commercial areas of the house. The family retained the medieval hall unaltered at the heart of their residence, while making additions and modifications to the more private areas of the domestic accommodation. In this period, a new brick range was added to the south-east of the hall, possibly replacing a medieval flint-walled kitchen block; this has a parlour on the ground floor and a chamber on the first floor with large ovolo-moulded mullion and transom windows facing the rear courtyard. The south-west block was also extended, providing another parlour and attic chamber, finally blocking access to the wide arched openings on the ground floor. Inside the house, new stone fireplace surrounds were installed in the north parlour and chamber block and in the great chamber, with fashionable shallow-arched openings and carved shields in the spandrels (Figure 34). A similar fireplace is likely to have existed in the ground-floor ‘great parlour’ in the south-west block before this room was repanelled in the eighteenth century, and a wide frieze window with chamfered brick jambs and lintel was inserted in this space, now visible as a blocked opening in the exterior gable wall. Similar fireplaces dating to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century are

Figure 34. Strangers’ Hall: late sixteenth-century fireplace in the north parlour (photograph © Chris King).


early modern merchants’ houses present in many of the Norwich merchant’s houses, and they share many characteristics with contemporary stone funerary monuments in the city’s parish churches, representing the output of an active stonemason’s workshop operating at this time in the city (Finch 2000, 96–8). Chapter 5 will consider in more detail the use of funerary monuments by the merchant elite as public symbols of status and identity; it is clear, however, that the domestic context was an equally important material mechanism in the formation and negotiation of their civic authority and family identity. The will of widow Mary Sotherton (d.1592) provides a glimpse of the furnishings of these rooms; she bequeathed to her son John all the hangings, the long drawing table, the long form and French cupboard in the great parlour, a great Danish counter with leaves, two graven forms and a French cupboard in the hall, and a long drawing table and a great joined cupboard in the little parlour (Kelly 2004, 16). In 1612 the house was sold to Francis Cock, a grocer, who was sheriff in 1615 and mayor in 1627 (Mayors, 76). He undertook two phases of rebuilding at Strangers’ Hall. In 1621 he remodelled the street range, providing a carved fascia for the jetty and a new entrance portal to the central courtyard with grotesque ornament and the date 1621 above the central wicket door (Figure 35). Above was a canopy with brackets in the form of the royal lion and unicorn, a symbol of magisterial authority (now placed in the central courtyard). In 1627, the year of his mayoralty, he undertook a

Figure 35. Strangers’ Hall: street door added by Francis Cock in 1621 (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 36. Strangers’ Hall: staircase bay inserted by Francis Cock in 1627 (left: Historic England CC76/00342 © Historic England; right: photograph © Chris King).

more extensive transformation of the domestic accommodation. In the great hall he inserted a grand staircase and gallery over the screens passage at the east end, with turned and carved balusters, decorative pierced pendants and a strapwork closed string, housed in a projecting bay above the earlier staircase from the undercroft, with the date 1627 carved on the external fascia (Figure 36). This blocks the north end of the windows in the south-east block. From the gallery new doors were inserted leading to the first-floor rooms at this end of the house, with scroll-moulded surrounds with carved foliate bases. Cock installed new panelling with pilasters carved with a scroll pattern and ionic capitals in the first-floor parlour; this has clearly been brought from another building as it does not fit the room. The grand staircase and the newly panelled first-floor room clearly show that Cock was concerned to provide high-status accommodation on the first floor of the house, but he retained the medieval hall as a formal reception space. This even extended to resetting the medieval carved angel roof corbel above the new door to his first-floor chamber. A second staircase with scroll-moulded door jambs was inserted connecting the north parlour and chamber, blocking the early sixteenth-century window of the hall over the entrance porch. The two new staircases and the gallery across the hall provide independent access to the upper rooms at the east end of the house for the first time, allowing more interconnected patterns of use and circulation.


Figure 37. Strangers’ Hall: Oak Room: painted overmantel installed by Joseph Paine in 1659 (photograph © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Cock died in 1628, the year after his mayoralty. In 1659 the house was purchased by Joseph Paine, a hosier. Paine had been a known conservative during the Civil War years and thereby excluded from civic government. By 1654, when he was elected sheriff, Paine was part of a moderate-conservative clique linked by friendship and marriage, which was supported in all municipal elections from 1654 onwards by a large body of freemen. Paine was elevated to the aldermanic bench in 1655 and elected as mayor in 1660, as it became clear that the restoration of the monarchy was imminent. In the previous year Paine had purchased Strangers’ Hall, which was clearly recognised as a suitable mayoral residence. Paine had already been nominated for the mayoralty once in 1658, and could clearly anticipate his election within the next few years (Evans 1979, 219). Paine once again retained the medieval hall unaltered at the heart of the property, and made no changes to the access arrangements of the house. His most significant alteration was to remodel the great parlour and chamber in the south-west wing, providing three tall windows with moulded brick surrounds for each room and creating a fashionable first-floor dining chamber with oak panelling and a carved overmantel with flattened arches enclosing a painted landscape scene of the city viewed from Mousehold Heath. In this room, and in the north parlour and chamber, Paine retained the late sixteenth-century fireplaces, but the shields in the spandrels have been repainted with the initials I. E. P. (for Joseph and his wife, Emma), and the date 1659 (Figure 37). One of Paine’s first duties as mayor was to present the city’s gift of £1000 to Charles II, when he was rewarded for his long years of political isolation with a knighthood (Mayors, 90; Evans 1979, 222–34). Sir Joseph was buried in St Gregory’s church in 1673, where he is commemorated by an impressive alabaster wall monument profusely carved with drums, halberds and the accoutrements of war, symbolising his cherished role as commander of the city militia.

Suckling House, St Andrew’s Plain In the late sixteenth century Suckling House was the home of another distinguished civic dynasty, from which it takes its name. Robert Suckling, mercer, purchased the house before 1570. He was the son of alderman Richard Suckling, a baker, sheriff in 1545, who resided in SS Simon and Jude parish. Robert Suckling was sheriff in 1564, burgess in parliament in 1571 and 1576, and mayor in 1572 and 1582 (Mayors, 60). His younger brother John was sheriff in 1566 and mayor in 1584 (Mayors, 64). Suckling owned an estate at Woodton and his family developed strong connections among the Norfolk gentry: of his five sons by his first wife, Elizabeth Barwick (d.1569), Sir John Suckling was comptroller of the household of James I and Charles I and Edmund Suckling was dean of Norwich (Mayors, 60; Beecheno 1920, 209). Suckling died in 1589, and an inventory was made which gives a remarkable insight into the use of space in the house (Beecheno 1921). In 1595 his son Sir John Suckling sold the house to Christopher Baret, Robert Suckling’s stepson by his second wife, for the sum of £400. Sir John maintained strong links with Norwich, becoming burgess in parliament in 1625, and he and his wife were buried in the neighbouring St Andrew’s parish church. The Suckling funerary monuments are discussed further in Chapter 5.


early modern merchants’ houses As at Strangers’ Hall, the Sucklings made few modifications to the medieval great hall, which remained the centre of the property. Clearly, they also preserved the medieval panelling and stained glass in the great parlour, bearing the insignia of previous owners and their trading companies, which survived to be recorded by the antiquarian John Kirkpatrick in the eighteenth century (see Chapter 3). However, they also made improvements to the domestic accommodation. In the 1924 restoration of the property the fragments of a large stone chimneypiece, over six feet wide, were discovered and reset in the lobby. The spandrels bear the arms of Suckling impaling Cardinal, and so probably date to the period of Robert Suckling’s third marriage to Joan Cardinal (1577–89). Kirkpatrick recorded a ‘great stone gate’ to the north of the hall, which had Suckling’s arms and the arms of the Merchant Adventurers, and the date 1564, the year of his shrievalty. This implies that the commercial area of the house, with the warehouse and counting house, was placed around the north courtyard. This three-storied jettied range was the City Arms public house before its demolition in 1899 for the construction of the tramline. There was a wooden porch with the arms of Baret, the initials C.B. and the date 1634; Christopher Baret was sheriff in 1615 and mayor in 1634. He also installed a fine Jacobean chimneypiece on the upper floor (Beecheno 1921, 215–16).

The 1589 Suckling inventory The inventory compiled at Robert Suckling’s death in 1589 is a rare surviving example belonging to a sixteenth-century Norwich alderman (see Beecheno 1921 for a full transcription). The physical remains of Suckling House share many similarities with other merchant houses, particularly the combination of a medieval open hall with refurbished domestic accommodation, as at Strangers’ Hall. Combining the archaeological and documentary evidence provides some information about how these spaces may have functioned in relation to one another. Table 2 shows the rooms described in the 1589 inventory in the order in which they are listed and gives the value of their contents. The hall was furnished as a grand reception room and could also have been used for dining. There was a framed table supported on four carved lions and a second framed table to the side of the hall, with two framed forms and a wainscot chair. There were also soft furnishings: wall hangings, a green carpet, six Turkey-work cushions and an embroidered window cushion. There was also a counter ‘under the window’ – perhaps in the hall bay – indicating that business was conducted here. The hall also contained Suckling’s aldermanic mace, the symbol of his civic authority. The principal room was the great parlour, with contents valued at four times more than those in the hall. This was furnished as a dining chamber, with two framed tables with extending leaves, two long forms and a short form, a livery table and a livery cupboard. The cupboard was for the display of plate, and the livery table was a side table for the serving of formal meals. There were also two embroidered chairs, four ‘women’s stools’ and six ‘women’s cushions’. The Turkey-work carpet for the great table, the most expensive single item in the inventory, was valued at £9. There were further carpets in blue and green for the side tables and carving board, hangings


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 of green and red saye and several cushions, including two long window cushions of tapestry work. There were also two ‘hanging tables’, or pictures. The room had a fireplace with brass and iron equipment. Table 2. Summary of the rooms listed in the 1589 inventory of Robert Suckling. Room




In the Hall




In the great Parlor




In the lytle Parlor



In the cowntinge house Parlor



In the Kitchen and Larder




In the entrye next the Kitchen



In the Butterye next the great Parlor


10 8

In the Butterye next the litle Parlor



In the Woodhowse and Yard



In the Gallery next the Garden



In the Cellar



In the Warehouse




In the great chamber




In the chamber over the coumtyng house




In the presse chamber


In the seeled chamber




In the Brushing chamber



In the Entrye Chamber




In the lytle parlor chamber




In the maydes chamber



In the apple and fish chamber



In the Kytchyn Chamber



In the twisterers chamber


8 3



Lynnen, Diaper and playne


Total value of inventory


2 4



The little parlour seems to have been furnished as a more intimate family space, with less expensive furnishings, many of which were described as ‘old’. This room also had a fireplace. This was probably the family dining room, as there was a framed table, a livery cupboard and 12 buffet stools. There was a wainscot chair and another ‘woman’s chair’, also of wainscot. The most expensive item was a pair of virginals


early modern merchants’ houses valued at £1. There was also a pair of curtains, an old carpet of Turkey work, six Turkey work cushions and an old screen. A candle screen suggests that this room was used for domestic activities such as reading or needlework. The predominance of ‘old’ furnishings may in fact reflect the careful curation of domestic goods and heirlooms by the women of the household, rather than representing furnishings of lesser quality (Liddy 2015, 153–7). There was a further room called the ‘counting house parlour’. While specialist counting houses are known from sixteenth-century London (Schofield 1995, 71–4), it was probably common for ordinary ‘parlours’ to serve as a place of business. The furnishings indicate its specialist function: as well as a framed wainscot table with two leaves, a wainscot chair and two buffet stools, there was a cupboard with a lock and key, ‘a case of bords for wrightinge’, ‘a presse for letters’ and ‘one old chest to keepe for evidences’. There was also a pair of scales with brass and gold weights for measuring coin. The room also had some decorative furnishings which would have impressed Suckling’s visitors, including a green carpet for the table, a mirror, an old map and a ‘table’ – that is, a hanging picture – with his arms and a map. The coat of arms proclaimed Suckling’s gentility, while the maps may have represented his commercial interests. Although this was the principal space for conducting business, there were also ‘counters’ in the hall and in the chamber over the counting house. Suckling’s books and household linen are listed separately at the end of the inventory. The linen includes a wide range of tablecloths, towels and napkins, which would have been used for formal dining. The books, including four Bibles, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and Calvin’s Institutions, indicate the strong Protestant religious culture of the household. A book of merchants’ accounts demonstrates Suckling’s commercial interests, and two books called Justice of the Peace relate to his role as a city magistrate. Both the great parlour and the little parlour had butteries adjoining. In the buttery next to the great parlour was a range of furniture for storage, including an old livery cupboard, three chests, a bread bin and two tables, perhaps where some of the extensive stock of household linen was stored. The buttery next to the little parlour had a great wainscot press and a little long cupboard, and contained the household pewter – supporting the suggestion that the little parlour was the everyday eating room. The kitchen and larder contained a wide range of metal kitchenware, testifying to the size of Suckling’s household and the scale of his entertaining. There were many brass and copper vessels, such as pots, kettles, milk pans, skillets, sieves and a frying pan. The iron hearth furniture included hooks and bars, trivets, gridirons, seven spits with jacks to turn them and dripping pans. There were also several brass mortars and a pair of mustard querns, a brewing copper, a warming pan and four chafing dishes. There seems to have been a courtyard for the service areas of the house, with a separate entry next to the kitchen; this contained 15 water buckets, a precaution against fire. This may be the ‘woodhouse and yard’ listed in the inventory; these housed three lead cisterns, storing the household’s water. Building work seems to have been in progress at the time the inventory was taken, as the yard also contained tools, timber and bricks. The inventory also lists a gallery next to the garden, containing a framed table, with boards and roof tiles in the courtyard.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Suckling’s warehouse is listed after the gallery and cellar. As described above, the great gate with his arms was on the north, connected to the hall by an early sixteenth-century pentice, described in Chapter 3. This could be the gallery mentioned in the inventory. The warehouse would then have been on the street frontage facing St Andrew’s Plain, with a cellar beneath (mentioned in fourteenth-century documents). The warehouse contained a great beam with scales and weights for weighing merchandise, a great glass lantern and three ‘shop chests’ for storing and displaying goods. The cellar contained vessels used for brewing, including a keeler and ‘divers beere stooles’. A range of ‘chambers’ are described, most containing bedsteads. Although these are listed in sequence, they were probably located on the first floor in different wings of the house, with separate staircases, as occurred at Strangers’ Hall. The great chamber was presumably located over the great parlour. This contained a richly furnished four-poster bedstead valued at £4. There were also two Cyprus chests, a livery cupboard, a square table and a green embroidered chair. The room was heated, and decorated with eight small maps and a picture of Erasmus. Unlike the great chambers of contemporary gentry houses, this room does not seem to have been used for dining or for the reception of large numbers of guests (Cooper 1999, 293–9). Further chambers contained curtained bedsteads valued at between £2 and 16s. The chamber over the counting house had a posted bedstead with hangings of red and yellow saye, a livery cupboard, a counter and a carved wainscot chair. A chamber with wainscot panelling (‘the seeled chamber’) had similar furnishings. The little parlour chamber had a posted bedstead with old curtains and two trundle bedsteads with their furnishings, for the use of children or servants. There were also two iron-bound chests, a livery table and a great wicker chair. There were several chambers with less expensive furnishings, valued in total between £1 18s and 4s 4d. The press chamber had a bedstead with an old tester valued at 5s, a great old chest and a chair and stool. The entry chamber had an old bedstead, also valued at 5s. This room could have been located over the great gatehouse on the north side of the house, or over the ‘entry next the kitchen’. The maids’ chamber had an old posted bedstead with its furnishings, valued at 6s 8d, and a little wainscot chair. The kitchen chamber had two old trundle bedsteads and two old chairs, also probably for servants. The apple and fish chamber contained a trundle bedstead, but this seems to have been a general lumber room with several old pieces of furniture. The brushing chamber was a workroom and storeroom, with a square table ‘to brush on’, two great presses, three wainscot chests, a little iron-barred chest and a small folding table. Finally, the twisterers’ chamber may have been used for spinning at one time, but in 1589 it held 9000 bricks, further indication of building work at the house.

Bacon’s House, Colegate The late medieval hall-house on the corner of Colegate and St George’s Street was rebuilt by Henry Bacon in the mid-sixteenth century as a substantial courtyard property (see Plates 4 and 5 for plans). His merchant’s mark is carved on a stone panel on the south-west corner of the house and a second panel above a ground-floor


early modern merchants’ houses window in the south range. Bacon was sheriff in 1548 and mayor in 1557 and 1566, so the rebuilding of the house is contemporary with his attainment of high civic office. He died in 1567 and was buried in St George Colegate parish church (Mayors, 56). The medieval hall range along St George’s Street described in the preceding chapter became the west wing of the expanded residence, with a new south range along the Colegate street frontage and an east wing added to this at a later date. Excavations in 1974 revealed a narrow two-storey north range enclosing the courtyard with a stair turret at its east end and an open-fronted gallery facing the courtyard on the ground floor (Esmonde Cleary, in Roberts 1975, 108–9). The house bears many scars of its division in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and a fire in 1925 destroyed the first floor of the east wing; the renovation of the house by the City Council in 1975 included the removal of many modern additions and the rebuilding of the east wing, and it is now divided into several properties. In the mid-sixteenth-century rebuilding a floor was inserted into the medieval open hall, accomplished through the total rebuilding of the west wall and the heightening of the east wall, clearly visible in a change in construction using small, rounded flints laid in neat courses with dense galletting. The west wall has three first-floor windows and at least one ground-floor window, each with four lights and a hollow-chamfered hood mould; other features in this elevation have been replaced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century openings. The south range was constructed at the same time as this rebuilding, although the misalignment between the two ranges in the north-east corner may indicate the presence of an earlier south range in front of the medieval hall. It has a galletted flint-rubble ground floor and a close-studded timber-framed first floor, jettied on both sides (Figure 38). The large windows on the ground floor are modern insertions, but they have chamfered limestone jambs which may have formed part of the original window openings; one of these has the aforementioned carved stone panel with Henry Bacon’s mark prominently displayed (Figure 39). The main entrance door in the south wall has a plain chamfered stone surround with a moulded wooden frame. In the spandrels, again, are Henry Bacon’s mark and initials, and the Grocers’ arms. The current entrance is through a bricked-in opening for a nineteenth-century shop-front, recorded in early photographs. On the first floor the openings for six original mullioned windows are clearly visible; the interrupted chamfer of the wall-plate above these openings may indicate the presence of projecting oriel windows along the street frontage. The east range was added to this block at a later date, but probably within a relatively short time-frame; it has a flint-and-brick rubble ground floor with openings of various dates and a modern first floor rebuilt after the 1975 fire. The ground-floor rooms have plain chamfered tie-beams and axial beams, indicating the existence of at least two rooms, probably service accommodation. There was a newel staircase in the courtyard in the angle between the south and east ranges, with an arched brick doorway visible in the first-floor room, matching that excavated on the north side of the courtyard. Internally, the house provided a suite of well-appointed domestic spaces on the ground and first floor and a full attic storey, probably used for storage and servants’


Figure 38. Bacon’s House, Colegate: mid-sixteenth-century street range (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 39. Bacon’s House: stone plaque bearing Henry Bacon’s merchant’s mark (photograph © Chris King).

early modern merchants’ houses

Figure 40. Bacon’s House: west range, first floor roll-moulded timber ceiling (photograph © Chris King).

accommodation; the roof is of diminished principal rafter form with double side-purlins, intermediate collars and arched wind-braces. In the west range at the north end of the former hall was a parlour with a chamber above, in the same position as the medieval parlour-chamber block. The parlour has a ceiling divided into four compartments; the beams and cornices are moulded with a roll and scroll profile. There is a stone fireplace on the east wall with a distinctive shallow depressed arch, a roll- and hollow-chamfered moulding and carved escutcheons in the spandrels. In the street range the ground-floor ceiling at the west end has a plain chamfered axial ceiling beam and plain joists, with little evidence of internal subdivisions, although there is likely to have been an entry passage to the central courtyard, indicated by a break in the ceiling chamfer. At the east end is a second parlour with a quartered ceiling with roll-moulded beams and cornices. The fireplace on the east wall has a heavy timber lintel with a roll- and hollow-moulded shallow arched opening, similar to the parlour fireplace in the west range. On the first floor was a suite of impressive high-status chambers, three of which retain their heavily moulded and decorated timber ceilings. In the west range, over the parlour at the north end, the chamber is divided into three bays by cambered tie-beams, each subdivided into four panels; the beams have V-shaped profiles with three tiers of roll-mouldings, with carved tendril patterns painted green (Figure 40), and the cornices are moulded in the same way; the joists have angle-rolls. The


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 adjoining first-floor chamber inserted over the earlier medieval open hall had a similar three-bay panelled ceiling with cambered and arch-braced tie-beams and roll-moulded battens, but only one truss of this remains in situ with the stubs of the cut-off tie-beams visible in the side walls. The first floor of the street range now forms one long room, currently occupied by the City Club, but this was originally two separate rooms divided by a partition, indicated by the paired tie-beams, with a fireplace at each end (Figure 41). It is clear where this range abuts the masonry wall of the earlier medieval hall-house, as the bay rhythm is disrupted. Both rooms have panelled ceilings with arch-braces to front and rear. The east room has roll-moulded beams and joists, which date to the mid-sixteenth century, and the fireplace has a mid-sixteenth-century stone surround with a shallow arched profile identical to those on the ground floor. The ceiling of the west room was replaced in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century with narrower, scroll-moulded beams with a plaster infill. The stone chimneypiece at the west end also dates to this later phase. When Henry Bacon died in 1567 his will mentions four rooms: the hall, the great parlour, the chamber over the great parlour and the little parlour. In 1570 his widow Alice Bacon left a more detailed will listing 16 rooms, although it is not easy to map them onto the sixteenth-century house. They include a hall and the parlour hall – which could perhaps have been the ground-floor room of the ceiled medieval

Figure 41. Bacon’s House: first floor of the street range (photograph © Chris King).


early modern merchants’ houses hall. Both of these rooms contained tables, stools and tapestry carpets, and the hall contained a counter. There was a great parlour which had a long table, cupboard and hangings, and the chamber over it contained the best bed and a Cypress chest and table; these could have been the pair of rooms at the north end of the west range. There was also a ‘gallery’ lined with hangings, which may have been one of the upper chambers. There was a shop with a chamber over it, and a kitchen, brewhouse and larderhouse (Smith 1990, 122–6). In the eighteenth century Kirkpatrick noted that the hall of this house contained three racks ‘with places to hang the maces on’ – that is, to hold the civic regalia – and that one of the upper rooms was lined with oak panelling (Ewing 1852, 25). There were several modifications to the house in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, besides the remodelling of the south-west chamber. The north gable of the west wing was rebuilt in mixed flint, limestone and brick rubble, with a timber-framed gable. This incorporated large ten-light frieze windows on the ground and first floors with ovolo-moulded mullions and transoms, and a five-light window lighting the attic. Adjoining the courtyard is a small square addition containing the stair between the parlour and chamber, entered from the earlier hall bay window, now partly roofless; this contains fragments of a plaster frieze from a grand processional staircase linking the ground and first floor rooms. The lower frieze is decorated with a pattern of flowers and fruit within a double-scroll design, and the upper frieze has pairs of seahorses carrying an escutcheon bearing a scallop shell. Further plaster fragments were discovered beneath a later floor in this building in the 1974 excavations (Esmonde-Cleary, in Roberts 1975, 109). The decoration dates from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century and may replace an earlier medieval stair turret. The owner of the house in the early seventeenth century was George Cock, grocer, sheriff in 1604 and mayor in 1613 (Mayors, 72). His mark appeared on several doorcases in the house, including the door that now serves the eastern entrance lobby.

The Great Hall, Oak Street, and other late medieval hall houses A similar process of change and adaptation can be identified at several of the medieval hall-houses discussed in Chapter 4, including the Great Hall on Oak Street, Pykerell’s House on St Mary’s Plain, ‘Everard’s house’ on St Martin-at-Palace Plain (Ayers 1987a) and the south range of Dragon Hall (Shelley 2005). The open halls of all of these houses were floored over at various times in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and often had attic floors inserted, showing how older medieval spaces were regularly incorporated into new ways of dividing and using urban domestic space. The best example of these changes can be seen at the Great Hall on Oak Street, where from the mid-sixteenth century the medieval open hall and its adjoining buildings passed through a range of owners of middling status, without aspirations to civic rank, including a worsted weaver, a yeoman, a butcher, a dornix weaver and an innkeeper (Kelly 1987). In the early seventeenth century a first floor was inserted into


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the open hall, supported on two quadrant-moulded cross-beams (Figure 42), with a staircase housed within the medieval bay window. At the same time a substantial 12-light mullion and transom window was inserted in the north wall on the ground floor, two further frieze windows lit the new upper floor and a fireplace was built against the east gable. In 1650 the house was purchased by Henry Thompson, baker. The Thompsons were among the highest rate payers in St Martin-at-Oak parish through the late seventeenth century; Henry Thompson’s will of 1677 describes a chamber furnished with a bed and furnishings and a chest of drawers, as well as a parlour containing armour and a tapestry cloth, and a kitchen (Kelly 1987, 5–6). His son John Thompson, a dornix weaver, left a will in 1733 which described the furnishing of the hall and first-floor chamber: Item I will that the deal press standing in the Old Hall belonging to my dwelling house and the great Chest standing at the upper end of the long Gallery over the same shall go along with the aforesaid house by reason that they cannot be removed without taking a pieces. (Kelly 1987, 6)

Even as late as the eighteenth century the terminology of a hall with an upper end was still recognisable, although the labels of ‘old hall’ and ‘long gallery’ may suggest that these were little-used rooms, furnished with large, unfashionable storage pieces.

Figure 42. The Great Hall, Oak Street: inserted seventeenth-century ceiling (photograph © Chris King).


early modern merchants’ houses

Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street This house occupies a block of property on the corner of Fye Bridge Street and Fishergate, north of the river opposite the east end of St Clement’s parish church. Nos 11–15 occupy a fifteenth-century flint and stone range parallel to Fye Bridge Street, with a sixteenth-century range containing fine moulded ceilings at right angles to the rear. In 1981 this building was in a poor state of preservation, but it was recognised as an important early modern house by the Norwich Survey. In 1990 the buildings were renovated by the Norwich Preservation Trust and in 2000 Nos 7–9 Fye Bridge Street were reincorporated into the property, restoring the unity of the courtyard house and uncovering further sixteenth- and seventeenth-century remains. From 1990 to 2015 the building housed the ‘King of Hearts’ Arts Centre, and is currently occupied by an art gallery and cafe. The house has been surveyed by Smith (1990, 151–60), and this archaeological research, the history of its owners and the process of restoration are described by Carus (1995). The property occupies three medieval tenements on Fye Bridge Street, which had all been acquired by Edmund Wood by 1540. The property also extended to the rear along Fishergate, where there was a separate stable. Wood was a wealthy grocer and alderman, who was sheriff in 1536 and mayor in 1548. He died in the year of his mayoralty, and was buried in St Clement’s. His will refers to ‘my chief messuage that I dwell in St. Clement’s Parishe’, and Kirkpatrick recorded his initials and arms, and the arms of the Grocers and Mercers, above the doorway (Mayors, 53). He was succeeded by his son Robert, a mercer, who was sheriff in 1561 and mayor in 1569 and 1578. In his second mayoralty Elizabeth I visited Norwich, and his loyal oration was rewarded with a knighthood. Robert Wood died in 1590 and was also buried in St Clement’s, the advowson of which he had purchased (Carus 1995, 3–5; Mayors, 60). The house remained in the Wood family until 1626, when it was purchased by Thomas Toft, a grocer, who was sheriff in 1643 and mayor in 1654. Toft was an Independent with radical political and religious views; as sheriff he was responsible for a wave of iconoclasm across the city, including the stripping of the bishop’s chapel. He was ejected from the magistracy in 1662, but he remained the highest rate-payer in St Clement’s parish in 1668. He was buried in St Clement’s in 1672 (Mayors, 88; Evans 1979, 129). The street range of Nos 11–15 Fye Bridge street is the earliest part of the structure, being the heavily modified remains of a two-storey jettied fifteenth-century building parallel to the street, with gable walls of galletted flint with limestone dressings. This may well have originally served as commercial space; at the north end on the ground floor is the left-hand jamb of a large window opening, possibly for a shop, and at the south end the corner of the building is decorated with a moulded stone shaft; at the rear the stone dressings are wave- moulded with a carved base, perhaps indicating a doorway or passage to the courtyard at the south end of the street range. The north range facing the courtyard was added by Edmund Wood around 1540, or by Robert Wood in the 1550s or 1560s; the ceilings and windows have wave and roll mouldings characteristic of an early to mid-sixteenth-century date. The building is on a different alignment from the street range, and archaeological excavations during the


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 43. Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: mid-sixteenth century rear range (photograph © Chris King).

process of renovation revealed that it was a reconstruction of an earlier block, possibly a medieval open hall. The sixteenth-century range was originally two-storied, with a third storey added in the nineteenth century. The range has a flint-rubble north wall and the courtyard wall has a galletted flint ground floor containing a massive 13-light frieze window with a moulded brick surround and heavy roll-moulded mullions (Figure 43). This is the largest early modern window surviving in the city, and has been reconstructed from the surviving remains. The most impressive features of the house are the magnificent ceilings of this block (see Plate 6). The ground-floor ceiling is divided into four compartments by substantial roll-moulded beams with applied cresting, with matching cornices, and within each compartment is a geometric pattern of moulded timber battens. The first-floor chamber ceiling is lower and has been restored from timbers reused in the nineteenth-century heightening. It is divided into four bays by cambered wave-moulded tie-beams, with arch-braces to the timber-framed south wall. Each bay is divided into four compartments by wave- and roll-moulded battens, with narrow roll-moulded joists. Evidence survived to support the reconstruction of the original colour scheme, with yellow ochre timbers and red ochre ceiling boards. The main posts in the south wall are moulded, suggesting that large frieze windows occupied


early modern merchants’ houses the entire width of the wall overlooking the courtyard. There are gable fireplaces on both floors; the first-floor chamber fireplace has a timber lintel and a shallow arch with a continuous hollow-chamfer, very similar to the mid-sixteenth-century fireplaces at Bacon’s House, Colegate. The 1980s restoration uncovered the remains of a turret in the re-entrant angle between the fifteenth-century street range and the sixteenth-century north range, which was formed by large two-storey mullion and transom windows with substantial roll-moulded timbers; this feature has been reconstructed as a glazed staircase turret, but there is some debate over its original date and function. Smith (1990, 156–8) suggests two alternatives: a bay window lighting an open hall within the fifteenthcentury street range or a staircase turret associated with the rebuilding of the north range. The roll-mouldings are contemporary with the sixteenth-century north range, favouring the latter option. The south and east ranges surrounding the courtyard contain a range of sixteenthand seventeenth-century features, but their original internal arrangements cannot be reconstructed with any certainty. The walls facing the courtyard are constructed of galletted flint with bricks set in a chequer pattern and brick jambs to the openings, including two doors and a six-light mullion window. It is likely that the first floor was originally timber-framed; a fragment of a moulded jetty bressumer survives in the south-west corner of the courtyard. Three bays of a mid-sixteenth-century moulded ceiling survive on the first floor of the street range. The beams have wave and roll mouldings, similar to those of the first-floor room in the north range. This indicates that the street range had domestic chambers on the first floor, as at Bacon’s House and several other contemporary merchant houses. The ground floor could have housed a range of domestic, service and storage functions. There was a further courtyard to the east with a flint-rubble range on the north side containing ovolo-moulded mullion windows, now part of No. 17 Fye Bridge Street. It seems likely that this was the focus for commercial activity, as it had separate access from Fishergate towards the river. A door in the east range connected the two courtyards; this had carved shields in the spandrels with Edmund Wood’s initials and the Grocers’ arms (this door was moved to 24 Princes Street in 1932). The door in the south courtyard also dates to the sixteenth century; the lintel has similar cresting to that on the ceiling of the ground-floor parlour, and the Woods’ inverted ‘W’ merchant’s mark. The right-hand spandrel bears a female head, the symbol of the London Mercers’ Company, while the shield in the left-hand spandrel was repainted in the mid-seventeenth century with the initials of Thomas and Susan Toft (Figure 44). Sir Robert Wood’s will of 1590 gives some indications of the rich furnishings of the sixteenth-century mansion. It describes all my pewter brasse lynnen and beddinge which is now within my great howse in Norwich … my best posted bedstead in the great chamber with a coveringe…my two best chayers, one of crymsen satten twilted and th’other of purple velvett wrought with bucks, with a stoole and a cushinge of the same worke…an imbroydered chayer of redd stamyn … a carpett … a cubberd clothe of nedlework and a yellow window cushinge imbroydered. (Carus 1995, 5)


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 44. Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: door into the courtyard (photograph © Chris King).

It is probable that the great chamber was the first-floor room of the north range, and that many of the chairs and luxury textiles were located in this room and the great parlour below.

Augustine Steward’s House, No. 14 Tombland The house is located on the north side of St George Tombland parish churchyard, overlooking Tombland opposite the Erpingham Gate to the cathedral precinct (Figure 45). The ground floor of the house dates to the first half of the sixteenth century, while the upper floors were rebuilt in the early seventeenth century. The property has suffered long periods of neglect, reflected in the pronounced subsidence on the south side; it was restored by the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Trust in 1924 and in 1944 the roof was severely damaged by fire. In 1990–2 the building was surveyed and restored by the Norwich Preservation Trust and is now leased as a commercial property (Fielden & Mawson Architects 1990). The house has long been associated with Augustine Steward, one of the most important civic leaders guiding the city’s response to the tumultuous years of the mid-sixteenth century. He was sheriff in 1526, mayor in 1534, 1546 and 1556, and burgess


Figure 45. Augustine Steward’s House at No. 14 Tombland with pedimented windows (NWHCM: 1929.89.25, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 in parliament in 1542. He was deputy mayor during Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, when his house was sacked by the rebels and used as the marquis of Northampton’s headquarters (Mayors, 48). The link to this structure is a corbel supporting the first-floor jetty carved with the Mercers’ maiden and Steward’s mark, and which once bore the date 1540 (Ewing 1852, 26). However, the present corbel is set within more recent stud and brick walling and appears to be a nineteenth-century replacement. By the time of his death in 1571 Steward was residing in a mansion in Elm Hill (described below). The original house was two-storied with a gable facing Tombland; the east end has been rebuilt with a hipped roof and the current timber shopfront is a replica in sixteenth-century style. There is a long range running back from Tombland with a flint-and-brick ground floor, the original walling being preserved in several sections along the south wall; it has the squared and coursed flint-and-brick chequerwork already familiar from other mid-sixteenth-century houses. The house has a sizeable flint-walled undercroft running along its entire length with access from the street frontage and barrel-vaulted side chambers in the north and south walls, which would have provided ample storage for merchandise. The original sixteenth-century ceiling beams were retained on the ground floor when the house was heightened, preserving the original room layout (Figure 46). Significantly, these show that the house was constructed with two full storeys throughout, without an open hall. It is likely that there was a shop at the east end facing Tombland and then a single-storey hall in the centre of the block, with a narrow bay at the east end which may mark the position of a screens passage. The ceiling has very thick chamfered tie and axial beams, and the joists are roll-moulded. Beyond the hall is a narrow bay which originally housed a back-to-back chimneystack, with the tie-beams chamfered on the ‘external’ faces only, and beyond this is a further single-bay parlour and at least one further room beyond. The stack bay marks

Figure 46. Ground-floor plan of Augustine Steward’s house at No. 14 Tombland (drawn by Chris King after plans in NHER).


early modern merchants’ houses a change in floor level, and in the undercroft there is a thick spine wall with a central archway to support the chimneystack. Originally, then, there were at least four rooms running back from the street on the ground floor with presumably corresponding chambers on the first floor. In addition, there is a small south wing extending over the entrance to Tombland Alley and St George Tombland churchyard, supported on a stone pillar and moulded timber post on the ground floor, providing a small first-floor closet with a four-centred arched doorway and roll-moulded ceiling beam. Extensive scroll-moulded timbers have been reused in the later attic floor; these are likely to have originally formed moulded and panelled timber ceilings to the firstfloor rooms, similar to those seen in other contemporary houses. The house was substantially altered in the early years of the seventeenth century. The upper floors were rebuilt with two timber-framed storeys, with a single jetty along the south side of the building and posts rising through both floors; the studs have chisel-cut carpenters marks, running from west to east, with the numbers XXI to XXXXX preserved. The central axial chimneystack was removed and the north wall was built in flint and brick rubble to its full height, incorporating four chimneystacks with simple, four-centred brick openings. A full attic was provided with a butt-purlin roof, and mid-nineteenth-century illustrations show a row of attic dormers on the south side overlooking the churchyard. An enclosed timber staircase was created at the rear of the house, rising from the undercroft to the attic, with direct access from the rear lane on the ground floor; the frame has quarter-round mouldings with scroll stops, indicating a date in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. There were large oriel windows on each floor on the street frontage, that on the first floor with decorative pediments; one such window survives on the south wall, supported on heavily carved brackets.

‘The Strangers Club’, Nos 22–26 Elm Hill In the fifteenth century this was the site of the Paston townhouse, a major courtyard property. At some point in the first half of the sixteenth century the site was acquired by Augustine Steward, who constructed the existing building. All that remains of the mid-sixteenth-century house is the long two-storied range parallel to the street, with a short range at right angles to the rear. There was further accommodation arranged around the rear courtyard with direct access from the river frontage to the north. By the nineteenth century the rear yard had been divided into a series of tenements known as Crown Court. As with the other courts along the north side of Elm Hill, the tenements were demolished in the early twentieth century. The street range was restored, and now houses a private club. The street range is one of the most impressive domestic structures to survive from the sixteenth century (see Plate 7; Figure 47). It has a flint-and-brick rubble ground floor and a timber-framed first floor, close-studded and jettied on both sides, with herringbone brick nogging. The large 20-light mullion and transom window was originally located in the rear wing overlooking the courtyard. There is a carriage arch at the west end, with a carved lintel with an escutcheon on each end; on the


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 47. Augustine Steward’s mansion at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: first-floor plan of the street range (drawn by Chris King after plans in NHER).

Figure 48. Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: carved ends of the carriage arch lintel (photograph © Chris King).

left is a fine carving of the Mercers’ maiden, and on the right is Augustine Steward’s merchant’s mark (Figure 48). Internally, there is the fragment of a roll-moulded ceiling in the ground floor of the rear range, and in the re-entrant angle between the two ranges is a square brick turret with a moulded brick entrance arch from the courtyard; this is interpreted as a stair turret (Figure 49). Photographs taken during


Figure 49. Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: ground-floor brick arch (photograph © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the 1930s show that there was an impressive open hall at the rear of the property with a striking cambered and deeply moulded arch-braced central truss; this is likely to have been retained from the medieval gentry residence. Grand as the great hall must have appeared, the most important space in the sixteenth-century house was the first floor of the street range (Plate 6). This contains a magnificent panelled ceiling of eight bays, divided between a long six-bay chamber to the east and an axial chimneystack and further small room occupying the two west bays over the carriage arch. There are cambered tie-beams with simple hollow chamfers, with arch braces to the front and rear. Each bay is divided into four panels with scroll and roll moulded battens, wall plates and joists. The fine stone chimneypiece at the west end of the main room dates from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.

Curat House, Nos 3–4 Haymarket This house lies to the south of the great marketplace in the centre of the city. The basic form of the building is a sixteenth-century range at right angles to the street behind an eighteenth-century street range, but the internal layout has been heavily modified over the centuries. Beneath the house there are extensive medieval cellars. The building was first restored in 1886 and extensively renovated after a destructive fire in 1962; it was a well-known Norwich landmark as first ‘The Backs’ and subsequently ‘Curats’ bar and restaurant. After a second fire in the 1990s the property is now occupied by retail and office space. The building was the home of John Curat, a wealthy notary and mercer, who was sheriff in 1529. An early or mid-sixteenth-century date is likely for the surviving architectural features in the rear range. This is divided into two rooms on each floor. The west rooms, towards the street, have ceilings with roll-moulded tie-beams and joists. To the east are a pair of rooms which had fine moulded ceilings, very similar to the surviving examples discussed above. Nineteenth-century photographs show a quartered ceiling on the ground floor with a geometric design of moulded battens; this was destroyed in 1962. The first-floor chamber above is the only complete room that survives from the original house. It has a three-bay panelled ceiling with plain hollow chamfered tie-beams, scroll- and roll-moulded battens and roll-moulded joists (Figure 50). There is a pair of four-light windows with roll-moulded mullions on the south wall. The panelling incorporates a series of early sixteenth-century panels carved with John Curat’s initials and rebus (a queue, or love-knot, around a rat).

The Mischief public house, Fye Bridge Street The Mischief public house occupies the remains of a large sixteenth-century courtyard house on the south side of St Clement’s parish churchyard. The east end of the building is a nineteenth-century rebuilding. The north range, facing St Clement’s Alley, is constructed of coursed flints without galletting with a chamfered limestone plinth and retains the original limestone dressings for the window openings on the


early modern merchants’ houses

Figure 50. Curat House, Haymarket: first-floor chamber (photograph © Chris King).

first floor. On the ground floor all of the windows and doors are later replacements, with both limestone and brick jambs. Internally, the original floor and ceiling joists have been replaced, but it is clear that, as with other sixteenth-century houses in the city so far discussed, there was a very tall ground floor with a rather lower first floor. On the south wall overlooking the central courtyard is a tall eight-light mullion and transom window with arched heads. This is divided from the main body of the north range by a masonry wall, which preserves one spandrel of a wide arch carved with a lunette. This would have created a large bay window on the south side of the room, probably indicating that this room was a hall. The east range at right angles to this contains the parlour; this has a fine quartered ceiling with wave-moulded beams and cornices on the ground floor, with a chimney bay at the south end and an eight-light window with hollow-chamfered and roll-moulded mullions facing the courtyard. All of these features suggest an original mid-sixteenth century date for construction. This property was the home of Alexander Thurston, a grocer and mercer, who was sheriff in 1587, mayor in 1600 and burgess in parliament in 1601. He was buried in St Clement’s church in 1620 (Mayors, 67). Thurston clearly invested in a programme of rebuilding in 1599, the year before his mayoralty, inserting new stone fireplaces with his mark and the date in the left-hand spandrel and the Aldrich arms – his wife’s family – in the right-hand spandrel. One of these fireplaces survives, reset in the rebuilt front bar.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

The early modern mercantile residence, c.1540–1660 As is evident from the wide range of buildings discussed above, there were both strong elements of continuity and some important changes in the merchants’ houses of Norwich across the transition between the medieval and early modern periods. Continuity can be demonstrated in the basic socio-economic topography of the city, in the continued intermixing of commercial and domestic functions within the same property and often in the physical remains of the buildings themselves. Some houses, such as Strangers’ Hall and Suckling House, retained their medieval layout throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, in the middle decades of the sixteenth century a dramatic rebuilding of many mercantile residences was undertaken. This is significantly later than the destruction of these central districts by fire in 1507 and represents a second, independent phase of construction at this elite social level. These buildings adopted innovative plans, abandoning the open hall in favour of suites of accommodation on two storeys, and are characterised by a new range of fashionable architectural details and decorative motifs.

The topographical setting As in the medieval period, the leading citizens clustered in the central parishes of the city, in the wards of Mancroft, in Mid and East Wymer on the south bank of the river and around Coslany and Colegate in the northern ward (Mayors, 11). Mercantile residences thus retained their strong physical links with the marketplace, the civic buildings and the central road and river system. They also retained the proximity with their local parish churches, which continued to be a strong focus of communal life. The basic form of the mercantile residence, with a series of stone and timberframed ranges around one or more courtyards, remained largely unchanged in the early modern period. It was still the most appropriate accommodation for an extensive and complex urban household, allowing domestic, commercial, service and storage spaces to be integrated within a single whole. The clustering of substantial courtyard houses created a distinctive topography in the central districts of the city. This is particularly evident along Charing Cross, St Andrew’s Street and Elm Hill, which run along the south bank of the river. As well as many of the houses described above, a series of mayoral mansions was located in these streets, including those of the Marsham, Rugge, Layer and Pettus families. These generally had courtyards with wide carriage arches on the street front, allowing goods to be brought in by road, while the houses on the north side of Elm Hill also had a river frontage. The courtyards were divided into tenements during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as shown on early maps of the city. These subsequently declined into slums, most of which were demolished in the early twentieth century, leaving only the street-front buildings. Fragments of many of these mayoral residences survive. On St Andrew’s Street is a sizeable carriage arch set back from the street frontage within the yard of the Telephone Exchange, dating from the fifteenth or early sixteenth century. This is part of the residence of the Rugge family: Robert Rugge was mayor in 1545 and 1550 and


early modern merchants’ houses Francis Rugge in 1587, 1598 and 1602 (Mayors, 64). The arch was contained within a long range with close-studding and brick nogging recorded by Henry Ninham in the early nineteenth century (Figure 51). On the north side of Elm Hill there are sixteenth- and seventeenth-century carriage arches at Nos 22–26, No. 32 and Nos 34–36. Nos 28 and 30 are a pair of eighteenth-century houses which also incorporate a wide carriage arch. On the south side of Elm Hill are the remains of the home of the Pettus family, who served as aldermen throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. One bay of a fifteenth-century street range survives, with a frieze of carved Perpendicular windows on the first floor. Behind is Wright’s Court, which preserves fragments of the Pettus townhouse, including sections of carved ceiling beams on the ground floor and an eight-light oriel window on the first floor. The street door was originally carved with the Pettus arms and the date 1608, the year of Sir John Pettus’s mayoralty (Mayors, 69). A similar topographical formation can be found in many other parts of the city. Several courts survive on King Street, another important commercial area along the riverbank. Carriage arches are preserved at Nos 54–64 and No. 66 King Street. There is another fine example at No. 176 King Street, carved with ‘Princes In’, which was brought from a large mansion that once stood in Princes Street. On Tombland, the Samson and Hercules House was built by Christopher Jay during his mayoralty in 1657 (Mayors, 89), and the Maid’s Head hotel occupies the site of the courtyard house of Nicholas Northgate, mayor in 1564 (Mayors, 58), subsequently the residence of the Anguish family. North of the river is a cluster of flint-walled merchant properties at the junction of Fye Bridge Street and Colegate; St Clement’s church had the Wood mansion to the east and the Thurston house to the south (both described above), with the Aldrich house to the west (the flint ground floor of which is now preserved as St Clement’s House, with a doorcase marked ‘Ano 1570’, the year of John Aldrich’s second mayoralty). The largest medieval houses in the city had been divided from the street by a courtyard, with a timber-framed range on the street frontage which may have been leased out as rental units. In contrast, many of the new buildings which were constructed in the mid-sixteenth century had their finest first-floor chambers in a long range along the street frontage. This occurs at Bacon’s House, at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill, and at Nos 34–36 Elm Hill. Similar ranges, with flint ground floors and jettied timber-framed first floors, are preserved in several locations. Raven Yard on King Street is a good example; it has a sixteenth-century street frontage, similar to other examples from the city, with a galletted flint ground floor and a jettied timber-framed first floor (Figure 52). A full-height street range of galletted flint remains at No. 33 Magdalene Street. The function of the ground floors of these houses is discussed further below, but it is unlikely that they were leased separately from the main property. This represents a significant physical expression of increasing social polarisation in the sixteenth-century city, as the principal streets in the central districts would have been visually dominated by these substantial elite residences. Fellow citizens might witness the bustling activities within the courtyards of these expansive urban properties as people and goods flowed in and out through their wide carriage


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 51. St Andrew’s Street: the central range of the Rugge family mansion (NWHCM: 1929.89.44, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).


early modern merchants’ houses

Figure 52. Raven Yard, King Street: sixteenth-century street range (photograph © Chris King).

arches, or perhaps catch a glimpse through the large windows which ranged across their street fronts of rooms with deeply moulded and painted ceilings, lined with carved wooden panelling or brightly coloured wall hangings.

The sixteenth-century rebuilding and the closure of the open hall Several of the largest medieval houses preserved their basic plan unchanged into the later sixteenth century. This is most clearly seen at Strangers’ Hall, where the Sotherton family continued to occupy the house as a series of independent parlour and chamber blocks leading off the central hall. This arrangement of semi-independent domestic blocks has sometimes been called the ‘unit system’. Although this was a common feature of medieval spatial organisation, it has also been identified in rural gentry houses of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, where it was used to accommodate complex multi-generational or extended households (Cooper 1999, 253–64). The initial retention of the medieval plan at Strangers’ Hall may be explained by the shared occupation of the house by widow Agnes Sotherton and her sons. However, this continued throughout the sixteenth century, and it was not until the insertion of the hall staircase by Francis Cock in 1627 that there was continuous access on the first floor between the north, east and south-east wings.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Strangers’ Hall and Suckling House retained the medieval great hall at the centre of their domestic accommodation. However, in the mid-sixteenth century there was a significant change in the spatial organisation of other mercantile residences across the city, as floors were inserted within medieval open halls or new houses were built without an open hall. The earliest surviving example of a fully storied house at this social level is Augustine Steward’s House on Tombland, which had a hall and parlour on the ground floor divided by a large axial stack, with heavy chamfered and roll-moulded ceiling beams. The hall ceiling is framed as one long bay and one narrow bay at the end, suggesting a transitional form with a traditional screenspassage arrangement at the eastern end of the hall. New houses of the mid-sixteenth century were provided with extensive suites of ground- and first-floor accommodation, and several of the medieval halls were ceiled over or rebuilt at this point. At Augustine Steward’s mansion at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill there was an impressive first-floor chamber along the street frontage as well as a traditional great hall in the rear courtyard. At Bacon’s House on Colegate the medieval hall was ceiled over and incorporated within an extended courtyard house which provided a suite of four chambers with fine moulded ceilings on the first floor. At Edmund Wood’s house on Fye Bridge Street an earlier rear block that may have housed an open hall was rebuilt in the mid-sixteenth century as a two-storied range with fine panelled ceilings on both floors and large frieze windows overlooking the courtyard. Similar suites of rooms with panelled and moulded ceilings were provided at the Curat House. The date of the ceiling-over of the remaining medieval halls described in Chapter 4 is less certain. At the Great Hall, Oak Street, and Dragon Hall, King Street, the floor inserted into the hall is supported on quadrant-moulded beams which suggest a late sixteenth- or early seventeenth-century date. The halls at Pykerell’s House and ‘Everard’s house’ on St Martin-at-Palace Plain were also ceiled over at some point in the early modern period. None of these houses can be associated with high civic officeholders in these centuries. This evidence for a widespread reconstruction of elite urban residences in the middle decades of the sixteenth century contradicts Schofield’s (1997) argument that there was general continuity in urban domestic buildings in this period. Instead, the Norwich houses demonstrate striking parallels with changes in the houses of the aristocracy and gentry which are characteristic of the wider architectural transformations of the ‘great rebuilding’ outlined in Chapter 1. The move towards the provision of suites of first-floor chambers incorporating a ‘great chamber’ for formal dining and the reception of guests was already far advanced in late medieval elite residences, both secular and ecclesiastical. These spaces functioned alongside a traditional open hall for formal dining and communal hospitality, providing a series of increasingly private and controlled spaces for the inner household and its favoured guests. Such spatial hierarchies were a vital component of aristocratic identity. This trend toward first-floor living continued to develop in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in aristocratic and gentry houses, as the great chamber became the principal reception and dining room. In the grandest houses this was associated with a suite of rooms


early modern merchants’ houses consisting of a withdrawing room, inner bedchamber and private closet (Girouard 1978, 81–162; Cooper 1999, 273–322). There are many local parallels for the ceiling over of the open hall and the provision of first-floor reception rooms in the early decades of the sixteenth century. There are several examples of rural manor houses with single-storey halls, including Gifford’s Hall, Wickhambrook, Suffolk; Otley Hall, Suffolk; and Rayne Hall, Essex (Emery 2000; Cooper 1999, 277–80). These houses have a hall and parlour on the ground floor and chambers on the first floor, with finely moulded and carved ceilings. The halls generally have a screens-passage entry, placing them within a ‘transitional’ phase in the gradual transformation of medieval building forms (Johnson 1993, 64–88). In Norwich itself, another example is provided by the prior’s residence in the cathedral close, where Prior Catton inserted a floor across the thirteenth-century hall in c.1520. A grand stone staircase led to the first-floor chamber, which was provided with a panelled wooden ceiling (Gilchrist 2005, 161–4). There are also several early instances of fully floored halls in high-status urban houses in East Anglian towns, such as the Ancient House in Thetford, Paycocke’s House in Coggeshall, Essex, and examples in the recent survey of New Buckenham, Norfolk (Quiney 2003; Longcroft 2005). This body of evidence supports the suggestion that innovative spatial arrangements first appeared in the houses of the lesser gentry and middling sort. This is less a matter of absolute social divisions than a difference in the use of domestic space. Rather than providing accommodation for a large, hierarchical household, these houses are designed for the reception of guests of similar standing to the owner. This is precisely the social milieu which was shared by urban and rural elites in the early modern period, with their strong familial and social connections. The general rebuilding of the merchant houses of Norwich represents an investment by the civic oligarchy in a new language of social display and new forms of elite hospitality, which we can assume were shared across the rural–urban divide. When we consider the uses of different spaces within the sixteenth-century houses, there is only limited direct evidence for this in their architectural form. The new buildings of mid-century date share certain key features. The ground floors are notably taller than the first floors, often being in excess of ten feet. The evidence suggests that they were used for both commercial and domestic functions; at Bacon’s House, for instance, the south range has a commercial or service area to the west and a heated parlour in the centre. Further evidence for commercial activities is discussed below. Several of the mid-sixteenth-century houses show the pairing of a ground-floor parlour and first-floor chamber, both with finely moulded wooden ceilings. The best-preserved example is the rear range of Edmund Wood’s House at Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street, with its elaborate quartered and battened ground-floor ceiling and roll-moulded first-floor ceiling. An identical arrangement survives in the west range of Bacon’s House, although here the ground-floor ceiling panels are now simply plastered; they may originally have had decorative battens or moulded joists. Another good example is the now-lost building in Old Post Office Yard, recorded by Henry Ninham; this had a substantial eight-light mullion window on the ground floor, with


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 a deep jetty supported on decorative brackets and a full-length 14-light oriel window above, all of the timbers with deep roll-moulded profiles. This suggests another impressive mid-sixteenth-century parlour and chamber block overlooking the rear courtyard. An early parallel for this arrangement is preserved in the prioress’s lodging at Carrow Abbey, just outside the city walls. This was constructed in the early 1530s as a free-standing house, which incorporates the standard medieval open-hall plan with a parlour and chamber block at one end. The parlour has a quartered ceiling with roll-moulded joists and the chamber has a three-bay panelled ceiling (Emery 2000, 73–4). This repeated pairing of parlour and chamber may thus represent a survival of the medieval spatial pattern of independent parlour and chamber blocks, as occurred at Strangers’ Hall, where Nicholas Sotherton had added a parlour–chamber block with roll-moulded ceilings to the south-west corner of his hall, connected by a newel staircase, in his mid-sixteenth-century remodelling. At Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street and at Bacon’s House there is also evidence that the parlour and chamber were directly connected by a staircase. However, in the mid-sixteenth-century houses the parlour and chamber are in fact integrated into the house, as part of a suite of rooms on each floor, which would have enabled a more flexible use of domestic space. Although houses such as Strangers’ Hall and Suckling House retained their basic medieval spatial arrangements, this does not mean that rooms continued to function in the same way. The 1589 inventory of Suckling House shows that the hall was furnished as a formal reception space, and no longer seems to have been used for formal dining, except perhaps on special occasions. As argued in Chapter 3, the medieval halls were generally unheated, and so were probably formal reception rooms even by the fifteenth century, as at Bristol (Leech 2000). In the Suckling inventory the principal entertaining room is the great parlour, which is furnished as a dining chamber containing the most valuable furnishings and textiles. There was also a little parlour for the use of the family and a counting house parlour. The first-floor rooms included several well-furnished bedchambers, but these do not seem to have been used for the entertainment of guests. A similar pattern of furnishing seems to have existed at Strangers’ Hall, as indicated by the bequests in Mary Sotherton’s will. This fits the evidence of the mid-sixteenth-century houses where the ground-floor rooms are taller and have the finest panelled ceilings. This arrangement is in contrast to developments in aristocratic and gentry houses, where the principal dining chamber was on the first floor. It may in part be determined by the continuing influence of medieval spatial arrangements. However, it may also reflect a specifically urban mode of domestic life. While the gentry and aristocracy developed an increasingly elaborate mode of entertaining guests within a suite of first-floor chambers, mercantile families may have continued to adopt a less formal approach to hospitality. Their guests were likely to be drawn largely from their connections within the town and surrounding countryside, including their kinfolk, business partners and fellow office-holders (Heal 1990, 300–352). For these households, a ground-floor parlour may have been the most appropriate setting for domestic hospitality (on urban parlours, see Orlin 2007). However, as we have seen, several of the mid-sixteenth-century houses do provide one or more sizeable chambers on the first floor, and these are displayed along the


early modern merchants’ houses primary street frontage, in a very different manner from the medieval houses. At Augustine Steward’s house at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill the first-floor chamber is a large and impressive space, and it seems likely that it was the primary entertaining room of the house. This is supported by the presence of a brick stair turret and entrance against the rear wall, which provided direct access from the courtyard to the first-floor chamber. At Bacon’s House, although there are two spacious ground-floor parlours with panelled ceilings, on the first floor there is also a suite of four large chambers, also with highly decorative panelled ceilings, of which at least three were heated. Access was provided by two newel staircases on the eastern side of the courtyard and a staircase turret with a plasterwork frieze against the west range, which may have allowed independent access to the first-floor rooms. A similar staircase turret with a tall mullion-andtransom window is preserved at Edmund Wood’s house. Substantial framed staircases were first introduced in aristocratic houses in the middle of the sixteenth century, but they did not become common until the later sixteenth century (Cooper 1999, 310–16). Several examples are known from London, including the Charterhouse, which was the townhouse of the duke of Norfolk in this period (Schofield 1995, 83). The rebuilt prior’s lodging at Norwich cathedral in c.1520 provided a grand stone staircase between the new hall and chamber (Gilchrist 2005, 163). In summary, the surviving merchant houses of Norwich preserve evidence for a period of intensive rebuilding in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, despite the economic insecurities and social upheavals of this period. This involved the reconstruction of medieval buildings and the construction of new ones to incorporate innovative spatial arrangements and new room functions. The new buildings provided a greater number of domestic rooms on the ground and first floors, most of which were provided with fireplaces, large windows and panelled wooden ceilings. These houses incorporate new types of space, including closets, galleries and stair turrets, and new decorative features. The provision of suites of first-floor chambers was a new departure in urban vernacular architecture, paralleling the most recent developments in aristocratic and gentry residences, and the fact that some of these could be accessed directly from the courtyard suggests the development of a new mode of hospitality by some members of the merchant class. Their adoption of a more formal mode of domestic life and entertainment was one key element of the construction of a distinctive shared cultural identity within the urban elite. These trends are further explored in Chapter 5, where the changing configuration of elite residences is considered in relation to changing social and political identities in the urban public sphere.

Commercial spaces As argued above, there was fundamental continuity in many aspects of the city’s socio-economic topography between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the integration of domestic and commercial space within mercantile residences also continued. Several of the early modern houses retained their medieval undercrofts. A substantial undercroft with side chambers was provided at Augustine Steward’s House on Tombland. However, the construction of undercrofts had ceased by the


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 mid-sixteenth century (also a feature of the lesser buildings of the city, as discussed in Chapter 6). This implies a significant shift in the practice of trade, or the types of goods being traded. The city’s economy was increasingly dominated by the cloth trade from the mid-sixteenth century onwards. Cloth needs to be kept dry, so it was unlikely to be stored for any length of time in an undercroft, and above-ground warehouses are likely to have been required. This partly explains the continued dominance of courtyard houses among the urban elite, particularly in the central districts near the river, and may also explain the increasing provision of large amounts of attic spaces in merchants’ houses. The new houses of the mid-sixteenth century incorporated carriage arches which would have enabled goods to be brought into the rear courtyard, where storage buildings are likely to have been located. The Suckling inventory of 1589 incorporates a warehouse, used for both storage and display. The documentary and building evidence suggest that it was on the main street frontage, with a great gatehouse into the courtyard. The new houses of the mid-sixteenth century were provided with tall ground floor rooms along the street frontage. This is often the most vulnerable part of an urban building, so it can be difficult to assess their original functions. At Bacon’s House, the west end of the street range, where the principal street door is, has a ceiling of plain chamfered beams, suggesting a lower-status service or commercial function. The tall ceilings would have accommodated a substantial amount of storage space and large fixtures such as the ‘great weighing beam’ described in the Suckling inventory. To the east of the main entrance is a parlour with a fireplace and a moulded timber ceiling. This could have been used for the reception of customers and the conduct of business, in the same manner as Suckling’s ‘counting house parlour’, with its cupboards and chests for documents, writing equipment and scales. There is also evidence that halls continued to be places for commercial activity: at Suckling House, Strangers’ Hall and Bacon’s House a counter is listed among the contents of the hall in the sixteenth century. The large ground-floor windows at Bacon’s House have been replaced, but several other houses retain original evidence for sizeable openings in the ground-floor walls, including Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street, Nos 34–36 Elm Hill, and Raven Yard, King Street. Garsett House on St Andrew’s Plain, which represents one surviving wing of a three-storied jettied house, preserves a row of arched window openings with moulded surrounds on the ground floor (Smith 1996); Robert Garsett was sheriff in 1599. These openings would have been open for the display of goods, as was the case with medieval shop fronts (Figure 53). In some of the other houses, however, the windows could have held large mullion and transom windows lighting domestic rooms. The seventeenth century saw a wider shift in the practice of commerce among the Norwich mercantile elite, with a move away from retail and the direct export of cloth to the continent through the port at Great Yarmouth towards the use of the overland route to London and an increasing use of London-based brokers and storage facilities (Priestley 1990).


early modern merchants’ houses

Figure 53. Garsett House, St Andrew’s Plain: three-storey house with large ground-floor window openings (photograph © Chris King).

The seventeenth century: continuity and change Very few substantial merchants’ residences were constructed in the seventeenth century. However, considerable sums continued to be spent on updating and improving existing buildings. The most common additions were large mullion-andtransom windows, stone fire surrounds, plaster ceilings and wooden panelling. In some cases there was a more dramatic remodelling of a particular room, as occurred at Bacon’s House and at Nos 34–36 Elm Hill, where first-floor chambers on the street frontage were provided with new ceilings with scroll-moulded timber beams and plaster panels. Many rooms were probably plastered during this period, but this decoration rarely survives. A plaster frieze with distinctive Renaissance motifs is preserved in the stair turret at Bacon’s House. The turret dates to the mid-sixteenth century, but the plaster friezes are probably half a century later. A particularly fine example of a decorative strapwork plaster ceiling is known from a photograph taken in a house in White Lion Street, off the marketplace. The plasterwork at Bacon’s house may relate to the insertion of a framed open-well staircase, which were becoming increasingly fashionable in both urban and rural houses in this period. The provision of a grand staircase is found in seventeenth-century gentry residences in Norwich: at Howard House on Surrey Street and


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 in several houses in the cathedral close (Gilchrist 2005, 231–2). The appearance of similar features in the houses of leading citizens indicates a further shift towards more formal patterns of elite entertaining in first-floor rooms. The most striking example is at Strangers’ Hall, where the highly decorative staircase and gallery were inserted within the medieval great hall by Francis Cock in 1627, the year of his mayoralty. This provided access to a first-floor panelled room. It was not until the insertion of this staircase that there was continuous first-floor access between the north, east and south-east wings of the house. Joseph Paine invested in the further re-edification of the domestic rooms when he purchased the house in 1659. The most significant addition was the provision of a substantial panelled chamber on the first floor of the south-west wing. This probably served as the principal dining chamber, bringing the standard of accommodation more in-line with the houses of his fellow aldermen. A framed staircase rising from the undercroft to the attic was provided in Augustine Steward’s House on Tombland when the first and second storeys were reconstructed in the early seventeenth century. This provided a suite of at least four heated rooms on each of three storeys, with private closets in the extension over the side alley. The rooms had frieze windows, some of which were projecting oriels on carved brackets. Separate entrance doorways were provided into the ground-floor rooms and the staircase lobby, enabling independent access to the first floor, but there was a door to protect the privacy of the second floor. This suggests that on certain occasions visitors were expected to proceed directly to the first floor, perhaps bypassing the commercial or service areas on the ground floor. The merchants of Norwich largely disregarded new fashions for brick houses with flat, symmetrical facades in the second half of the seventeenth century. One exception is Samson and Hercules House on Tombland, which was built by Christopher Jay in 1657, the year of his mayoralty. This has a small central courtyard and a flat-fronted, gabled frontage, although it is mostly reconstructed after a fire in 1940. The sculptures of Samson and Hercules supporting the front entrance porch, from which the house takes its name, are also modern replicas. Celia Fiennes noted the absence of new building in the city during her visit in 1696: ‘all their buildings are of an old form, mostly in deep poynts and much tileing as has been observ’d before … but none of brick except some few beyond the river’ (Morris 1947, 148). The exceptions to this general trend are significant. Within the city, the most prominent of these is Wensum Lodge on King Street, which was the townhouse of the Paston family, one of the premier gentry families of the county. The house is an amalgamation of different wings dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries. In the early seventeenth century the Pastons attempted to unify these elements behind a brick façade with decorative moulded pediments above the windows (Figure 54). Another group of late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century brick buildings with classical detailing is found in the southern suburb of Bracondale, where several merchant families had semi-rural retreats. The principal location in the city where new house-forms occur from an early date is in the cathedral close, which was dominated by the residences of the upper clergy and rural gentry (Gilchrist 2005, 231–5). The buildings in the close adopt the


early modern merchants’ houses

Figure 54. Wensum Lodge, King Street: seventeenth-century brick frontage added by the Pastons (photograph © Chris King).

use of brick construction and decorative curved gable pediments that are common features of rural gentry houses; such features are only rarely found on houses in the central districts of the city. They incorporate fashionable ‘anticke’ and classical motifs, including allegorical and biblical scenes, in their architectural decoration from the mid-sixteenth century. The houses of the close also adopted symmetrical plans and architectural features such as framed open-well staircases (Gilchrist 2005, 220–9). In Norwich the new style was thus associated primarily with the urban gentry, or the suburban residences and country manors belonging to the city’s merchants, and did not make much impact on the urban vernacular until the final years of the seventeenth century.


5 The urban elite: domestic space, social identity and civic authority


he aim of this chapter is to examine the evidence for domestic architecture and modes of life in the wealthy merchant households of late medieval and early modern Norwich in a broader context, both material and cultural. It explores the changing form of the wider urban landscape and the shifting relationship between public and domestic contexts in elite urban culture, seeking to understand the use and meaning of domestic space and how these were bound up with the wider social and cultural transformations of urban society in this period. In doing so, it revisits the central theoretical and historical agendas outlined in Chapters 1 and 2 to examine the ways in which space and material culture were active in the constitution and negotiation of social identities and relationships in the city. The changing architectural forms of the houses of the civic elite have been extensively described in Chapters 4 and 5. This chapter extends this discussion to focus on the role of urban space and material culture in the maintenance of political authority within the city. The domestic context was a vital locale where elite families expressed a sense of shared cultural identity, and sociability in both public and private spheres was central to maintaining social networks and negotiating political conflicts. The changing form of elite residences in the early modern period was thereby bound up with the dramatic transformation in the role and meaning of the wider urban landscape in the post-Reformation city. Throughout the late medieval period the growing political and economic power of the city of Norwich was marked by a concern to define and extend the independence of ‘the urban community’, as represented by the adult males who held the franchise. Inseparable from this process was the growing dominance of a small and integrated political elite who shaped the broader rhetoric of urban commensality to reinforce their authority (Rigby 1988; 1995, 160–77; Swanson 1999, 89–96). The development and character of the governing elite was outlined in Chapter 2: in the fourteenth century the city was ruled by four bailiffs, aided by a council of 24; after the charter of incorporation of 1404 the governing structure of mayor, aldermen and common council was established, with further legislation to define their authority and responsibilities in 1415 and 1424 (Campbell 1975, 12, 15). The fundamental structure of the civic government remained unchanged through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although growing political and religious conflict resulted in the emergence of factions along confessional and cultural divisions (McClendon 1999; Reynolds 2005). In the


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 1620s corporate unity was disturbed by controversial changes to electoral procedures, and the city government became highly politicised in the period of the Civil War and Interregnum. The corporation was purged of royalist-supporting members, who were in many cases replaced by craftsmen and tradespeople who supported the Puritan ideals of the civic leaders (Evans 1979). In April 1648 royalist-supporting citizens rioted in the great marketplace and ignited gunpowder stored in the Norfolk County Committee House, causing mass destruction (Hopper 2018). With the exception of this mid-seventeenth century interlude, throughout the late medieval and early modern period access to high civic office in Norwich was predicated on both wealth and acceptable social status; office-holders were recognised as probi homines, whose private fortunes and virtues ensured their public authority within the city (Frost 2004; Pound 1962; 1988, 68–84). The corporation was dominated by men in the distributive trades and other relatively high-status occupational groups, and members of the city government were connected to each other by a range of social ties, including kinship, marriage, apprenticeship and trading partnerships. This close social and economic integration of mercantile civic elites is a pattern that has been identified in a large number of English cities in the late medieval and early modern periods. As noted in Chapter 1, historians of late medieval and early modern urban culture have emphasised the role of communal ceremonies and religious festivals in shaping a sense of communal solidarity and civic belonging (Phythian-Adams 1972; James 1983). Increasingly, however, they have also emphasised the ambiguities and tensions that were contained within such apparently communal social practices, which could be manipulated in the service of political factionalism and used to define and express the social and economic dominance of the civic oligarchy and freemen (McRee 1994; Beckwith 1996; Liddy 2017). Historians and archaeologists have focused on the importance of public buildings, churches and open spaces in the constitution of civic culture, and the ways in which control over urban space reinforced the status and authority of the civic elite (Tittler 1991; Giles 2000; Lilley 2002). The aim of the first half of this chapter is to examine in more detail the material mechanisms through which the social identities and political power of the Norwich civic elite were maintained and negotiated, with an explicit focus on the role of the domestic context. It explores the material constitution of corporate authority in the late medieval city through investment in public buildings and spaces, and the ways in which religious buildings and practices were used both to reinforce solidarity and negotiate political conflicts within and between the civic elite and the wider urban populace. It then moves on to consider the relationship between public space and elite domestic architecture in the medieval period, and the ways in which a shared mode of domestic life and hospitality contributed to the constitution of elite solidarity. In the second half of the chapter the changing architectural forms of elite houses are examined in relation to the changing configuration and contested meaning of public and religious spaces in the early modern period, with a particular focus on the impact of the Reformation and increasing political and cultural divisions within urban society. I argue that, in a context where the authority of the corporation was under attack from social and economic upheaval and religious and political conflict,


the urban elite elite sociability became increasingly focused on secular hospitality in both public and private locales and changes in domestic architecture contributed to the increasing social exclusiveness of the elite class. I also examine the important role of domestic spaces and material culture in the constitution of a sense of dynastic stability by urban families, and the ways in which personal and familial biographies were inscribed across the wider urban landscape. My overall goal in this chapter, then, is to explore the architectural and social transformation that occurred during the urban ‘great rebuilding’ not as a simple transition from one set of forms and practices to another, medieval to early modern, but as a complex, multi-faceted and contested process in a highly charged political context.

Urban space and political authority in late medieval Norwich The importance of civic independence for the medieval urban community was most prominently marked by a concern over the territorial and legislative integrity of the city and the threat posed by the presence of independent liberties within the city bounds. There was ongoing conflict with the cathedral priory over the extent and status of the Prior’s Fee around the edge of the cathedral precinct on Tombland and Holme Street, the parish of St Paul in Over-the-Water (the location of St Paul’s or Norman’s hospital) and extra-mural pastures in Lakenham and Eaton. In 1272 this conflict erupted in a violent attack on the cathedral by the townspeople, which was punished by the seizure of the city’s liberties by the king (Campbell 1975, 12–13; Gilchrist 2005, 27–30). These were restored after four years, but Lilley (2002, 172–5) suggests that the temporary loss of civic independence may have contributed to the desire to monumentalise the status of the urban community in subsequent decades. The jurisdictional conflicts between the cathedral priory and the citizens continued throughout the late medieval period, and shaped the development of religious and political identities in the post-Reformation city (discussed further below). The failure of the 1404 charter to accurately define the extent of the city liberties led to ongoing disputes over the boundaries of civic authority with both the priory and Carrow nunnery, to the south of the city walls (Tanner 1984, 143–55). On occasion these disputes became embroiled in wider factional conflicts within the civic elite, particularly during the 1430s and 1440s, when the priory was aligned with the minority clique of Thomas Wetherby against the city government. The disputed election of 1437 caused a riot outside the city guildhall, and the city’s liberties were briefly seized. A second riot in 1443, known as ‘Gladman’s Insurrection’, resulted in another violent attack on the cathedral precinct, as a result of which the city’s liberties were once again revoked from 1443 to 1447 (Tanner 1984, 146–52; McRee 1992, 84–7). In the face of these ongoing challenges to civic independence, the municipality actively used investment in public architecture to define and legitimise their corporate identity and to extend their authority through the control of key locales in the urban landscape. The most prominent and expensive of these building projects was the construction of the city walls, begun in 1297. They were funded partly by royal murage grants, but also by private donations by prominent merchants; in 1343


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Richard Spynk granted the sum of £200 to complete the circuit on the north-west side of the city (Ayers 2009, 89–94). The walls stretched for two and a half miles, enclosing an area greater than in any other English city, including London; in common with those of other cities, they were a powerful symbol of civic prestige and independence throughout the medieval period. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the municipality acquired property and provided a series of buildings connected with various aspects of urban government, including the tollhouse and the murage house located in the marketplace (Campbell 1975, 15). In 1345 the municipality purchased the Castle Fee, which until that date had been an independent royal liberty, further reinforcing their jurisdictional autonomy within the boundaries of the city (Shepherd Popescu 2004, 214–15). In the late fourteenth century, in the context of significant population loss and economic and social disruption in the wake of the Black Death and subsequent plague epidemics, the civic elite sought to consolidate and extend their power. In 1377–8 the municipality petitioned Richard II for a new charter that would extend their legislative authority (Attreed 1994, 212–13). This appeal was unsuccessful, yet at the same time they undertook a wide-ranging programme of urban development with the aim of increasing municipal revenue and establishing greater control over trade and manufacture in the city (Campbell 1975, 15). Reflecting the increasing prominence of worsted in the regional economy, the municipality attempted to establish a monopoly over all worsted produced both in the city and the whole county. A ‘worsted seld’ was constructed at the north end of the marketplace next to the common inn and tollhouse, where all cloths were to be checked and sealed, although this legislation did not last into the fifteenth century (Dunn 2004, 216–17). More successful was the corporation’s attempt to control river traffic; in 1379 they purchased common staithes on King Street and established a common crane, where all merchandise was to be loaded and unloaded and the appropriate tolls levied (Dunn 2004, 228–9). They also bought up all the permanent stalls in the great marketplace and constructed rows of timber-framed shops and solars for rent (Rimmer 2007, 155–61). In 1398 the corporation initiated construction of the New Mills across the Wensum on the west side of the city; these were completed in 1429 (Ayers 2009, 118). There was also a renewed elaboration of the city’s defences in the late fourteenth century, with the purchase of extensive amounts of artillery (Maddern 2004, 194), and the construction of a brick-faced artillery tower (known today as the Cow Tower) in the outer loop of the Wensum in 1398–9 (Ayers et al. 1988). The timing of this dramatic increase in civic building is significant, as it coincides with the beginning of the municipality’s campaign to increase their political autonomy. The reordering of the urban landscape was an attempt to extend civic control over key political and economic locales in order to promote the legitimacy and prestige of the civic elite.

The guildhall The formal incorporation of Norwich as a county in its own right in 1404 finally established the complete autonomy of the city under the crown, with an expanded range of legislative and judicial functions. The corporation marked their new status


Figure 55. Norwich Guildhall (photograph © Chris King).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 with the construction of a new civic hall in the marketplace, on the site of the old tollhouse, a locale already associated with civic authority and regulation (Figure 55). Although the accepted name of ‘guildhall’ is retained here, the hall housed the city corporation and its various functions, rather than a guild (Giles 2000, 13). The guildhall was erected between 1407 and 1412, and is the largest and most elaborate example in England outside London (Dunn and Sutermeister 1977, 2–4). The construction was funded by a tax on every citizen, as well as gifts and legacies from more prosperous townspeople, but municipal officials were also empowered to press any carpenters, carters and workmen in the city, both freemen and ‘foreigners’ (Blomefield 1806, 228). The construction of the new civic hall thus exemplifies the ambiguities and tensions in the idea of ‘the urban community’, although we have no way of knowing whether the construction of the guildhall caused resentment among elements of the urban populace. However, we can demonstrate the evident concern of the civic elite to legitimise their rule through the architectural design and furnishing of their hall and through the ceremonies and social encounters that took place within the building and the public spaces of the city. The main body of the hall is divided into two sections, resembling the nave and chancel of a parish church. This parallel was even stronger in the original form of the building, which had two flanking towers at the west end, one housing the city treasury, and a porch on the south side. The guildhall thus replicated the architectural form of the large parish church of St Peter Mancroft on the south side of the marketplace, and used this spatial habitus to enhance the authority of the corporation. The hall provided extensive accommodation for a wide range of municipal functions. On the ground floor were prisons serving the various municipal courts, with direct access to the small civic chapel on the first floor of the south porch (dedicated to St Barbara, the patron saint of prisoners). The two principal meeting rooms were on the first floor. In the west range was the large assembly hall, used for meetings of the common council and the sheriff’s court. In the east range was the council chamber for the inner council or mayor’s court (Dunn and Sutermeister 1977, 14–19). In spatial terms this replicated the hierarchy of nave and chancel, with the mayor and aldermen occupying the more prestigious eastern space, associating the city magistrates with a form of spiritual authority that reinforced their secular power. In 1511 the roof of the council chamber collapsed and, although the corporation began to collect funds for its immediate rebuilding, this did not occur until 1534–7, under the auspices of mayor Augustine Steward and funded by some of the wealthiest and most active members of the civic elite (Blomefield 1806, 228–9). The stone escutcheons on the east front date from this reconstruction; they are the royal arms in the centre, flanked by the city arms and the arms of St George’s guild. The new council chamber was provided with an elaborate five-bay roof with decorative pendants, and many of the original furnishings survive. There was a carved parclose screen across the west end of the room with a central door, separating the antechamber from the magistrates’ chamber. The mayor and aldermen sat on a raised dais across the east end, on a fixed bench incorporating a central raised seat for the mayor beneath the traceried east window. The furnishings thus replicated not only the arrangement of


the urban elite a dais in a secular hall but also the rood screen and altar of a parish church, further reinforcing the spatial parallels with religious architecture (Figure 56). The new glazing scheme for the council chamber was an opportunity for a display of both corporate identity and individual patronage. The estate of John Fuller (d. 1526) provided the great east window, containing both the royal and the city arms; Thomas Necton, Robert Ferrour, Robert Jannys, Nicholas Sotherton and Augustine Steward paid for the remainder (Blomefield 1806, 229). The windows incorporated the full range of insignia and symbols found in elite domestic contexts, including personal arms, merchant marks and company arms, through which these men identified themselves, their families and their commercial companies with the enduring power of the corporation. The glazing also incorporated a distinctive range of biblical scenes with an emphasis on justice and good governance, including the story of the corrupt judge Sisamnes, the Judgement of Solomon and the parable of the Good Samaritan, providing an exhortation to the magistrates to exercise their public responsibilities with probity and charity (King 2004, 134–6). The reconstruction and decoration of the new council chamber in the 1530s thus publicly reaffirmed the close underpinning of civic, royal and spiritual authority in the government of the city – at a point in time, of course, when these links were under increasing threat from the developing political and spiritual conflicts initiated by the Reformation.

Figure 56. The Mayor’s Council Chamber in the Guildhall rebuilt in 1534–7 (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Religious practice and civic culture in late medieval Norwich The close interrelation between the shared discourses of religious and secular authority has long been recognised as a fundamental part of urban civic culture (Rosser with Dennison 2000). The processions and ceremonies that underpinned the political authority of the civic elite were closely integrated with the ritual calendar and tied together secular and religious monuments and spaces (Liddy 2017; Beckwith 1996). This was further reinforced through the organisation and regulation of the city’s trade structure through the guild system, and the importance of religious fraternities and guild ceremonies for the maintenance of networks of credit and resources, social interaction and personal identities in the urban context (McRee 1987; Rosser 1997; 2015; Giles 2000). Norwich is renowned for the number and grandeur of its late medieval parish churches, with nearly 50 parishes in the city in the fifteenth century (Tanner 1984, 2). There was a sustained building campaign in the late medieval period affecting every parish church in the city, the nature and chronology of which can be assessed through both the standing fabric and testamentary bequests. This rebuilding was concentrated in the mid-fifteenth century, between the 1420s and the 1480s, extending into the early years of the sixteenth century in some cases. The initial impetus and sustained expenditure for this widespread rebuilding came from the prosperous merchants and craftspeople who constituted the secular elite at both local, parish level and in the context of the wider civic community (Finch 2004). The parish church of St Peter Mancroft, located on the south side of the marketplace, became the chief ‘civic church’ for the city, and the chronology of its rebuilding was bound up with the quest for corporate independence. In the fourteenth century the advowson of the church was in the hands of the abbey of St Peter in Gloucester, but in 1388 the parishioners (who included many of the wealthiest and most prominent citizens) arranged for the living to be transferred to a prestigious Norwich religious house, the College of St Mary in the Fields (Blomefield 1806, 145–6). Significantly, the College had strong connections to the confraternity of the Annunciation, the chief religious fraternity in fourteenth-century Norwich (Tanner 1984, 77). In 1368 the municipality granted a section of the marketplace for the extension of the churchyard, and it is clear that a campaign of rebuilding was envisaged, and at least begun, in the 1390s. The rebuilding of the chief parish church in the city was thus allied to the wider attempt to extend the authority of the municipality through the control and re-edification of important public locales in the late fourteenth century (King 2015). The current building of St Peter Mancroft is the product of a second sustained building campaign in the 1440s (Woodman 2015); the long delay may indicate that in the first four decades of the fifteenth century the attention and finances of the civic elite were redirected to the new guildhall. The fifteenth-century structure is one of the largest and most splendid medieval parish churches in England, and a powerful manifestation of the wealth of the city’s elite (Figure 57). Throughout the late medieval and early modern period the church attracted patronage and burials


the urban elite

Figure 57. St Peter Mancroft church: interior looking east (photograph © Chris King; reproduced courtesy of the Vicar and Churchwardens of St Peter Mancroft).

from merchant and gentry families who resided in parishes across the city (Blomefield 1806, 193–223). The architectural form of St Peter Mancroft exemplifies the distinctive characteristics of parish church construction that developed in the city in the context of the fifteenth-century rebuilding. These include a large, open interior, provided with large windows and a clerestorey, the reduction of any architectural division between nave and chancel and the minimisation of visual barriers that would obscure the view of the mass from the main body of the church (Graves 2000, 60–2; Finch 2004, 62–3). Similar features are found in many of the largest parish churches in the central districts of the city, including St Giles’s, St Stephen’s, St Andrew’s and St Gregory’s. Graves (2000, 63–6) argues that these spatial forms, with a focus on the visual and aural accessibility of the mass, represent an appropriation of sacred space and orthodox religious practices to reinforce the discourse of communal bonds between the citizens. The ideal of shared communal bonds among the civic elite was further enhanced in several late medieval cities by the establishment of prestigious religious confraternities tied to civic government. The religious ceremonies and communal feasts of these organisations enabled elite social interaction and enhanced the dignity of the corporation, and through their moral codes and disciplinary procedures they


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 assisted the arbitration and private resolution of social and political tensions within the governing elite (McRee 1992). In fourteenth-century Norwich this role was taken by the confraternity of the Annunciation, which held an annual procession on the feast of Corpus Christi, focused on the College of St Mary in the Fields (Tanner 1984, 77). The elite networks and political connections fostered within this powerful institution may have played a significant role in the municipality’s ongoing campaign for increased corporate power in the late fourteenth century. The guild membership included members of the aristocracy, including John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and the fraternity employed a chantry priest to say mass for the king and the duke and their ancestors (Tanner 1984, 77). These connections were an important means by which the citizens could petition for increased civic autonomy (Attreed 1994, 212–13). The guild of the Annunciation disappears from the surviving records in the early fifteenth century. It may have been subsumed within the Bachelery confraternity, which was also based at the College of St Mary. Little is known about this organisation, but it was involved with the political conflicts in the city in the first half of the fifteenth century (Tanner 1984, 78). By this date the guild of St George, founded in 1385, had developed into the pre-eminent city fraternity, gaining a royal charter of incorporation in 1417 (Grace 1937, 8–10). The membership included civic officials of every grade, alongside several important gentry families, but it also included freemen from across the spectrum of the city’s craft structure (Grace 1937, 23–4; McRee 1992, 79–81). The guild supported a wide range of devotional practices, including a perpetual chantry in the St George chapel in the cathedral. On the feast of St George the guild brethren attended mass in the cathedral and provided an elaborate mounted procession and a pageant representing St George and the dragon, which was one of the highlights of the civic ceremonial calendar (Grace 1937, 14–22). The guild owned a large property, St George’s Inn, on the river frontage at Fye Bridge, to the north of Tombland (opposite the cathedral precinct), which included a staithe and shops for rental. However, although council meetings were often held here throughout the later Middle Ages, the guild did not possess its own hall for feasting; the annual feast was held initially at the Dominican friary, and later in the great hall of the bishop’s palace. The guild of St George, like the Bachelery, was intimately bound up with the political conflicts within the corporation in the first half of the fifteenth century. Thomas Wetherby and his aristocratic supporters (including William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk) were members of the guild, and may have used the organisation to maintain support within the civic elite (McRee 1992, 84–90). After the restoration of the city’s liberties in 1447 (during which period Wetherby had died and his faction dispersed) the status of the guild was submitted to a mediation led by a royal justice, Sir William Yelverton. The settlement of 1452 formally bound the guild to the government of the city. The outgoing mayor was to become the master of the guild, all of the aldermen were to become members, and all common councillors were to be entitled to membership; membership also remained open to other citizens, male or female, and members of the rural gentry. Furthermore, it was decreed that failure to maintain appropriate standards of behaviour would result in expulsion from both the guild and the franchise (Grace 1937, 12–14; McRee 1992, 90–3). The formal


the urban elite connection between the guild and the corporation was symbolically marked by placing the guild arms on the rebuilt east front of the guildhall in 1534–7, and within the glazing scheme of the new council chamber.

Craft guilds and civic processions Nineteen guilds and confraternities were listed in the Norwich guild returns of 1389, the fourth highest total for any English city. Seven were associated with specific craft groups (barbers, candlemakers, carpenters, peltiers, tailors, artificers and operators, saddlers and spurriers), although this is a minimum figure; the remainder were religious fraternities attached to religious houses. There was, in practice, considerable blurring between these two categories (Tanner 1984, 67–82; Giles 2000, 15–19). At this date they were primarily religious and social organisations that provided a mass and other spiritual services. They were connected to the cathedral and other religious houses in the city, rather than parish churches (Tanner 1984, 68–70). In 1449 the corporation issued a new set of ordinances governing the craft guilds of the city, by which date 61 crafts are named. The ordinances extended the corporation’s control over guild activities, both economic and spiritual; the corporation maintained the right to approve all craft regulations and the appointment of the master and searchers of each guild, and they ordered each guild to keep an annual feast-day and offer a dirge and mass for deceased members. These ordinances relate directly to the wider historic debate about the role of craft guilds in the late medieval town (Giles 2000, 15–19). Several historians (many inspired by Marxist theory) have argued that the system of craft guilds was imposed on urban artisans by the mercantile elite as a means of extending economic control over urban production and excluding large numbers of citizens from political power (Swanson 1989; Rigby 1995, 145–77). In the case of Norwich, the ordinances of 1449 were clearly part of a wider attempt to reinforce civic authority over the urban populace after the political conflicts of the first half of the fifteenth century, which had included riots at the guildhall and an attack on the cathedral precinct, involving men from all levels of the urban hierarchy. However, as McRee (1987; 1994) and Rosser (2015) have argued, this did not prevent the guilds from providing important regulatory functions for individual crafts and spiritual and charitable activities for their members. Both craft guilds and religious fraternities were a vital part of the wider construction of individual and communal identities in the late medieval town; through these institutions urban citizens, many of them migrants to the town, could gain access to important networks of credit, economic opportunities and social interaction beyond the narrow confines of the parish and neighbourhood. A further indication of the strong control exercised by the Norwich corporation over the craft guilds is the fact that, with two exceptions, no guild in the city had its own purpose-built guildhall. This is very different from the powerful livery companies of London (Schofield 1995, 44–51) and the wealthy provincial religious fraternities and craft mysteries in York, Boston and elsewhere (Giles 2000; Giles and Clark 2011), which invested in large complexes of buildings incorporating great halls, chapels and hospitals. In Norwich, the craft guilds supported religious activities in


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 various religious houses and parish churches in the city, although there is no information for the majority (Tanner 1984, 204–7). It is not known where the craft guilds held their meetings, or the annual feasts that were presumably a part of their activities; on one occasion the Grocers’ guild held a meeting in the guildhall (McClendon 1999, 100). The guilds may have held their annual feasts in the common inn of the city on the north side of the marketplace, or in public inns, and may have leased the necessary equipment; the guild of St George hired out its vessels when they were not in use (Grace 1937, 19). The two exceptions to this general rule are revealing ones. The Goldsmiths’ guild had a hall on the north side of the marketplace, where most members of the craft had their shops, perhaps as early as the thirteenth century. The present building (dating to c.1700) stands above the footprint of the medieval hall, which had a stone façade with carved shields of arms. The Goldsmiths were of course one of the wealthiest guilds and in 1565 they initiated their own marks for the assaying of silver, so the Goldsmiths’ hall served an important regulatory and administrative function. Its prominent position opposite the guildhall also provided an important location for the officers of the Company to view and participate in civic ceremonies (Garibaldi 2004). The only other guild in Norwich to possess a purpose-built hall was the guild of St Luke, which had a guildhall in the lay cemetery of the cathedral precinct and celebrated mass in the cathedral chapel of St Luke (Gilchrist 2005, 102). The guild membership chiefly comprised building and artistic craftsmen – the pewterers, braziers, plumbers, bellfounders, glaziers and stainers who had strong links with the cathedral as one of their major employers within the city (Tanner 1984, 71); many of the guild members resided in the shops and houses that filled the upper close of the precinct (Gilchrist 2005, 189–91). The guild was responsible for staging the cycle of religious plays that marked Whitsun week, which Graves (2000, 46–9, 63–6) argues were initially devised by the cathedral clergy as a didactic tool for promoting spiritual orthodoxy and ecclesiastical authority within the city. Given the tensions between the corporation and the cathedral in the fifteenth century, the guild of St Luke thus occupied an ambiguous position. The provision of a guildhall may have been necessary not only to maintain a strong craft identity and to facilitate the transfer of complex building and artistic skills but also to provide an independent space away from the competing political and economic claims of the powerful institutions on which the guild members depended for their livelihood. In 1527 the guild achieved closer integration with the wider regulatory framework of the craft guilds when they successfully petitioned the corporation that the Whitsun pageants should be shared among the guilds; they may have been particularly keen to relieve themselves of this financial burden as the late medieval building boom in both the cathedral and the city churches was coming to a close (Tanner 1984, 71–2; Graves 2000, 65–6). The 1449 craft ordinances presented an opportunity for the corporation to further extend their control over urban public space. The guilds were ordered to process in livery before the corporation during the major religious feasts of All Saints, Christmas, Epiphany, and 32 guilds took part in the Corpus Christi procession, one of the most important ceremonies of the urban religious calendar (Tanner 1984,


the urban elite

Figure 58. The Market Cross, rebuilt in 1502 (NWHCM: 1903.36, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).

70–1). The procession wound its way through the marketplace, dominated by the guildhall, the market cross and St Peter Mancroft church, to the College of St Mary; in 1543 it began and finished at the Dominican friary (by then the Common Hall; see below), where meetings of the freemen were held, and this may have also been the case in the fifteenth century. Another major civic building project occurred in 1502, when the existing market cross was replaced by a striking octagonal stone structure with a first-floor chapel (Figure 58). Thus, the key political, economic and religious institutions and spaces within the central districts of the city were bound together through ceremonies and rituals that reinforced the underpinning of religious and commercial discourse in the corporate identity of the late medieval city.

Public and private spaces in late medieval Norwich The surviving late medieval domestic buildings of the mercantile elite of Norwich were described and analysed in Chapter 4. It is important to bear in mind the small number of surviving houses in the following discussion; there are only eight


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 well-preserved examples of medieval open halls, and only a small number of houses retain evidence for the commercial and domestic spaces surrounding the hall. Nevertheless, there are strong similarities in the size and spatial form of the halls, and in many cases these buildings can be directly associated with merchant families and civic office-holders. The halls adopt the typical late medieval tripartite form, articulated by impressive architectural features such as screens-passage entries and bay windows. However, in many cases this arrangement was the outcome of a long process of development, with a phase of building and re-edification in the fifteenth century. The more private parlours and chambers in these houses were provided with stained glass windows and panelling, and the domestic quarters were well furnished with wooden furniture, silver plate, wall hangings, textiles and household goods that were also common in merchants’ houses in London and elsewhere (Thrupp 1948, 130–54; Dyer 1998, 205–7; Frost 1996). In their architectural forms, spatial arrangements and material culture, mercantile houses expressed the wealth and social status of the owner and his family and shaped a variety of social encounters and relationships both within the household and between the household and the outside world. It is this ‘public’ aspect of the house that is central to understanding the role of domestic space in the constitution of elite social identities and political power. In the tightly integrated social world of late medieval urban elites, ‘economic’, ‘social’ and ‘political’ activities and relationships cannot be easily separated. Mercantile families were connected to one another through extensive networks of marriage, kinship and apprenticeship, connections which also often included rural gentry families (Thrupp 1948; Kermode 1998; Frost 2004). Merchant companies and elite religious guilds – in the case of Norwich, the guild of St George – provided a further locale for the maintenance of these social and economic ties. Such networks were also essential to the conduct of wholesale trade, as merchants formed trading partnerships and were often both suppliers and customers to one another (Sacks 1991). The house was thus a centre for elite sociability on different levels, and we can assume that hospitality was used to reinforce economic connections, social relationships and familial bonds within the urban elite. Given the strong correlation of mercantile wealth and high civic office, we can also expect that elite sociability contributed to the constitution and negotiation of political authority in the late medieval city. Historical research has focused on public ceremonies, both religious and secular, with little attention paid to the role of the domestic sphere. However, it is clear that hospitality within elite residences could form an integral part of ‘public’ ceremonial, particularly during mayor-making rituals, when it was common for incoming and outgoing office-holders to provide entertainment for their fellow aldermen. It was also common for leading citizens to keep ‘open house’ for their fellow townsmen during Christmas festivities; in early sixteenth-century Bristol such Christmas drinkings were subsidised by the corporation (Heal 1990, 325–30). The majority of the documentary evidence for such practices dates from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and for the late medieval period the architectural remains of merchants’ houses are themselves the primary source of evidence for the


the urban elite constitution of elite social identities within the domestic sphere. In early modern Norwich the rituals around mayoral inauguration certainly involved entertainments within the homes of civic leaders, and this may also have been the case in the Middle Ages (Ezzy et al. 2009). The importance attached to domestic spaces is shown by the long continuation of large properties such as Strangers’ Hall and Suckling House as elite residences, passed through mercantile families by inheritance or purchase throughout the late medieval and early modern periods. By the early sixteenth century, Norwich aldermanic residences were publicly marked by the placing of posts by their principal entrance (Morgan 1999, 191); a surviving pair of these elaborately carved and decorated objects are on display in the Norwich Bridewell Museum (Figure 59). The museum also houses an elaborate gothic door arch from the house of John Rightwise, mayor in 1501 and 1513, decorated with the keys of St Peter, the crossed swords of St Paul and the triple crowns of the Drapers’ Company. There is more certain evidence for the ‘public’ associations of domestic spaces in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with a greater number of surviving houses and better-preserved architectural elements (discussed below). Nevertheless, the form of the late medieval houses, centred on a large open hall, suggests that the medieval merchant elite invested heavily in shared practices of hospitality and modes of domestic life.

Figure 59. Carved magistrate’s posts, recorded by Henry Ninham (NWHCM: 1954.138. Todd8.Wymer.203, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 In this context, the specific chronology of elite domestic building in the city may be significant, although the small number of examples means that this can be only a tentative suggestion. The earliest surviving houses with open halls were constructed in the mid- to late fourteenth century, and were associated with wealthy families who served as city bailiffs: Suckling House (Paulet); the Bridewell (Appleyard); and the south range of Dragon Hall (Midday). As argued above, the late fourteenth century was an important period in the development of political institutions in Norwich, as the municipality actively sought to expand their autonomy, and the period was characterised by a heightened concern with civic control over economic activities and urban space. Close social bonds within the municipality were maintained through the ceremonies of the guild of the Annunciation. Investment in domestic architecture by individual members of the elite may have been part of this broader process. A shared lifestyle and culture helped to strengthen the distinctive identity of the merchants as an elite group with collective economic and political authority (Rigby 1995, 145–55; Kermode 1998; Rees-Jones 2011). Hospitality within the home may have been an important element in establishing and maintaining social networks of mercantile families at a time when the provision of public meeting spaces was relatively limited; at this date the city’s principal civic building was still the old thirteenth-century toll house in the marketplace. The construction of the guildhall in the early fifteenth century provided an imposing space for the political administration of the city, but the domestic sphere remained an important locale for the constitution of elite social identities. As seen in Chapter 3, the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries saw the construction of new mercantile residences and the elaboration of earlier, fourteenth-century houses. The halls were provided with architectural features that created the appearance of a traditional open hall and reinforced the hierarchical use of space, including formal screens passages and bay windows lighting the high end of the hall. The fifteenthcentury houses also had more parlours and chambers associated with the hall. There was thus a renewed investment in spatial forms that were characteristic of aristocratic residences, and a more formal and segregated mode of domestic life within merchant households. This parallels contemporary developments in rural gentry houses (Girouard 1978, 30–80; Grenville 1997, 100–120) and can be interpreted as an investment in architectural forms and social practices that would bind together city families and their gentry connections. However, we have seen that these merchants’ houses often retained more complex access and functional arrangements alongside their formal open halls, connecting these impressive domestic spaces to the storage and service areas of the property. Domestic buildings were decorated with the same range of symbolic forms that were found on public and religious buildings throughout the city: personal heraldry and merchant marks, the arms of their companies, the city arms and the insignia of the guild of St George. This can be most clearly seen at Strangers’ Hall, which was re-edified by Nicholas Sotherton in 1539, the year of his mayoralty. The hall was provided with a new crown-post roof, screen and bay window, and the heraldry on the hall screen proclaimed Sotherton’s personal and familial status, his commercial


the urban elite activities and his political authority within the city. The combination of Sotherton’s personal mark with the flag of St George on the hall roof is a striking example of the ‘public’ importance of this space, as it symbolises his role as master of the guild of St George upon the completion of his mayoralty (although in the event Sotherton died before he could occupy this office, and before the rebuilding of the house was completed). The close connection of building work with the attainment of high civic office, and in particular the mayoralty, is particularly evident at Strangers’ Hall and other houses in the early modern period, when there is more surviving architectural evidence, but it may also have been a more widespread feature of the late medieval houses. Open halls were not exclusive to the civic elite, and were found in houses of other prosperous craftsmen. However, this architectural form was shared by all of the elite residences that survive in Norwich, suggesting that formal hospitality in domestic spaces was an expected feature of political power in the medieval city. If this connection between a large, formal open hall and the attainment of high civic office is accepted, then the completion of the rebuilding of Strangers’ Hall by Agnes Sotherton after her husband’s death has further significance. As shown in Chapter 4, the entrance to the new hall was provided by a vaulted porch with a depiction of the widow in its central boss, which was argued to represent her new role as head of the Sotherton household. If sociability within the home was bound up with elite social networks and political authority, as suggested here, then it may also represent an attempt by widow Sotherton to associate her domestic role with the ‘public’ face of the household, as one of the most important merchant dynasties in the city. Urban women had no formally constituted political authority, but historians have begun to explore the various ways in which urban widows, particularly wealthy women, were able to exercise informal social and economic power as the heads of businesses and households (Barron and Sutton 1994). In order to fully understand the complex functions and associations of domestic spaces in the late medieval mercantile house it is necessary to consider more carefully their connections to the development of public spaces and civic buildings. In particular, it is striking that the Norwich guildhall is distinctive among English urban halls not only for its size and grandeur but for its spatial organisation. The majority of ‘public’ halls in medieval English towns were constructed with a single large open hall with a hierarchical spatial form on either the ground or first floor, often with attached services and with surrounding ancillary ranges. This is the case, for example, of the halls of religious fraternities and craft mysteries in York (Giles 2000), and the Livery Companies and civic Guildhall of London (Schofield 1995, 44–51). In contrast, the Norwich guildhall was divided into separate chambers for the city assembly and magistrates, and there were no kitchens or other provisions for public feasting (Dunn and Sutermeister 1977, 5). As stated above, apart from the two exceptional cases of the Goldsmiths and the artists’ guild of St Luke, no Norwich craft guild or religious fraternity possessed a purpose-built communal hall, including the civic guild of St George. Public feasting and entertainment may have been provided in the halls of religious houses, in the common inn of the city, and in public inns, but in this context domestic hospitality may have taken on additional significance


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 as one of the primary locales for elite sociability. It may also have contributed to the political divisions in the corporation in the first half of the fifteenth century. Political conflicts were focused on the control of urban space and public and guild rituals, as elite factions subverted the ‘communal’ ideals of urban institutions. As early as 1414 there were complaints that the Bachelery confraternity, allied with the newly established city corporation, had sought to subvert electoral procedures and had diverted business away from the worsted seld into their private houses (Tanner 1984, 78). Although this complaint was made in the name of the ‘commons’, it is more likely to be an expression of the early development of factional politics within the mercantile elite, divisions which would come to seriously undermine the authority and solidarity of the corporation in the 1430s and 1440s. While the majority of the large masonry open halls in the city can be associated directly or indirectly with members of the elite mercantile class, there were two examples where the owners are known to have been outside the formal political power structures of the city. In the case of the Great Hall, Oak Street, the hall was owned and occupied by several prosperous craftsmen in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, none of whom held high civic office (Kelly 1987; 4.5). The other exception is the excavated L-plan hall-house on St Martin-at-Palace Plain (Ayers 1987a; 4.7). This was constructed in the late fourteenth century and was rebuilt in the late fifteenth century, with the insertion of an impressive bay window in the hall that necessitated the rebuilding of the east wall. In 1483 the house was occupied by Robert Everard, master mason to the cathedral, and he is a likely candidate for such comprehensive rebuilding work. Everard was a prominent and wealthy man, but he never joined the ranks of the civic oligarchy. As an employee of the cathedral priory, and presumably a leading figure in the guild of St Luke, he occupied an ambiguous position within the wider social and political networks of the city. The elaboration of his domestic hall may have provided a material means by which he could express his membership of city’s socio-economic elite and maintain these social relationships through private hospitality, away from the wider political tensions between the cathedral and the citizens in the fifteenth century.

Political authority and urban space in the early modern city There were both strong elements of continuity and significant shifts in the political and social discourses underpinning civic life in the early modern period. The late medieval city was characterised by the integration of secular and sacred authority, and the mid-sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation had a profound effect on all aspects of civic culture. The wide-ranging impact of the Reformation on social and cultural practices is a vast subject in early modern historical studies. However, work in archaeology, architectural history and art history has shown the importance of physical evidence to understanding the character and pace of religious change among the wider populace (Gaimster and Gilchrist 2003; Hamling 2010; Whiting 2010). In the context of provincial cities, the Reformation had a major effect on the urban landscape and on social networks and power relations within the urban community.


the urban elite The dissolution of the religious houses and the guilds and chantries and the abolition or attenuation of many traditional religious practices and festivals formed a significant attack on institutions and ceremonies that had been central to the social and civic lives of the citizens, through which a sense of communal harmony had been maintained within complex, hierarchical and often divided urban societies (Tittler 1998; Giles 2000). The early modern period was characterised by ongoing political, religious and cultural conflict that at various times threatened to overwhelm the order of the urban community and the authority of the civic elite. Norwich was overrun by an invading peasants’ army during Kett’s Rebellion of 1549 and civic government was restored only by the intervention of the central authorities (Wood 2004). The city was divided during the Civil War and Interregnum, as the ranks of the corporation were purged by the parliamentarian authorities and the traditional wealth and status requirements for civic office were challenged by men of middling status, chosen on the basis of political and confessional affiliation (Evans 1979; Hopper 2004). At the same time, as explored in Chapter 2, the city was experiencing profound social and economic changes, including rapid population growth, the boom of the textile industry, frequent outbreaks of epidemic disease and increasing socio-economic polarisation, all factors which form the focus of attention in the second half of the present work. In the face of these challenges to civic order, urban elites sought new ways to maintain and reinforce both social cohesion and their own political authority. Rather than being a simple story of destruction, or a unilinear process of ‘transition’ from a Catholic to a Protestant world view, the wide-ranging religious and cultural changes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were achieved through a complex process of adaptation and transformation of medieval spaces and objects. After the Dissolution monastic sites in both rural and urban areas were appropriated as elite residences or civic buildings (Howard 2003). In Norwich the Dominican friary was purchased by the corporation and used as a Common Hall for secular feasting and ceremonies, while other religious complexes were converted into aristocratic townhouses. In the early modern city public institutions and ceremonies were reinvented in the service of a new Protestant civic culture that emphasised the status and authority of the secular elite (McClendon 1999, 88–110; Giles 2000; Giles and Clark 2011; 2013). As with late medieval ideals, Protestant ideology emphasised the importance of both communal bonds and deference to legally constituted authority in maintaining social order (Collinson 1988). This was bound up with the development of oligarchic government and shifts in the social and cultural identities of elite families. In Norwich, Pound (1988, 80–2) argues that there was an increasing ‘gentrification’ of the mercantile elite in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as elite families became more closely integrated by ties of marriage and kinship and developed stronger social and familial connections with the surrounding Norfolk gentry. This was bound up with wider processes of social and economic polarisation, as cultural distinctions were formed that reinforced social and political power within urban communities (Underdown 1992; Tittler 2012). The changing architectural forms of early modern elite residences must therefore be interpreted in the light of profound


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 shifts in the meaning of public and religious spaces in the post-Reformation city and the changing lifestyles and modes of social interaction within the civic elite.

The reformation of civic culture in sixteenth-century Norwich In Norwich, the impact of the Reformation on the civic elite has been thoroughly assessed by McClendon (1999) through an extensive study of their wills and the records of the mayor’s court. The magistrates were divided in their religious opinions throughout the mid-sixteenth century, as was the wider urban population. It was not until after the accession of Elizabeth I and the influenza epidemic of 1558–9 that Protestants gained firm control over the corporation (McClendon 1999, 194–203). However, McClendon argues that throughout the upheavals of the Reformation the civic elite sought to contain religious disputes between the citizens, and did not actively seek to enforce strict religious conformity, in contrast to London and Bristol, which witnessed widespread campaigns of persecution and iconoclasm. A probable explanation for this behaviour is their desire to maintain social order and to avoid the interference of the external authorities, prompted by the memories of the violent civic disputes of the fifteenth century. To a large extent the corporation succeeded in containing religious conflict, although the dangers of religious and social upheaval were brought home to the corporation during Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, when the city’s governors were temporarily deposed. However, the wider attack on traditional religious institutions and festivals struck at the heart of the religious and social practices through which the city government had sought to maintain both a strong corporate identity for the citizens and a social hierarchy that legitimised the power of the oligarchy. In response, the corporation sought to adapt traditional institutions, spaces and rituals in accordance with the religious dictates of the state, and redirected them towards secular ends (McClendon 1999, 88–110). In 1540 the city purchased the buildings of the Dominican friary for the sum of £81, paid by Augustine Steward, with a further payment of £152 for the lead on the roof four years later (Sutermeister 1977, 9). Extensive nineteenth-century renovations have removed most of the evidence for the early modern alterations to the building. The original petition to the crown stated that the nave was to be used as a hall for civic assemblies, ‘as they have always used it tyme out of mind’, suggesting an established connection between the friary and the corporation. The chancel was to be used as a civic chapel, and there was to be a public pulpit in St Andrew’s Plain, where the friars had themselves maintained a preaching yard (Figure 60). The accounts of the city chamberlains document the extensive alterations that were made to the fabric. The nave was converted into a hall of traditional, tripartite form, with a buttery and pantry at the west end, provided with shelves and hatches; a new kitchen was constructed; the hall was paved and replastered, rails for hangings were provided and ten benches with backs were constructed between the pillars for use during guild and corporation feasts (Kirkpatrick 1845 [1745], 41–53). The Common Hall became the principal focus for large-scale communal occasions, including assemblies, guild meetings and the reception of prestigious visitors to the


the urban elite

Figure 60. The church of the Dominican friary, after 1540 the Common Hall (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

city, alongside the traditional civic focus of the guildhall. The reopening of jurisdictional conflict between the corporation and the cathedral may also have played a role in the need for a new ceremonial space. The magistrates took advantage of the Reformation to challenge the royal settlement of the jurisdictional disputes that had been promulgated by Wolsey in 1524, and as part of their campaign removed the annual feast of St George and the Corpus Christi processions from the cathedral precinct (McClendon 1999, 97–104). Whereas in the medieval period public ceremonies associated with the corporation and the guild of St George had been focused on religious institutions, including the college of St Mary and the cathedral, they were now centred on a monumental civic building that was controlled solely by the corporation. However, this represented neither a wholesale acceptance of Protestant reform nor a simple process of secularisation. The appropriation of the Blackfriars drew on the long-standing importance of the Dominican friary to the community as a focus for patronage and burial (for both the urban elite and the rural gentry) and as a meeting place for civic assemblies and a centre for preaching (Harper-Bill and Rawcliffe 2004, 104–14). The corporation sought to continue many of the traditional social and charitable functions of the friary; the cloister buildings housed a school, and a granary was established to provide the city’s poor with grain in times of dearth. They also continued to support the anchoress Katherine Manne, who had been attached to the friary (Gilchrist and Oliva


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 1993, 75–6). The new civic chapel provided an important locale in which the corporation could worship in an independent space, away from the religious disputes in the city parishes and the surveillance of the diocesan authorities. As in many other urban communities, the magistrates of Norwich appropriated medieval religious buildings and monuments in the service of secular authority and sought to preserve where possible a sense of corporate identity among the citizenry through the reinvention of traditional practices and rituals (Howard 2003, 229–32). The elite guild of St George was protected from the Dissolution of guilds and chantries in 1548 by its royal charter, but the corporation was forced to reform the guild in accordance with the Edwardian Reformation. It became a purely secular ‘Company’ for the civic elite, with a primary responsibility for providing an annual feast for the corporation. However, they could not avoid internal dispute over the functions and meanings of the reinvented institution, as in the same year three members elected as feast-makers, who are known to have favoured Protestant reform, refused to honour their obligation. This was the most significant case of public conflict over religious practices within the corporation during the Reformation period, and represented a serious challenge to the corporate identity and authority of the city government (McRee 2016). In the context of ongoing religious and political disruption, in 1543 the corporation issued a new set of ordinances in an attempt to reaffirm their authority over the organisation and practices of the craft guilds. The guilds were ordered to hold their annual feast and meetings at the Common Hall, with groups of crafts meeting on specified days throughout the year. The corporation also reordered the sequence of the Corpus Christi procession, which now started and finished at the Common Hall, binding the new civic space into the ancient ritual landscape of the city. In place of the medieval civic calendar of religious festivals and traditional celebrations, the corporation placed a new emphasis on the public celebration of secular events, such as military victories and royal births: events which could affirm civic pride among the citizens and corporate authority under the crown without exacerbating religious disputes (McClendon 1999, 98–110).

Public and private spaces in sixteenth-century Norwich Just as the forms of civic spaces and buildings were central to understanding the nature of late medieval mercantile residences and their role in constitution of elite social identities and political authority, so the changing forms and meanings of public spaces during the Reformation provide the necessary context within which to interpret the changes that occurred in elite domestic architecture in the mid-sixteenth century. As noted above, by the second half of the sixteenth century we have clear evidence of the interplay of civic and domestic spaces in the context of mayor-making rituals. The elaborate procession inherited from the St George’s Day parade began and ended at the homes of the outgoing and incoming mayors, passing between a series of sacred and civic spaces through the urban landscape (Ezzy et al. 2009). This provides the specific context for the elaboration of mayoral frontages and gatehouses in the sixteenth century and the concern over the provision of spaces for domestic hospitality.


the urban elite As argued in Chapter 4, the decades from c.1520 to 1570 witnessed a dramatic shift in the spatial organisation and architectural forms of many elite residences of the city. During this period of house-building prominent elite courtyard mansions increasingly dominated the most important streets in the central parishes. The new buildings were fully two-storied throughout, with high-status domestic rooms on both floors, and were either ceiled over or built without a traditional hall. The domestic rooms were provided with deeply moulded and decorated timber ceilings, large windows and fireplaces, and, in some cases, as at Bacon’s House on Colegate and Augustine Steward’s mansion at Nos 22–26 Elm Hill, suites of impressive chambers on the first floor. In many cases the rebuilding of the house can be associated with the period of the builder’s attainment of the shrievalty and mayoralty. However, alongside this architectural transformation, several of the largest and most prestigious residences (including Strangers’ Hall and Suckling House) retained their medieval open halls. These halls clearly retained significant value as a symbol of family status and longevity, a point to which I return shortly. In Chapter 4 these architectural changes were interpreted as evidence for changes in the social identities and relationships of the mercantile elite. The evidence suggests that domestic lifestyles were becoming more formal and increasingly segregated, with a multiplication of different rooms with specialised functions. The 1589 inventory of Robert Suckling suggests that the medieval hall was retained as a formal reception room, but the principal entertaining and dining room for high-status guests was the great parlour, while there was also a little parlour for informal use, possibly reserved for the women of the household, and a counting-house parlour for the conduct of business. The spatial patterns of these houses shared many features with contemporary gentry houses, including a more formal and specialised use of rooms and the development of suites of first-floor entertaining rooms (Girouard 1978, 82–118; Cooper 1999, 273–316). These spaces provided suitable accommodation for the reception of small groups of high-status guests, rather than the complex spatial hierarchies that underpinned the public negotiation of status within the medieval open hall. Archaeological studies have pointed to a widespread rebuilding of elite urban residences in several other English provincial cities in the mid-sixteenth century. Significantly, many of these are associated with the conversion of the dissolved monastic properties, which had occupied a major proportion of the urban landscape. The challenges of adapting monastic buildings to secular domestic use often resulted in an innovative use of space. This might include the adoption of a first-floor suite of rooms around the monastic courtyard, as occurred at Titchfield, Hampshire, and Lacock, Wiltshire (Howard 2003). This process has been documented in several urban contexts. At Coventry both the Carmelite friary and the Carthusian charterhouse were converted into high-status residences with suites of first-floor chambers (Soden 2003), and a similar process of conversion occurred at Chester (Ward 2003). In both cases the dissolved monastic sites were developed by a small inter-connected group of wealthy men, many of whom were members of the civic oligarchy. However, it is striking that often the initial process of conversion was undertaken by someone from outside the city, with connections to the royal court. This not only enabled


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 them to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the dissolution but also provided a model for innovative planning and fashionable architectural and decorative elements inspired by Renaissance forms. In London, the dissolved monastic houses were largely converted into urban residences by members of the aristocracy, and incorporated novel architectural features including bay windows and galleries (Schofield 2003). In Norwich the dissolved monastic houses came into the possession of the duke of Norfolk or the city corporation rather than private citizens (Ayers 2009, 143–4). However, the merchants of mid-sixteenth-century Norwich were still at the forefront of new architectural trends in the adaptation and rebuilding of their medieval courtyard properties. These new patterns of spatial organisation can therefore be linked to wider shifts in elite social networks and identities in the early modern period, which emphasised the distinctive qualities of gentility at the expense of older discourses of social rank, communal bonds and traditions of largesse (Heal 1990; Cooper 1999; Johnson 2002). Giles (2000) has identified a similar spatial shift in the context of the public buildings constructed and used by the urban middling sort. She argues that in the immediate aftermath of religious Reformation guildhalls were reformed into secular buildings but retained their medieval spatial arrangements as a point of stability in a rapidly changing environment. Increasing spatial segregation within urban guildhalls in York from the late sixteenth century represented the breakdown of medieval communal ideals under the pressure of religious change, with an increasing emphasis on the secular authority and social status of the guild and civic elite. These shifts have not yet been examined in detail within the domestic context in the sixteenth-century town. As we have seen, the architectural form of the late medieval merchants’ houses in Norwich, based on the formal open hall, suggests that hospitality within the home was already an important factor binding together merchant families into an effective and integrated political elite. However, the corporate identity and authority of the elite, slowly established and carefully maintained in the face of long-running factional disputes in the fifteenth century, was seriously undermined by the widespread social, cultural and economic upheavals of the mid-sixteenth century and through the reorganisation of the traditional religious practices, communal rituals and public spaces that had sustained oligarchic rule. The changing focus and practices of elite sociability, manifested in the changing form and use of domestic spaces, was an equally important material mechanism through which these wider socio-economic transitions were negotiated. The limitations placed on expenditure on traditional religious practices and institutions within the public sphere provide one important factor in understanding the rebuilding of elite residences in the mid-sixteenth century. In this context, expenditure on private buildings became a more secure and controllable means of projecting individual and familial status. Finch makes a similar point in relation to a sharp decline in the commissioning of funerary monuments by the Norwich civic elite in the mid-sixteenth century (2000, 75–8). However, this does not explain the changing spatial organisation of the new houses, which are geared towards new modes of domestic life and hospitality.


the urban elite This is not to suggest that there was a direct, causal relationship between the Reformation and architectural change in the domestic sphere. Nevertheless, changes in elite sociability were intimately bound up with the reorganisation of public spaces and ceremonies within the city. The increasing number and elaboration of more private domestic spaces provided in sixteenth-century mercantile residences, with an apparent focus on smaller-scale gatherings within the elite, was both the cause and result of increasing social divisions. As the magistrates were divided by the religious and political upheavals of the mid-sixteenth century, elite hospitality may have become more centred on established social and familial networks, away from confessional divisions within the public sphere. If the factional disorder of the fifteenth century was to be avoided in this highly charged context, the secularisation and regulation of public ceremonial and feasting may have taken on a new significance. With the establishment of the Common Hall the corporation attempted to reaffirm the shared identity of the elite through a new focus on communal hospitality and civic authority within an appropriate secular context, while this in turn may have lessened the need for large-scale elite hospitality within the domestic sphere.

Political authority and dynastic status: memory and materiality Historians have traditionally emphasised the relative instability of urban society in the late medieval and early modern period, with high levels of social mobility and a focus on individual reputations, in contrast to a rural social structure based on landed wealth and a long-established discourse of feudal hierarchy and gentility. It is true that long-lived dynasties of merchants were rare, and several arguments have been put forward to explain this. The increased levels of mortality in the urban context undoubtedly resulted in poorer rates of survival, and urban fortunes, unlike landed wealth, were susceptible to failure during times of economic disruption. However, it is most often argued that urban elites channelled their wealth back into rural society as they sought to establish their descendants as landed gentlemen, and hence that they were uncommitted to the long-term maintenance of social position in the urban sphere (Thrupp 1948; Rigby 1995, 17–59; for a critique of this view, see Barry 1994a, 6–12). While this may be true of some individuals, in other cases the maintenance of a long-lived public status was important to urban families. As should now be firmly established, the social identity and political power of the urban elite was intimately bound up with the wide-ranging network of social and economic relationships centred on the household. Although significant elements of social position within the urban hierarchy were determined by individual actions and personal reputation, for many elite men and women inheritance and family connections provided the necessary capital to establish an independent household and access to the networks of credit and authority that would lead to success. For those entering the urban sphere for the first time, whether from a gentry or a middling background, apprenticeship and service within a mercantile household, and often marriage into an established urban family, served the same ends. Hence, the prominent display of familial and


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 social connections could be an important means of establishing a claim to status and political authority within the city. Historians, particularly Morgan (1999) and Tittler (2007), have traced the construction of ‘civic memory’ in the post-Reformation city in a range of ritual and material practices associated with the corporation. Chief among these in Norwich was an important sequence of civic portraits, commissioned by the corporation from the late sixteenth century onwards, of prominent citizens who had been important benefactors to the city. This created a ‘corporate lineage’ in the public sphere that could legitimate corporate power and compensate for the relative lack of dynastic stability within the urban elite. For individual merchant families, the same end was most prominently achieved in the public arena through the commissioning of impressive funerary monuments that displayed their longevity and political authority. However, it is also clear that strategies of investment within the domestic sphere were an equally important material mechanism through which a sense of dynastic stability and authority was created and maintained. The role of funerary commemoration in the expression and negotiation of social status has been extensively researched by Jonathan Finch (2000) in his comparison of strategies of commemoration in Norwich and Norfolk before 1850; the following discussion draws heavily on his account. Here I am explicitly concerned with the role of funerary monuments as a public expression of the longevity and social status of particular families within the elite in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After a hiatus in the decades surrounding the Reformation, there was a new phase of monument construction in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The mural monument emerged as a distinctive commemorative form, which in Norwich is exclusively associated with members of the civic elite. They take the form of a rectangular niche, typically containing an effigy of the deceased with his wife and, often, children, depicted at prayer, and they are associated with the introduction of ‘Renaissance’ architectural and decorative details and motifs. Unlike medieval brasses, mural monuments were solely commemorative, divorced from the context of burial, and are thus associated with the doctrinal shifts associated with the Protestant Reformation (Finch 2000, 81–7). While they display a focus on civic status and public virtues in their inscriptions and iconography, they also emphasise the importance of familial connections through the use of heraldry, and their design draws close attention to the importance of private virtues within the Protestant household. The funerary monuments of the Sothertons in St John Maddermarket parish church are an important example of familial strategies of commemoration (Plate 8). Nicholas Sotherton, who died in 1540, was commemorated by a brass inscription with an escutcheon bearing his wife’s arms (Hethersett) impaled by his own arms (which he probably had no right to bear). However, Nicholas was commemorated for a second time with a mural monument on the wall of the south aisle, where he is depicted with his wife Agnes, at prayer. This monument was probably provided after Agnes’s death in 1576, probably by their son Thomas (mayor 1565) and his wife Elizabeth (née Steward), as the monument also bears the Steward arms. A third generation of the Sotherton family is commemorated by a second monument in the south


the urban elite aisle; Thomas Sotherton, mayor in 1605 (d. 1608), is depicted with his wife Francis Foxe (Blomefield 1806, 293–4; Finch 2000, 83). There are other examples in the city of the prominent clustering of family monuments. In SS Simon and Jude parish church the monuments of the Pettus family are placed on either side of the chancel arch, dominating the nave. On the south side is a mural monument to Sir Thomas Pettus (d. 1597) and his wife Christian, which was erected by his son, Sir John Pettus (d. 1614). He in turn is commemorated by an impressive monument which depicts him in reclining effigy dressed in armour, surmounted by a kneeling effigy of his son Sir Augustine Pettus (who predeceased his father, in 1613). This monument was erected by Sir John’s brother, Thomas Pettus, an act that commemorated the most prominent branch of the wider family (Blomfield 1806, 359–61; Finch 2000, 94–5). In St Andrew’s church, the Suckling monuments dominate the chancel chapel of the north aisle (Plate 8). Sir John Suckling, son of mayor Robert Suckling (d. 1589), had attained wealth and position in the courts of James I and Charles I, but he retained strong links to the city, serving as burgess in parliament in 1626, and chose to maintain a prominent expression of dynastic status within the city. He erected a kneeling effigy mural monument to his parents and a substantial reclining effigy wall monument beneath a canopy for himself and his wife Martha (d. 1613) (Blomefield 1806, 307–9; Finch 2000, 94–5). Most urban families did not invest in a prominent and expensive sequence of monuments, and these families are characterised by their strong connections to the rural gentry in combination with an unusually lengthy period of civic office across several generations. In all three cases the use of elaborate funerary monuments that displayed their high-status connections was central to the family’s claims to social status and political authority within the urban context. The strategy of retrospective commemoration, where a monument was erected to the father who had established the wealth and honour of the family, parallels the public commemoration of long-deceased citizens and patrons through civic portraiture (Tittler 2007). The public spaces of the church were used to construct and display a sense of dynastic longevity that was clearly an important factor in urban social identities. The emphasis on dynastic stability and longevity provides an important perspective through which to view the development of elite domestic architecture in the post-Reformation city. Merchant families shaped their domestic spaces to reinforce their long-held positions in urban society. The emphasis on dynastic stability and public and private virtues displayed by the Sotherton monuments is also shown in their use of space within their family mansion at Strangers’ Hall. The great hall at the centre of the mansion, as rebuilt in 1539–40 by Nicholas and Agnes Sotherton, symbolised the family’s central role in the commercial and political life of the city. The house was inherited and occupied by subsequent generations who retained the open hall unaltered at the heart of the property. A similar strategy was employed by the Suckling and Baret families at Suckling House, where the medieval hall was retained as a grand reception room, while the more private parlours and chambers were remodelled and furnished as the principal living and entertaining rooms.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Such longevity was pursued not simply at a family level but at a corporate level, as merchant houses became monuments in the urban landscape redolent of power and authority. We have already seen multiple examples of the large, imposing buildings passing between families in complex chains of inheritance, inter-marriage and purchase which stretch between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. At Suckling House, Strangers’ Hall and Dragon Hall grand stone halls and undercrofts which were built by leading citizens and bailiffs in the fourteenth century became the core of courtyard mansions passing between merchant and aldermen families for generation upon generation. A good example of this phenomenon is the large property on the corner of St John Maddermarket and Charing Cross; this was occupied by William de Blickling, bailiff in 1377 and 1385; it was then the residence of Ralf Segryme, mayor in 1451, followed by John Marsham, mayor in 1518. The windows of this house contained stained glass with the merchant marks of both Segryme and Marsham, along with trade and religious symbols (Mayors, 26, 43). Another case is provided by the house at No. 16 Charing Cross, abutting Strangers’ Hall, which was the home of Thomas Bawburgh, sheriff in 1516 and mayor in 1530, which was decorated with the commercial and civic symbols of the Mercer’s arms and the cross of St George alongside his merchant’s mark. Over the gate was inscribed W/D/D and the date 1616 for Walter and Deborah Dobson, who lived there in the seventeenth century (Mayors, 47). These merchant houses therefore became prominent symbols of mercantile and civic power; it is no accident that in both Kett’s Rebellion in 1549 and the anti-parliamentarian uprisings in 1646 and 1648 the houses of leading citizens and aldermen were a key focus of popular attacks and looting (Wood 2004; Hopper 2018). The unusual level of survival of medieval open halls in the city suggests that the retention of these impressive medieval spaces, often with a range of architectural features that contained heraldry and symbols that displayed urban status and wider familial connections, was a common practice on the part of many elite families. However, as argued above, the middle decades of the sixteenth century also witnessed a reorganisation of social relationships between elite families in both public and private spheres. Men such as Augustine Steward, Henry Bacon and Edmund Wood also marked their ascension to high civic office by a large-scale investment in a new house, but in these cases they modified or entirely abandoned the traditional spatial and social practices of the open hall in favour of new types of domestic space that were geared towards more segregated modes of domestic life and hospitality shared by gentry families, signalling their wider social aspirations and cultural affiliations beyond the confines of the urban sphere. At a time when the form and meaning of public spaces and rituals was a subject of increasing tension, flooring over the hall could be seen as a rejection of traditional values of community and largesse, while the retention of the open hall could gain new significance as a self-conscious reference to the medieval past – a point which has also been made by Roger Leech for early modern Bristol (Leech 2000, 7–9). The most striking example of this process in Norwich is Strangers’ Hall, where the seventeenth-century owners Francis Cock and Sir Joseph Paine retained the Sothertons’ medieval hall at the heart of the property while making substantial modifications to bring the domestic accommodation and


the urban elite reception rooms up to the same standard as contemporary residences in the city. For Paine, the purchase and re-edification of Strangers’ Hall in 1659 marked his return to his rightful social and political position after the upheavals of the Civil War and Interregnum. In this context the hall may have gained particular significance in the re-establishment of his personal status and identity through its association with traditional values of public authority and hospitality. Not only the buildings themselves but other elements of domestic material culture were important resources in ensuring a continuity of social position among urban families. Pound (1962, 82–96) has transcribed the wills of a select group of civic office holders in the Elizabethan period. The most common household goods named as individual bequests in wills are, unsurprisingly, jewellery and plate. These were important elements of the transfer of capital wealth, but in some cases the careful description of individual items also suggests that more than economic value was placed on them. To take two examples, Henry Bacon (d. 1567) bequeathed large quantities of plate, including salts, bowls, ewers, covered cups and spoons (Pound 1962, 83), and Augustine Steward (d. 1571) left two silver livery pots, goblets, covered cups and spoons (Pound 1962, 93). The importance placed on items used in dining and entertainment is a significant demonstration of the importance of impressive hospitality in the social lives of the elite. The second most common individual items bequeathed in these wills are gowns or cloaks of scarlet or violet cloth. Although Pound does not comment on this, these are the civic robes of the aldermen and mayor (Mayors, 12–13). Objects and buildings could be intimately linked in the category of family heirlooms. In Robert Suckling’s hall in 1589 stood a mace, the symbol of his magisterial authority, and Kirkpatrick records stands for maces in the hall of Bacon’s House and in the house of Thomas Bawburgh mentioned above, where he describes ‘a small hall of ancient form with a wainscot ceiling in the manner of Bacon’s antique screen, with three ledges for maces’ (Ewing 1852, 35). Just as the spaces and furnishings of the mercantile residence enabled the maintenance of a style of life that would lead to wealth and power, these bequests of the physical symbols of civic office evoke, more than any other material strategy of social reproduction, the importance of familial status in the constitution of elite social identities in the early modern city. The placement of heraldry and symbols on both the interiors and exteriors of mercantile residences was an important means of demonstrating the social position and political authority of the family, and this architectural language of display was shared across domestic buildings and secular and religious public spaces and monuments (Figure 61). As documented across Chapters 3 and 4, the key events in the lives of elite households were marked in this way. The most important of these was the attainment of high civic office by the head of the household, inscribed in the architectural features of a succession of mercantile residences. Successful marriages with other prominent families were also commemorated, reinforcing the social and economic importance of marriage and familial connections within the elite. In the later seventeenth century, date-stones on buildings serve the same commemorative function. Although these material strategies were geared towards the celebration of individual families, in fact the domestic sphere was another important context in


Figure 61. Doorway from Bedford Street (photograph © Chris King).

the urban elite which a wider sense of ‘civic memory’ was developed. This was most obviously shown in the longevity of these houses as elite residences, passed not only through inheritance and marriage within families but also by purchase to other, rising members of the civic elite. What is most striking here is the retention of fixtures and fittings such as stained glass, door surrounds and fireplaces that bore the symbols and heraldry of previous occupants. Once again, the importance of a shared corporate identity and authority is used to underpin the social position of individuals and families within the urban elite. In this way the public career of the individual citizen and the honour of his family were tied to the political history and honour of the civic community, and these public and private histories were physically inscribed and monumentalised in the urban landscape.


6 Medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’


he previous three chapters discussed in detail the houses belonging primarily to Norwich’s wealthy mercantile elite; it is now time to turn our attention to the dwellings of the greater part of the inhabitants, which of course made up the vast majority of the city’s housing stock. The houses which are covered in the second half of this book vary in size and status, ranging from substantial two- and three-storey dwellings inhabited by prosperous tradespeople and craftsmen, the ‘middling sort’ of the medieval and early modern city, down to single-cell buildings which were the homes of ordinary artisans, labourers and the urban poor. This is a very broad spectrum of the urban population, and it is rarely possible to make definitive statements about the relationship between social and economic status and house size and form. The urban built environment was complex and fluid – urban households might expand or contract their living and working space according to changes in their economic status or family lifecycle; urban neighbourhoods often contained different status groups living in close proximity, while, over time, as we will discover, larger houses were often divided into smaller units as the population increased in the early modern period. As discussed in Chapter 2, however, Norwich contains a uniquely large and well-preserved body of evidence for exploring the development of medieval and early modern urban domestic buildings in the form of both surviving structures and extensive excavations of urban tenements conducted over the past 50 years, alongside a significant body of documentary sources which can inform us about urban social groups and their spatial and material environment. Together these provide probably our best opportunity from any English provincial city to understand the construction and layout of urban houses across a range of different neighbourhoods and status groups from the middling sort to the urban poor, and to explore the complex relationship between domestic architecture and social and economic transformations in the medieval to early modern transition. The discussion of these topics is divided across three chapters. Chapter 6 deals with the evidence for non-elite housing in Norwich in the period between the mid-fourteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries. It describes the comparatively small number of surviving examples of medieval buildings alongside the rather more extensive body of excavated urban tenements, to explore the construction, plan and form of houses in different parts of the city. A second major theme is the impact of the great fires of 1507 and the issue of the urban ‘great rebuilding’, which was introduced in Chapter


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 1. In Norwich, as we will see, there was a widespread transformation in domestic architecture in the period between the late fifteenth century and the mid-sixteenth century, with shifts towards more substantial flint-and-brick rubble and timberframed construction methods, a move towards two-storeyed dwellings and the introduction of domestic features such as brick chimneystacks, staircases, attached cesspits and glazed windows. Crucially, the combination of archaeological and architectural evidence demonstrates that the transformation of buildings was not solely or even primarily a response to the devastation of 1507, but occurred across a longer trajectory that speaks to wider shifts in the urban fabric in response to economic transformations and changing lifestyles in the late medieval city. The following chapters continue the exploration of domestic buildings between the mid-sixteenth and later seventeenth centuries. Chapter 7 considers the larger houses of Norwich’s ‘middling sort’ in the early modern period, drawing together the much greater number of surviving buildings alongside archaeological evidence to discuss the construction, architectural form and spatial organisation of urban houses, and sets this against the extensive evidence from early modern probate inventories to explore the use of space within urban dwellings. Chapter 8 turns its focus to the smaller houses of the lesser artisans, wage-earners and urban poor who made up an increasing proportion of the city’s rapidly expanding population. Architectural and archaeological evidence reveals the widespread introduction of smaller single-cell houses and the subdivision of larger properties as the courts and lanes of the city became increasingly densely occupied and overcrowded. From the late sixteenth century the city also witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of immigrant Stranger households, the majority of which were concentrated in the poorest quarters of the city, and archaeology provides a new way of investigating the living conditions and cultural identities of this important and distinctive urban community.

Medieval houses in Norwich As discussed in Chapter 2, the surviving pre-modern houses within the city are very far from providing a comprehensive record of domestic buildings across the medieval and early modern period. Of the c.200 pre-1700 structures studied by the Norwich Survey only 12 were confidently dated to before 1500, and these were predominantly the large medieval hall-houses discussed in Chapter 3, associated with the wealthiest urban families – the smallest of these halls are Pykerell’s House in Over-the-Water, the home of a wealthy merchant and mayor, and the nearby ‘Great Hall’ on Oak Street, which was probably lived in by a high-status urban household. There is a second category of medieval structure found in the city, in the form of a large number of brick-vaulted undercrofts, over 50 in number, located in the main in the central parishes south of the river and constructed so far as we can tell in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. These structures (which are discussed in more detail below) were once associated with presumably timber-framed and clay-walled superstructures, but none of these survive above-ground. There is a single exception to this in the building


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ known as the Britons Arms at No. 9 Elm Hill, a three-storey timber-framed structure of unusual character located in the churchyard of St Peter Hungate which is likely to have been built in the fifteenth century; however, as discussed below this began life as a quasi-religious building with a distinctive plan, and is not necessarily typical of the medieval housing stock. No other complete or near-complete dwelling house survives in Norwich which can be certainly dated to before the fires of 1507 and below the level of the urban elite. There are a small number of more modest flint-rubble and timber-framed buildings which probably date to the early and middle decades of the sixteenth century, including No. 8 Tombland, No. 15 Bedford Street, No. 20 Princes Street and Nos 25–27 St George’s Street. These are all located in areas which are known to have been affected by the fires of 1507, and they probably post-date these events. In their position on the tenement, their construction methods and their plans, these buildings tie in very well with the evidence for a widespread rebuilding of domestic buildings in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, which has been identified in archaeological excavations across the city. This local vernacular was predominant throughout the remainder of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For the houses of the vast majority of Norwich inhabitants in the medieval period we are therefore almost wholly reliant on the evidence provided by archaeological excavations. As already described, these have been extensive, initiated by the large-scale investigations of medieval and post-medieval tenements by the Norwich Survey between 1978 and 1981, recovering a wide range of evidence for houses and workshops in the outer parishes in Westwick and Over-the-Water, and continued at various sites in the city under the aegis of the Norfolk Archaeological Unit and other commercial archaeological units since the mid-1980s. The most important work for the discussion of house construction and plan are the Norwich Survey excavations at Pottergate (Site 149N), which revealed a row of late medieval artisan dwellings which were destroyed by the fire of 1507; and the digs at Alms Lane (Site 302N) and Oak Street (Site 351N). Both of these excavations uncovered a sequence of tenements with houses, workshops and yards dating from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries, with extensive evidence for changes in domestic space and material culture. Further sites were excavated in the outer parishes, including Botolph Street, St Benedict’s Street and Westwick, and more recently in the central zone in the major excavations which have taken place on the site of Norwich Castle and the Millennium Library site. Table 3 provides a summary of these and other key sites which form the basis of the discussion for medieval and post-medieval tenements in the following chapters, and their location is shown in Figure 62.


Figure 62. Map showing the principal archaeological excavations in Norwich discussed in Chapters 6–8 (base map courtesy of Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

Table 3. List of key archaeological excavations in Norwich referred to in the text. Code

Site name

Key periods/findings

Excavating unit



132 Magdalen Street

C14–C17 building activity. C12– C15 cemetery of St Margret in Combusto


Evans 2002b


33–55 Pottergate

C15 tenements, destroyed by fire in 1507. C16–C17 partial rebuilding


Evans and Carter 1985


104–106 St Benedict’s Street

C12–C15 building activity. C16– C17 rubbish pits


Evans 2002a


The Bottling Plant, Westwick Street North

C12 clay buildings. C14–C15 stone buildings including dye house


Atkin 2002a


73 St Benedict’s Street

C12–C13 building and C16–C17 rear extension


Atkin 2002b


79–87 Magdalen C15–C16 building activity Street/8–12 Cowgate


Atkin 2002c


44–56 Botolph Street

C15–C17 rear yards with rubbish/cesspits, C16 tenement subdivisions


Evans 1985


49–63 Botolph Street

C15–C16 large house including bakehouse/malthouse. C17 division into multiple units


Davison 1985


Alms Lane/84–98 St George’s Street/11–13 Muspole Street

Multi-tenement excavation, industrial and domestic occupation C14–C18. C15 clay-walled buildings replaced in C16. Later site subdivision


Atkin 1985


70–80 Oak Street

Multi-tenement excavation, industrial and domestic accommodation C14–C18, range of building sizes


Atkin 1978


St Faith’s Lane – C10–C13 occupation. C13 Franciscan friary construction of Franciscan friary; precinct extensive evidence for friary buildings


Soden 2010


Dragon Hall, King Street


Shelley 2005

C11–C12 waterfront occupation. C13–C14 large timber and stone hall-houses incorporated into C15 construction of surviving ‘Dragon Hall’, supposed private merchants’ trading hall

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Table 3 cont. Code

Site name

Key periods/findings

Excavating unit



St Martin-atPalace Plain

Large C12 stone building with undercroft and garderobe chute. C14–C15 stone hall-house with bay window, known as ‘Everards’


Ayers 1987a


Castle Mall Development

Large-scale excavation on site of Norman and medieval castle precinct and ditches in advance of Castle Mall development project. Pre-Conquest occupation. Evidence for buildings, refuse disposal and craft activity C13–C17


Shepherd Popescu 2009


Mann Egerton C11–C12 occupation. Precinct site – Franciscan of Franciscan friary (see 373N); friary precinct precinct boundary wall and other buildings


Emery 2007

NHER 26437

Millennium Library site


Hutcheson 2000

Located off marketplace within Norman ‘French borough’. Extensive occupation and building activity C12–C16 including large stone buildings

Some of the challenges in using archaeological evidence to reconstruct housing and domestic life have already been highlighted. Working from often fragmentary remains of building foundations to reconstruct the three-dimensional forms of standing structures and the layout of individual houses can be a highly subjective undertaking. Conversely, archaeology can provide evidence for building forms and construction which might not otherwise survive in the standing building record, including features such as hearths, ovens and cesspits, and it can track the timing of the introduction of new building materials such as tiled roofs and glazed windows. This is illustrated in Norwich by the extensive evidence discovered for the use of clay-walled buildings between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, and in some cases into the seventeenth century (Atkin 1991); no clay-walled building survives above-ground and this aspect of the city’s medieval and early modern housing culture would therefore be otherwise unrecorded. The archaeological excavations provide a more refined chronology of building development on key tenement sites, with evidence for a widespread rebuilding of urban properties in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, which can be related to the trends already identified in the standing buildings.


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’

The late medieval undercrofts Smith (1990, 191–212) provides a comprehensive overview of the design and functions of the city’s medieval undercrofts. He identified 54 surviving structures and a further 34 that had been destroyed. Further examples have been uncovered in the past 30 years. The undercrofts have flint-rubble walls and are provided with brick vaults. There are some examples from non-domestic buildings (such as the fifteenth-century guildhall, the Dominican friary and in the cathedral close), but the majority are domestic structures and date to the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, there are no certain cases with contemporary above-ground buildings. Where these have not been replaced by post-1700 buildings, they are flint-and-brick rubble and timber-framed, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and often they can be shown to post-date the initial construction of the undercroft. The topographical distribution of the undercrofts is particularly striking; all but a small number are located on the south bank of the Wensum, in the central commercial district of the city, on the riverside and around the marketplace. Many are terraced into the sloping ground along the banks of the river and the cockeys or streams that once crossed this area. It is thought that one of the primary functions of the undercrofts was to provide a level foundation for timber-framed buildings, although this does not explain those examples which are located in relatively flat areas, or which were part of masonry non-domestic structures (Smith and Carter 1983, 7). The undercrofts have a range of sizes and forms which makes it difficult to determine a single intended function. The form of the undercrofts in the largest mercantile properties has already been described in Chapter 3. They are distinguished from the majority by their size and elaboration, the use of stone dressings, large access doors and the provision of good lighting from windows or lamp niches – see, for example, those beneath the domestic ranges at Strangers’ Hall, the Bridewell or Nos 19–22 Bedford Street. It was argued there that these impressive structures are likely to have served as multi-purpose spaces for the storage and display of merchandise. The majority of the Norwich undercrofts are smaller, although some are composed of several interlinked chambers, and they frequently have small side chambers or niches (Figure 63). Their brick vaults are relatively simple, either groined or with chamfered brick ribs. There is very little evidence for direct lighting apart from small lamp niches, often located near the entrance. The surviving undercrofts are only rarely entered from the street. Where evidence for access survives, they are most commonly entered from within the above-ground building, or sometimes from a side or rear yard (Smith 1990, 191–9). The use of the undercrofts is likely to have varied between different households depending on the nature of their economic activities. Some could have been used for the storage of merchandise, but their restricted access and narrow entrance doors would limit this function. Smith suggests that the majority were for the storage of domestic food and fuel (1990, 205). This use is similarly suggested by the provision of flint-walled cellars with timber ceilings (rather than brick vaults) in many smaller dwellings, such as the late fifteenth-century houses excavated at Nos 31–51 Pottergate


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 63. No. 15 Bedford Street: fifteenth-century undercroft (photograph © Chris King).

(149N), and the sixteenth-century buildings on Alms Lane (302N), both of which were probably occupied by modest artisan households. Priestley and Corfield’s analysis of the early modern probate inventories show that ‘cellars’ were commonly used for the storage of domestic goods such as beer, wood and coal, and only rarely as storage for merchandise or workrooms. The term ‘cellar’, however, could refer to an aboveground room, or a cupboard within another room. ‘Vaults’ are only rarely mentioned up to the mid-seventeenth century, and the term disappears from use after that time; this may in part reflect the significant proportion of inventories from Over-the-Water, where few undercrofts have been found (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 119). It is striking that the construction of small vaulted undercrofts appears to have ceased after the fire of 1507. None of the surviving sixteenth-century buildings have a purpose-built vaulted undercroft, although some retained the earlier medieval structures. This change was also observed in sixteenth-century mercantile houses in Chapter 4, where the storage of merchandise appears to have shifted to aboveground warehouses and attic spaces, which may have been linked to wider shifts in commercial practices among the mercantile elite. The increasing dominance of the city’s textile industry may be a factor here, as underground storage is unsuited for cloth. Nonetheless, textile workers were only a proportion of the artisan class, and other factors must also be considered. If one of the principal functions of the undercrofts was to provide fire-proof storage for merchandise, the widespread shift towards


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ building houses with flint-walled ground floors and gables in the early sixteenth century may have reduced the need for this precaution. The cessation of undercroft construction may therefore partly represent the priorities of urban landlords who were responsible for replacing the housing stock after the 1507 fires and were unwilling to provide an elaborate and expensive building type which would not protect their own capital investment in the above-ground housing stock.

Standing structures: the early sixteenth-century rebuilding As noted above, the distinctive building at No. 9 Elm Hill, known since the nineteenth century as the Britons Arms (originally as a public house and now a café), is believed to be a unique example of a late medieval dwelling below the level of the city’s wealthy merchant houses which survived the 1507 fires (Figure 64). However, it is not a typical medieval domestic structure. Instead, it may be the only surviving

Figure 64. The Britons Arms, No. 9 Elm Hill (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 example in England of a purpose-built beguinage, the residence of a small group of women dedicated to a religious vow. Several groups of holy women are recorded in medieval Norwich, known as ‘poor women’ or ‘sisters’ who are ‘dedicated to chastity’ or ‘dedicated to God’, and Blomefield recorded (from an unknown source) that this building housed one such community (Blomefield 1806, 333–4; Gilchrist and Oliva 1993, 71–2). The building stands in the north-west corner of St Peter Hungate parish churchyard, and its free-standing location probably explains its survival in an area that was otherwise destroyed in 1507. It has an unusual structure and plan, with three storeys and an attic with a clasped-purlin roof; each floor (including the attic storey) has two heated rooms on either side of a central chimneystack and stairturret. A two-centred moulded brick doorway gives direct access to the churchyard and suggests a fifteenth-century date. Houses with a central chimneystack and a fully habitable attic were probably rare in provincial towns before the later sixteenth century. This may also explain the building’s survival, as it proved easily adaptable to new secular usage. The Britons Arms adopts the combination of flint-and-brick rubble ground floor and rear walls with a timber-framed superstructure, which became the typical mode of building after the 1507 fire. This was already in use on a more elaborate scale in the fifteenth-century mercantile properties, with elaborate timber-framing combined with flint masonry elements, often with brick or freestone dressings, as seen for example in the street-front ranges at Strangers’ Hall, Dragon Hall or Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street. The evidence from archaeological excavations – outlined in full below – shows that buildings with flint-and-brick rubble foundations were spreading into the more marginal areas of the city in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It is therefore likely that this was already an established mode of construction in the central districts, and indeed that some of the houses attributed to the sixteenth century on the basis of their external appearance alone may in fact be earlier (particularly in areas not affected by the 1507 fires). However, as noted above, the form of the medieval brick undercrofts may suggest the more widespread presence of fully timber-framed or clay-walled buildings in all parts of the city, which were superseded in the early sixteenth century. The earliest group of surviving houses of non-elite status from the first half of the sixteenth century certainly adopt the combination of flint-and-brick rubble ground-floor and gable walls and timber-framed upper storeys which became the standard mode of building for the remainder of the early modern period. No. 15 Bedford Street is a unique survival in Norwich of a smaller early sixteenth-century house with an original open shop front on the ground floor; this has a central door with a pair of large square-headed openings on each side, all with scroll-moulded jambs, and mortices for a fixed display bench beneath the windows (Figure 65). The surviving section of the building is the parallel street range with a single-cell plan. It was originally two storeyed, but the building was heightened in the eighteenth century, removing any evidence for the original roof structure. There is evidence that No. 15 Bedford Street may at one time have extended further to the east, as the shop front extends beyond the limit of the surviving jetty; the neighbouring property is


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’

Figure 65. No. 15 Bedford Street: timber-framed shop window (photograph © Chris King).

an eighteenth-century structure that abuts the larger mercantile property described in Chapter 3 at Nos 19–21 Bedford Street (Smith 1990, 283–4; Rimmer 2007, 68–77). On the first floor of the street range there is a single room with a two-bay cambered ceiling quartered with roll-moulded cross battens and a blocked four-light window in the front wall with hollow-chamfered timber mullions (Figure 66). These features create a diminutive version of the upper-floor chambers with roll-moulded timber ceilings found in many of the city’s early sixteenth-century merchant’s houses, as described in Chapter 4. There is an earlier fifteenth-century brick undercroft at right angles to the street beneath the later rear wing (see Figure 61). This may, therefore, be the street range of an L-plan building, or it could be an example of a single-cell plan (perhaps forming part of a row) fronting earlier medieval structures; Rimmer notes that the central location and the provision of a wide shop front and large first-floor windows would have made it an attractive property for a prosperous merchant or artisan (Rimmer 2007, 76–7). There are several other examples in Norwich of early or mid-sixteenth-century houses which, like this one, adopt the architectural features of an important upperfloor chamber with a decorative timber ceiling. No. 20 Princes Street is a rather larger example of an L-plan house dating to the early to mid-sixteenth century (Figure 67).


Figure 66. No. 15 Bedford Street: first-floor chamber (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 67. No. 20 and Nos 22–26 Princes Street (photograph © Chris King).

medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ The jettied two-storey street range has a tall ground floor over a brick-lined cellar and two rooms on the first floor, a narrow chamber over the entry passage and a main chamber with a cambered ceiling with roll-moulded cross-battens. The long rear range has a flint-and-brick ground floor and timber-framed elevation facing the rear yard; the ground-floor timbers are plain and the first floor has a four-bay moulded timber ceiling with an inserted central chimneystack, possibly associated with the later subdivision of the property. This rear range sits on top of a large fifteenthcentury undercroft with two bays of quadripartite brick vaulting and side chambers, and there is a flint-and-brick walled cellar underneath the street range with decorated light niches. Although this building cannot be directly associated with a member of the civic elite, the extensive undercroft space and large decorated upper chambers suggest that it was the residence of a prosperous merchant household. A similar structure survives at Nos 25–27 St George’s Street (Figure 68). Here there is a large four-bay street range with a flint-rubble ground floor and timber-framed first floor,

Figure 68. Nos 25–29 St George’s Street: plan of the first floor (drawn by Chris King after plans in NHER).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 jettied to both the front and rear with internal arch braces, showing the rear range to be a later addition. The roof has diminished principal rafters with clasped purlins and wind braces, and the two dormers are later insertions. The most impressive features of this building are two large mullion-and-transom windows on the first floor, five lights on the front wall and eight lights on the rear wall (Figure 69). The mullions have deep roll-moulded profiles characteristic of mid-sixteenth-century windows in the city, and they are mortised directly into the frame of the building; although there is no surviving decorative ceiling for this well-appointed first-floor room, the later rear range incorporates many reused timbers with sixteenth-century roll-moulded profiles which may have been from such a ceiling. No. 8 Tombland is the only surviving early sixteenth-century building in the city placed at right angles to the street, excluding corner properties (Figure 70). It is part of a row of buildings which had encroached onto Tombland in front of the parish churchyard of St George Tombland by the fifteenth century, as shown by the vaulted undercroft below No. 12 (a single-cell seventeenth-century house parallel to the street). The interior of the ground and first floors have been heavily restored, but the remaining beams suggest that each was framed in two bays, with no evidence of any partitions. The most striking feature is the roof, which is framed in four bays, with five trusses numbered I–V from the west (rear) gable. They have principal rafters with high arched collars supported on long arch-braces, allowing head-room in the attic chambers. The third collar is straight with no braces, indicating a central

Figure 69. Nos 25–29 St George’s Street: early sixteenth-century range (photograph © Chris King).


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’

Figure 70. No. 8 Tombland: arch-braced roof trusses (photograph © Chris King).

partition. The first truss has no mortises for any infilling or extension to the rear, so the building probably had a masonry rear gable wall, which could have accommodated a chimneystack. The surviving houses in Norwich dating to the first half of the sixteenth century, then, show a clear trajectory in construction methods and plan forms. Although several of the surviving examples stand above earlier brick-vaulted undercrofts, rather than being fully timber-framed, they have masonry ground-floor and gable walls and timber-framed first floors. The majority of them are arranged parallel to the street. Although it is not always easy to determine room functions and access arrangements in early buildings, in one example – No. 15 Bedford Street – there was a shop on the street frontage, as must once have been common. In many cases the upper floors clearly provided impressive domestic spaces, with roll-moulded timber ceilings and large windows with moulded and chamfered timber mullions. These architectural features were similar to those found in the new houses being built at the same time by members of the civic elite, showing that houses belonging to what were presumably affluent but ‘middling’ urban households shared similar trends in the use of space with the prominence of upper-floor chambers.

Excavations in Westwick The medieval area of Westwick, which formed the core of the minor ward of West Wymer from the fifteenth century, incorporated the area on the south bank of the Wensum between the city wall and ‘Shearing’ or Charing Cross. This district was first densely occupied in the eleventh century as the town expanded with the establishment


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 of the new marketplace and French Borough. This was one of the primary centres of the textile industry in medieval Norwich, as indicated by the records of property ownership in the enrolled deeds of 1285–1311 – the majority of the dyers recorded in these documents owned land in Westwick and in St Michael Coslany on the opposite side of the river (Kelly et al. 1983). Parts of Westwick were densely populated in the medieval period, although some areas inside the city walls remained open until the eighteenth century. An emphasis on industrial production continued in the post-medieval period, although the number of weavers had declined by the later seventeenth century as the industry concentrated north of the river (Priestley 1990, 26). There was a concentration of poorer households in this district: in 1570, 12 per cent of the city’s poor were living in West Wymer ward, where they formed over one-fifth of the local population (Pound 1971a). There were also large numbers of Strangers living here from the late sixteenth century, as discussed further in Chapter 8. At 31–51 Pottergate (Site 149N) (Evans and Carter 1985) the Norwich Survey excavated two groups of tenements on the north side of Pottergate between St Lawrence Lane and St Gregory’s Alley. The earliest surviving evidence for domestic structures was the construction of substantial buildings with flint-and-brick rubble foundations c.1450–75. Facing the Pottergate frontage was a small timber-framed building parallel to the street, with two small lean-to cellars attached to the rear wall. There was also a larger three-cell structure at right angles to the street, with flintand-brick rubble walls. The central room may have been an open hall, but there was no evidence of a central hearth. The street-front room had a clay hearth against the north-east corner and may have been a parlour or a workshop. The rear room had a brick floor and a fireplace, and is interpreted as a kitchen, with a first-floor chamber provided with a cesspit against the rear wall. The plan suggests a typical medieval hall-house with an open hall between two-storeyed bays. Further west, on the corner with St Lawrence Lane, a row of three houses was built sometime after c.1450–75 as a single unit, almost certainly for rental. Each house was approximately 4m wide and 5m deep with a small flint-walled cellar, and each had a flint-lined cesspit against the rear wall, that on the east shared between two houses. There was an open yard to the rear, also shared between the houses (Figures 71–72). All of these buildings were destroyed by fire in the early years of the sixteenth century, closely dated by finds such as Raeren stonewares of c.1500, maiolica, Cistercian-type wares and terracotta. The evidence of widespread destruction points to a major conflagration, which can be convincingly linked to the documented fire of 1507. During the fire, the superstructure and contents of the houses collapsed into the cellars, and they were then infilled with debris. Roof tiles, door and window hinges and latches and several fragments of painted window glass indicate that the buildings, although small, were well constructed. The presence of large quantities of well-preserved iron hearth furniture (including an adjustable pot-hook and a roasting spit) indicates substantial fireplaces, which may have been paved with Flemish tiles. The houses contained a wide range of domestic equipment, tools, pottery and dress fittings. It is clear that the residents were fairly prosperous artisans or tradesmen, and the presence of metal-working tools and copper-alloy objects and offcuts suggests


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’

Figure 71. Site 149N, Nos 33–55 Pottergate: a row of small houses destroyed by fire in 1507 (Evans and Carter 1985, Fig. 7, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

that the occupants may have been metal-workers producing or repairing bronze fittings and vessels. The owners of these tenements in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries are not known, but earlier landlords had included prosperous citizens and a mayor of the city, so the area was attracting the interest of large-scale property owners from the fourteenth century. After the early sixteenth-century fire the site was levelled and remained an open area until the mid-seventeenth century.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 72. Site 149N: suggested reconstruction of the Pottergate buildings (Evans and Carter 1985, Fig. 49, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

The 1549 Landgable shows that most of the Pottergate frontage in this area was void ground, and several tenements had been amalgamated, although the archaeologists did uncover a row of cottages further north on St Lawrence Lane dating to c.1520–40. There are surviving sixteenth- and seventeenth-century buildings along Pottergate, but it is clear that building density remained low. Despite the population increase from the late sixteenth century this area remained something of a backwater behind the marketplace into the eighteenth century. On St Benedict’s Street, which runs parallel to Pottergate, excavations in the rear yards behind standing street-front buildings revealed small-scale domestic occupation from the fourteenth century. At 104–106 St Benedict’s Street (site 153N) (Evans 2002a) the street-front buildings were rebuilt in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, as shown by the presence of brick and tile rubble across the site. A clay-walled building extended into the rear yards in the mid- to late sixteenth century, probably


Figure 73. Site 159N, The Bottling Plant, Westwick: fourteenth-/fifteenth-century buildings incorporating a dyehouse (Atkin 2002a, Fig. 27, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 functioning as a service block to a street-front building. It is an important reminder that clay walling continued to be used in the post-medieval city (Atkin 1991). On Westwick Street itself, the Norwich Survey excavated four tenements (labelled A–D) running down to the south bank of the river Wensum (Site 159N) (Atkin 2002a). The properties were first built on in the eleventh century, when it is believed that this part of the riverside became more densely occupied and the parishes of St Benedict, St Margaret and St Lawrence were carved out of a larger territory belonging to the church of St Gregory (Ayers 2009, 43). In the late twelfth century large clay and timber buildings were erected running down to the river. Pottery with traces of madder residue were discovered, and these buildings are interpreted as possible dye-houses and cloth warehouses. In the late thirteenth century the site was cleared and levelled, probably for flood protection, and by the late fourteenth century there were flint-walled ranges running back from the street, one incorporating a wall fireplace and a tiled floor, indicating high-status domestic buildings. In the mid-fifteenth century tenement B had a large workshop with two brick-lined furnaces set within a clay platform, a drain, and three wells – all indicative of a dye-house (Figure 73). The medieval dyeing industry required considerable capital investment, including in water supplies, drainage, furnaces and lead vats, and attracted the city’s wealthy merchant class. These tenements were all owned by dyers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and in the late fourteenth century tenements B and C were in the possession of the dyer Reginald Cobbe, one of the city bailiffs, who owned substantial amounts of property in the parishes on either side of the river; at his death in 1384 he bequeathed to his widow Katherine for her lifetime ‘the capital messuage with appurtenances in which I now live with all lead vessels built therein and all other vessels, tools for cloth making, goods and chattels’ (Sutermeister, in Atkin 2002a, 134). Dyeing continued to be the major industrial activity on this site into the post-medieval period, as the dye-house was rebuilt and extended several times in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Excavations in ‘Over-the-Water’ Several excavations have been undertaken within the ward of Ultra Aquam or ‘Over-the-Water’, north of the river. These sites were all marginal locations within the walls, characterised by widespread rubbish dumping and ‘anti-social’ industries, including quarrying and extraction (of building materials and, in some cases, iron ore), brewing and iron-working. Domestic housing extended into these areas in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, although occupation density remained low away from the principal street frontages. The large-scale tenement excavations at Alms Lane and Oak Street enable us to reconstruct a detailed chronology of building development and to consider the role of urban landlords in rebuilding properties. The Alms Lane site (Site 302N) (Atkin 1985) was a block of tenements bounded by Muspole Street, Alms Lane and St George’s Street, located to the north of Colegate (Figure 74). The excavation uncovered the remains of three separate properties, labelled A–C. Within each tenement were several building plots, which can be linked


Figure 74. Site 302N, Alms Lane: summary plans of the site c.1450–1500 and c.1500–75 (Atkin 1985, Figs 58–59, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 to known subtenancies in the late medieval and early modern periods. These had been established by c.1300, when these properties first appear in the enrolled deeds, and they remained essentially unchanged until the nineteenth century, although with a constantly shifting pattern of both joint and separate ownership. The site was waste ground in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, used for rubbish dumping and quarrying (the excavators’ periods 1–3). In the fourteenth century the Alms Lane frontage was used for brewing and the southern part of the site for iron-working, with a series of clay-walled structures, hearths and yard surfaces (period 4). By the end of the fourteenth century this industrial phase had come to an end and the site was redeveloped as domestic properties in the first half of the fifteenth century (period 5). There was a series of clay-walled and timber buildings, of one and two rooms, with external hearths. They were single-storeyed and in most cases parallel to the street frontage, indicating that there was little pressure on space in this part of the city. The buildings seem to be grouped, with two structures on each tenement or subtenement, perhaps suggesting that these properties had been purposefully developed with a standard unit of accommodation for rental purposes. Tenements A and B were separated by a clay wall and fence. In the second half of the fifteenth century (period 6) these buildings underwent a series of modifications. Buildings expanded along the St George’s Street frontage, internal hearths were constructed, including a flint-rubble back-to-back fireplace, and lofts were inserted, supported on internal timber posts. The increasing quantities and range of artefacts from this period reveal the growing prosperity of the occupants. The finds included examples of structural ironwork and window glass, reflecting the physical improvements to the buildings, and domestic artefacts such as pottery, household furnishings and dress accessories. However, within only a short period, during the first quarter of the sixteenth century, there was a substantial phase of rebuilding across the site (period 7). The clay-walled buildings were demolished and replaced with flint-and-brick rubble walls. This occurred in four separate stages, but probably as part of a single building campaign. Tenement A had a two-roomed building parallel to Alms Lane, with a central back-to-back fireplace and a lobby entry to the rear yard. The building was two-storeyed throughout, with a stair in the south-east corner and a cesspit against the south wall. On tenement B there was a three-roomed building along Alms Lane, with a back-to-back fireplace and brick newel stair, and a cellar beneath the street-corner room. The party wall between these houses was formed of a thick flint-rubble wall, probably rising to the roof as a fire break. The clay-walled building along St George’s Street was reconstructed in a similar fashion, being replaced by a flint-walled building parallel to the street with a gable fireplace. This range survived into the early twentieth century as a two-storeyed jettied building with three attic dormers. The tenements remained separate legal entities throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, although in the 1470 Landgable they were in joint ownership. Tenements A and B were clearly still in joint ownership in the early sixteenth century, when the rebuilding campaign occurred. One candidate for their redevelopment is the grocer Thomas Hendry, who owned (and for a time, also occupied)


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ tenement A in this period (Atkin 1985, 235). The new houses provided an improved standard of domestic accommodation; they were two-storeyed, with between two and three ground-floor rooms, and well constructed, with masonry foundations and chimneystacks. This represents an increased capital investment by the landlord, with a greatly enhanced longevity for the buildings. The houses were still for the most part arranged parallel to the street frontage, indicating that there was still less pressure on available land in this northern area of the city. By 1547 all three tenements were in the ownership of Margaret Jannys, the widow of Robert Jannys, one of the wealthiest citizens of early sixteenth-century Norwich. After her death the three properties passed to Henry Bacon, whose mansion (described in Chapter 5) was just to the south facing Colegate. At his death in 1568 the properties were once again divided, and passed through a period of rapid changes of ownership as investment properties (Atkin 1985, 235–8). The multi-tenement excavation on the site of Nos 71–78 Oak Street (Site 351N) (Atkin 1978) provides an interesting comparison to Alms Lane, as the chronology and form of building development is similar, but encompassing a more varied range of house sizes and plans (Figure 75). There were four tenements (A–D) running back from Oak Street and two (H and F) facing St Martin’s Lane; these divisions refer to building plots identified through excavation, which (as on Alms Lane) may in fact be legal subtenements. The earliest evidence for occupation on the site dates from c.1300, when tenements are first recorded in the enrolled deeds. There is fragmentary archaeological evidence for thirteenth-century structures, and in 1300 tenement H is recorded as having two ‘shops’ (probably workshops). In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries clay-walled buildings were constructed along the Oak Street frontage. Tenement D was occupied by a more substantial two-roomed building at right angles to the street. This tenement belonged to Creake Abbey from 1331, and this building was probably their monastic town-house. In the fifteenth century this structure was rebuilt as a large L-plan house with flint-and-brick rubble walling; there was a two-roomed street range and an open hall in the rear range, with a clay-walled service block behind which were two ovens. The Landgable returns suggest that by 1470 the property was no longer in direct monastic control, and may have been mortgaged; the property may therefore have been rebuilt for lease to an urban household. Between the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the clay-walled buildings along Oak Street were replaced with more substantial flint-and-brick rubble structures. These included a two-storeyed building on tenements A–B with a chimneystack and an internal cesspit, and a pair of single-room workshops on tenement C, probably built as a rental unit, which were later converted into a pair of single-cell cottages on either side of a back-to-back fireplace. On the St Martin’s Lane frontage a three-cell flint-rubble building was constructed on tenement F, at right angles to the street, with an open hearth in the central room. At some time in the early sixteenth century this hearth was replaced by a back-to-back fireplace, which may have been associated with the flooring over of the central hall. The large house on tenement D retained its open hall with a central hearth in this period, but


Figure 75. Site 351N, Nos 70–78 Oak Street: summary site sequence (reproduced by permission of the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society).

medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ the rear service rooms were rebuilt in flint-and-brick rubble with a fireplace incorporating a side stair to a new upper floor. The Oak Street site contained a more varied range of housing size and forms than Alms Lane, reflecting the more mixed social status of the inhabitants. St Martinat-Oak was a relatively marginal parish, but its riverside location attracted the investment of several prominent citizens in the late thirteenth century, particularly in the leather trades (Sutermeister, in Atkin 1978, 35–44). By the fifteenth century the parish included several large properties, including the standing Great Hall at Nos 131–133 Oak Street (see Chapter 3). The excavated site included two examples of more modest hall-houses at right angles to the street, alongside smaller clay and timber workshops and houses. However, the site underwent a similar phase of rebuilding as occurred on Alms Lane in the early sixteenth century. The buildings expanded along both street frontages and were rebuilt with timber-framed and masonry construction, incorporating upper storeys, brick fireplaces and cesspits. Botolph Street is located in St Augustine’s parish, one of the poorest parishes on the northern edge of the city. It was divided into small properties with buildings by the late thirteenth century, but much of the land behind the street frontages remained open until the nineteenth century. The documentary sources indicate that tenements were being subdivided, with the number of properties doubling between the Landgable lists of 1490 and 1547. The archaeological evidence ties in very well with the process and chronology of development suggested by the documentary sources. Several iron-workers owned properties along Botolph Street in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and excavations revealed extensive evidence of pit-digging for ore extraction and iron-working on these sites in this period. At Nos 44–56 Botolph Street (site 170N) (Evans 1985) buildings were constructed along the street frontages between the mid-fifteenth and mid-sixteenth centuries, represented by the presence of rubble across the site. There may have been earlier buildings constructed of timber and clay, as ‘shops’ are mentioned in a document of 1370. Early twentieth-century photographs of Nos 44–46 Botolph Street show a range of low two-storey buildings along the street frontage, which could date from the sixteenth century. Archaeological evidence for tiled roofs and glazed windows was also discovered, suggesting relatively well-constructed buildings. Although this area was divided into at least five separate tenements, there were no physical subdivisions in the rear yard, where there were a series of rubbish pits and a flint-lined well. If the street-front buildings were constructed as investment properties for rental, it is likely that the occupants shared the yard and well. A similar chronology of building development was uncovered at Nos 49–63 Botolph Street (site 281N) (Davison 1985), with iron-working replaced by domestic occupation in the mid-fifteenth century. A three-cell building with flint-rubble walls was built running back from the street frontage, similar to other examples from Pottergate and Oak Street. In the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century this was rebuilt to form an L-plan building on the street frontage, with a hearth and oven in the central room. This substantial house is likely to have been two-storeyed throughout from this date, as a post-hole in the earlier ‘hall’ probably supported an


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 inserted ceiling. At the rear of the house was a flint-walled wing with a brick hearth, which is interpreted as a malthouse; in the late fifteenth century this property was owned by Peter Mannyng, a maltbrewer. Finally, at the north end of Magdalen Street, just within the city walls, a similar sequence can be identified. Settlement expanded into this area in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with the formation of the parishes of St Margaret’s Fyebridge and All Saint’s Fyebridge, but the area was never densely settled and several of the northern parishes were amalgamated between 1458 and 1550, suggesting a pronounced decline in the local population. The earliest identifiable activity is industrial in character; at No. 132 Magdalen Street (Site 148N) (Evans 2002b) quarrying has been identified from the twelfth century, and tenements were first created in the late fifteenth century. These were occupied by clay-walled workshops associated with iron-ore roasting; small amounts of domestic pottery and metalwork were also recovered, suggesting that there was some occupation as well as industrial activity on the site. At Nos 79–87 Magdalen Street, on the junction with Cowgate (Site 168N) (Atkin 2002c), the earliest flint-walled domestic structures appear in the fifteenth century, with a two-roomed street range with a back-to-back fireplace. The rear range was destroyed by fire in the early sixteenth century. The Cowgate frontage was first occupied by a rubble-walled building in the late fifteenth century, with a central brick hearth possibly enclosed within a smoke-bay against the gable wall. This building was also destroyed by fire in the early sixteenth century, and the site was not reoccupied. The evidence for fire damage probably relates to the fire of 1507, which is known to have destroyed property in this parish, but the low density of occupation presumably limited its impact.

Norwich and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ The changing parameters and current understandings of the ‘great rebuilding’ debate were explored in the opening chapter, but it is worth reiterating the central points here. Firstly, it is wrong to assume that the stock of surviving buildings in a region or settlement is a representative sample of the original building stock from any particular period; the diverse factors affecting the destruction, adaptation and preservation of buildings must be considered (Currie 1988). Secondly, while economic factors have been frequently invoked to explain periods of extensive rebuilding, there is not necessarily a direct relationship between economic prosperity and building activity; particular individuals or groups may experience economic transformations in different ways, and strategies of investment are tailored to meet particular social ends (Giles 2012). Likewise, the form of architectural space – the changing structure, plan and appearance of buildings, and the social identities and relationships they articulate – cannot be divorced from the economic implications of building activity; the great rebuilding was a transformation in the social use and meaning of space and was therefore intimately bound up within the wider transformation from late medieval to early modern social and economic structures (Johnson 1993). However, for the sake of clarity, this section begins with a discussion of broad trends in the rate of building


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ and the materials used; it then moves on to focus on the changing plan and structure of the buildings. It remains the case that our understanding of the form and layout of domestic dwellings in Norwich below the level of the mercantile elite remains incomplete owing to the lack of standing structures clearly dated from before the fires of 1507. However, bringing together the multiple strands of architectural, archaeological and documentary evidence allows a broad chronology of building development to be proposed. The excavated tenements have extensive evidence for small clay-walled houses dating from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries – a building type which, as has already been noted, was once widespread in the city but of which no standing example remains (Atkin 1991). The walls which survive in archaeological excavation were of various forms of cob construction, frequently with timber lacing, and probably supported clay and timber superstructures. There are also examples of larger clay and timber structures, including the twelfth-century ranges of buildings on Westwick Street (159N), probably connected to the textile industry, and the fourteenth-century house belonging to Creake Abbey on Oak Street (351N). Buildings in the central districts of the city may well have been more substantial than those in these more peripheral areas. The fifteenth-century mercantile residences incorporate substantial flint-and-brick and timber-framed ranges, which survived the 1507 fires. The Britons Arms, a smaller fifteenth-century structure, also adopts the mixed masonry and timber-framed construction which was to become the standard Norwich vernacular in the sixteenth century. However, the large number of brick-vaulted undercrofts may point to a wider existence of timber-framed and clay-walled buildings in the central area in the fifteenth century. This is also borne out by Rimmer’s extensive work on the building and rental accounts of the city corporation and hospital of St Giles in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (discussed in more detail in Chapter 8). The documentary evidence demonstrates the widespread use of clay walling across the city in the fifteenth century, with a mixture of clay and flint walling in use on larger messuage properties (Rimmer 2007, 150–61). The standing buildings and the excavated evidence point to a dramatic phase of rebuilding across the city in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The surviving buildings from the early sixteenth century are all constructed with masonry ground-floor and gable walls and timber-framed first floors, and are two-storeyed throughout. This shift has been linked to rebuilding after the 1507 fires, which destroyed some 40 per cent of the housing stock in the central districts (Evans and Carter 1985, 77–8; Figure 76). It has thus been argued by many commentators on Norwich’s architectural legacy that the city experienced its ‘great rebuilding’ significantly earlier than the dates originally envisaged by vernacular architecture scholars. As was noted in the opening chapter, the evidence from early cartographic sources, particularly the Sanctuary Map of 1541 and Cunningham’s view of 1558, has been used to support this view (Pound 1988, 20–3). The two views of the city show a large number of houses with two storeys and chimneystacks at a period when these are not thought to have been common in vernacular buildings.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 76. Map of Norwich parishes affected by the 1507 fires (Evans and Carter 1985, Fig. 52, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

The archaeological evidence provides a more fine-grained chronology of building development in the city, and in many ways it is a more complex picture, with different areas experiencing rebuilding at different times. Buildings with flint-rubble walls were introduced on Pottergate (149N) and on Oak Street (351N) in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, including some larger three-cell houses at right angles to the street which seem to have contained open halls. The chronology of rebuilding on individual sites after the 1507 fires is equally revealing. On Pottergate in Westwick the rows of fifteenth-century artisan dwellings were not rebuilt, and the site remained largely open until the seventeenth century, although smaller cottages were constructed along St Lawrence Lane. The site at 12 Cowgate (168N) in


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ Over-the-Water was also abandoned after the fire. However, the clay-walled buildings on Alms Lane (302N), which were not affected by the fire and had been provided with upper floors and internal hearths in the late fifteenth century, were replaced by two-storeyed masonry and timber-framed houses in the early sixteenth century as part of a concerted rebuilding across the site almost certainly undertaken by a single landlord. New building is found on all the major tenement excavations undertaken to date, including the peripheral sites along St Benedict’s Street (153N) and Botolph Street (170N; 281N), and standing buildings with mixed masonry and timber-framed construction are found throughout the central districts. As noted in the opening section of the present work, in 1534 Norwich was the first English city to obtain a ‘Rebuilding Statute’, empowering the corporation to seize dilapidated buildings and void tenements if the owners failed to rebuild. The Act made explicit reference to the destruction caused by the 1507 fire, lamenting the presence of ‘desolate and vacant groundes, many of theym nighe and adjoyninge to the highe strets replenished with moche unclennes and filthe’ (26 Hen. VIII, c. 8). The statute has been seen as evidence for continuing decay in the city’s housing stock (Tittler 1990). However, the clear evidence for new building in both central and peripheral districts contradicts the claims of widespread decay and supports an alternative interpretation of the statute, as an attempt by the corporation to gain more extensive control over the urban housing stock at a time when the population of the city was beginning to grow once more. Concern over dilapidated buildings was partly caused by the increasing number of migrants entering cities who were believed to occupy derelict properties, and coincides with the first introduction of a wider range of measures to counteract vagrancy in the 1530s (Pound 1971b, 39–43). This may have been particularly important in large cities after the Dissolution, which resulted in an unprecedented upsurge in the urban property market, with significant dislocation of tenurial patterns and an increase in absentee landlords (Tittler 1998, 96–101). Fay has tracked the corporation’s efforts to rebuild on empty tenements in the mid-sixteenth century and the ways this was bound up with wider fears about urban decay, noxious matter and sickness (2015, 168–73). The evidence for rebuilding and improvement of the housing stock, even in areas not affected by the fires, ties in well with what we know of broader socio-economic trends in the city. From the late fifteenth century the Norwich worsted industry entered a phase of increased production, before a more widespread period of dislocation in the mid-sixteenth century (Allison 1960, 79). Accompanying this was an increase in the urban population, in common with other late medieval cities where cloth production was expanding (Campbell 1975, 16; Dyer 2002, 308–10). The upsurge of investment in rental properties enabled urban landlords to exploit these more favourable economic conditions. At the same time, the general improvements in building construction may also reflect changes in living standards demanded by their tenants, who were presumably households of lesser merchant or artisan status. The excavated material culture shows that tenant households owned increasing amounts of imported pottery and metal goods, supporting the historical view of growing material prosperity among the artisan class in this period (Dyer 1998, 222–33).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Changes in building construction indicate changing strategies of investment by urban property owners. The more widespread use of combined masonry and timberframed construction reflects a long-term investment of capital in rental properties. Rimmer has shown that in the fifteenth century the Great Hospital owned a row of small houses in ‘Smethirowe’ (now Little London Street), in the centre of the city, leased to a series of tenants who were craftsmen in the metalworking industry; these properties included clay walling and thatch in their construction (Rimmer 2007, 204–6). However, the new building methods are associated with the fifteenthcentury purpose-built row of houses excavated on Pottergate and the surviving early sixteenth-century row building at Nos 2–12 Gildencroft (discussed more fully in Chapter 8). The rebuilding of the houses on Alms Lane in these more substantial materials was likewise undertaken as a single redevelopment by the landlord. At the same time, landlords seem not to have been prepared to invest large sums in the construction of brick vaulted undercrofts, perhaps because demand in the rental market was increasing most significantly among those of lesser artisan and labouring status, who had no need for extensive storage spaces. The shift away from clay and timber buildings with thatched roofs also represents an attempt to prevent the spread of fire. Rimmer shows that both thatch and tile were common roofing materials in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Norwich, with thatched roofs present even on more substantial tenements in the city centre (Rimmer 2007, 161–6). The corporation was concerned to prevent further conflagrations, in common with other medieval cities. In 1509 thatched roofs were prohibited on all new buildings in the city, although this ban was rescinded in 1532; it clearly proved unenforceable, and it may have contributed to the failure to rebuild houses on some tenements. Regulations against fire hazards continued to be imposed, and thatch was banned once more in 1570. The archaeological excavations show a gradual increase in the number of tiled roofs, but thatch remained common throughout the city in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Porter 1986).

Plan forms and the process of ‘closure’ The lack of surviving medieval houses below the level of the mercantile elite makes it difficult to discuss the issues surrounding the conversion of house forms in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are three key elements to the discussion of the transformation of domestic space in the urban context and the changes in social relations that this might express. The first is the different chronology of building development discussed above, with a major rebuilding of Norwich houses occurring in the early sixteenth century, several decades before the wider rebuilding and ‘closure’ of houses identified in rural contexts (Johnson 1993; Pearson 1994). The second is the nature of medieval buildings in the city and the apparent lack of traditional open halls below the level of the urban elite (Pearson 2005). The third is the range of architectural features which have been identified as constituting evidence for the wider ‘great rebuilding’ in domestic contexts – primarily, complete upper floors, enclosed fireplaces and centralised access arrangements. The evidence suggests that, among the


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ lesser merchants and artisans in Norwich, and perhaps in other large towns, the social hierarchies underpinning the medieval house were not as strong as in rural areas. This has the further important implication that the process of architectural transformation did not proceed as a uniform progression towards a greater degree of segregation and centralisation of domestic spaces. Urban buildings did experience significant changes in their layout and construction during the age of transition, but this was a complex process that was contingent on a range of local social and economic factors. Archaeological excavation provides us with the only evidence for a range of different urban house forms in late medieval Norwich. Importantly, the excavations have produced the only examples of fifteenth-century hall-houses at right angles to the street, at a smaller scale than the surviving great halls in merchant’s houses – a standard medieval urban house-type that does not survive in the standing building stock. On Oak Street, tenement D was occupied by a large L-plan house with a two-storeyed street range, a central hearth in the hall and service rooms beyond. Building F on Oak Street was a smaller three-cell house with a central hearth. A late fifteenth-century three-cell house was excavated on Pottergate; the front room may have been a workshop and the rear room a kitchen, with a chamber above. A similar structure at 61–63 Botolph Street (281N) was poorly preserved, but it has been interpreted as an L-plan house with an open room in the rear range. These houses fit the typical three-cell plan of late medieval houses from both urban and rural settlements, but only the Oak Street examples have certain evidence that the central room was a hall-space, open to the roof with a central hearth. All of these sites are comparatively marginal in the wider landscape of the medieval city. The major archaeological project on the site of Norwich Castle between 1987 and 1991, one of the biggest urban excavations ever undertaken in Europe, was an unprecedented opportunity to explore the city centre. The site revealed comprehensive evidence for the construction of the royal castle with its double-outer bailey, as well as important remains of pre-Conquest occupation. The areas of the Castle Fee and the castle baileys were given over to city control in 1345. The documentary records indicate a densely built up area with tenements, shops and buildings in this zone from the later medieval period to the seventeenth century. However, the archaeological sequence between c.1350 and 1550 revealed evidence mainly for quarrying and the gradual infilling of the castle ditch, the establishment of tenement boundaries, evidence for metalworking and bell-founders’ workshops, and large numbers of refuse pits associated with tenements facing Timberhill. Any buildings associated with the excavated features seem to have been fairly slight timber- and clay-walled structures which were probably workshops. The sizeable assemblages from the pits and wells on the site do, however, provide a rich picture of the craft activities, material culture and diet of the townspeople. More substantial structures with masonry walls and cellars, and flint-lined cesspits, appear on the site in the post-medieval period, supporting the established chronology of building materials in the city (Shepherd Popescu 2009). The lack of information from the central districts of the city makes it difficult to reconstruct the houses of the more prosperous artisans and tradespeople who formed the broad ‘middling sort’ within the medieval urban community. Pottergate


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 and Oak Street provide the closest examples; here there was a mix of housing, with larger three-cell structures alongside smaller buildings. The apparent division between mercantile residences with open halls and the lesser buildings which are mostly two-storeyed throughout may thus be more apparent than real. There is, however, no evidence of any distinguishing architectural features such as bay windows or of formal screens-passage entries in these smaller hall-houses. The evidence, such as it is, supports the extensive scholarship on houses in major towns which was reviewed in Chapter 1 – that urban dwellings existed in a range of different forms, many of which were not focused on a ground-floor open hall with a traditional hierarchical layout (Pearson 2005). The majority of medieval houses in the Norwich excavations were small one- and two-cell structures, most commonly arranged parallel to the street frontage. The Pottergate excavations produced evidence of a row of small houses at right angles to the street, another plan-form with no clear survivors among the standing buildings, with the possible exception of No. 8 Tombland. The houses parallel to the street can be seen as the precursors of the standard post-medieval house in Norwich, with one or two rooms on the ground floor. The widespread rebuilding of houses in the city in the late medieval period was concerned not simply with changes in building construction to increase the longevity of the buildings; crucially, it was part of a wider change in building forms, which in some cases preceded the change in materials. This is most clearly seen on Alms Lane. In the second half of the fifteenth century the clay-walled houses on this site were provided with upper floors or lofts and internal hearths, probably with clay and timber hoods; in one case there was a flint back-to-back fireplace heating two rooms. These houses were then rebuilt in the early sixteenth century with flint-rubble foundations, with two full storeys throughout, internal fireplaces and cesspits. Domestic buildings of this type appear across the city in the early sixteenth century, and the earliest standing buildings – such as No. 20 Princes Street, Nos 69–71 Pottergate and No. 8 Tombland – have two full storeys throughout, sometimes with a further attic floor. The known or suggested ‘open’ spaces in the excavated buildings were ceiled at various times in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as was the case with several examples of grander, traditional open halls in elite residences (Chapter 4). It is of course difficult to reconstruct changes in the upper floors of excavated buildings, as a floor may be inserted without altering the foundations. In some cases, however, there is clear evidence for the process of conversion. The suggested open hall at Nos 61–63 Botolph Street may have had a floor inserted in the early sixteenth century, supported on a timber post. This method was also used in building C on Oak Street, which began as a pair of single-cell structures; a back-to-back fireplace was inserted in the early sixteenth century, but it was not until the late sixteenth century that they were provided with an upper floor, supported on an internal timber frame along the side walls. In other cases, the evidence for the closure of previously open spaces is more ambiguous. In building D on Oak Street, the original medieval hall remained open in the mid-sixteenth century, although the service rooms to the rear were rebuilt with an upper floor, shown by the insertion of a back-to-back fireplace with adjoining staircase. The hall may have remained open until the early seventeenth century: at this


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ date the south wall was rebuilt, which may have been associated with the insertion of an upper floor and attics. In building F on the same site, a back-to-back fireplace was inserted into the open hall in the early sixteenth century. However, it is not certain that this was associated with an upper floor, as it was not until several decades later that a separate stair turret was added. A crucial element of the process of closure is the development of first-floor accommodation, and once again the nature and chronology of urban building development is different from the established sequence in rural houses. Medieval rural houses in many cases do have a high-status chamber on the first floor, but inventory evidence of middling farming households in neighbouring Suffolk suggests that the principal private chamber was on the ground floor in the sixteenth century (Johnson 1993, 84). The provision of high-status upper-floor chambers from an early date is a striking element of the Norwich houses. As described above, No. 20 Princes Street, an L-plan house from the early to mid-sixteenth century, had two first-floor chambers with roll-moulded battened timber ceilings, similar to examples provided in elite residences in the first half of the sixteenth century. A similar moulded ceiling is found above the timber-framed shop front at No. 15 Bedford Street, and the sixteenthcentury street range at Nos 25–27 St George’s Street had an impressive first-floor room with large decorated windows to the front and rear. No. 20 St Benedict’s Street retains a similar early sixteenth-century ceiling in its rear range, although the street range has been replaced. This trend continues throughout the post-medieval period: there are moulded ceilings in several late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century buildings, including Nos 28, 49 and 58 St Benedict’s Street, which are discussed in the following chapter. The evidence also shows an elaboration of staircase arrangements to accompany this development. Stair turrets were added to the rear of buildings on Alms Lane and Oak Street in the mid- to late sixteenth century, and a timber-framed stair turret of this date survived until 1978 at the rear of Nos 80–82 St George’s Street.

Material culture and domestic life in late medieval Norwich The excavated late medieval houses on Pottergate provide an important case study for the development of integrated archaeological perspectives focusing on the material lives of the urban ‘middling sort’. The houses were described above – a row of three houses of mixed timber-framed and masonry construction with rear cellars constructed in the second half of the fifteenth century, probably as a rental unit (Evans and Carter 1985, 19–27). When the houses were destroyed, almost certainly in the fire of 1507, the contents collapsed into the cellars, and these well-preserved deposits provide a remarkable insight into the domestic material culture of prosperous late medieval artisan households. The material culture assemblage is discussed in Evans and Carter (1985, 27–66; 77–85) and Margeson (1993). The standard of building construction was high, with structural ironwork and painted window glass, and the range of objects indicated that the households were relatively prosperous. Cellar H contained a set of metalworking tools, and there were several examples of metal vessels and objects, so it is possible that at least one household was occupied in the metalworking trade.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 The households possessed a wide range of objects related to cooking and eating, which provide an insight into the issue of hospitality within the home at this social level (Figure 77). Cellar H contained a set of iron hearth furniture, including a pot-hook, a spit, and iron and bronze copper-alloy vessels (some of which could have been objects for sale rather than domestic use). It is striking that each cellar contained a similar number and type of pottery vessels, suggesting that they represent the closest we have to a ‘typical’ late medieval household assemblage from the city (Evans and Carter 1985, 79–81; Figure 78). Each cellar contained several pottery cisterns for the storage of ale, probably home-brewed (germinating barley and hops were also discovered; Evans and Carter 1985, 83–4). There were small quantities of pottery cooking vessels, including frying pans (a form imported from the Low Countries in the fifteenth century) and small numbers of flatwares. The main pottery forms present were small jugs and personal drinking vessels, mainly Raeren stonewares imported from the continent. Each assemblage contained around eight to ten of these vessels (Evans and Carter 1985, 79–81). There were also small quantities of glass vessels, but there are likely to have been many more vessels of wood and copper alloy

Figure 77. A selection of metal artefacts from the Pottergate site (Evans and Carter 1985, Figs 38, 43, 46, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).


medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ or pewter that did not survive the fire. Low Countries pottery becomes increasingly common on fifteenth- and sixteenth century sites in Norwich, and the presence of other imported objects, including a maiolica altar vase, a pilgrim badge of the Virgin and a terracotta head of St John the Baptist, speak to the emergence of a rich domestic material culture with significant exchanges of goods and cultural practices across the wider North Sea region (Gaimster and Nenk 1997; Ayers 2016, 184–6).

Figure 78. Reconstructed ceramic groups from the cellars on Pottergate (Evans and Carter 1985, Figs 56–58, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).


Figure 78 cont. Reconstructed ceramic groups from the cellars on Pottergate (Evans and Carter 1985, Figs 56–58, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

medieval houses and the urban ‘great rebuilding’ Other Norwich excavated sites (for example, Alms Lane (302N): Atkin 1985) have similar assemblages from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, although in these cases the material is mostly limited to pottery, with only some metal objects surviving. These deposits are derived from yard deposits and cesspit fills, and it is not possible to place them within individual household groups. They contain a small proportion of pottery vessels for cooking and storage, and tableware is largely confined to imported stoneware jugs and drinking vessels (Jennings 1981, 109–20). Several of the buildings in Norwich which date to the early and middle decades of the sixteenth century parallel the architectural trends already identified in the houses of the mercantile and civic elite. The larger examples are constructed with flint-and-brick masonry and timber-framed ranges parallel to the street, with evidence for well-appointed first floor chambers with moulded timber ceilings and sizeable mullioned windows, and probably represent the homes of prosperous lesser merchants and artisans. Even among more modest urban households the archaeological evidence speaks to a widespread improvement of accommodation standards with the rebuilding of houses in more substantial materials with upper floors, fireplaces and attached cesspits, alongside an increasing range of material culture items such as imported pottery tablewares and cooking equipment. There may therefore have been an increasing provision for the entertainment of guests within the domestic sphere across the urban ‘middling sort’ in this period, as was also identified in elite residences. If this is the case, it may have developed as an alternative to the emphasis on public ceremony within late medieval civic culture, which was often shaped around the communication of social hierarchies and political authority. However, the sizes of the individual assemblages of tablewares are comparatively limited, and the spaces of many of the excavated houses themselves remain comparatively small, with only two or three ground-floor rooms which must have combined a range of domestic, service and productive or commercial functions. This certainly suggests that large-scale domestic hospitality is unlikely to have been an important feature of social relationships among the middling sort at this date. This is further support for the argument that at this social level the maintenance of relationships within the public sphere was a vital element of the urban ‘community’ within which the individual household was embedded. The importance of public spaces such as parish churches and communal ceremonies and hospitality associated with the guilds remained key foci for the maintenance and negotiation of social identities and relationships among the late medieval urban middling sort and this continued in the early modern period (Giles 2000). Shifts in the plan and form of urban housing – such as the closure of ‘open’ halls, the insertion of upper floors and the increasing provision of first-floor spaces – are undoubtedly related to material investment by the middling sort in domestic spaces that reflect new ways of living (Hamling and Richardson 2017). Just as was the case with the houses of the civic elite, architectural change among the middling sort may also reveal the presence of social and political tensions within the idealised urban community that were unleashed by the combined upheavals of religious reform and rebellion and population expansion and economic polarisation in the early modern period. As we


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 will see, comfortable and well-built houses occupying extensive urban properties enabled more prosperous citizens to distinguish themselves from the increasingly overcrowded and populous streets, yards and tenements that came to characterise the early modern urban landscape.


7 Houses of the ‘middling sort’: buildings and the use of space


his chapter moves forward in time to consider in more depth the architectural and archaeological evidence for houses in the post-medieval period following the impact of the great fires of 1507 and the subsequent rebuilding, broadly covering the period between the mid-sixteenth and later seventeenth centuries. This takes in the majority of the surviving pre-1700 houses in the city, and the chapter provides a description of the building materials, mode of construction and plan form and layout of these buildings. Several of the trends identified in the preceding chapter, including the shift towards more substantial and fireproof building materials, the move towards fully two-storeyed houses and the increasing use of upper floors, continue to develop across the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Excavated evidence remains an important complement to the architectural evidence, enabling us to gain a picture of the urban dwelling as a dynamic productive space. Domestic spaces were integrated with spaces for industry, retail and storage, while beyond the principal dwelling urban tenements were built up with workshops, sheds and yards and contained features such as hearths, ovens, furnaces, wells and drains, which were essential to a wide variety of craft activities and the broader functioning of the urban household. This chapter is largely concerned with the more substantial examples of early modern domestic buildings, with generally between two or three rooms on each floor, often arranged with a street-front range and a rear range, which may have been built at a separate time. They are likely, therefore, to represent the houses of more prosperous traders and artisans who formed the core of the early modern ‘middling sort’. As will be argued, these houses fit well with the probate inventory evidence for Norwich first analysed by Priestley and Corfield (1982), which also broadly encompasses the same social spectrum. These documentary sources are placed alongside the building evidence in the second half of the chapter to consider questions of house size and the use of domestic space within this broadly defined urban group. The smallest houses in the city, which tend to be of single-cell plan, are considered in Chapter 8, which reviews the architectural and archaeological evidence for smaller houses, tenements and the housing of the urban poor and migrant communities.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Early modern houses: materials and construction Walls and upper floors In the preceding chapter it was established from archaeological evidence that Norwich houses employed a wide range of materials and construction methods for walling and roofing in the Middle Ages and these continued into the post-medieval period. In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries the city witnessed a widespread shift in building materials away from walls of clay (built of either clay lump or timber-laced ‘cob’) towards the provision of flint-and-brick walling. This transition occurred in similar sequences in the majority of tenements excavated in the western and northern districts of the city, and independently of the impact of the 1507 fires; on Pottergate (149N) and Magdalen Street and Cowgate (168N) houses were being built with flint-and-brick rubble walling in the decades prior to the destruction of these sites in 1507; on Alms Lane (302N) and Oak Street (351N) clay-walled houses dating to the fifteenth century were replaced by two-storeyed buildings with flint-and-brick rubble foundations in the early sixteenth century, although neither site had been affected by the second 1507 fire. Clay-walled building had largely disappeared for the majority of the city’s habitations by the end of the Middle Ages, therefore, but this was not the complete picture. The excavations at Nos 104–106 St Benedict’s Street (Site 153N) showed that a rear range with clay walls was added to the street-front buildings in the mid- to late sixteenth century; this structure was not finally replaced with flint-and-brick-rubble foundations until the early seventeenth century (Atkin 1991). Nonetheless, as was established in the preceding chapter, the earliest surviving buildings constructed after the 1507 fires adopt a mix of rubble masonry walling and timber-framing which was to become the standard form of construction throughout the city for the rest of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century. The surviving early modern houses typically have flint-rubble (often mixed with brick rubble) groundfloor and gable walls (Figure 79). It is common for the rear wall to be flint-rubble to eaves level, with a timber-framed, jettied first floor to the front. However, there are many houses where the rear wall is also timber-framed at first-floor level, usually associated with a rear jetty, suggesting the presence of open space to the rear. In some examples the ground-floor walls are also timber-framed rather than masonry, as in the surviving timber-framed shop-front which makes up the front wall of No. 15 Bedford Street (discussed in Chapter 6). In archaeological terms, the flint-and-brick rubble walls excavated on so many urban tenements across the city may have either supported fully masonry walls or alternatively have acted as dwarf-walls supporting a timber-framed superstructure. The Norwich vernacular style, then, is not a complete timber-frame tradition but uses elements of timber-framed construction for front and rear walls, upper floors and roof structures within a flint-and-brick rubble masonry shell. The masonry components, especially the partition walls, would have acted as useful firebreaks to prevent the spread of another conflagration. The timber-framing used in the city is typically very simple close-studding without arch-braces. There are usually internal braces from the wall-posts to the tie-beams


houses of the ‘middling sort’

Figure 79. Nos 25–33 Barrack Street: photographed prior to demolition by George Plunkett (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

on jettied walls, but not on masonry walls. There is very little evidence for more elaborate decorative wall-framing in the city, and it is generally restricted to larger houses in the central districts, including the street range of Strangers’ Hall and Nos 2–2a Charing Cross (see Chapter 3). An early nineteenth-century watercolour by Henry Ninham shows a smaller house in Westwick Street with decorative diagonal wall-braces (Figure 80); this may represent a once grander house which had been subdivided at a later date (Smith 1990, 242–3). The larger houses in the central area made use of carved jetty brackets and moulded stone and brick corbels, but in lesser buildings the jetty timbers usually have a plain square or rounded profile, with simple arched brackets. Many buildings are depicted in nineteenth-century illustrations with simple moulded fascias covering the jetty, but these could be later additions; the only surviving examples of carved jetty fascias are on the street ranges of mercantile houses (Nos 19–21 Bedford Street, probably early sixteenth century, and Strangers’ Hall, early seventeenth century). The use of render over timber framing may have begun relatively early in the city, and was probably common by the seventeenth century.


Figure 80. Houses behind St Lawrence church in Westwick with decorative timber framing (NWHCM: 1912.1.1, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).

houses of the ‘middling sort’ Three-storeyed construction seems to have been quite limited and only a few examples survive. The unusual jettied medieval building at No. 9 Elm Hill, standing in the corner of St Peter Hungate churchyard, has already been mentioned as the only known pre-1507 three-storeyed domestic building in the city. The Sir Garnett Wolsey public house, located in the centre of the marketplace at the foot of St Peter’s Steps, is another rare survival: Smith (1990, 33) has reconstructed this building as a four-storeyed block with an open arcade on the ground floor, dated to the fifteenth century. It is therefore similar to known public buildings such as market halls, and is probably a non-domestic structure in origin. The identifiable examples of three-storeyed post-medieval houses are generally limited to locations where commercial pressure on space was at its height, and are often associated with the residences of wealthy merchants. Nineteenth-century illustrations show large three-storeyed jettied buildings around the great marketplace, as one might expect. No. 1 Marketplace, on the corner with Upper Goat Lane, is one of the few examples to have survived the widespread rebuilding of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Three-storeyed buildings jettied on both upper floors are recorded in illustrations and photographs in many of the streets leading from the marketplace, including Weaver’s Lane, London Street, Upper and Lower Goat Lanes, Charing Cross and Rampant Horse Street (Figure 81). Three-storey buildings also once lined St Andrew’s Plain, opposite

Figure 81. Rampant Horse Street: three-storeyed jettied building (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 the Common Hall. Garsett House, residence of sheriff Robert Garsett in the 1580s, survives, but the once-adjoining three-storeyed street range of Suckling House has been demolished. They are also recorded facing Tombland, another important public space, where Augustine Steward’s House was raised to three storeys in the early seventeenth century (in this case, without a second-floor jetty). The illustrations show several examples of prominent architectural display on these elaborate timber-framed frontages, particularly carved dragon-posts and jetty brackets and moulded jetty bressumers (Figure 82). Very few of these features survive; the carved jetty bracket with the date 1589 on Garsett House is one of the few preserved in situ.

Figure 82. St Peter’s Steps: three-storeyed building with carved brackets (NWHCM: 1929.89.55, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).


houses of the ‘middling sort’ The principal change in construction methods during the early modern period occurs in the seventeenth century, with the abandonment of timber-framed first floors and the introduction of smaller houses with full-height flint-and-brick rubble walls. The timing of this change is difficult to determine with precision, but it seems to have begun in the first half of the seventeenth century. The buildings often have brick quoins and dressings, and often there is a simple plat-band of two or three brick courses dividing the ground and first floors. No. 2 St Andrew’s Hill has ovolo-mullioned windows on the first and attic floors, suggesting a date in the first half of the seventeenth century. The only precisely dated example is No. 63 St George’s Street. This is a small single-cell two-storeyed block that was added to an earlier building. It had a date stone (lost during renovation, and now replaced) inscribed ‘W/A/W/1670’, the initials being those of William Watson, a worsted weaver, and his wife Ann. These small flint-walled houses are found throughout the city, and pre-war photographs reveal that they were once more common still. There is a well-preserved row of modest two-storeyed flint and brick houses at Nos 164–178 King Street, with typical seventeenth-century features such as a simple plat-band, crow-stepped gables, dormers and mullioned windows (Figure 83). These houses are located on the street frontage in an area that was declining in status in the late seventeenth century. Similar

Figure 83. Nos 164–178 King Street: row of smaller seventeenth-century houses (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 84. Nos 39–43 Timberhill: late seventeenth-century gable-fronted houses (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

ranges of small flint-rubble houses were also constructed in the rear yards and back lanes of the city, such as Thoroughfare Yard and Loose’s Yard off Magdalen Street, and Old Brew Yard off Oak Street, and they are discussed in more detail in Chapter 8, which covers the large numbers of small single-cell houses to be found across the city. As described in Chapters 3 and 4, many medieval and post-medieval mercantile residences made use of decorative masonry construction, such as knapped and galletted flint or flint-and-brick chequer work. There is some evidence for the use of these techniques in smaller buildings. The rear range of No. 49 St Benedict’s Street, dated to c.1620, is constructed of squared and galletted flint-and-brick chequer (see below), used in the mid-sixteenth-century phases at Strangers’ Hall and Augustine Steward’s House, Tombland. There are three known examples of smaller houses with knapped flint walls, which probably date to the late sixteenth or seventeenth centuries: No. 131 King Street, No. 132 Oak Street and No. 20 Timberhill. One of the most common decorative masonry forms is the provision of crow-stepped and shaped gables. This technique was common throughout Norfolk, first in elite architecture, and appearing in vernacular buildings from the later sixteenth century onwards. Examples of crow-stepped gables survive or were recorded on quite small houses in Norwich, such as No. 154 Bishopsgate, Nos 168 and 170–174 King Street, Nos 2–6 Ten Bell Lane, No. 90 Westwick Street and Nos 14–16 Welllington Lane.


houses of the ‘middling sort’ More elaborate shaped and curvilinear gables are rare in the city, except for within the cathedral close (Gilchrist 2005, 221); one survives on a smaller building at the Adam and Eve public house on Bishopsgate. Construction completely in brick was not common in the city before the end of the seventeenth century, and then only in the larger houses. As argued in Chapter 4, the use of regular brick facades with moulded brick dressings was initially limited to houses of gentry status, generally those located in the cathedral close and the town houses of the rural gentry. Brick facades, sometimes including moulded brick stringcourses and window surrounds, are found more widely on domestic buildings from the late seventeenth century onwards, including Nos 37a–41 and 56–60 King Street, Nos 23–25 and 35–39 St Augustine’s Street, and Nos 39 and 43 Timberhill (Figure 84). No. 33 Timberhill is a smaller two-storeyed brick house with moulded brick window surrounds similar to late seventeenth-century examples elsewhere in the city.

Roofs, attics and dormers Roofs are usually one of the most important elements for reconstructing and dating timber-framed buildings. Unfortunately, the widespread practice of raising buildings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has destroyed a great deal of evidence for post-medieval roof construction, although the Norwich Survey and Robert Smith (1990, 254–73) were able to create a recognisable typology of development. There are no surviving examples of crown-post roofs below the level of the mercantile elite, a reflection of the absence of timber-framed medieval buildings. The Britons Arms has a fifteenth-century clasped-purlin roof, the type which became standard in the sixteenth century (Smith 1990, 267). Early post-medieval roofs are usually a variation on side-purlin construction, with plain timbers throughout, such as the example at 25–27 St George’s Street. From the late sixteenth century butt-purlin roofs (without a continuous side-purlin) become common. These facilitated the provision of attic dormers, supporting arguments for an increasing use of attic space in this period. There are also a small number of more unusual roof construction methods designed to accommodate attic rooms, including the provision of elbowed principal rafters or knee-braces to provide additional head-room, as at Nos 17–21 Pottergate, Nos 4–6 Princes Street and No. 28 Gentleman’s Walk (Smith 1990, 268–9). This broadly conforms to developments elsewhere in the county. The NHBG survey of New Buckenham proposed a chronological progression from crown posts in the fifteenth century through queen-posts in the early sixteenth century and clasped purlins in the later sixteenth century to butt-purlins in the seventeenth century (Longcroft 2005, 52–6). The increasing use of attic space is one of the key changes in the domestic architecture in the post-medieval city. This includes the insertion of attics in older buildings and the provision of attics in new structures. Attics existed in Norwich in the fifteenth century, as shown by the Britons Arms, and they appear in mid-sixteenth-century mercantile houses, where they may have been used for both domestic accommodation and the storage of merchandise. Attic spaces are found in several of the smaller early or mid-sixteenth-century buildings which were discussed in Chapter 6. In No. 8


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Tombland the second floor provided two chambers with arch-braced trusses. At No. 20 Princes Street and No. 15 Bedford Street there were moulded timber ceilings in the first-floor rooms with attics above, but there is no evidence for how these spaces were utilised. Other early sixteenth-century buildings, such as the first phase of Nos 69–71 Pottergate, were originally open to the roof on the first floor. The provision of attic spaces seems to have been general in lesser buildings from the late sixteenth century onwards, in houses of all sizes and plan-forms. The provision of dormer windows is one of the most striking features of Norwich vernacular architecture in the post-medieval period. The dormers take several forms, depending on the size of the house. Many of the smaller houses parallel to the street are provided with a single central dormer. Also common are pairs of conjoined dormers, which gave more useable space; examples of the latter include No. 2 St Andrew’s Hill, No. 59 Colegate, No. 1 St Benedict’s Alley and No. 33 Timberhill (Figure 85). No. 12 Tombland is an unusual example of a double-height dormer, where the tall attic has been divided into two floors. Larger sixteenth- and seventeenth-century buildings arranged parallel to the street typically have a row of three dormers.

Figure 85. Dormers with large mullioned windows: Nos 2–4 St Andrew’s Hill (left) and Nos 27–33 Barrack Street (right) (left: photograph © Chris King; right: reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


houses of the ‘middling sort’ From the later seventeenth century and into the eighteenth century rows of dormers were constructed or added to larger dwellings; these provided what amounts to a whole second storey within the attic space. Examples include Nos 98–100 Oak Street, Nos 27–29 Colegate, Nos 164–166 King Street (unusually, constructed in brick rather than timber-framed) and Old Brew Yard, Oak Street, among many others (Figure 86). Several substantial brick-fronted houses dating to the end of the seventeenth century have a distinctive form with three full-height storeys surmounted by a row of brick gables fronting a low attic (see Figure 84). The securely dated examples of this type of construction are early eighteenth century, including Nos 3–4 The Close, constructed by Jeremy and Susan Vinn in 1701; and No. 43 Timberhill, with a date stone marked L/I/M/1707. They are also shown on many of the elite houses depicted on the margins of the Corbridge map of 1727 (Barringer 2004, 13–17). The origin of this form seems to derive from the earlier rows of dormers, with the dormers reduced to largely decorative gables above a full second floor (Smith 1990, 270). Although the majority of the city’s dormers are timber-framed and plastered, there are occasional examples of rows of brick-fronted dormers (such as Nos 164–166 King Street) that would seem an obvious source for this building form.

Figure 86. Rows of conjoined dormers in timber and brick: Nos 27–29 Colegate (left) and Nos 164–166 King Street (right) (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 The evidence from probate inventories supports the clear architectural evidence presented above for an increasing provision of attic space: the percentage of inventories that list a ‘false roof ’ or ‘garret’ increases steadily from 10 per cent in 1580–1604 to 50 per cent in 1680–1704 (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 117). It is often said that garrets were used as weaving workshops in the booming textile industry. This was certainly the impression of contemporary visitors to the city, as Daniel Defoe famously described: If a stranger was only to ride thro’ or view the city of Norwich for a day, he would have much more reason to think there was a town without inhabitants…But the case is this; the inhabitants being all busie at their manufactures, dwell in their garrets at their looms, and in their combing-shops, so they call them, twisting mills, and other work-houses … . (Defoe 1962 [1724–6], 63)

The inventories do show that there was an increasing use of garrets as warehouses and workshops from the mid-seventeenth century, and after 1680 the majority of the owners of such rooms were textile workers. However, they were also used for the storage of merchandise, which would keep cloth and other goods dry, and over half contained beds (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 117). As noted above, the majority of Norwich attics are provided with dormers which increase the available headroom considerably as well as providing opportunities to improve the lighting of these spaces. However, there are only a few examples where the original windows survive, which might provide further evidence for the use of attic spaces in craft prodcution. The attic at No. 2 St Andrew’s Hill has a large mullioned dormer window (heavily restored), which would certainly have enabled its use as a workshop. Similar mullioned windows survive or were recorded in attic dormers at No. 27 Barrack Street (see Figure 85), No. 126 Ber Street, No. 2 Calvert Street, Hook’s Yard off Colegate, Loose’s Yard off Magdalen Street and Old Brew Yard off Oak Street. However, large windows have been inserted into many dormers at a later date, which suggests that the earlier windows had proved inadequate for the expanding weaving industry. There is much more evidence for attic workshops from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when second floors lit by long ranges of windows were added to many buildings throughout the city. Surviving or recorded examples of these include Nos 14–20 Bridewell Alley, Nos 64–74 Colegate, Nos 195–7 King Street, No. 24 Magdalen Street, No. 11 Muspole Street and No. 7 St Gregory’s Alley, among many others.

Early modern buildings: plan forms As has already been noted, most of the surviving early modern houses in Norwich are two-storeyed and located directly on the street frontage, parallel to the street; the few examples of three-storey buildings have been discussed above. With the exception of buildings on street corners, there is only a single surviving example in the city of a sixteenth-century house roofed at right angles to the street, No. 8 Tombland. This reflects the low density of housing in the post-medieval city, before the population expansion of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Many of the houses also


houses of the ‘middling sort’ have rear ranges behind the street frontage, making L-plan buildings. This section will consider in turn ranges parallel to the street and L-plan houses, both those originally constructed with this plan and those where it was a product of later extension.

Buildings parallel to the street It was noted in Chapter 6 that the surviving early sixteenth-century houses in Norwich, with the single exception of No. 8 Tombland, are orientated parallel to the street frontage, in some cases with a rear wing creating an L-plan. Houses parallel to the street could have a single room on the ground floor, sometimes incorporating an entry to a rear yard down one side. This was evidently a common house-type throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; similar buildings survive or were recorded at Nos 110, 126, 150 and 156 Ber Street, No. 67 Bethel Street, No. 154 Bishopsgate, among many others. These houses might have a single first-floor room, or be divided into two: an example of the latter is 67–69 Botolph Street, surveyed by Alan Carter for the Norwich Survey (Carter 1985). This had a single ground-floor room and a side entry, with one large first-floor room and a second room over the entry, with a chimney bay against the opposite gable wall. The house was further divided in the seventeenth century, when a second stack was added against the internal partition. The single-cell building was not reserved for the poorer members of urban society; the interpretation of the status of these building must take into account their scale, architectural features and location. No. 21 Lower Goat Lane is the only surviving example in Norwich of a three-storey single-cell house, on the prime street-corner site of Pottergate with Lower Goat Lane (leading to the marketplace). The ground-floor room has quadrant-moulded ceiling beams probably dating to the early seventeenth century. There are other examples of single-cell plan houses facing main streets; these tend to be relatively large with attic dormers. No. 59 Colegate is a good example; it has a single room on the ground floor, with an entry passage against the west gable and a chimneystack against the east gable, with a stack-side stair. The timbers have nicked end-stops, and the attic has a pair of conjoined dormers creating a sizeable and well-lit second-floor space. The first floor has two projecting oriel windows with wooden pediments, with the initials S/S and the date 1660, which may be additions. Facing one of the more important streets on the north side of the river, which was also occupied by the homes of prominent merchant and aldermanic families, this single-cell building is one of the grander examples in the city and most likely the home of a member of the urban ‘middling sort’. A similarly large example survives at No. 20 Westlegate, with a flint-and-brick ground floor and chimney gable and a rendered timber-framed first floor with a central five-light frieze window. There are prominent central attic dormers on both the front and rear elevations, and this building is one of the few in central Norwich to retain its thatched roof (Figure 87). There are many longer sixteenth-century street ranges, which probably originally had two or more rooms arranged parallel to the street on both ground and first floors. Several of the buildings on Elm Hill follow this plan. Nos 21–27 Elm Hill were originally a two-storeyed sixteenth-century block with a jettied north gable. There was a


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 87. Larger single-cell houses with dormers: 20 Westlegate (left) and 59 Colegate (right) (left: photograph © Chris King; right: reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

substantial central dormer lighting the attic in the early nineteenth century, before the second floor was added and the block divided into several houses (Figure 88). No. 29 Elm Hill is another sixteenth-century range parallel to the street, with stacks at both ends. Similar buildings are found throughout the city, but they have almost all been divided up into separate properties, obscuring the original arrangements. Nos 22–26 Princes Street is one example, where the original close-studded front wall has been restored in the central property. No. 26 preserves the butt-purlin roof. A single-bay flint-rubble rear wing was added to this end of the house, making an L-plan; it has a large ovolo-mullion and transom window on the ground floor. The construction of long street-front ranges continued through the seventeenth century. These buildings have many parallels with the street ranges of contemporary mercantile properties, and many originally had rear extensions and courtyards, so we are not seeing the full original plan. There are several surviving examples in the central parishes. Nos 23–27 St Andrew’s Street has a two-storeyed street range with an attic with a butt-purlin roof lit by three dormers, and a carriage arch at the east end. There is a seventeenth-century flint-walled rear range at the west end, making an L-plan, and there may have been other ranges surrounding the rear courtyard. Nos 21–23 St


houses of the ‘middling sort’

Figure 88. Nos 21–27 Elm Hill as recorded by Henry Ninham (NWHCM: 1929.89.34, reproduced by permission of Norfolk Museums Service: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 John Maddermarket has a similar two-storeyed street range with quadrant-moulded ceiling timbers on the first floor and a butt-purlin roof. Nos 4–6 Princes Street/2–4 Elm Hill is a larger example, believed to have been constructed in 1619 and later the home of Robert Bendish, mayor in 1672 (Mayors, 94–5). It has a two-storeyed jettied street range with a half-attic; it is roofed with two wide gables on the street frontage, and internally the principal rafters are supported by elbowed brackets. The façade is decorated with eighteenth-century masonry-effect pargetting, and it appears in this form with a balcony on the 1727 Corbridge Map. Many of these street ranges are in fact more than one phase, and may have always been divided into more than one dwelling. Nos 69–71 Pottergate, although it is now three-storeyed and wholly modern in appearance, began life as an early sixteenthcentury block constructed in two phases on either side of a central stack. The west room was originally open to the roof. The east room was added at a later date (the joins in the wall-plates on either side of the chimneystack are unscarfed) and had an attic from the beginning. This building may in fact be an example of a row of two or more houses constructed for the rental market, rather than a single property (Smith 1990, 286). At Nos 80–82 St George’s Street, restored in 1978, an early sixteenthcentury range was extended northwards along the street, probably in the later sixteenth century. The break in the wall plate and jetty bressumer are clearly visible. However, all but c.2m of the earlier range has since been destroyed. A square timberframed stair turret (which does not survive) was added to the rear of the building at the join between the two phases, blocking an earlier four-light mullion window. There is a central stack, implying at least two rooms, but the original length of the range is unknown. At Nos 25–27 St George’s Street, described in Chapter 6, the early or mid-sixteenth-century range parallel to the street was extended along the street to the north, probably in the later sixteenth century, with a self-contained two-bay jettied structure, with a chimney bay at the north end. There was no contemporary access at first-floor level, so it is likely that these were always in separate occupation.

L-plan buildings There are several examples of buildings with a rear range at right angles to the street, with a yard entered through one side of the street range. Although this is a well-established urban plan type, in many cases this form seems to have emerged only through the later addition of a rear range, although precise dates can rarely be given. One early example of an L-plan building was described in Chapter 6 at No. 20 Princes Street, where the early or mid-sixteenth-century structure above earlier medieval undercrofts had a street range and a long rear range with jettied timber-framed first floors, both ranges having surviving roll-moulded timber ceilings suggesting impressive and decorative domestic spaces. Excavated examples of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century L-plan buildings with halls in their rear ranges were identified on Oak Street (351N) (Atkin 1978) and at 61–63 Botolph Street (281N) (Davison 1985). Nos 12–18 Elm Hill provide another example of a pair of L-plan houses, probably constructed in the seventeenth century. The flint-rubble and timber-framed street range is now divided into four properties, and No. 18 was raised and refronted in


houses of the ‘middling sort’ the eighteenth century. The remainder of the street range has a butt-purlin roof with three original dormers. There are two flint-rubble ranges at the back creating a pair of L-plan houses, with stacks located between the street and rear ranges in both cases. The north rear range (behind No. 18) has a six-light ovolo-moulded window on the ground floor. At No. 49 St Benedict’s Street there is a gap of probably at least 50 years between the construction of the two ranges (Figure 89). The long jettied street range encompasses No. 47, with a central passage entry. The Norwich Survey suggested a date of c.1580– 1600 for this block; however, it has mortices for arched heads to the windows, which might suggest a date earlier in the sixteenth century. The rear range extends between Queen of Hungary Yard on the east and Reeve’s Yard on the west. The earliest fabric on the west wall is constructed in a chequer pattern of squared and galletted flints and bricks; this construction method was used on high-status residences in the city in the mid-sixteenth century, but may have continued in use for some time. Inside, the ground floor of the rear range has plain ceiling joists. The first floor retains the most impressive feature of the property: a three-bay panelled timber ceiling which extends

Figure 89. No. 49 St Benedict’s Street: ground-floor plan and internal elevation of the street-front range (drawn by Chris King after plans in NHER).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 90. No. 49 St Benedict’s Street: rear range with quadrant-moulded ceiling (photographs © Chris King).

through the whole of the range, with quadrant-moulded timbers with scroll and bar stops and a chimney bay at the north end. The spaces between the main timbers were plastered, in contrast to earlier sixteenth-century timber ceilings, which had moulded joists. The door to the street range has a scroll-moulded surround, facing this room, together suggesting a date of c.1620 (Figure 90). There was a stair turret in the western re-entrant angle between the two ranges, with a doorway leading into the first floor of the street range, which has a chamfered surround with scroll and nicked stops. While the original functions of the individual rooms are not easy to determine, the ground floor of both ranges could have served a range of commercial and domestic functions; the large first-floor room in the rear range is the most private room in spatial terms, apparently entered via the stair turret and the first floor of the street range. It was probably the principal chamber, and with its impressive moulded timber ceiling it may also have been intended for the reception and entertainment of guests. There are the remains of several L-plan buildings along St Benedict’s Street, described by the Norwich Survey. No. 20 St Benedict’s Street has a jettied street range of uncertain date, raised to three storeys, and a flint-rubble rear range with a timber ceiling on the first floor with roll-moulded profiles that is similar to ceilings in the larger mercantile residences and suggests a date in the first half of the sixteenth century. No. 28 St Benedict’s Street has a two-storeyed street range with a central dormer and a first-floor cambered timber ceiling dated to c.1600. This was originally a single-cell building; the rear range was added at an unknown later date, with a pair of dormer windows. At No. 86 St Benedict’s Street the rear range has a flint-rubble ground floor and a close-studded first floor, with one original four-light ovolo-mullion window. The street range may be a later rebuild, with a modern brick front; the internal timbers have simple nicked end-stops, suggesting a mid-seventeenth-century date.


houses of the ‘middling sort’ At No. 58 St Benedict’s Street (The Plough public house) the street range is flint-rubble to its full height with timbers with nicked end stops, suggesting a seventeenth-century date. The rear range is also flint-rubble with brick dressings, with a stack against the south gable. The ceiling timbers on both floors have plain chamfers and stops. There is a wide mullion-and-transom window on the ground floor, and two further mullioned windows on the first floor (Figure 91). The rear range may be earlier than the street range, perhaps late sixteenth century, suggesting that the latter is a replacement of an earlier structure. This range originally extended further south, incorporating an earlier flint-walled structure with stone dressings, which was believed to be medieval in date. This structure was once part of a larger complex of buildings arranged around Plough Yard to the west, with a timber-framed street range and flint-and-brick structures to the rear with mullioned windows, demolished in c.1900. In the medieval period this was the site of a large courtyard property called ‘The Checker’, which was owned by several of the city’s elite families. It was divided into smaller properties in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and occupied by artisans of middling status (Kelly 1990).

Figure 91. Seventeenth-century flint-and-brick rear ranges: Swan Yard, King Street (left) and No. 58 St Benedict’s Street (right) (photographs © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 Many of the L-plan buildings in Norwich thus developed through a process of gradual extension or rebuilding. In cases where the rear range seems to pre-date the street frontage, it seems likely that this is due to a later rebuilding of the street range, although this can rarely be proved. There are several examples of early modern blocks which are now stranded behind eighteenth- and nineteenth-century frontage buildings, and so divorced from their original context. Surviving examples include No. 19 Colegate, Nos 28 and 32 Elm Hill, and Swan Yard off King Street (Figure 91). Most are constructed of brick-and-flint rubble with simple plat-bands, suggesting a mid- to late seventeenth-century date. They typically comprise a single room, with two storeys and an attic, although in several cases the end gable wall has been rebuilt, suggesting that the ranges once extended further. There is often evidence for a fireplace, which can be located against the street range or the rear gable. Although some of the surviving rear ranges on St Benedict’s street have moulded ceiling timbers, in most cases the timbers are plain, with simple chamfers and nicked-end stops. No. 5 Tombland retains a larger example dated to c.1600, behind an eighteenth-century mansion: it has a flint-and-brick ground floor and north wall, with a timber-framed jetty overlooking the yard to the south. The ground-floor ceiling has ovolo-moulded timbers and facing the yard is a large six-light ovolo-moulded mullion-and-transom window with an adjoining door frame to the yard. More fragmentary remains of rear blocks are recorded in nineteenth-century illustrations and early twentieth-century photographs, often after they had declined in status to become part of courtyards of slum dwellings; for example, at Ninham’s Court off Bethel Street, and No. 18 St Giles Street.

Room functions and the use of space The analysis of Norwich probate inventories by Priestley and Corfield (1982), initially conducted within the broader research framework of Norwich Survey, has long been recognised as an important contribution to the study of early modern townhouses. A comparison of the documentary and standing building evidence provides insights that can help to further elucidate both sources, allowing us to reach a fuller understanding of the use of domestic space in this period. The inventories represent the broadly middling group of townspeople, but they also include a number of more modest households, as do the surviving buildings. There are 871 probate inventories from the city that list individual room contents, dating from 1580 to 1730. Priestley and Corfield divide this sample into six 25-year periods in order to identify broad trends in the number and functions of rooms. The limitations of probate inventories as a source of evidence for domestic life have been extensively scrutinised by historical researchers (see Arkell et al. 2004 and Orlin 2002). The inconsistencies in their original production and subsequent survival make it difficult to generalise, even from such a large sample group. Within an individual inventory the number and range of rooms listed, and the objects within them, may be affected by many factors. A crucial issue, which has yet to be resolved by detailed historical work, is whether the size of the house and possession of domestic goods not only reflects a place within a static socio-economic group but may be affected by


houses of the ‘middling sort’ stages in household lifecycles. When using inventories to investigate houses, it is often difficult to relate a list of rooms to any clear understanding of the physical structure they occupied. An inventory may include detached buildings or sheds, while other rooms may be omitted if they contain nothing of any value, or if they are leased out. An individual household may have occupied only part of a larger house, particularly in the increasingly crowded conditions of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Determining room functions is a complex issue, as room-names are often inconsistent and spaces were usually multi-functional. Priestley and Corfield (1982) provide an extensive critique of the Norwich inventories as a source of evidence about housing standards. Taking into account these limitations, however, the Norwich probate inventories remains a vital source of evidence for the use of domestic space among the urban middling sort. My aim in the following is not to add further to their thorough quantified analysis but to consider patterns in the inventories against trends in the architectural evidence in the hope that one can help to elucidate the other. The majority of inventories tabulated by Priestley and Corfield list between four and six rooms (39 per cent) or between seven and nine rooms (23 per cent), emphasising the disproportionate representation of more prosperous households in this source material. What is most striking is that the distribution of house sizes changed very little, and in particular that one- to three-roomed houses accounted for roughly 18 per cent of the total throughout this 150-year period (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 100). In contrast, the surviving buildings and the excavated evidence show that there was in fact a significant increase in the number of small houses across the city in the seventeenth century, as will be further explored in the following chapter. As has been demonstrated from the preceding assessment of the surviving structures, following the early sixteenth-century rebuilding the majority of the domestic buildings in the city were two-storeyed and parallel to the street. Larger L-plan buildings with rear ranges were also found from the early sixteenth century onwards and many buildings had rear ranges added to them in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is assumed that many street-front rooms must have operated as shops or workshops, with domestic spaces behind and on the first floor (the evidence for industrial and commercial spaces is examined in more detail below). However, in many buildings domestic rooms such as halls or parlours must have been located on the street front. This is also found in larger mercantile houses in the city after the mid-sixteenth-century rebuilding, when parlours and chambers were placed in long street-front ranges. However, at this higher social level these ranges formed part of a courtyard plan with extensive domestic, service and commercial spaces to the rear. The more fragmentary survival of the majority of the buildings lower down the social spectrum means that we do not always have evidence for the full extent of the plan, but both archaeological and documentary evidence informs us that these houses also often had rear yards containing a range of further dwelling spaces, service rooms, workshops and storage. The domestic buildings of Norwich are thus strikingly different to the general pattern of urban buildings in major English cities, such as London, Bristol, York, Salisbury and Oxford, where houses are more densely packed and often placed


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 at right angles to the street, with three or more storeys. The difference is partly explained by the particular topographical and economic development of the Norwich townscape, as the large area enclosed by the city walls enabled more extensive urban development. Even after the city’s population began to expand after c.1500, it did not reach its pre-1349 peak of c.25,000 until the mid-seventeenth century, after which there was an increasingly dense pattern of urban building (Pound 1988, 28–30; Corfield 2004). Outside the most densely packed streets in the central parishes, these middling houses follow more closely the pattern common to smaller provincial and market centres, with extensive plots formed of two-storeyed ranges along the street with rear yards and buildings. In terms of understanding the use of space within the urban house, it indicates that there was little imperative to separate domestic spaces from the life of the street. This presumably contributed to the household-based system of production, as it enabled family members and servants to incorporate both domestic and commercial or industrial activities in their daily routines (as discussed extensively in Hamling and Richardson 2017). Table 4 shows the rooms in Norwich inventories assessed by Priestley and Corfield (1982) for their changing presence and functions over time. In the sixteenth century domestic spaces were often multi-functional, but there was already a degree of functional or status differentiation within the house between general-purpose living rooms and more specialised service and work rooms. In the period 1580–1604 just under half of the inventories list a room called a ‘hall’ (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 104–5). Only 35 per cent of these houses specifically name a chamber over the hall, indicating a ceiled room, but this is likely to be an under-estimate; the standing buildings and excavated evidence shows that most houses were fully two-storeyed by the late sixteenth century. The hall was a general-purpose living and dining room; only a small proportion of halls were used for cooking or sleeping. A separate kitchen is listed in 59 per cent of the inventories; these were used principally for cooking, although a small number contained beds (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 106–7). A parlour appeared in 72 per cent of houses. These were rarely used for cooking, and even in the sixteenth century only half of the parlours contained a bed (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 107–8). This is different from rural areas in the surrounding region, where the parlour was usually the principal bedchamber into the mid-seventeenth century (Johnson 1993, 126–8). There is evidence for an increasing specialisation of room function in the seventeenth century. The number of halls listed in inventories declined to only 13 per cent by 1680–1704, and they are found only in the larger houses. By the mid-seventeenth century the hall had lost its function as a general-purpose room, with no evidence for beds or cooking, and was increasingly confined to a formal reception space in larger houses (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 104–5). There was increasing specialisation in both the service rooms and the high-status domestic spaces. By 1680–1704 kitchens were listed in 93 per cent of the inventories, and had become the sole cooking room in the house. However, kitchens were also sometimes furnished with beds, and an increasing range of furniture, particularly tables and chairs, and also books, especially Bibles. Priestley and Corfield suggest that the kitchen served as a living


Table 4. Presence of selected named rooms in Norwich inventories, 1580–1730. 1580–1604







Total no. of inventories








Total no. of rooms





1, 145

1, 382

5, 778

Rooms analysed Halls

57 (48%)

60 (41%)

41 (32%)

12 (14%)

24 (13%)

24 (11%)

218 (25%)


71 (59%)

95 (64%)

108 (85%)

82 (95%)

167 (93%)

210 (99%)

733 (84%)


93 (72%)

98 (66%)

82 (65%)

42 (49%)

101 (56%)

118 (56%)

534 (61%)


60 (50%)

53 (36%)

38 (30%)

16 (19%)

15 (8%)

3 (1%)

185 (21%)

Not analysed



3 (3%)

23 (13%)

34 (16%)

61 (7%)

Shops/ workshops

59 (49%)

58 (39%)

1 (0.7%)

51 (40%)

41 (48%)

58 (32%)

64 (30%)

331 (38%)

Parlour chambers

46 (38%)

54 (36%)

53 (42%)

31 (36%)

69 (39%)

64 (30%)

317 (36%)


12 (10%)

43 (29%)

49 (39%)

44 (51%)

97 (54%)

130 (62%)

375 (43%)

Cellars/vaults 17 (14%)

35 (24%)

31 (24%)

23 (27%)

48 (27%)

58 (27%)

212 (24%)


1 (0.8%)


11 (7%)

22 (17%)

27 (31%)

49 (27%)

90 (43%)

200 (23%)








1, 850









Percentages relate to the number of inventories naming each room in any given period; these are only approximate, as Priestley and Corfield do not distinguish inventories naming more than one of each room. Source: Priestley and Corfield (1982, 102)

houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 room for servants and possibly also for the family, with the parlour reserved for more formal occasions (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 107). Only 19 per cent of the parlours contained beds by 1680–1704; they were no longer used for cooking and working, and usually contained tables and chairs (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 107–8). Another sign of increasingly specialised room use, and possibly for a growing desire for privacy, is the decreasing number of small or ‘truckle’ bedsteads to accommodate children and servants within the principal chamber (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 116). The standing building evidence ties in well with the documentary evidence for increasing room specialisation, shown particularly in the addition of rear wings to many standing buildings in the seventeenth century. The surviving examples are usually provided with a fireplace and often incorporate large mullioned windows and, on some occasions, moulded ceiling timbers. In many cases the end gable walls have been rebuilt, so these wings may have been more extensive originally. The groundfloor rooms could have served as kitchens or parlours. Only one surviving example (No. 5 Tombland) retains contemporary access from the rear range to the yard that one might expect in a service room, but in most cases the evidence is lacking.

The development of upper floors Standing buildings also provide important evidence for the use of upper storeys in the street-front and rear ranges, which can rarely be determined from excavated evidence. In particular, there are a significant number of first-floor rooms with moulded ceiling timbers and mullioned windows. These features occur in both street-front and rear ranges, but more commonly in the latter. Significantly, as discussed in Chapter 6, these are found in lesser houses in the early and middle decades of the sixteenth century, contemporary with their first appearance in larger mercantile residences, key examples being No. 20 Princes Street, No. 15 Bedford Street and No. 20 St Benedict’s Street, which has a moulded first-floor ceiling in the rear range. Nos 25–27 St George’s Street does not retain a ceiling, but there are two large mullion-and-transom windows in the first floor street-front chamber. As presented in this chapter, this is a trend that continues across the early modern period: there are several surviving examples of substantial first-floor decorative elements in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century houses along St Benedict’s Street, particularly Nos 28, 49 and 58. Many buildings had projecting oriel windows on the upper floors, in the seventeenth century sometimes with pediments; these survive at No. 59 Colegate and at Augustine Steward’s house at No. 14 Tombland, and were once present on buildings facing the marketplace (shown in Figure 58). This investment in decorative construction is often in contrast to the much plainer ground-floor elements (although of course these survive much less often); hence, they suggest that significant domestic activities, including the reception of guests, may have occurred in first-floor chambers. An increasingly formal use of some living rooms was suggested by the inventories, with parlours used for serving meals in the seventeenth century. Although Priestley and Corfield (1982, 108) suggest that parlours were usually situated on the ground floor (as in most rural houses), the standing building evidence shows a greater number of ‘high-status’ rooms on the first floor.


houses of the ‘middling sort’ Over one-third of the inventories list a ‘parlour chamber’ (indicating a ground-floor parlour); these frequently contained the main bedstead, and sometimes also tables and chairs which may have been used for dining (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 114). Larger houses with six or more rooms frequently had a room called a ‘great chamber’, used as a first-floor dining and reception room, with or without a bed. Specialised ‘dining chambers’ appear in inventories of larger houses from c.1630 (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 103). The sizeable upper-floor chamber at No. 49 St Benedict’s Street with its moulded timber and plaster ceiling is very likely to have been a space used for formal dining and hospitality in this way. The surviving early modern buildings show some limited evidence for a centralised pattern of access. A staircase was provided at the junction of the street range and the rear range at No. 49 St Benedict’s Street, which may have further enabled household members to combine activities in the domestic and commercial spaces within the house. At Nos 80–82 St George’s Street there was a separate stair turret on the rear wall, perhaps providing a greater degree of seclusion for the upper floor, and similar stair-turrets are found in the excavated evidence. There is no clear evidence, however, for independent access to the first-floor rooms, as occurred in some of the mercantile residences; in most cases, the evidence simply does not survive. The evidence suggests that the lesser buildings thus share the move towards high-status first-floor chambers that were provided in the new merchant’s houses constructed between c.1520–1570, and the ongoing adaptation and remodelling of elite houses with panelled upper-floor reception and dining spaces with grand staircases seen at, for example, Strangers’ Hall in the seventeenth century. However, rather than representing the emulation of elite architectural forms, the trend emerges at the same time at different social levels. These L-plan buildings were probably occupied by prosperous tradesmen, who may well have had connections to the merchant class and served in minor civic offices as parish or ward constable, guild master or common councillor. They show an investment by the middling sort in the same types of domestic space found in elite residences and, presumably, the social relationships they supported. There is an emphasis on more specialised living and entertaining rooms, with the provision of high-status domestic spaces away from the service areas and commercial or industrial activities of the household. All of this supports the argument that there was an increasing tendency among the more prosperous members of the urban middling sort towards more segregated, class-based modes of domestic life and the provision of peer-group hospitality within the home (Hamling and Richardson 2017, 181–98).

Industrial and commercial activities As would be expected in an early modern context, there is considerable evidence for the intermixing of what can be broadly labelled ‘domestic’ and ‘industrial’ or ‘commercial’ functions across the period. A total of 38 per cent of the inventories mention a room called a shop or workshop, usually located on the ground floor. These rooms had highly specialised contents for the manufacture, storage and selling of merchandise (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 109–10). There is very little surviving physical evidence for


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 shops or workshops in the city; in most cases this has been destroyed by the continued commercial use of city-centre buildings. No. 15 Bedford Street has the only surviving sixteenth-century shop-front with large open windows and a fixed external bench. Similar ground-floor openings were recorded at Nos 47–51 King Street, on the ground floor of a timber-framed street range, but the date of these windows is not clear. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries such rooms are likely to have been used for industrial manufacture, with only limited retail functions (Alston 2004): in Norwich, much retailing took place in the marketplace and designated cloth halls. However, there is evidence for an increasing number of more specialist retail shops from the second half of the seventeenth century, as Norwich grew in prominence as a commercial and social centre (Priestley and Fenner 1985). Such retail premises were particularly concentrated around the north end of the marketplace and the surrounding streets. They were often heated and well furnished; the 1685 inventory of John Benton, a confectioner, describes a shop provided with chests and drawers and lit by a hanging candlestick (Priestley and Fenner 1985, 9). William Pinchin, a barber who died in 1665, had a shop with three chairs, benches with cushions, wall hangings, mirrors and pictures (Priestley and Fenner 1985, 19). Several of the surviving houses in the streets near the marketplace have moulded ceiling timbers on the ground floor (including Nos 7 and 21 Lower Goat Lane). If these spaces were used as shops, this may show the provision of finely detailed architectural features to provide a comfortable and attractive setting for customers. The steady increase in the number of houses with a garret, in both the inventory sample and in the standing buildings, has already been discussed. These rooms were increasingly used as warehouses and workshops, and after 1680 the majority of the owners of such rooms were textile workers (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 117). Most of the known attic workshops in the city, lit by long ranges of windows, date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although some of the surviving or recorded seventeenth-century attics were provided with substantial dormers and mullioned windows, which would have enabled their use as workrooms. Worsted weaving became the most important single craft in seventeenth-century Norwich, but it leaves few permanent traces and the majority of the attic spaces lack obvious features which allow them to be definitely labelled as workshop spaces; in this case we must assume a fit between the documentary sources and architectural remains. The excavation of a dyehouse on Westwick Street, in one of the prime textile production districts, was described in Chapter 6; it is an important contribution to a less well-known element of the city’s major industry. The site was owned by prosperous dyers in the late fourteenth century, who constructed high-status stone domestic buildings at right angles to the street. A stone dyehouse was constructed in the fifteenth century, and was rebuilt on two occasions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By this date the site was no longer owned by dyers, but there was clearly still potential for investment in large-scale industrial features, presumably by the tenant household. The retention and extension of industrial features by prosperous tenants is also suggested at 61–63 Botolph Street (281N), where a late medieval malthouse was rebuilt in the sixteenth century.


houses of the ‘middling sort’ The growth of the textile industry is also shown by the increasing numbers of ‘washhouses’ or ‘scouring houses’ in the probate inventories, many of which were used for the scouring of yarn (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 113). Many of these were probably located in the rear yards, where archaeological excavations have revealed ranges of industrial structures in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. On Oak Street, tenements B and D show extensive rebuilding and extensions to the rear of the main buildings in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These structures probably served a variety of both domestic and industrial functions; some were heated by back-to-back fireplaces, while one contained a large stone storage tank in the centre of the room (the precise function of which is unknown). Building D had buildings constructed around the rear courtyard in the early seventeenth century, at the same time as the main range was rebuilt. These had flimsy foundations and were unheated, and they have been interpreted as storage and work rooms. At this date the tenement was owned by a prosperous worsted weaver, and the rebuilding was focused on the development of a combined domestic and industrial complex. These sites show that capital investment in industrial activities remained strong in the post-medieval period, enabling prosperous tradesmen and artisans to take advantage of favourable economic conditions to increase their levels of production. This is a fundamental aspect of the ongoing process of social polarisation in the early modern city, which manifested itself both in the political and economic dominance of the middling sort and in the growing social and cultural differences between middling and lesser groups. It is already evident as early as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries that the urban bourgeoisie was in part defined by their occupation of larger urban plots which combined substantial domestic buildings with commercial and storage spaces and service buildings; in this they distinguished themselves from the mass of townspeople occupying smaller rental properties such as cottages and shops (Rees-Jones 2011). The location of industrial buildings, at the rear of properties but connected to domestic spaces, is identical to that seen in the mixed workshop and storage courtyard buildings in smaller East Anglian cloth towns (Alston 2004), but such features are less likely to survive in major city centres. Archaeological excavations have produced evidence for a wide range of industrial activities within the urban tenement, including cloth production, tanning, malting and metalworking. The generally limited evidence for large-scale industrial features in the standing buildings reflects both the low level of survival owing to later rebuilding, but also the requirements of a mode of production among the urban middling sort that remained small-scale and household-based in the early modern period. Even so, some of the tenements were being developed with workshops, kilns or dyeing vats that imply substantial businesses employing multiple journeymen and labourers. As we have seen, such patterns were beginning to shift within some early modern middling households, a trend which can be identified in Norwich at an early date. Beginning in the early to mid-sixteenth century, some houses separated their high-status domestic rooms from service and commercial activities by raising them onto the first floor, in parallel with a similar shift seen in elite residences. Overall, across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was increasing provision for


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 spatial segregation between different activities and room functions within the house, and potentially of social groups within the household, as seen in the construction of rear service or kitchen blocks and well-lit attic spaces. More prosperous middling households were certainly investing in new patterns of domestic space and material life, as seen by the increase in the overall value of early modern probate inventories identified by John Pound (1988, 37–44). Investment in buildings, furnishings, clothing and tablewares was a key marker of status and shared social identities within the middling sort, and drove the expansion of commerce and craft production in the early modern city (Wrightson 2000; Hamling and Richardson 2017). It is clear, however, that contemporaries would not have recognised our analytical concepts of ‘domestic’ and ‘commercial’ as distinctive spatial or social categories. The spaces of the urban tenement created an environment that enabled the artisan and trading household to function as a productive social and economic unit through the continuation of a pattern of shared living and working spaces that encouraged the inter-mingling of domestic and commercial activities in the everyday routines of its inhabitants.


8 Housing the urban poor and immigrant communities

• Poverty and migration in the early modern city


he preceding chapters have focused on the architectural, excavated and documentary evidence for urban houses across the medieval and early modern periods with a focus on the larger surviving examples of well-built houses with several rooms on each floor. These houses were in most cases lived in by the householders, artisans and tradespeople who broadly constituted the ‘middling sort’ in urban society. The following chapter turns to consider the dwellings of the poorer inhabitants of the early modern city, by examining the archaeological evidence for small-scale houses on urban tenements in the northern and western districts, alongside the architectural evidence for surviving smaller houses, most commonly of single-cell plan with two or three storeys. It is important to stress, as has already been highlighted, that these broad distinctions in house size do not exactly or easily map onto clear status divisions in the urban population. Several of the single-cell houses in the city were located on the principal streets in the central parishes and are comparatively large and well-built; these are likely to have been the homes of relatively prosperous townspeople who may well have been independent artisans or traders and no doubt considered themselves to belong to the middling ranks of society. Other examples of smaller cottages are located in side-alleys and rear yards in the central districts, and in greater numbers in the more outlying parishes, and these are more obvious candidates for houses built for and occupied by more humble urban households. The same caveat is true of all of the excavated sites which have been introduced in earlier chapters, the majority of which have occurred, by reason of the progress of modern urban redevelopment, in what would have been more marginal zones within the early modern city. At the large-scale urban tenement excavations of Alms Lane and Oak Street in ‘Over the Water’, for example, there is clear evidence that houses facing the principal streets with two, three or more rooms per floor existed cheek by jowl with smaller houses. While some broad status distinctions operated on the scale of the urban landscape, with the wealthiest urban households concentrated in the central zone, it is clear that more prosperous households existed alongside poorer families in all of the city’s parishes, with status distinctions operating at the level of the micro-­geography of principal streets and side streets, alleys and rear yards.


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 The social groups considered in the first half of this chapter, then, broadly correlate with the artisanal and labouring class in the late medieval and early modern city. This encompasses a sizeable proportion of the urban population and, at the same time, one which included a range of different occupations, wealth levels and household circumstances. The presence of a large group of comparatively humble residents is of course not a new phenomenon of the early modern period but a constant fact of life in the pre-modern town. In the case of Norwich, Elizabeth Rutledge has argued that in the first half of the fourteenth century the population of Norwich may have swelled to around 25,000 people, with significant inward migration from the surrounding agricultural districts, which may themselves have been coming under increasing strain from over-population and land-hunger. Using a surviving tithing roll for Mancroft leet, she argues that the adult male population more than doubled between 1311 and 1333; the majority of these incomers were probably relatively poor and worked as labourers. Up to three-quarters of the residents may have been renting their houses and the proportion of male residents who owned freehold property declined over this period from 13 per cent to just 6 per cent (Rutledge 1988; 1995). The impact of the Black Death in 1349–50 and subsequent plague outbreaks was no doubt particularly heavy in the comparatively crowded poorer districts, and the city’s population in the later fourteenth century seems to have been around 8000. However, the freemen’s lists show increased admissions to the rank of freeman after each major epidemic, perhaps representing a wish to respond to opening economic opportunities, and it has long been known that the later medieval period may have been one of comparative prosperity and improving living conditions for urban artisans and wage earners (Dunn 2004, 212–13; Dyer 1998, 222–33). Moving to consider the transition into the early modern era, it is useful to briefly return to the socio-economic structure of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Norwich which was presented in Chapter 2, based on John Pound’s analysis of data from the 1523–5 lay subsidies and the 1671 hearth tax returns and exemption certificates (Pound 1988, 31–45; Seaman 2001). It was noted that in the first quarter of the sixteenth century 416 households (30 per cent of the total number of tax-payers) held goods worth between £2 and £4, while a further 570 households (40 per cent of the taxpayers) were assessed on their wages alone, having little taxable property. Below this was an un-enumerated group of householders who were too poor to contribute to the subsidy, who may have formed at least a quarter of the total urban population (Pound 1988, 31–8). When the tax on domestic hearths was levied in the later seventeenth century over 60 per cent of the city’s households were excluded as they lived in dwellings possessing only a single hearth or their occupants failed to meet the wealth threshold for inclusion in the tax (Pound 1988, 42–5; Seaman 2001). Pound further argued that the level of exemption on the grounds of poverty in the 1671 hearth tax was much greater in Norwich than in comparable provincial urban centres, which suggests that the city’s population explosion and commercial and industrial expansion in the seventeenth century had resulted in an increase in households existing in the lowest ranks of urban society. For Norwich, even more so than in other major


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities towns, the early modern period was characterised by a process of profound social and economic polarisation (Pound 1988, 42–3). Poverty in the early modern period, as it is today, was a complex phenomenon which encompassed both absolute and relative definitions of a household’s economic and social position. Not all the families who were categorised as wage earners or exempted from national taxation on the grounds of their income or wealth would have been considered among the urban ‘poor’ by their fellow citizens or indeed by themselves. Many of the households who paid tax at the lowest level or who were assessed on their wages would have existed above subsistence level. Some in this category were independent householders and artisans who ran their own workshops, especially in some of the lower-status crafts, including weaving and textile production, leather working and victualling. Even this does not represent a firm status division; while some crafts were on the whole much wealthier than others, all crafts included masters with varying levels of capital and wealth, and crafts could also change their status within the broad banding of occupations – the increasing prosperity of the worsted weavers in the seventeenth century being a case in point (Pound 1988, 44–67). Many other poorer urban households were employed as wage earners, either as skilled journeymen who may have been unable to establish an independent workshop but worked for another master craftsman, or as one of the large body of wage labourers who performed the monotonous and unskilled tasks that made the urban economy function. While the wage-earners of early modern towns were undoubtedly relatively poor, the majority should not be classed as paupers. They were often able to supplement their income with the labour of their wives and children, and it was only during times of acute stress such as loss of work or illness that they were at risk of becoming absolutely destitute. A considerable proportion of the urban population experienced intermittent or regular periods of under- or unemployment depending on swings in the wider economy, particularly the fluctuating fortunes of the textile industry over the sixteenth century (Pound 1971b; Slack 1988). A great deal of urban poverty was thus temporary and often related to particular phases in the lifecycle, particularly household formation and termination. Many young urban migrants to the city, both men and women, who were not able to find secure residential employment as a domestic servant must have swelled the numbers occupying lodgings and subdivided properties, earning their living through casual labour, piece work or, in the case of women, periods of work as prostitutes. Households could experience poverty because of the sickness or untimely death of the principal wage earner, and widows and single women with or without children were particularly vulnerable to poverty in the later stages of their lives (Souden 1984; Wales 1984; Clark 1987). Poverty was closely associated with concerns around social control and civic order, but also with the definition of the urban community. As older forms of medieval charity and almsgiving shifted in the later Middle Ages, and especially after the Reformation, a powerful discourse emerged which differentiated between the deserving and undeserving poor and those who were and were not entitled to relief


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 from the city or parish. Long-term residence became a defining feature of access to charity, and vagrants or migrants without employment were increasingly subject to harsh punishment and expulsion (Slack 1988; Hindle 2004). The bodies of the poor were increasingly regulated and inspected, set to work and publicly marked. The poor could be identified by the issuing of licences or badges to allow the bearer permission to beg; Steve Hindle has shown how such badges might begin by identifying the bearer as a worthy recipient of charity but became a mark of shame and social difference (Hindle 2004, 434–45). The division between those who contributed to and those who received parish alms may likewise have become a cause of increasing social tensions within the rapidly expanding urban population. Those deemed unworthy were called before the mayor’s court and ordered to find employment or face a spell in the Bridewell, or subjected to branding, whipping or public humiliation for a range of petty crimes, drunkenness, immorality or ‘ill-rule’ as part of the wider ‘reformation of manners’ pursued by the godly magistrates (Griffiths 1996; Williamson 2014). In Norwich we have an unrivalled source that enables us to shine a light onto the lives of this element of urban society. As described in Chapter 2, in 1570 the corporation commissioned a census of the city’s poor (Pound 1971a). The civic government had long been concerned with the large numbers of poor households, and in particular with a fear of vagrants or beggars entering the city and becoming a drain on the purses of its citizens as well as a threat to civic order. The terrible experiences during Kett’s uprising in 1549 had stimulated Norwich to become the first provincial city to institute regular, compulsory parish contributions for the relief of the city’s native poor, as well as a city grain stock (Pound 1971b, 61). Pound suggests that the actions taken in 1570 may likewise have been prompted by concerns at the highest level of government about the potential for unrest in the second city of the realm following an abortive rebellion of local gentry targeted at the city’s growing Dutch and Walloon migrant community (Pound 1971a, 8–9). The 1570 census lists over 800 poor households within the city’s English population (the immigrant communities had their own procedures for collecting and distributing poor relief ). They contained between them 525 men and 860 women over the age of 16, and a further 926 children and young adolescents, forming close to one-third of the city’s English population of approximately 8000, estimated from the listings in the Muster roll of 1569 (Pound 1988, 126–7). The poor were found in all parishes but were significantly concentrated in the outlying wards: they constituted over 40 per cent of the English households living in the western ward of St Giles, more than one-third of the English households in North Conesford and Ber Street wards to the south, and between one-quarter and almost one-third of the English households in the three northern wards of Coslany, Colegate and Fyebridge. In contrast, the wealthiest central wards of Mid and East Wymer and St Peter Mancroft together held less than one-eighth of the city’s poor households (Pound 1971a, 10–11). The census provides a remarkable level of detail about their ages, marital status, occupation, sickness or disability, living accommodation and whether or not they were in receipt of parish relief, and historians have utilised this evidence to recover a range of insights into the lives and experience of the urban poor in the sixteenth century. Nearly


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities one-quarter of poor men were identified as textile workers, the majority of whom had some form of employment; the same number were described as labourers, but over one-third of these were unemployed. Almost all the women were also in some form of work, two-thirds of them in spinning, providing the essential raw materials for the city’s most important industry. The remainder were employed in a wide range of occupations including sewing, knitting and weaving, or as pedlars, servants or washerwomen, many combining more than one task. The income provided by children’s labour was an equally important supplement to the household’s subsistence; the majority of children between the ages of five and 16 worked as spinners, knitters or in a multitude of other tasks, although a surprising number (77 in total) also attended school (Pound 1971a, 12–19). The majority of the adults listed were of working age, and a significant proportion (21 per cent of the men and 25 per cent of the women) were aged 60 or above. Nuclear families were the norm, but 183 households were headed by widows and a further 46 by deserted wives (Pound 1971a, 12–19). Margaret Pelling has explored the experiences of the elderly poor, and has drawn attention to the many instances of unequal ages between spouses as evidence for the necessity of marriage in forming domestic units capable of providing a basic level of subsistence. As well as those in old age, a large number of the Norwich poor are described as being sick, having lost limbs or being disabled in other ways. Despite their situation, the majority were deemed capable of employment and indeed were described as working in some occupation (Pelling 1998). The census lists comparatively few young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, and presumably most of these were in residential employment elsewhere. Paul Griffiths has highlighted just how concerned the city magistrates were with ‘masterless’ young people who were not in service or under the authority of a household head and thereby seen as a potential source of disorder and immorality within the urban community; while this was true of both sexes, the majority of the cases prosecuted before the mayor’s court involved single young women (Griffiths 1996). The census is particularly informative about the housing and living conditions of the city’s poor, which can supplement the evidence provided below in the consideration of the architectural and archaeological evidence. In total, 300 poor people lived in properties belonging to the church or civic authorities. These included 17 houses associated with the old medieval hospitals of St Paul’s or Norman’s in Fyebridge and St Giles’s in Bishopgate, now run by the corporation as charitable institutions. A further 157 poor people lived in houses owned by the church or in ‘parish houses’; some of these could be quite large, such as a house in the parish of St John in Ber Street which contained six families totalling 19 people. The precise nature of these parish houses is discussed further below, where the surviving row of sixteenth-century houses at Nos 2–12 Gildencroft in St Augustine’s parish is tentatively identified as a possible example of such a structure. Finally, 26 people lived in three houses owned by the city corporation, and a further 58 people rented accommodation in the gatehouses and towers that studded the city’s decaying medieval walls (Pound 1971a, 13). The remaining poor lived in houses in private ownership, and it is striking that over one-third of these belonged to men who were already serving as city councillors


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 and aldermen or were to do so in the near future, even though these were the same men who had repeatedly passed regulations against housing poor persons unable to support themselves. John Aldrich, the mayor who commissioned the 1570 census, with its preamble fulminating against the idle and disease-ridden poor, himself owned five houses occupied by a total of 33 poor inhabitants (Pound 1971a, 14–15). Among the names of property owners renting houses to the poor are many familiar from earlier chapters on the civic elite, and some of these were large properties which had been subdivided, a practice also identified in the archaeological record. John Sotherton owned five houses, including a house in St Mary’s Coslany that contained 11 families comprising 34 people – among them Joan Bryce, a widow aged over 60 and her daughter, both cotton spinners; John Burton, a labourer ‘in work’ and his wife Mary; Richard Colyn, a waterman, and his wife and child; Leonard Symonds, aged 40, a glover ‘not in work’, his wife Elizabeth who span white warp, and their three children; Mary Wood, a 40-year old widow and her three children, who all knitted for a living; and Father Whitehead and his wife Joan, both aged 80 years and past able to work (Pound 1971a, 71). Among the many other major property owners within the civic elite, Robert Suckling also owned five houses, while Edmund Pye owned seven, and Augustine Steward owned two large houses in North Conesford containing 17 and 14 people respectively. The rest of the privately owned houses in the city were owned by a combination of freemen and non-freemen, as well as 22 women, most of whom owned a single house leased to a poor family, although some had larger collections of properties, some in multiple occupation. Perhaps surprisingly, 61 poor families owned their own home, perhaps having once been more prosperous but since fallen on hard times, and some of these houses were shared with a second resident household (Pound 1971a, 14–15). The city government was perhaps shocked at the extent of poverty in the city’s outlying parishes. At the time of the census only 180 families were in receipt of any parish relief, mostly 1d or 2d a week, and almost all of these were identified as either aged or otherwise incapacitated and unable to work – the vast majority of ‘able’ poor received nothing. In response to the findings of the census, the city’s poor rate was significantly increased and the number of residents charged with contributions rose from 650 to 940, while the number of families receiving assistance increased to 340. The city purchased stocks of materials to provide work for the unemployed, and at the same time created a House of Correction or Bridewell where vagrants, drunkards or those of loose morals could be punished and set to work (housed initially in St Paul’s hospital and after 1585 in the old medieval flint-walled Appleyard family mansion, next to St Andrew’s church). The seeming success of the Norwich scheme provided a model for the reform of national legislation the following year, and John Aldrich, the mayor who had instituted the original census, sat on the committee which produced the Poor Law Act of 1572 (Pound 1971a, 19–21). Poverty was therefore a constant presence in the streets of early modern towns, but it is not always easy to define or recognise, and it does not have a simple material correlate in terms of neighbourhood or housing. The houses which survive as standing structures are, by definition, among the more substantial buildings in the early


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities modern city. Many of the smaller single-cell houses discussed below are likely to have been built by wealthy landlords as speculative developments for rental, but this itself implies comparatively stable households who were fixed in their neighbourhoods and possessed an income derived from industry or wage labour that provided them with a basic level of subsistence and even a modest degree of comfort. The excavated sites are more likely to reveal evidence of more flimsy dwellings which may have been built in less substantial materials such as clay and thatch, which have rarely survived as standing structures. There is both archaeological and documentary evidence for the structural subdivision of larger properties in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to create several separate houses, as will be outlined below. However, multiple occupation of houses with families lodging in just one or two rooms must have been a very common phenomenon which will not always leave any material traces in either an excavated or a standing building. At the same time, the very poorest section of urban society was undoubtedly a relatively transient population of individuals who had either slipped through the safety net provided by the urban parish or guild or who had never benefited from its existence: recent migrants looking for work, the unemployed, or abandoned women or children. Such people occasionally appear in the documentary sources, often when they are being punished for begging or vagrancy; they must have dwelt in makeshift houses, in temporary lodgings, in hovels or sheds, or bedded down in a church porch or a street corner, and we have almost no direct evidence for their homes or manner of living. The 1570 census showed that, among the English poor, over half were migrants to the city, although a considerable number of these had been resident in Norwich for between ten and 20 years and many for even longer; the corporation’s fears of high numbers of indigent vagrants arriving to take advantage of the citizens’ charity certainly appears to have been largely unfounded (Pound 1971, 12). However, as has been already alluded to, Norwich’s population was swelled in the second half of the sixteenth century by another much larger and more immediately conspicuous group of migrants: the immigrant alien communities of Flemish-speaking Dutch and Frenchspeaking Walloons, Protestant refugees from the Spanish Low Countries, collectively known as the Strangers. As outlined in Chapter 2, the initial settlement of Stranger families occurred when in 1565 mayor Thomas Sotherton obtained royal licence to invite a group of Stranger families to the city with the explicit aim of reviving the moribund textile industry with new products and methods (Priestley 1990, 9). The size of the immigrant communities increased rapidly, and by the final quarter of the sixteenth century they comprised more than one-third of the city’s total population (Pound 1988, 57–60). The Stranger communities contained a wide range of occupations and status groups, including some wealthy merchants and professional men, but the vast majority were employed in the textile trade and a sizeable proportion of these were comparatively poor, being assessed as wage earners. The Stranger communities were heavily concentrated in the same geographical areas as the English poor, particularly in the northern and western wards, where they must have formed a very prominent and visible proportion of the total population. It is therefore undoubtedly the case that many of the houses and tenements excavated in these districts must have


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 been occupied by Stranger households, and there is some tantalising evidence in the ceramic assemblages and other finds on these sites for distinctive cultural practices that may allow us to trace their presence. While it is rarely possible to directly map ethnic or cultural identities onto the archaeological record, the combination of historical and archaeological evidence from Norwich represents an important opportunity to explore the material construction of distinctive cultural identities in a highly diverse and complex early modern urban environment. This chapter therefore brings together these multiple strands of evidence to consider questions of living standards, migration and social and cultural identities within this significant but comparatively neglected element within the early modern urban population. The first half of the chapter reviews standing building and archaeological evidence for the form and use of space in smaller houses which can be associated with the artisanal and wage-earning class in early modern Norwich. It emphasises the major population expansion which occurred in the later sixteenth and seventeenth century alongside the boom in the city’s textile industry and the consequences this had for housing and living conditions in the increasingly crowded streets, lanes and yards in both the city centre and the outlying parishes. The chapter then moves on to consider the historical and archaeological evidence for the presence and impact of the immigrant Stranger communities as a key element in this complex and growing urban population.

Surviving smaller houses and single-cell buildings The existence and growth of a comparatively poor wage-earning and artisanal class is an essential component of urban patterns of building in the pre-modern town and can be traced in both the documentary and archaeological record. Rutledge traces the physical and social impact of a major population boom in the first half of the fourteenth century on the city’s property market: there was an increasing intensity of occupation within the freehold properties described in the deeds enrolled by the Norwich leet courts between 1285 and 1340, with increasing references to shops (shope), some with solars, and cottages (cotagia), with the terms sometimes used interchangeably; these occur frequently in rows of three or four units, and sometimes in larger groups of up to eight or nine (Rutledge 1995, 10–11; Kelly et al. 1983). This matches our evidence for rows of purpose-built rental units from other towns, such as the surviving timber-framed rows at Lady Row, Goodramgate and Nos 54–60 Stonegate in York, or the excavated row of clay-walled single-room cottages at Lower Brook Street, Winchester (Platt 1976, 68–9; Quiney 2003, 255–67). There is no surviving evidence either among the standing buildings or archaeological excavations for such rows dating from before the Black Death in Norwich; they are likely to have been clay-walled and thatched structures which will leave comparatively limited physical remains. Jayne Rimmer has provided a comprehensive survey of both the documentary and architectural evidence for smaller houses in York and Norwich between the mid-fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries, focusing in particular on the activities


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities of institutional landlords – in Norwich, the hospital of St Giles and the city corporation (Rimmer 2007). Both of these institutions, alongside the cathedral priory, can be seen developing property portfolios for rental in the pre-Black Death period; in the early 1330s, for instance, the cathedral pitancer John de Wurthstede purchased four pieces of land and two messuages in the parishes of St Cuthbert and St Mary in the Marsh and built 23 ‘rents’ as well as a hall and solar (Rutledge 1995, 17). While the rental income of all three bodies was increasing in this period, the majority of Norwich’s urban property remained in the hands of individual laymen rather than the Church, unlike in some towns (Rutledge 1995, 14–16). Like all landlords, the Norwich institutions suffered considerable disruption to their rental income in the wake of the Black Death; in the fifteenth and sixteenth century St Giles’s hospital experienced financial difficulty as a result of significant rent arrears and vacant properties (Rawcliffe 1999, 94–102). In response, Rimmer identifies investment by landlords in repair and improvements to buildings in various parts of their estates. The hospital building accounts often refer to the purchase of clay (argil or terrai) as a building material and payments to ‘cleymen’ for repair work, confirming the extensive use of clay walling in all parts of the city in the late medieval period; Rimmer also notes that larger properties frequently combined the use of clay-walling and flint and stone as a building material. In contrast, the corporation’s major properties in the marketplace consisted of rows of timber-framed shops and stalls with upper solars, some of which were leased separately, and the city invested in timber windows and pentices, and locks and keys, to enhance the security of their commercial properties. Both thatch and tile were commonly used roofing materials across the city (Rimmer 2007, 150–71). The small houses listed in the Hospital’s rental accounts are recorded as having first-floor solars supported by timber elements, which might be paralleled by the inserted upper-floor spaces identified in the late fifteenth-century clay-walled buildings on Alms Lane (Rimmer 2007, 153–4). Rimmer also notes the provision of chimneys constructed of flint, lime and tile or brick in both large and small houses on the estates of both the hospital and the corporation, representing an improvement in the provision for heating and cooking for the tenants of small houses. However, there is no record of the provision of chimneys or louvres in the corporation’s marketplace rows, suggesting that, if they were occupied as residential spaces, their occupants must have relied on portable braziers (Rimmer 2007, 172–4). The archaeological excavations at varied sites across the city have provided extensive evidence for the provision of smaller clay-walled and flint-rubble buildings in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries alongside larger structures, including a series of tenements with clay-walled buildings at Alms Lane (302N) (Atkin 1985) and a row of small houses with cellars at Pottergate (149N) (Evans and Carter 1985), which are likely to have been built by individual landlords for rental to small-scale artisan and labouring households. There is little architectural evidence in Norwich for smaller houses dating from the fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries. Rimmer points to the street range of Strangers’ Hall, which may have been subdivided into separate rental units, and to the single-cell building at No. 15 Bedford Street with its surviving timber-framed shop front, which may also have formed part of a longer row of buildings (Rimmer


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 92. Nos 2–12 Gildencroft: a sixteenth-century row of houses (photograph © Chris King).

Figure 93. Ground-floor plan of Nos 2–12 Gildencroft (drawn by Chris King after plans in NHER).


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities 2007, 66–86). Both of these have already been described in detail in Chapter 6; they are comparatively large and well-built structures with decorative timber-framing and cellars or undercrofts, located in the central commercial zone of the city, and are likely to have been occupied by relatively prosperous craftsmen or traders. Another example is the surviving fifteenth-century three-storey structure standing in the corner of St Peter Hungate churchyard at No. 9 Elm Hill, known as the Britons Arms. As discussed in Chapter 6, this is an unusual building which may have been designed to house a quasi-religious community, thereby representing one important aspect of medieval traditions for providing for the urban poor. The best candidate for a domestic structure which may have been home to more humble urban residents is the only certain purpose-built row of houses surviving in Norwich, at Nos 2–12 Gildencroft in St Augustine’s parish, on the northern edge of the city (Figure 92). The row faces the parish churchyard, in a manner familiar from other cities, such as York. The houses are somewhat larger than the single-cell or single bay-width properties that often form medieval row buildings, having more in common with the two-room plans found at Spon Street in Coventry and Nos 34–50 Church Street, Tewkesbury, although without an open hall (Meeson and Alcock 2016). The Gildencroft row is constructed with a flint-rubble ground floor and a close-studded timber-framed first floor, jettied to the front, in the same way as other early sixteenth-century properties across the city, with some evidence for original blocked entrance doors with brick jambs and timber window frames with chamfered mullions (Smith and Carter 1983, 16; Rimmer 2007, 86–8). The original row consisted of seven houses (the eastern unit is now gone). Each had two rooms on each floor arranged in-line, one heated and one unheated (Figure 93). The original front entrances were positioned in the heated bay and the plan of No. 10 as


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 reconstructed by Rimmer suggests a cross-passage between now-blocked front and rear doors against the central partition, which would suggest a ‘hall’ and ‘service’ arrangement. The heated bay contained a staircase to the first floor, which was open to the roof. The houses currently share internal back-to-back fireplaces, which have been assumed in the past to be original features, although Rimmer suggests these may be later insertions, perhaps replacing earlier stacks or smoke hoods (Rimmer 2007, 89–91). The combined flint-rubble and timber-framed two-storeyed construction, the two-room plan and even the back-to-back fireplaces are very similar to the early or mid-sixteenth-century phases at the excavated site at Alms Lane, as well as other surviving sixteenth-century structures in the city, and this remains the best estimate for the date of this block. It may therefore have been built either before or after the Reformation. The original ownership of the building is also of significant interest. There is no surviving documentation linking the row to the ownership of the Church. Nonetheless, while the row may have been built as a speculative commercial rental, Rimmer convincingly argues that the position of the block along the south side of the parish churchyard, as well as its length and substantial construction, make it more likely to have been built by an institution, and its location is very similar to the rows constructed in churchyards in late medieval York that were originally intended to fund chantry foundations (Rimmer 2007, 91–2; Short 1979). The 1570 census of the poor may shed further light on this issue. St Augustine is the most northerly parish in Colegate ward and contained a large number of poor households. Included among the properties occupied by the poor was ‘The Spitall house’, which contained seven separate families – among them two worsted weavers, a calendrer and a bodger, all described as in work, and a tiler not in work, their wives and children who were employed in spinning, carding and weaving, and a single woman and a widow. Four of these families received no alms, while three were granted 2d a week in addition presumably to their free or subsidised accommodation. In this context it may also be important that all but one of the families are identified as long-term residents, either ‘having dwelt here ever’, been apprenticed in the city, or having lived in the city for periods of between seven and 12 years (Pound 1971a, 77). The number of families matches the original number of houses in the row, and it is the only listed property in the parish with this many resident households. While this entry cannot be proven to relate to the Gildencroft structure, its location makes it a good candidate for one of the 25 ‘church houses’, ‘parish houses’ or ‘hospital houses’ listed in the 1570 census (Pound 1971a, 13), and if this is the case it is the only instance where we can link the census to a surviving building. The high number of these structures recorded in antiquarian sources indicate that provision of housing for the city’s resident poor represents a continuation in the post-Reformation period of the kinds of local charitable provision of almshouses or maisons dieu which were common in late medieval cities (Rawcliffe 2004, 323). A good example can be found in St Swithun’s parish in Westwick, where, in his will dated 1570, Augustine Steward granted five tenements to the Great Hospital to house poor widows ‘of good behaviour’; in the census of the same year we find listed a ‘hospital house’ containing just this number of women, all


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities widows, aged over 60 and having lived in Norwich for periods of between 26 and 50 years (Blomefield 1806 [1745] Vol. III, 255; Pound 1971a, 56). While small houses which can be clearly identified as dating to the medieval or early post-medieval period are rare, Norwich is unusual for a provincial city in the large number of surviving small single-cell houses dating mainly from the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Smith 2001). The surviving buildings have two storeys and an attic, sometimes with a cellar beneath, and are constructed in the same way as larger houses. The earlier examples have flint-and-brick rubble ground floors and gables with timber-framing above, the later seventeenth-century examples have full-height masonry walls, and they are all roofed parallel to the street frontage. The basic plan is similar to rural examples (Longcroft 2002, 38–43); it consists of a square or rectangular room with a chimneystack against one gable. There is often evidence for a staircase on one side of the stack, which can be against either the front or rear wall. The houses are entered either through a lobby on one side of the stack or by a door against the opposite gable. Sometimes there is an opposing door creating a cross-passage plan, but there is rarely evidence that this was ever screened from the main room. As already noted in the preceding chapter, there are examples of buildings with a single room on the ground floor, sometimes with a side entry, facing principal streets and with the potential to be subdivided into more rooms on the upper floors; examples include 59 Colegate and 20 Westlegate. These are likely to have been lived in by more prosperous artisans and tradesmen. The other single-cell houses in the city are generally smaller, and can be divided into two basic forms; those which were constructed as single houses, and those which are part of a pair. Both types are found in similar locations in the city. The single-cell block at No. 63 St George’s Street, with its full-height masonry walls and brick dressings and plat band, has already been mentioned; constructed by worsted weaver William Watson in 1670, it is not strictly speaking a single-cell house, being an addition to an earlier building (Fig 94). However, such small two-storeyed dwellings are recorded throughout the city, typically with flint-rubble walls with brick dressings, and one or two dormers lighting the attic. Many probably date to the third quarter of the seventeenth century onwards, when the population of the city expanded rapidly. Examples were recorded on Cherry Lane, at Nos 135–7 Cowgate, No. 8 Grapes Hill, No. 134 King Street, No. 1 St Benedict’s Alley, No. 76 St Giles Street and No. 19 Willow Lane – all built facing onto the street but in relatively peripheral areas in the early modern city. Other small single-cell dwellings are located on minor side lanes or facing courts or yards behind larger properties. A row of three, all constructed at different times, survives on the west side of Tombland Alley (Figure 95). Nos 2 and 2a (now a single property) have flint-rubble ground floors and jettied timber-framed first floors, front and back. The ceiling timbers have quadrant- and scroll-mouldings. The north house has a fireplace on the north gable, with stack-side stairs lit by a small window, and a five-light ovolo-mullion window on the ground floor. No. 1 Tombland Alley (now incorporated into the rear range of No. 26 Princes Street) had an attic inserted in the seventeenth century, lit by a mullioned window. These small houses are located in a prosperous


Figure 94. No. 63 St George’s Street: a flint-and-brick building with a datestone of 1670 (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).

housing the urban poor and immigrant communities central parish, with some evidence of finer architectural detailing, such as the moulded window mullions; they may have been leased to more prosperous artisanal or wage-earning families despite their location in a side alleyway facing St George Tombland churchyard. A similar group of small houses survives on St Miles’ Alley, facing St Michael Coslany churchyard, north of the river; although it is not possible to reconstruct their plan, they are likely to have included single-cell dwellings. Norwich also has several pairs of single-cell dwellings constructed as a unit, presumably for rental. Nos 47–49 St Martin’s Lane is one of the best surviving examples. This flint-walled block is placed at right angles to the lane, facing a narrow yard. There are two houses with stacks on the gable walls with stack-stairs, with a pair of entrance doors on either side of a central timber partition, now gone (Figure 96). A similar pair of houses once stood further along the street at Nos 67–69 St Martin’s Lane, but placed along the street frontage. There are further examples at Nos 176–178 King Street and Nos 109–111 Pottergate (demolished), each with attic dormers to the front and rear; these could date to the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. A variation on the plan was to have a pair of houses on either side of a shared central chimneystack, as occurred at Nos 5–7 Timberhill (Smith 2001).

Figure 95. Nos 2–2a Tombland Alley: late sixteenth-/early seventeenth-century single-cell houses (photograph © Chris King).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 96. Nos 47–49 St Martin’s Lane: a pair of single-cell houses (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities There are also a few examples in the pre-war photographs of single-storey cottages, although no examples survive. A house on Wellington Lane (which runs along the inside of the city wall between Pottergate and St Benedict’s Street) had a crow-stepped gable, and dormers had been added to the single-storey structure. Similar houses were recorded in Holmes Yard (off Westwick Street), on Rosemary Lane (off Colegate) and on Golden Dog Lane (off Magdalen Street). These are all minor lanes or courts in peripheral areas of the city. Although several of the surviving single-cell houses are located in the central parishes, the archaeological and photographic records show that they were much more common in the outer parishes. The photographs in the Plunkett Collection show many narrow yards in all areas of the city crammed with small flint and timber dwellings, many of which must have had a single-cell plan. From their external appearance many of these date to the late seventeenth century, with flint-masonry or brick walls, sometimes with brick detailing or plat bands, frequently with timber and plasterwork or brick dormers lighting attic spaces. The yards and lanes in the northern and southern parishes were crammed with such buildings; good examples can be seen in photographs of Old Brew Yard off Oak Street (Figure 97), Thoroughfare Yard off Magdalen Street (Figure 98), and Murrell’s Yard off King Street. This corresponds to

Figure 97. Old Brew Yard, off Oak Street (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 98. Thoroughfare Yard, off Magdalen Street (reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection).


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities the documentary sources for the distribution of poor households in the early modern city. As already noted above, the hearth tax returns and exemption certificates of 1671 show that 52 per cent of the households in the city had a single hearth and a further 25 per cent had two hearths (Pound 1988, 43–5; Seaman 2001). Many of these households must have occupied single-cell houses, either purposefully constructed or as a subdivision of a larger property. Small houses with a single hearth were particularly concentrated in the wards of North and South Conesford, Ber Street, West Wymer and Coslany. In many of the outer parishes the vast majority of the households were exempt from the hearth tax, with no more than two hearths: over 75 per cent in St Mary Coslany, St Martin-at-Oak, St John de Sepulchre and the suburb of Pockthorpe; over 80 per cent in All Saints, St Michael at Thorn and St Paul; and 91 per cent in St Peter Southgate (Seaman 2001, Table 3). The occupiers of such houses were generally poor artisans, particularly in the building, leather, metal, transport and textile trades (Pound 1988, 45). Many others were the poor women, particularly widows, who made up a considerable proportion of the population in the poorer parishes. In the discussion of house size in the probate inventories studied by Priestley and Corfield in the preceding chapter it was noted that the distribution of house sizes changed very little across the early modern period, with the majority of inventories listing between four and nine rooms. In particular it is striking that one- to threeroomed houses accounted for roughly 18 per cent of the total throughout this 150-year period (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 100). The surviving buildings and the excavated evidence show that there was in fact a significant increase in the number of small houses across the city in the seventeenth century, further supported by the evidence from the hearth tax returns and exemptions. This suggests that the population increase of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the intensification of land use and subdivision of properties which accompanied it, was heavily concentrated among those households which were generally too poor to leave an inventory of their goods. Looking at this issue from a different angle, Pound (1988, 134–40) has separately analysed the 280 surviving inventories of the poorer households of the city between 1584 and 1670. Pound defines ‘the poor’ for this purpose as those who owned property worth up to £10 in the sixteenth century and up to £15 in the seventeenth century. Inventory evidence, of course, generally excludes the very poor, and the truly impoverished or transient migrant population is much less likely to appear in these records. It should not be assumed, therefore, that this definition encompasses the same group of people who constituted ‘the poor’ as enumerated in the census of 1570 or in the hearth tax exemption certificates. Of these 280 examples of the relatively poor householders within the inventory sample, only 70 (25 per cent) list individual rooms. Some of the remaining three-quarters may indeed have occupied single-room dwellings either as standalone cottages or as a subdivision of a larger property. However, this cannot be assumed – listing by room was a convention that may not have been followed where the number of goods to be appraised was comparatively small. The houses of this group were, unsurprisingly, smaller on average than those in the main sample of Norwich inventories analysed by Priestley and Corfield, with 26 per cent of those listing rooms having two rooms and 60 per cent having three to five rooms. The


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 average size of poorer houses may have increased slightly in the seventeenth century, as by 1650–70 nearly three-quarters of the houses of the poor had at least three rooms. This may reflect the more widespread provision of attics in smaller houses. The use of space in smaller houses is more difficult to determine, but there is only limited evidence for the specialisation of room functions at lower social levels, in contrast to larger houses. In the inventories of small houses in late medieval York, Rimmer identifies a general tendency for beds, bedding and clothing to be found in ‘chambers’ and for ‘halls’ to contain furnishing for seating and frequently cooking utensils and working tools; some houses also had a more specialised kitchen or workshop space (Rimmer 2007, 223–32). In the dwellings of the poorer householders of Norwich analysed by John Pound, up to three-quarters had a room called a ‘hall’ in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and the same number had a room called a ‘parlour’. Other small houses retained the older term ‘low house’ or ‘fire house’. The halls served as general-purpose living and cooking rooms; very few of these inventories, unlike those of larger properties, listed a separate kitchen. In the late seventeenth century there was a shift away from named ground-floor rooms; only a quarter of the inventories list a hall or parlour. However, 80 per cent of poor inventories mention chambers, often more than one (Pound 1988, 135–7). It is important to bear in mind the small number of sample inventories, but this evidence does support the trend seen in surviving examples of smaller buildings towards single-cell houses with two-storeys and attic spaces, alongside a tendency for the poor to occupy chambers within larger subdivided properties.

Housing the poor on urban tenements The extensive archaeological remains already discussed in earlier chapters support the standing building evidence for the increasing provision of smaller, single-cell dwellings throughout the city in the seventeenth century. A combination of the two sources of evidence is necessary to provide a full picture of this process. The standing building remains include a sizeable number of purpose-built single-cell houses, and pairs of houses, located along the frontages of more peripheral streets and in rear lanes and courts. The excavations show both the construction of small buildings in rear yards and the subdivision of larger properties. At Nos 61–63 Botolph Street (281N), on the northern edge of the city, the substantial flint-walled L-plan house with a malthouse attached, described in Chapter 7, was demolished in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. It was replaced by a long range of buildings running back from the street frontage divided into four rooms with back-to-back fireplaces and quarry tiled floors; the excavators suggested that this formed two houses but the internal arrangements are unclear and it could have formed a row of three or more one- and two-roomed cottages facing the yard behind the street frontage, constructed as a speculative venture. There was a well in the yard to the west, and two large cesspits to the north, in use between c.1625–1700 and c.1700–1760 respectively (Figure 99). These features again suggest the shared use of yard areas and amenities by households occupying rental units (Davison 1985).


Figure 99. Site 281N, Botolph Street: site plan (Davison 1985, Fig. 34, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

Figure 100. Site 302N Alms Lane: summary plans of the site c.1600–75 (top) and c.1720–50 (bottom) (Atkin 1985, Figs 60–61, © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service).

housing the urban poor and immigrant communities At the site on Alms Lane (302N) the two- and three-roomed buildings constructed in the first half of the sixteenth century survived with additions and modifications such as the addition of a rear wing and what appears to be a rear staircase turret to one of the structures in c.1600. However, there was a phase of major rebuilding across the site in the seventeenth century (Figure 100). The two larger three-room buildings along the Alms Lane frontage were each divided into separate dwellings on either side of their back-to-back fireplaces, creating a row of two-roomed and single-cell houses. They were occupied between c.1600 and 1675, as evidenced by the material which built up in the large flint-lined cesspit which the houses shared and in the substantial midden deposit containing seventeenth-century ceramics and clay pipes which built up to 1m high against the southern boundary wall (Atkin 1985). The documentary sources confirm this sequence of subdivision: by 1593 Nicholas Dyngle, a worsted weaver, had purchased tenement A in two separate transactions, and it is described as ‘now divided and used as two tenements’. By 1609 he was also in possession of tenement B, and in that year he sold both properties to Robert Morse, a gentleman (Atkin 1985, 238). The buildings on these plots were still standing in the early twentieth century and were photographed by George Plunkett: on tenement B, Nos 86–88 St George’s Street are jettied with prominent dormers; on tenement A, facing Alms Lane, was a row of smaller cottages with dormers, faced in brick with modest plat-bands (Figure 101).

Figure 101. Houses once standing on the Alms Lane site: Nos. 86–88 St George’s Street (left) and Nos. 2–6 Alms Lane (right) (Reproduced with permission from the Plunkett collection)


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 A similar sequence of increasingly intensive occupation can be seen on the Oak Street site (351N). Tenements A/B and H were amalgamated with new rows of buildings constructed running back at right angles from Oak Street. Those facing St Martin’s Lane to the south included Nos 67–69, already described above as a purpose-built pair of single-cell rentals. On tenement B the rear yard was filled by a range of buildings in the later sixteenth century which included rooms divided by a back-to-back fireplace and unheated rooms with storage tanks which may have been textile workshops. On tenement D, which had begun life as a substantial late medieval L-plan house with an upper floor inserted in the post-medieval period, the rear yard was also filled with a range of flimsy buildings which may have started life as textile workshops; at this date the tenement was owned by a series of master weavers. In the late seventeenth century these buildings were reconstructed as a two-room brick dwelling (Atkin 1978). All of these sites clearly show more substantial urban properties with combined but demarcated domestic and commercial spaces being subdivided over time with small-scale residential accommodation filling the rear yards. Pound draws attention to corroborating documentary evidence for worsening conditions in the city’s poor districts in the seventeenth century, as citizens were brought before the mayor’s court for leasing their houses to poor families who were likely to become a charge on the parish rates. In July 1636 Thomas Stalworthy of St Swithun’s parish and his wife were charged with housing several families containing 46 people under one roof, some of whom kept pigs in their dwelling houses. A month later Edward Wyer was committed for letting a tenement to 12 tenants with one privy and one well between them (Pound 1988, 173–4). There is, understandably, much less evidence for the specialisation of room functions in smaller urban properties. Many of these households would not produce goods in their own home, although some undoubtedly did; in the textile industry there were many small-scale weavers with a single loom; others rented looms from larger producers (Allison 1960; 1961). Furthermore, as already noted, the labour of women and children was probably a vital element of their domestic economy, especially in the textile industry (Pound 1971a). At this level separation between domestic and industrial activities was not possible; in small houses, often with a single room on the street frontage, there was considerable inter-mingling of domestic and ‘productive’ activities. This was a necessary feature of domestic life for lesser artisans who are unlikely to have employed servants. Archaeological excavations have produced evidence for such small-scale production in the more peripheral areas of the city and for the ways in which industrial and domestic activities were inter-mixed within the urban tenement. The row of small houses on Pottergate (149N) destroyed in 1507 produced evidence for bronzeworking, in the form of off-cuts and metalworking tools. Many of the bronze vessels and dress fittings found in the houses may thus have been goods for sale or repair rather than ordinary domestic equipment. The excavations also produced carding combs, which may relate to female productive activities and the mixed domestic economy of the artisan household (Evans and Carter 1985). A small metalworking hearth was found in the street range of building D on Oak Street (351N), which may indicate the formation of a small, separately leased workshop in the sixteenth century


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities (Atkin 1978). Post-medieval refuse pits at Nos 104–106 St Benedict’s Street (153N) produced a large number of knives, which may suggest a cutler’s workshop on the street frontage, although no evidence of manufacture was found (Evans 2002a). The archaeological evidence has revealed in a striking manner the shared use of urban tenement spaces by lesser urban households indicated in the documentary records. The fifteenth- and sixteenth-century houses on Pottergate, Alms Lane, Botolph Street and St Benedict’s Street shared an open yard behind the street-front buildings. As properties were extended and subdivided in the post-medieval period, yards continued to be shared. Communal facilities such as wells and cesspits were provided on many sites, presumably by urban landlords. At Nos 44–56 Botolph Street, when a building extension covered over the well, a second was dug in the adjoining yard. The provision of a public water supply was a major concern for the city. In the sixteenth century the corporation provided a system of public conduits served by lead pipe. Private individuals also contributed; in 1577 Robert Gibson was permitted to enclose a lane off Westwick Street leading to a public well on condition that he redirected the water supply to a public conduit (Pelling 2004, 134–5). Excavations have also revealed broad shifts in the treatment of rubbish disposal in the city in the post-medieval period. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries even relatively small houses were provided with attached flint-lined cesspits serving first-floor rooms, either internal or attached to the rear wall of the house (seen on Pottergate, Alms Lane and Oak Street). These pits served as temporary storage bins, and were emptied fairly regularly, with the refuse presumably dumped outside the city or used as manure. Other domestic refuse was deposited in the pits which covered the rear yards of buildings. In the seventeenth century there was a shift away from attached cesspits to flint-lined cesspits in the rear yards, often at the furthest edge of the tenement. These were provided in the mid-seventeenth century at Nos 104–106 St Benedict’s Street and Nos 44–56 Botolph Street, where they are associated with the subdivision of the yards by stone walls. When larger houses were subdivided, for instance at Alms Lane and Nos 61–63 Botolph Street in the seventeenth century, large flint-lined cesspits were provided for the tenants in the rear yards. However, many houseowners were brought before the mayor’s court for leasing houses without any privy (Pound 1988, 174). There was a second shift in refuse disposal in the last two decades of the seventeenth century, occurring at different times on different sites. The existing cesspits were backfilled and a regular system of nightsoil collection was instituted (see Atkin and Evans 1984, 96–7). The archaeological, standing building and documentary sources provide a vivid picture of the worsening living conditions for the urban poor in the post-medieval period. In 1570 the majority of the poor lived in small households in independent dwellings; although already by this date there were many larger houses which contained multiple families, in some cases these may have been purpose-built rows of cottages rather than subdivided properties. The increasing population in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was accommodated in part through the construction of single-cell cottages for rental, but also through the division of larger properties and the construction of small houses in rear yards and courts, where there was an increasingly


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 dense pattern of building, with limited communal facilities for the supply of water and the disposal of refuse. The results of such overcrowding were the continuing outbreaks of plague in the later sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries, which killed large numbers of the citizens; a particularly devastating epidemic struck the city in 1579–80, with further peaks throughout the final decades of the sixteenth century and major visitations in 1603–4, 1625–6 and 1665. Plague mortality was highest in the outlying parishes where the city’s poor were so heavily concentrated (Slack 1985, 126–43). Medieval town corporations had long been concerned with regulation of the urban landscape, taking steps to prevent the operation of noxious trades and industries within the central districts, to ensure decent standards of building and limit the spread of fire, to provide a clean water supply, to maintain street surfaces and drainage and to prevent the build-up of foul refuse in public spaces (Rawcliffe 2013). In the context of significant and rapid population expansion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Norwich corporation redoubled these efforts, making constant efforts to control and regulate the urban landscape as part of a wider concern with the creation of a healthful civic environment (Fay 2015). Civic interest in the urban environment was one element in their deeper anxieties around expanding inward migration and poverty as a potential threat to the social and moral order. Slack draws attention to the fact that the immigrant communities of Norwich suffered disproportionately heavy losses during plague epidemics; in the terrible mortality of 1579–80 2000 of the 5000 people who died were Strangers, and their death rate was twice as high as for the English residents in subsequent outbreaks (Slack 1985, 140–2). The spatial marginalisation of the immigrant communities into the poorest and most crowded urban parishes is one key aspect of their distinctive socio-economic position in the early modern city, to which the final part of this chapter now turns.

Immigrant households in early modern Norwich From the fourteenth century Norwich, in common with London and other urban centres in the south and east of England, developed growing economic and cultural links with the wider North Sea region, particularly the Low Countries and northern Germany (Ayers 2016). Flemish immigrants are known to have settled in Norwich from the late fourteenth century onwards, and many of them worked in the textile industry (Priestley 1990, 7–8). Resident alien communities existed in many medieval English cities and were strongly associated with specialist craft technologies, luxury trades and artistic production (Pettegree 1986, 11–14; Woods 2003). Immigration to England took on a new significance in the turmoil unleashed by the European Reformation in the sixteenth century as increasing numbers of Protestants from various regions of continental Europe sought refuge in England. The 1560s and 1570s saw an upsurge in the arrival of Protestant refugees from the southern Netherlands, occupying both Dutch/Flemish-speaking and Walloon/French-speaking areas of what are now Belgium, Luxembourg and northern France, where the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule resulted in decades of warfare, persecution and economic disruption.


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities Large established Stranger communities were established in London and the southern and eastern port towns, officially sanctioned by the crown and privy council as well as local urban corporations. The early modern immigrant communities have been subject to sustained historical enquiry in the past 30 years as historians have explored various themes relating to their structure and organisation, the role of the Stranger churches in religious controversies, and wider social, economic and cultural themes (for an overview of this literature, see Goose and Luu 2005). Extensive archival sources relating to the Norwich Stranger community survive in the Norfolk Record Office. Pound (1962, 299–320) provides a summary of the historical evidence, but there has been only limited modern scholarship on these communities. The principal source remains the survey of the registers of the Walloon church by Moens (1887–8), which contains considerable evidence for the numbers and occupations of the Walloon community (which formed only a minority group within the wider immigrant population). More recently Raingard Esser has addressed a range of topics relating to the social and economic position of the Norwich Strangers (Esser 1995, 2007), and Fiona Williamson has included a detailed discussion of the geographical and social landscapes occupied by the Strangers in her survey of space and social identities in seventeenth-century Norwich (Williamson 2014). It is clear that while the Strangers were highly concentrated in certain parts of the city they were a familiar and constant presence: the early modern townscape was a space of interaction, not segregation. The Norwich Survey excavations revealed several tenements where immigrant households may have resided; this material is reviewed by Evans and Atkin (2002, 242–5). At the time the authors were sceptical of the possibility of identifying the Strangers from the archaeological evidence. However, while only a small number of deposits can be directly associated with individual households, the patterns within these assemblages do suggest the operation of distinctive lifestyles and cultural practices within immigrant households. My own work on the Norwich Strangers emphasises the importance of taking a holistic view across a range of material elements, including domestic sites, funerary monuments and the architectural form of their places of worship, to understand the nature of a distinctive ‘Stranger’ cultural identity and their varied social and cultural relationships within the wider urban population (King 2011). The initial licence obtained by Mayor Thomas Sotherton in 1565 allowed for the settlement of 24 Flemish-speaking (known as the ‘Dutch’) and six French-speaking Walloon households of up to ten persons, from the immigrant communities that had been established London and in Sandwich (Moens 1887–8, 18–19). However, as already described, the numbers of immigrants in the city expanded rapidly. By 1568 there were over 300 Dutch and 64 Walloon households, containing 1132 and 339 individuals respectively (Moens 1887–8, 25–7); in a return of 1571 there were nearly 4000 Strangers in the city (Moens 1887–8, 35–7). To put these figures in context, the muster of 1569 and the census of the poor of 1570 suggest that the English population of the city was around 8000, meaning that the Strangers formed close to one-third of the city’s population (Pound 1988, 28–9). The community reached a peak of 6000 by the end of the 1570s but, as noted above, they suffered particularly badly in the plague epidemic of 1579–80 and further losses in subsequent outbreaks in the late sixteenth


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 and seventeenth centuries. Numbers seem to have been between 3000 and 4000 in the first decades of the seventeenth century and gradually fell after this date, caused by a mixture of diminishing inward migration following the truce between Spain and the United Provinces in 1609, as well no doubt as gradual integration of third-and fourth-generation immigrants into the English population (Allison 1961, 61–2). The records of the Strangers give information about their occupations and where they lived in the city. From their initial settlement the majority were involved in the production of the light woollen and mixed fabrics called the ‘New Draperies’. Production increased dramatically in the second half of the sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth century (Allison 1961). The corporation exercised close supervision over their economic activities. Strangers were not permitted to own property, nor to buy or sell commodities for retail except to members of their own community; and were obliged to fix a lattice one yard high before their windows to prevent this. The redundant church of St Mary the Less on Tombland was made into a cloth hall for the searching and sealing of the Strangers’ goods (Moens 1887–8, 19–30). A return of the Strangers in 1622 (Table 5) lists the occupations of 298 men, of whom 233, principally weavers and woolcombers, were engaged in cloth manufacture. There was a wide range of other occupations, including craftsmen such as bakers, tailors, turners, gardeners and a shoemaker, who served the Stranger community. Others may have used their European connections to provide the luxury goods and services that were increasingly important to the city’s role as a provincial capital; there were several merchants and grocers, two surgeons and a physician, and two schoolmasters (Moens 1887–8, iv). Table 5. Occupations of adult men in the Return of the Strangers, 1622. 78 Weavers

9 Bakers

2 Sellers of Small Wares

25 Journeymen Weavers

8 Gardeners & Farmers

2 Chair Makers

28 Woolcombers

8 Merchants

1 Pinner

38 Journeymen Woolcombers

6 Tailors

1 Tanner

27 Hosiers

4 Turners

1 Cutler

20 Spinners

3 Grocers

1 Claspmaker

6 Dyers

2 Schoolmasters

1 Shoemaker

1 Journeyman Dyer

2 Brokers

1 Cordyner

3 Combmakers

1 Factor for Merchants

1 Brazier

2 Fullers

1 Usufer

1 Seller of Pots

2 Says Makers

2 Surgeons

1 “Heartel” Maker

1 Bays and Says Measurer

1 Physician

1 Slay Maker

1 Hose Stamper

2 Aqua Vitae Distillers

1 Sojourner

1 Hose Skourer

1 Aqua Vitae Seller

Total in cloth manufacture (column 1): 233 Source: Moens 1887–8, iv


Overall total: 298

housing the urban poor and immigrant communities The lay subsidy returns of 1580/1 (Figure 102) show that Stranger households congregated in the wards of Wymer and Over-the-Water, on either side of the river, at the centre of the city’s textile industry (Evans and Atkin 2002, 243; Priestley 1990, 26). The immigrants formed a significant proportion of the poorer households in the city, particularly in the outlying northern parishes. The majority of Strangers paid the lowest rate of tax in the lay subsidies, although immigrants were charged at double the rate of English tax-payers, paying a minimum of 4d and later 8d against the English minimum payments of 2d and 4d (Moens 1887–8, 161–83). There were, however, several examples of very prosperous Stranger families, particularly those engaged in overseas commerce, such as the De Hem family, who left a series of prominent burial monuments in St Michael at Plea parish church (King 2011).

Figure 102. Map showing numbers of Strangers recorded in the lay subsidy of 1580/1 (Evans and Atkin 2002, Fig.1 / © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service)


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 The Strangers thus constituted a large and distinctive community within the city, who rose from a small minority in the mid-sixteenth century to become more than one-third of the urban population, and a much higher proportion than this in the central and northern parishes. Unsurprisingly, there is considerable evidence for tension between the Strangers and the native community; the immigrants were frequently accused of taking trade away from native weavers, avoiding the restrictions on retail trade and monopolising supplies of raw materials (Moens 1887–8, 25–38; Allison 1961; Priestley 1990, 10–11). In 1598 Strangers were allowed to become freemen; as the city’s textile industry entered its peak period of expansion there was less reason to maintain restrictive trade practices. There is also considerable evidence of inter-marriage between Stranger and native families in the seventeenth century, as the immigrants were absorbed into the wider urban community. However, they maintained their own churches and community structures into the nineteenth century.

The Norwich Stranger community: the archaeological evidence Despite their important role in the history of Norwich, there are only isolated remains of the Stranger community in the landscape and buildings of the city. The Dutch community were given permission to worship in the Common Hall, and in 1625 they were given the lease of the civic chapel (the chancel of the old Dominican friary) as a church (Kirkpatrick 1845 [c.1725], 62). The only physical reminder of their presence is a large monument to two of their pastors in the seventeenth century, John Ellison (d. 1639) and his son Theophilus (d. 1676). The Dutch were thus given a prominent public building in the heart of the city, opposite the church of St Andrew and the public preaching yard in St Andrew’s Plain, both renowned centres of Puritan preaching in the seventeenth century. The Walloon (French) congregation were originally granted the chapel of the bishop’s palace as a place of worship. However, in the context of growing religious conflict in the early seventeenth century, in 1637 they were expelled by the conservative Bishop Wren. The corporation signalled their continuing support for the nonconformist churches by granting them the use of St Mary the Less on Tombland, the old cloth hall, as a place of worship (Moens 1887–8, 21–3). Within the church the north door of the chancel relates to the refitting of the church, bearing the date 1637, but the surviving funerary monuments date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Moens 1887–8, 134–7). The archaeological evidence for Stranger households is fragmentary, but a careful consideration reveals several interesting patterns that seem to shed light on the distinctive household material culture and domestic practices of the Norwich immigrants (King 2011). In the Norwich Survey excavations potential Stranger households were initially identified on the basis of the proportion of imported vessels in their sealed assemblages, particularly on Botolph Street (170N and 281N: Evans 1985), Alms Lane (302N: Atkin 1985) and St Benedict’s Street (153N: Evans 2002a), all sites located in the western and northern districts where Stranger households were concentrated. Low Countries pottery, particularly Langerwehe and Raeren stoneware drinking vessels (Jennings 1981, 109–16) and Dutch lead-glazed red earthenwares


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities (Jennings 1981, 134–44), is a common feature of all Norwich excavations. It generally forms between 3 and 5 per cent of the total pottery assemblage on most sites; in these cases Low Countries imports constitute around one-quarter of the pottery (Evans and Atkin 2002, 244). The evidence gains further support from the distinctive vessel forms and wares that are found, and their association with other unusual items of imported material culture that are not common in the city. The excavations on Botolph Street are located in one of the poorest parts of the city, where large numbers of immigrant households are known to have lived. On site 170N on the south side of the street sizeable quantities of imported Low Countries pottery were found in the pits in the rear yard, which in this period was shared between the street-front tenements (Evans 1985, 95–6). The material included several high-status wares and several examples of near-complete vessels, particularly in a series of pits that was filled in c.1640. There were several examples of North Holland slipware ‘cockerel’ bowls (Figure 103). These distinctive vessels are small steep-sided bowls with collared rims, with two horizontal handles, and have a range of decorative motifs in the base (Jennings 1981, 85–6); similar vessel forms, without the decoration, are found in other Low Countries wares, and are copied in English wares. Another rare find is a pipkin in the same North Holland decorated slipware (Jennings 1981, 94). Other imported wares included Dutch tin-glazed earthenwares and Werra ware dishes from northern Germany. These were in production between the late sixteenth century and the first quarter of the seventeenth century, and their distribution in Britain, concentrated in urban sites along the east and south coast, has been linked to the presence of immigrant communities (Jennings 1981, 78–9; Hurst and Gaimster 2005). The finds included a Werra dish dated 1625, and a North Holland slipware bowl dated 1614, suggesting that they were in use for several decades before being discarded in c.1640 (Evans 1985, 110). The mid-seventeenth-century pit groups also contained several fragments of fine glass drinking vessels, both stemmed glasses and beakers, including one example imported from the Netherlands (Haslam 1993). A similar assemblage was excavated on the north side of Botolph Street (281N: Davison, in Evans 1985). This was the row of tenements reconstructed in the first quarter of the seventeenth century with a large, probably shared, cesspit to the rear. The levels within the cesspit dating to c.1625–50 contained Low Countries imports, including North Holland slipwares, Dutch tin-glazed earthenware and a Werra ware dish. In the upper layers of a later pit, cutting this one (and hence possibly residual) was a fragment of a seventeenth-century North Holland slip-decorated firecover, of a type found on other sites with possible evidence for immigrant households (302N and 153N, below). On the site at Alms Lane (302N) the principal evidence for immigrant households comes from tenement A in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In period 8 (1575–1600), when the buildings were expanded along the Alms Lane frontage, a coal-burning hearth was constructed in building A6, and in the yard outside were found fragments of a second North Holland slipware fire-cover (Atkin 1985, 164). In periods 9 and 10 (1600–1720), after the buildings had been subdivided into smaller rental units, the midden deposit in the yard contained a high proportion of Dutch


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660

Figure 103. Excavated examples of North Holland slipware ‘cockerel’ bowls (Jennings 1981, Fig.34 / © Norfolk County Council Historic Environment Service)

vessels, many of which had been in use for a long time before they were deposited. Further material of this date was redeposited in the fill of an adjacent cesspit in the mid-eighteenth century. The pottery included cauldrons, a vessel form uncommon in local wares by the seventeenth century, and a rare fragment of a Westerwald jug from the early seventeenth century (Atkin 1985, 196–8). Other possibly imported items in these deposits include a buckle with close parallels with an early seventeenth-century example from Amsterdam (Atkin 1985, 203) and a Dutch clay pipe stem with a floral design (Atkin 1985, 215). The occupant of this tenement in 1725 was Jacob Votier, a


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities member of the Walloon church, indicating a long-standing presence of immigrant households in this location (Atkin 1985, 238). A fourth site with distinctive assemblages is Nos 104–106 St Benedict’s Street (153N) in West Wymer ward. The pits in the large shared yard behind the street frontage contained a high proportion of Dutch and Dutch-type vessels, with a range of forms that are unusual among the standard local post-medieval glazed red earthenware, including cauldrons, pipkins, skillets and dripping pans. Imported wares included North Holland slipware cockerel bowls, a Werra ware dish dated 1621 and a Westerwald chamber pot (Evans 2002a, 89–93). Also from these pits were clay pipes with burnished bowls, which may have been imported from the Low Countries (Evans 2002a, 94), and from the topsoil came a fragment of another North Holland decorated firecover (Evans 2002a, 93; Jennings 1981, 94).

Memory, belonging and material culture in the Stranger community To date there is only limited archaeological evidence for Stranger households in the city, particularly in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, when we know the immigrant communities formed a considerable proportion of the city’s population; the bulk of the excavated assemblages date to the middle decades of the seventeenth century and later (Evans and Atkin 2002, 245). I have argued in an earlier publication that this is perhaps telling us something important about the role of material culture and the domestic sphere for immigrant populations (King 2011). Within the household, not only the high proportion of imported pottery but also the range of vessel forms are suggestive of a distinctive mode of life in these households, indicated by the material culture associated with food preparation and serving. The predominance of pottery cauldrons is particularly important, as meat stews were a central part of everyday diet in the Netherlands; the hutsepot was in many ways a symbol of national identity (Schama 1987, 176–7). The surviving letters from Norwich immigrants to their families in the Low Countries also reveal the importance of domestic goods, clothing and familiar food and cooking methods: Clement Baet to his wife, 5 September 1567: ‘Bring all your and your daughter’s clothing for people go well clad here’ (Moens 1887–8, 221). Leonard Keerlinck to Victor de Vinck, 31 August 1567: ‘do not bring any more than is necessary to keep house, for the freight is dear’ (Moens 1887–8, 221). Clais Van Wervekin to his wife, 21 August 1567: ‘When you come, bring a dough trough, for there are none here … . Buy two little wooden dishes to make up half pounds of butter; for all Netherlanders and Flemings make their own butter, for here it is all pigs fats’ (Moens 1887–8, 220).

The deposits from Alms Lane included cauldrons and other imported cooking wares that had been in use for a long time before their disposal in the late seventeenth century, indicating that these households maintained these distinctive cultural practices when they were becoming less frequent elsewhere in the city. It is also significant that many of the items which were discarded in the mid- and late


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 seventeenth-century deposits on Alms Lane and Botolph Street were produced in the first decades of the seventeenth century, indicating that they had been preserved as valued household possessions for several decades, and even across generations. As Evans and Atkin suggest (2002, 245), it is likely that these late deposits represent the clearing out of Stranger households, when they were either returning to the continent or simply no longer felt the need to keep these distinctive and decorative objects. The lack of evidence for late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Stranger households is in fact only apparent, as it is only when these objects leave the active realm of the social world and the cultural value placed on them is diminished that they appear in the archaeological record in increasing numbers (King 2011). Stranger merchants are recorded as importing a range of material goods, including pottery, both for wholesale trade within the city and also, presumably, for sale within the community (Margeson 1993, 237). The presence of relatively high-status ceramics such as Werra ware and Westerwald stoneware in tenements in the poorer districts of the city can be interpreted in this light. It is possible that imported domestic material culture was particularly important in the expression of wealth and status within the Stranger community as, at least in the early decades of settlement, they could not own land and buildings. Catherine Richardson has discussed the distinctive testamentary practices with the Stranger communities of Kentish towns and suggests that, although these sources naturally encompass the wealthier members of the immigrant community, there were subtle distinctions in the role of material culture in the definition of status. Stranger testators were more likely to own books but less likely to leave silver plate and furnishings such as painted cloths or cushions than their English counterparts; this might reflect disruption to traditional patterns of inheritance caused by the rupture of migration. They are more likely to express bequests in monetary terms and generally leave a sum to the ministers and poor of the Stranger church; Richardson suggests that this may reflect a wider cultural distrust of the morality of material display within the Stranger community and an emphasis on community maintenance (Richardson 2006). The Norwich Strangers had only limited interaction with the wider public culture of the city and with the material and ceremonial discourses that underpinned urban social life. They maintained their own social and charitable networks and institutions, led by the ministers and elders of the Stranger churches and the annually elected ‘Politic Men’ who maintained order within the community (Esser 2007). The presence of decorative imported ceramics and drinking glasses, together with the evidence for distinctive modes of cooking food, suggests that entertainment within the home may have been a particularly important element of social interaction for the Strangers, helping to maintain bonds within the community.

• In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the city’s population dramatically expanded and the textile industry experienced cycles of expansion and contraction, the inhabitants of Norwich were caught up in a tightening vice of economic and social


housing the urban poor and immigrant communities polarisation. The life experiences of the wage-earning and labouring classes within both the English and immigrant Stranger communities were marked by increasing over-crowding and poor sanitation as tenements were subdivided and infilled and the outlying districts became defined as areas dominated by poverty and disease. Many of the more prosperous members of urban society, including some men who formed part of the civic elite, took advantage of this situation and exploited the opportunities for property subdivision and rental. Many of the dwellings constructed to house the labouring poor were comparatively well-built rows of small but decent cottages, and these are the ones that have come down to us today, forming often attractive period properties for the city’s modern residents. Excavations have revealed the darker side of this period of rapid expansion, with the spread of flimsy and low-quality housing crammed into courts and yards. The civic responses to the problems of poverty were many and varied. Urban magistrates took increasing steps to regulate the lives and behaviour of the poor, while also making prominent efforts to provide basic subsistence for deserving pauper households and improvements to the city’s housing, sanitation and water supply for the benefit of the wider urban community. The historical and archaeological evidence for the smaller houses and urban tenements in Norwich produces a vivid picture of an early modern city coping with the crises and opportunities arising from the profound social and economic transformations of the age of transition.




began this work with two broad aims in mind. One of these was to introduce to a wider audience the archaeological evidence for late medieval and early modern domestic buildings in Norwich, England’s ‘second city’. This, at least, I hope has been achieved. The building recording undertaken by the Norwich Survey in the 1970s provides an invaluable starting point for assessing broad trends in the development of domestic architecture in the city, and the failure to publish the majority of this material in a coherent or comprehensive manner has until now hampered scholars in their efforts to produce a detailed and comprehensive view of buildings and the urban landscape in what was once England’s ‘second city’. This work has demonstrated the large numbers of buildings that survive in the city, most particularly those associated with the mercantile elite, but stretching across the social scale, and their potential as a source of information about medieval and early modern urban society. The value of an integrated approach to standing building and excavated evidence has also been established, providing a fuller account of both the range of building forms and a more fine-grained chronology of the development of buildings in the city. While no single survey can hope to be comprehensive, my aim was to highlight the benefits of an interdisciplinary methodological approach in which documentary sources and material evidence can be useful to both complement and interrogate one another. While it is unlikely that many wholly new historic buildings will be discovered within the central area, archaeological excavations will continue to reveal new domestic sites and architectural fragments will continue to emerge, and each piece of evidence can influence the broader picture. It is my hope that the present work will contribute to a greater understanding of the development of the city’s dynamic and ever-changing urban landscape. The rich architectural inheritance of the city’s everyday buildings is both an essential historical resource and a major contributing factor to the unique townscape and sense of place that makes Norwich such a fine city to live and work in. The second aim was to use the evidence from Norwich to contribute to current debates about the nature of urban houses and domestic life in late medieval and early modern England, and the extent to which they were affected by broader trends of rebuilding and spatial reorganisation that have been associated with the ‘great rebuilding’ and the transition between the medieval and early modern worlds. The houses of Norwich show the prevalence of a wide range of distinctive urban


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 architectural forms and plan-types that require a closer and more contextualised view of far-reaching processes of architectural and social change. The increasing spatial segregation within the domestic sphere, with specialised room functions and restricted access to spaces and objects within the house according to social status, reinforced social and economic divisions within the domestic sphere, both between household members and between households in the wider city. A key element of ideas about social and spatial closure is an increasing separation between the lifestyles and cultural identities of social classes, and the breakdown of shared traditions and social practices in the early modern period (Wrightson and Levine 1979; Underdown 1985; Johnson 1996). In studies of rural housing (Johnson 1993; Pearson 1994) and urban guildhalls (Giles 2000; Tittler 2012) the architectural closure of open halls and increasing spatial and social segregation have been linked to the changing social and economic structures associated with the transition to the modern world, as middling social groups sought to actively use buildings and material consumption in the service of new social identities, defining themselves as a privileged social group within both the individual household and the wider community. The evidence for domestic architecture in urban contexts forces us to reassess the implications of our accepted narratives of social and cultural transition in sixteenthand seventeenth-century England. We must contextualise the concept of the ‘great rebuilding’ to incorporate the experiences and social practices of diverse communities across this wide-ranging time period. Specifically, if the domestic architecture of the majority of houses in provincial cities was underpinned by a more varied and ambiguous range of spatial practices and meanings, through which the urban household was embedded in a range of wider social and economic discourses that structured urban society, then the operation of closure in early modern towns will be similarly varied and ambiguous. It is necessary to consider the evidence for different modes of domestic life between households of varying socio-economic status and groupings if we are to fully appreciate the complexities of historical change. This takes us to the heart of the debate about the nature of the urban community in this period of social and cultural transformation. To what extent did urban households share a common lifestyle or a sense of belonging to a distinctive urban culture? And in what ways was this shared cultural identity potentially transformed in the wake of the profound economic, social and political upheavals experienced in the transition between the late medieval and early modern worlds? We have seen that in Norwich the surviving medieval buildings are generally limited to the undercrofts once associated with timber- and clay-walled structures and the large courtyard residences of the mercantile elite. The majority of these possess an open hall, often with elements of a formal hierarchical plan and architectural details, building types that are increasingly seen as relatively rare in medieval urban domestic architecture (Pearson 2005). The possession of a formal open hall was clearly important to the civic leaders of late medieval Norwich, but while the majority of the halls adopt the appearance of a traditional ‘tripartite’ layout, in fact they retain a complex spatial relationship with other domestic and commercial spaces within the house. The architectural form and decoration of the halls are intimately connected to


conclusions the civic authority of the mercantile elite and represent an appropriation of a building type more often associated with gentry residences and public buildings in the service of a distinctive urban elite identity and networks of hospitality related to the wider secular and sacred underpinnings of late medieval civic culture. The large surviving corpus of architectural evidence demonstrates that a significant phase of rebuilding of mercantile residences occurred in Norwich in the middle decades of the sixteenth century, with the adaptation of many older houses and the construction of new houses with innovative spatial arrangements. This represents an investment by the urban elite in a new language of architectural display and a new form of sociability in the domestic sphere, mirroring wider trends in elite domestic architecture in the early modern period geared towards a more segregated and formal mode of domestic life. At the same time, some houses purposefully retained their older medieval halls and their decorative elements as a symbol of the legitimacy and dynastic status of both individual merchant families and the civic elite as a corporate body. Domestic space was intimately connected both to the maintenance of social networks within the merchant class and to their political authority within the civic body. Changes in urban houses must therefore be interpreted within the specific social and historical context of wider shifts in civic culture in this period and the changing relationship between public and private spheres of activity in the wake of the political and religious upheavals of the post-Reformation period. For the lesser buildings of the city, below the level of the civic elite, the combination of standing building and excavated evidence is particularly significant. It demonstrates a distinctive chronology of building development in the city for lesser buildings, compared with houses of the elite, with a widespread phase of rebuilding in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. While this process was furthered by the impact of the fires of 1507, it was not a direct consequence of it, nor does this explain the important changes in the forms of houses that accompanied this rebuilding. From this point in time, a distinctive urban vernacular was used in Norwich that included buildings with masonry foundations, of flint-rubble and timber-framed construction, usually placed parallel to the street or with an L-plan. Buildings were two-storeyed throughout and adopted new architectural forms, such as brick fireplaces and staircases. These changes must be partly understood in terms of the changing strategies of investment among urban landlords, with evidence for increasing concern over the quality and longevity of the housing stock as the economic fortunes and population of Norwich were undergoing the beginning of a limited resurgence. However, they also speak to the changing attitudes of the tenants that landlords needed to attract to their rental properties and their concern to improve the quality of their housing and divide and use domestic space in new ways. There is more evidence for the houses of the middling townspeople in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with increasing numbers of standing buildings, a detailed archaeological record and a sizeable number of probate inventories. There was increasing division within the houses of the prosperous middling sort between domestic, service and commercial functions, and the provision in some houses of high-status domestic spaces that suggest a more formal mode of domestic life at this


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 social level. The majority of the sixteenth-century houses in Norwich were placed directly facing the street, parallel to the street frontage, and the archaeological and documentary evidence suggest that most houses had two or three heated ground-floor rooms, which were labelled ‘hall’, ‘parlour’ or ‘kitchen’. There was some separation of lower-status ‘service’ functions from the principal domestic rooms, but the evidence is most suggestive of a relatively fluid use of domestic space. There is clear evidence for the widespread extension and adaptation of middling sort houses in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Key trends included the widespread provision of attic spaces, used to accommodate increasingly dense occupation of urban tenements and, more specifically, associated with the city’s booming textile industry, as were the expansion of sheds and washhouses in the rear yards of urban tenements. Rear wings were frequently added to the houses, sometimes provided with fine architectural features such as mullioned windows and moulded timber ceiling beams on both the ground and first floors. The architectural evidence and the probate inventories suggest that these rooms could have served as either parlours or well-appointed kitchens which may have been used on a day-to-day basis by the household, reserving higherstatus domestic rooms for special occasions. A further element of architectural change is the increasing emphasis on well-appointed first-floor chambers in a small number of houses of middling status. These are found in some of the earliest standing buildings in the city, dated from the early and mid-sixteenth century, such as Nos 15 Bedford Street, 20 Princes Street and 25–27 St George’s Street. These houses have substantial chambers on the first floor with moulded and battened timber ceilings, which are smaller versions of the ceilings provided in the newly built houses of the mercantile elite in the same decades. Later examples include the large first-floor chamber at No. 49 St Benedict’s Street dating to c.1620, and several other late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century houses in that street. Both the standing buildings and excavated sites also have examples of houses where former open halls have been ceiled over with inserted floors and where new staircase arrangements have been inserted, or small stair turrets added, in a similar manner to elite buildings. These architectural features appear considerably earlier in Norwich than in rural houses of equivalent social status in rural districts and smaller towns across East Anglia. The wider process of rebuilding had a more varied chronology and expression in major urban centres, which is in part attributable to the existence of a distinctive urban social milieu and mode of domestic and commercial life. This evidence for increasing spatial segregation in houses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries indicates a shift towards more formal domestic encounters among a small section within the middling sort. The provision of impressive rooms with finely moulded ceilings represents a significant investment in fixed architectural features with an emphasis on display within the domestic context. A similar process is also evident in the probate inventories of middling tradespeople and artisans. The median total values of Norwich inventories increased dramatically between the late sixteenth and late seventeenth centuries, over and above the level of inflation, showing an increasing investment in moveable property (Pound 1988, 38–9). Within the houses of the


conclusions middling sort, in the seventeenth century there was more furniture of more varied forms, implying an increasing specialisation of function for domestic furnishings and spaces; the increase in tables and chairs relates to the use of kitchens and parlours for dining and the emergence of specialised dining chambers (Priestley and Corfield 1982, 101–8). The material culture evidence from archaeological excavations also supports this argument. The pottery from Norwich sites in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows an increasing investment in decorative tableware, including imported North Holland and metropolitan slipwares (Jennings 1981, 78–103) and tin-glazed earthenwares (Jennings 1981, 187–212). These wares include more flatware vessels used for serving food. Both local and imported wares also include a greater number of more complex vessel forms, including ceramic chafing dishes (used at table to keep food and sauces warm), small bowls and condiment dishes, which suggest the emergence of a more formal mode of dining in urban households. The buildings that share the architectural features relating to domestic hospitality and display represent the upper level of housing within the middling sort, with six or more rooms, and are probably the houses of wealthy artisans and shopkeepers, and lesser merchants. Some of these men could have served in positions of public authority, as parish or craft officials, and common councillors of the city. The architectural changes identified at this social level parallel contemporary developments in the houses of the civic elite, with an increasing focus on the reception and entertainment of smaller groups of social peers within the private sphere. For wealthy mercantile families, these spatial changes were part of the wider ‘gentrification’ of urban elite culture and increasing oligarchic control over urban government. However, as argued above, architectural changes in elite residences were bound up both with the deeper social and cultural transformations of the sixteenth and seventeenth century and the specific political context of challenges to corporate authority and civic culture in the early modern provincial city. Therefore, we cannot assume that the appearance of similar architectural changes in the houses of the prosperous middling sort represents a direct emulation of elite culture, as the degree and nature of cultural contact between elite and non-elite groups in the domestic context is likely to have been increasingly limited. The development of a more segregated mode of domestic life should be interpreted in the context of the changing social relationships and identities within the urban middling sort. The new types of domestic space in these houses provided distinctive, decorative rooms that were segregated from the industrial or commercial functions of the urban tenement and the street, and enabled prosperous middling households to entertain their peer group in a segregated private sphere. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that such segregation was never complete; a broad interplay between domestic, service and industrial or commercial spaces within the substantial tenements of the middling sort remained the essential foundation of the productive urban household economy throughout this period. A need to create a stronger sense of physical distance may have been in part a response to the increasingly polarised nature of the expanding urban population. This is clearly seen in Norwich, where the documentary, archaeological and archaeological evidence demonstrate the profound


houses and society in norwich, 1350–1660 transformation of urban society as the early modern period progresses. The dramatic rise in English and Low Countries immigration and the rapid expansion of the textile industry resulted in a significant transformation of the urban landscape with the increasing dominance of smaller houses and subdivided properties in the outlying parishes and the spread of low-quality houses crammed into side lanes and courts. Increasingly crowded and insanitary conditions on the city’s tenements contributed to devastating outbreaks of epidemic disease and led to an understandable concern on the part of the civic authorities and the wider citizen body to tackle these potentially disruptive forces to the social and moral order of the community (Fay 2015). The architectural developments in middling urban households were further determined by the increasingly contested nature of urban culture in the post-Reformation period. The networks of parish, craft and guild which had bound the medieval urban household into the wider community were disrupted by religious change, rapid population expansion and increasing levels of social and economic inequality, compounded by the escalating confessional divisions and political conflicts of the later sixteenth and seventeenth century (McClendon 1999; Reynolds 2005). In this process of transformation, the urban middling sort developed new modes of sociability and cultural identity that set them apart from those lower down the social scale. Corporate institutions and sociability remained a vital element of ‘middling’ groups in an urban context, as public reputation and credit remained the central factor in determining social and economic position (Barry 1994b; Muldrew 1998; Withington 2005). However, as older forms of commensality and public ceremony were superseded, the domestic context became an increasingly important locale for the expression and negotiation of social relationships and identities. The evidence from Norwich reveals the complex forms and functions of urban domestic architecture within a highly varied and dynamic urban society and highlights the various ways in which the use and meaning of domestic space was bound up with the wider social and cultural transformation of the early modern city.



• A curved or straight timber joining a vertical element to a horizontal element. An arch-brace rises from the wall or post to the plate or beam above. A wind-brace lies in the roof plane providing diagonal support between the principal rafters and the side-purlins. Beam A major horizontal timber; often spanning a ceiling/roof space – see Tie-beam. Bressumer A horizontal timber resting on, or in front of, the projecting joists forming a jetty and supporting the posts and studs above. Chamfer A decorative finish to the edge of a beam – can be plain (flat diagonal profile), hollow (concave) or moulded. Chamfer-stop A decorative moulding to finish the end of a chamfer. Close-studding Setting wall-studs close together for decorative effect. Crown-post Roof structure with central posts carried on a tie-beam supporting roof a central purlin. Dragon beam A corner beam set diagonally to support a projecting jetty on two sides of a building Galletting Small pieces of flint inserted into masonry joints. Jetty The projection of an upper floor over a lower floor. Moulding A decorative treatment of timber elements. Can be roll-moulded, quadrant or ovolo moulded, or wave moulded. Mullion Vertical timber element dividing window lights: can be part of a larger ‘mullion-and-transom’ window. Nogging Brick infill in a timber frame: often laid in a herringbone pattern. Post A vertical supporting timber in a timber frame. Purlin A horizontal timber in a roof structure providing lateral support for the rafters. Queen-post Roof structure with a pair of posts carried on the tie-beam roof supporting side-purlins. Brace


glossary Scissor-braced Roof structure where each pair of rafters is tied together by a pair roof of crossing braces, halved or lap-jointed across each other. Spandrel Infilling section of an arched braced roof truss (between the brace and the wall post.) Also used for the triangular spaces at the top of an arched doorway or fireplace. Tie-beam A major horizontal timber spanning a building at wall-plate level. Tie-beams supporting a crown-post or queen-post roof structure can be cambered (with a raised centre point) or otherwise embellished.



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• Numbers in bold type refer to Figures and Plates age of transition  4–6, 8–13, 15, 17–18, 25, 37, 44, 146–7, 206–7, 276–7, 279–80 Alblaster, William le  59 Aldrich, family  131, 133 Aldrich, John, mayor of Norwich  133, 248 Aldrich, Thomas, mayor of Norwich  42 Appleyard, Bartholomew, bailiff of Norwich 76 Appleyard, family  76, 78, 100, 160, 248 Appleyard, William, mayor of Norwich  76 apprentices  6, 24–6, 31, 39, 41, 43, 46, 146, 158, 169, 254 Ayers, Brian  33, 38, 56, 59 Bacon, Henry, mayor of Norwich  87, 114–15, 118, 172, 173, 199 Bacon, Alice, wife of Henry  118–19 Balles, Richard, alderman of Norwich  102 Baret (Barrett), Christopher, mayor of Norwich  110, 111, 171 Barley, William, sheriff of Norwich  63 Bawburgh, Thomas, sheriff of Norwich  172, 173 Belaya, John de  59 Bendish, Robert, mayor of Norwich  230 Benton, John  240 Blickling, William de, bailiff of Norwich 172 Blomefield, Francis, antiquarian  1, 37, 186 Bolingbroke, Leonard  62 Bristol (Gloucs.)  10, 19, 21, 23, 27, 29, 37, 43, 101, 138, 158, 164, 172, 235 Bristomer, Thomas  86 building(s) building accounts  2, 20, 28, 53, 57, 164, 203, 206, 250–1 construction methods  1–3, 14, 15, 17–18, 19, 22, 27–8, 47, 53–4, 56, 177–9, 182,

184–5, 186, 192, 198–9, 203–6, 216–23, 225, 249, 251, 255 gentry  13–14, 27, 29, 66, 75, 101, 103, 114, 130, 135, 136–9, 141–3, 160, 167–8, 172, 223, 225, 280–1 public  9, 12–13, 16, 19, 20, 22, 23, 32, 44, 47, 48, 50, 76, 90, 146–157, 158, 160, 161–3, 164–6, 168–9, 170–1, 213, 219, 246, 248, 267, 272, 281 See also guildhalls under guilds and fraternities regulations  22, 47–8, 205–6, 267, 268 rural  14–18, 19, 20–2, 23, 28–9, 66, 206–7, 209, 236, 238, 255, 280, 282 urban  6, 18–23, 26–32, 33–4, 34–5, 42, 47, 52–8, 74, 137, 139, 142–3, 158, 167–8, 186, 202–3, 205, 206–7, 213–14, 223, 241–2, 248–9, 250–1, 253–4, 255, 278–80 See also buildings(s) in under Norwich Cambridge, John, mayor of Norwich 79–80 Cambridge, Thomas, sheriff of Norwich 80 Carter, Alan  52, 62, 72, 90, 227 Caus (Cawse), Thomas, mayor of Norwich 63 cities and towns  1, 2, 18–19, 24–5, 37–8, 51 government and administration  7, 8, 10–11, 44–7, 47–50, 145–6, 147–8, 151, 153–5, 160–1, 163–6, 170, 173, 245–8, 266, 268, 283 in the age of transition  4–5, 8–13, 19–22, 34–5, 37–44, 244–5 provincial capitals  10, 22–3, 37, 39, 43, 162–3, 205 civic ceremony  12–13, 22, 48, 146, 152, 158–9, 213, 276, 283–4


index medieval  9, 12, 48, 150, 152, 153–4, 156–7, 160, 213 Reformation, impact on  10, 13, 163–6, 169 See also civic ceremony under Norwich civic elite  8, 9, 12, 22–3, 29–30, 34, 46–7, 97, 136–7, 145–6, 152, 153–4, 155, 158, 160, 163, 167–8, 169–71, 281, 283 See also civic elite under Norwich Civil War  10, 38, 39, 110, 146, 163, 172, 173 Clere, family  91 Clerk, Gregory, mayor of Norwich  102 Clerk, John, mayor of Norwich  80, 82, 102 closure  17–18, 21–3, 28–30, 32, 34–5, 135–9, 168, 206–9, 236–9, 213–4, 279–80, 281–4 Cobbe, Katherine, wife of Reginald  196 Cobbe, Reginald, bailiff of Norwich  196 Cock, Francis, mayor of Norwich  107–8, 110, 135, 142, 172 Cock, George, mayor of Norwich  119 Colman, Ethel and Helen  79 conflict, urban  10–13, 26, 40, 48, 145–7, 154–6, 162, 163–6, 168, 172, 246, 272, 284 consumption  6–7, 19, 27, 32–4, 41, 43–4, 57, 205, 276, 280, 282–3 Corfield, Penelope  38, 57, 234 Corpus Christi, feast of  12, 154, 156–7, 165, 166 Coventry (Warwicks.)  8, 24, 27, 28, 167, 253 craft and industry  4, 6, 9–10, 12, 17, 18, 23, 25, 30–1, 34, 42, 43, 46, 50–2, 56, 90, 102, 155–6, 161, 192, 196–7, 202, 206, 207, 226, 235–6, 239–42, 245, 266–7, 268, 270, 283 See also textile industry under Norwich Creake Abbey (Norfolk)  199, 203 credit  25, 33–4 152, 155, 169, 284 Cunningham, William  2, 52, 203, 2 Curat, John, sheriff of Norwich  130 Defoe, Daniel  226 dendrochronology  14, 19, 96 Dyngle, Nicholas  265 economy, urban  4, 9–11, 19–20, 25–6, 39–44, 148, 245 Elizabeth I, Queen  121, 164 Ellison, John  272 Ellison, Theophilus  272

epidemic disease  9, 10, 268 See also epidemic disease in under Norwich Everard, Robert, master mason  90, 162 Fairchild, family  79, 80, 100 Fay, Isla  47–8, 205, 268, 284 Fiennes, Celia  142 Finch, Jonathan  168, 170 fire, urban  1–4, 8, 22, 59, 82, 113, 132, 179, 184, 192–3, 202, 205, 206, 209, 268, 76 Fuller, John  151 furnishings and furniture  6, 14, 17, 22, 27, 29, 33–4, 41, 102–3, 107, 111–14, 118–19, 120, 123, 138, 150–1, 158, 171, 173, 192, 209–13, 236–9, 240, 242, 262, 276, 282–3 Garsett, Robert, sheriff of Norwich  140, 220 Gaunt, John of, duke of Lancaster  154 gentry, the  6, 10, 24, 41, 43, 46, 50, 74, 86, 91, 96, 97, 110, 137, 142, 152–3, 154, 158, 160, 163, 165, 169–70, 171, 246, 283 See also building, gentry Gibson, Robert, sheriff of Norwich  267 Giles, Kate  16–18, 20, 22, 168 Gilchrist, Roberta  16, 33 Girouard, Mark  13 Glendenning, Lt. Col. S. E.  86 Gloucester Abbey  152 Goos, Alexander  90 Graves, Pamela  22–3, 153, 156 great rebuilding  6, 13–18, 21–2, 28–30, 33, 43, 136–7, 139, 202–3, 206–7, 209, 279–80 economic and social factors  15–17, 19–20, 31–2, 33–4 in towns  6, 8, 18–23, 28–30, 31–2, 53–4, 146–7, 177, 203–6, 206–7, 279–84 See also great rebuilding in under Norwich Great Yarmouth (Norfolk)  38, 40, 140 Grenville, Jane  20, 21 guilds and fraternities  5, 6–7, 9, 11, 12–13, 18, 22, 24, 25–6, 33, 37, 47, 150, 152, 153–4, 155, 158, 162–3, 168, 213, 284 guildhalls  12, 16, 22, 155, 161, 168, 280 See also guilds and fraternities under Norwich habitus  16, 17, 150 Hamling, Tara  33


index Hardegrey, Roger, bailiff of Norwich  62 Hendry, Thomas  198–9 Holmes, Sir Henry  76 Horne, Thomas  86 Hoskins, W.G.  14 hospitality  7, 14, 15, 29, 32, 33–4, 75, 96, 102–3, 110, 111–4, 136–9, 142, 146–7, 158–62, 166–9, 171–3, 210–14, 232, 236–9, 276, 280–4 Hoste, Richard, alderman of Norwich  102 household  6–8, 13, 16, 18, 23, 23–4, 26–7, 28, 29, 30, 32–4, 37, 47, 51, 56, 57, 132, 137, 209–13, 269–76 size and membership  24–5, 39, 44, 113, 135, 161, 234–5, 246–9, 254–5 social and economic role  12, 17, 21, 25–6, 30–1, 33–4, 42–3, 75, 169–70, 173–4, 236, 239, 241–2, 245 houses and housing attics  22, 31–2, 186, 223 closet  14, 32, 127, 137, 139, 142 gallery  14, 28, 30, 139, 168 hall  6, 13–14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28–30, 33, 74, 136–7, 160 167, 207, 253–4, 262, 280 parlour  22, 33, 113, 137, 138, 235, 236 plan  13–14, 16–18, 20–1, 23, 27–9, 30–1, 135, 138, 160, 167–8, 202–3, 206–7, 213, 241–2, 253, 255, 279–80 room functions  16, 17, 18, 21, 23, 27, 28–30, 30–1, 33–4, 167, 172, 213, 239, 281–4 row houses  27, 29, 30, 31, 51, 53, 250–1, 253, 254 staircase  30, 32, 139 See also houses and housing under Norwich Hudson, William  37 immigration, urban  9–10, 24–5, 39–40, 44–5, 48, 51, 155, 178, 205, 215, 244, 245–6, 249–50, 261, 268–77, 284 inventory; inventories  7, 14, 27, 29, 31–2, 33, 43, 57, 79, 101, 102, 110, 111–14, 138, 167, 184, 209, 215, 226, 234–42, 261–2, 281–2 Jannys, Margaret, wife of Robert  199 Jannys, Robert, mayor of Norwich  42, 151, 199 Jay, Christopher, mayor of Norwich  133, 142

Johnson, Matthew  15–17, 28 Jurnet, family  90–1 Justice, Katherine, wife of Stephen  59 Kett’s Rebellion  40, 126, 163, 164, 172, 246 King’s Lynn (Norfolk)  2, 64 Kirkpatrick, John, antiquarian  37, 86, 111, 119, 121, 173 landlords, urban  2, 19–20, 23, 27–8, 31, 53, 133, 184–5, 192–3, 196–9, 201, 203, 205–6, 230, 241, 247–9, 250–1, 257, 262–7, 273, 277, 281 landscape, urban  2, 5, 7, 20, 26, 27, 38–9, 47–8, 50–1, 52, 54–5, 56, 57, 207, 243–4, 267–8, 269, 279 role in civic culture  12–13, 47, 48–50, 147–8, 150, 152, 156–7, 159, 162, 164–6, 172, 173–4 Layer, family  132 Leech, Roger  23, 29, 101, 172 lifecycle  6, 18, 24–6, 33, 34, 39, 46, 50, 169–70, 177, 234–5, 245, 254 London  1, 9, 10, 21, 22, 27, 29, 30, 31, 37, 46, 52, 113, 139, 140, 155, 161, 164, 168, 268–9 London, William, alderman of Norwich 102 Low Countries (Netherlands)  1, 37, 41, 210–11, 249, 268, 272–6, 284 Manne, Katherine, anchoress  165–6 Mannyng, Peter  202 Marsham, family  132 Marsham, James, sheriff of Norwich  96 Marsham, John, mayor of Norwich  172 Martyn, William  86 material culture  2, 6–7, 15, 19, 22, 32–3, 41, 42, 43–4, 56, 57, 102, 107, 111–14, 158, 173, 196, 205, 207, 209–13, 234–5, 240, 262, 272–6, 283 See also consumption and furnishings and furniture merchant(s)  6–7, 11, 20, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29 –31, 32, 33, 37, 42–3, 45–7, 50–1, 60, 90, 96–104, 113, 132–5, 139–40, 142–3, 147, 152–4, 158–61, 168, 169–74, 178, 187, 189, 196, 239, 249, 270, 271, 276, 281 See also civic elite metalwork  5, 113, 192–3, 198, 202, 205, 207, 209–13, 266–7, 77 McClendon, Muriel  38, 164


index Midday, Roger, bailiff of Norwich  91, 160 Middleton, Ralph de  62 middling sort  6–7, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 24, 26–7, 28, 29, 30, 32, 33–4, 41, 43, 53, 55, 56–7, 119–20, 137, 163, 168, 169, 177–8, 191, 206–14, 215, 234–42, 243, 281–4 Morgan, Victor  170 Necton, Thomas, sheriff of Norwich  80, 151 neighbourhood  13, 22, 25, 27, 34, 47, 50, 51, 56, 155, 177, 248–9 New Buckenham (Norfolk)  137, 223 Newcastle upon Tyne  22–3 Ninham, Henry, artist  55, 133, 137, 217 Northgate, Nicholas, mayor of Norwich 133 Norwich, city of almshouses  247, 254 See also hospitals under Norwich Anglo-Saxon origins of  38 archaeological excavations  38, 45, 52–8, 59–60, 177–82, 203–13, 240–1, 262–8, 272–6, 62 Norwich Survey  52–8, 79, 121, 178–9, 223, 227, 231, 232, 234, 269, 279 See also excavated sites named in the text under Norwich beguines 186 Bridewell, the  44, 76, 246, 248 See also houses named in the text under Norwich building(s) in brick  53–4, 64–5, 89, 91, 92, 106, 110, 113–14, 122, 127–9, 133, 142–3, 148, 183, 186, 192–206, 216–17, 221–3, 225, 251, 255, 259, 265; See also undercrofts under Norwich building accounts  2, 28, 53, 57, 164, 203, 206, 250–1 building density  45, 51–6, 194, 196, 202, 207, 226–7, 255–68, 276–7 building regulations  47–8, 205–6, 267, 268 construction methods  53–6, 59–60, 96–7, 142–3, 178–9, 202–6, 216–226, 250–1, 255, 259 clay-walled  53, 56, 59–60, 98, 178, 181–2, 186, 194–6, 198–208, 216, 251 flint-and-brick chequerwork  69, 123, 126, 222, 231–2 gables, decorative  142–3, 221–3


jetties  65, 69, 82, 107, 123, 138, 216–17, 219–20 panelling  62, 82, 102, 106, 108–10, 111, 114, 119, 130, 135, 141–2, 158, 239 plaster; plasterwork  118, 119, 137, 139, 141, 164, 225, 232, 239, 259 roof materials  47, 113, 142, 182, 192, 194, 201, 206, 227, 249, 250–1 roof structures  54, 66, 80, 82, 86, 91, 92, 100, 117, 127, 150, 160–1, 186, 190–1, 223–6, 228, 230, 231 stone buildings, medieval  59–60, 62–3, 72–4, 76–8, 79–80, 89–91, 96–101, 121, 172 survival of historic fabric  52–6, 96–7, 172, 185–6, 203, 235, 249, 279 three-storeyed  97, 111, 140, 142, 179, 186, 219–20, 227 timber-framing  65, 96–7, 98, 133, 148, 178–9, 183, 186, 191, 203, 205, 208, 216–18, 220, 221, 225, 251, 253–4, 255 See also houses and housing and undercrofts under Norwich castle  38, 56, 57, 179, 182, 207 castle fee  148, 207 See also excavated sites named in the text under Norwich cathedral  2, 38–9, 48, 59, 90, 147, 154–5, 156, 162, 165, 251 cathedral close, buildings in  50, 57, 64, 90, 137, 139, 142–3, 183, 223 Prior’s fee  89, 147 churches and parishes  38, 39, 44, 47, 48–51, 97, 107, 132, 152–3, 155–6, 196, 202, 246, 254, 266 St. Andrew  50, 54, 75, 77, 78, 80, 105, 110, 153, 171, 272 St Augustine  201, 247, 253–4 St Clement  50, 121, 130, 131, 133 St George Colegate  50, 87, 115 St George Tombland  124, 127, 190, 257 St Gregory  60, 110, 153, 196 St John Maddermarket  42, 50, 60, 63, 66, 105, 170, 172 St Martin-at-Oak  86, 120, 201, 261 St Martin-at-Palace  89–90 St Mary Coslany  50, 82, 248, 261 St Mary the Less  270, 272 St Michael Coslany  50, 192, 257 St Michael at Plea  271 St Peter Hungate  50, 179, 186, 219, 253

index St Peter Mancroft  42, 50, 96, 97, 101, 150, 152–3, 157, 246, 57 St Peter Parmentergate  100 SS Simon and Jude  110, 171 St Swithun  254, 266 civic ceremony in  48, 146, 150–2, 153–7, 158–9, 164–6 civic regalia  111, 119, 173 civic symbolism  71, 74–5, 80–2, 86, 102, 111, 115, 121, 123, 133, 150–1, 154–5, 158–9, 160–1, 170–5 Corpus Christi procession  154, 156–7, 165, 166 Reformation, impact on  151, 162–6, 169, 281, 284 Whitsun play cycle  156 civic elite  6–7, 42, 43, 45–7, 47–8, 50, 145–8, 153–4, 158–9, 163, 164, 166, 248 dynasties  46, 105, 110, 147, 158, 169–74, 281 funerary monuments of  110, 168, 170–171, Plate 8 houses of  50, 96–104, 132–43, 157–61, 166–9, 171–4, 280–1, 4 membership of  46, 145–6, 163 portraits of  170, 171 possessions of  102, 107, 111–14, 119, 123, 158, 173 relationship to rural gentry  46, 50, 74–5, 110, 154, 158, 160, 163, 169–72, 280–1, 283 Civil War, impact on  38, 39, 110, 146, 163, 172, 173 cloth industry  See textile industry under Norwich Common Hall (from 1540)  78, 157, 163, 164–6, 169, 220, 272, 60 See also religious houses, Blackfriars under Norwich Common inn  148, 156, 161 conflict in  40, 48, 145–7, 151, 154–6, 162, 163–6, 168, 172, 246, 272, 284 See also riot and social disorder in under Norwich defences  48, 52, 147–8, 247 Duke of Norfolk’s palace  42, 50 economy of  37, 39, 40–1, 44–5, 50–1, 140, 148, 163, 205, 244–5, 249, 269–71, 281 See also textile industry under Norwich epidemic disease in  39, 40, 48, 148, 163, 164, 244, 268, 269–70, 284 excavated sites named in the text


Alms Lane (site 302N)  4, 55, 179, 181, 184, 196–9, 205, 206, 208, 209, 213, 216, 243, 251, 254, 264–5, 267, 273–6, 74, 100–1 Botolph Street, Nos.44–56 (site 170N)  181, 201, 205, 267, 273, 276 Botolph Street, Nos.49–63 (site 281N)  181, 201–2, 205, 207, 230, 240, 262–3, 267, 273, 99 Bottling Plant, Westwick St (site 159N)  181, 195–6, 203, 240, 73 Castle Mall (site 777N)  182, 207 Dragon Hall, King Street (site 449N)  56, 60, 91–2, 181, 27 Magdalen Street, Nos.79–87 (site 168N)  181, 202, 204–5, 216 Magdalen Street, No.132 (site (148N)  181, 202 Millennium Library site (NHER 26437)  56, 60, 97, 182 Oak Street, Nos.70–80 (site 351N)  4, 55–6, 179, 181, 199–201, 203, 204, 207–9, 216, 230, 241, 243, 266–7, 75 Pottergate, Nos.33–55 (site 149N)  1–2, 4, 55, 179, 181, 183–4, 192–4, 204, 206, 207–8, 209–14, 216, 251, 266–7, 71–2, 77–8 St Benedict’s Street, Nos.104–106 (site 153N)  181, 194–6, 205, 216, 267, 275 St Martin-at-Palace Plain (site 450N)  56, 59–60, 88–90, 98, 162, 182, 25 fires of 1507  1, 8, 40, 53, 82, 96–7, 132, 192, 202, 204, 209, 76 impact on rebuilding  1–4, 5, 177–8, 179, 184–6, 203–6, 216, 281 French Borough  38, 182, 192 glass, painted  96, 101–3, 111, 151, 155, 156, 158, 172, 175, 192, 209, 33 government and administration  1, 40, 41, 44–6, 47–50, 57, 76, 145–6, 147–8, 153–7, 163–6, 246–9, 251, 267–8, 272 charters  45, 76, 145, 147, 148 corporation  1, 2, 37, 45–6, 48, 145–6, 148, 150, 154–5, 162, 163–6, 170 mayor’s court  44, 150–1, 164, 246, 247, 266, 267 See also civic ceremony and civic elite under Norwich great rebuilding in  2–4, 31, 43, 53–4, 136–9, 147, 168, 177–8, 202–9, 213–14, 235, 279–84

index rebuilding statute  2, 4, 205 See also building(s) in and houses and housing under Norwich  guilds and fraternities in  1, 5, 37, 47, 48, 152, 153–7, 158, 161–2, 164, 166, 284 Annunciation fraternity  152, 154, 160 Bachelery fraternity  154, 162 Goldsmiths  156, 161 Grocers  71, 72, 80, 115, 121, 123, 156 guild of St George (later Company of St George)  66, 75, 82, 92, 150, 154–5, 156, 158, 160–1, 165–6, 172 guild of St Luke  156, 161, 162 guildhalls  154, 155–6, 161, 164 Mercers  82, 86, 121, 123, 126, 128, 172 Merchant Adventurers  71, 82, 111 Guildhall, the  48, 147, 148–51, 152, 156, 157, 160, 161, 183, 55–6 hospitals  39, 44, 247, 254 St Giles (Great Hospital)  2, 47, 53, 203, 206, 247, 251, 254 St Paul’s (Norman’s)  147, 247, 248 ‘(hos)spital houses’  247, 254–5 See also almshouses under Norwich houses and housing attics  115–7, 119, 127, 140, 184, 186, 190–1, 208–9, 221–3, 223–26, 227–8, 230, 237–40, 256, 259, 262, 282 carriage arch  72, 74, 97, 127–8, 132–5, 140 ceiling  72, 101, 117–18, 122–3, 126–7, 128–30, 130–1, 135, 136–9, 141, 173, 187–91, 209, 227, 230–4, 238–9, 240, 255, 282 cellar  112, 114, 183–4, 192–3, 198, 207, 209–10, 237, 251–2, 255; See also undercroft under Norwich courtyard  59, 60, 63–4, 74, 77, 78–80, 86, 87, 96 –9, 100, 111, 113, 115, 121–4, 127–8, 130–1, 132–40, 167, 172, 228, 233–4, 235, 241 doors  64, 66, 72, 74, 77, 80, 82, 86, 87, 91–5, 98. 100, 101, 107, 108, 115, 119, 121, 123–4, 127, 133, 142, 159, 173–5, 183–4, 186, 232, 234, 253–4, 255, 257, 272 dormer  127, 198, 223–6, 227–8, 231, 232, 240, 255, 257, 259–60, 265 fireplace(s)  42, 51, 69, 101, 106, 109–10, 111–13, 117, 118, 120, 123, 127, 131, 140, 167, 175, 192, 196, 198,


199–202, 206–9, 210, 234, 238, 241, 244, 254, 255, 261, 262, 265–66, 273 first-floor chamber(s)  91, 106–10, 114, 115–19, 120, 122–3, 127, 130–1, 133, 135, 136–9, 141–2, 167–8, 187–91, 208–9, 213–14, 224, 227, 231–3, 238–9, 241–2, 251, 282 gallery  66, 80, 98, 108, 112, 113–4, 115, 119, 120, 142 gatehouse  59, 80, 111, 114, 140, 166, 172; See also houses and housing, carriage arch under Norwich hall  59, 192, 199–201, 206–09, 230, 235, 236–7, 251, 254, 262; in merchant houses  64–96, 96–7, 98–103; 105–120, 122–3, 126, 130, 131, 135–9, 140, 142, 178; symbolism  158–62, 167–8, 171–3, 280–1 kitchen  102, 112–14, 119, 120, 192, 236–8, 242, 262, 282–3 parlour  192, 235, 236–9, 262, 282–3; in merchant houses  62, 64, 66, 72, 74, 82, 86, 87, 101–2, 106–10, 111–114, 117–19, 120, 123–4, 126, 131, 135, 137–40, 158, 160, 167, 171 plan forms  97–102, 132–43, 178–9, 206–9, 213–4, 226–34, 250–62 porch  71, 75, 80, 90, 107–8, 111, 142, 159, 161 rear range  189, 199, 207, 209, 216, 222, 227, 228, 230–4, 235, 238, 239, 265, 282 room function  98–104, 107, 111–14, 118–19, 120, 123–4, 136–40, 158–62, 167–8, 171–3, 184, 213–14, 226, 234–42, 261–2, 280–3 row houses  65, 53, 187, 192–4, 206, 208, 209, 230, 251–4, 262, 266, 267 single-cell  54–5, 186–7, 199, 208, 221, 227–8, 232, 243, 250–1, 255–62, 265–7 staircase  64, 66, 74, 78, 80, 101, 108, 115, 119, 120, 123, 127, 128, 137–9, 141–3, 208, 209, 232, 239, 254, 255, 265, 281–2 window  178, 183, 186–7, 190–1, 192, 198, 201, 208, 209, 213, 221, 223, 224–6, 227–8, 230–4, 238, 240, 251, 253, 255–7, 270; in merchant houses  62, 64, 66–9, 77–8, 80, 86–7, 89–90, 91, 92, 98, 100–3, 106–10, 115, 119, 120, 121–3, 127, 130–1,

index 133, 135, 137–8, 139, 140–1, 142, 160, 162, 172 See also building(s) in and houses named in the text under Norwich houses named in the text Augustine Steward’s House, No.14 Tombland  124–7, 222, 238, 45–6 Bacon’s House, Colegate  87, 97, 100, 101, 114–119, 123, 133, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 167, 173, 38–41, Plates 4–5 Barrack Street, Nos.25–33  226 Bedford Street, No.15  179, 184, 186–8, 191, 209, 216, 224, 238, 240, 251, 63, 65–6; Nos.19–21  82–4, 98, 187, 217, 20–2 Botolph Street, Nos.67–69  227, 79, 85 Bridewell, Bridewell Alley  66, 75–8, 97, 98, 100, 101, 160, 183, 248, 15–17 Colegate, Nos.27–9  225, 86; No.59  224, 227–8, 238, 255, 87 Curat House, Nos.3–4 Haymarket  130–1, 136, 50 Dragon Hall, King Street  60, 66, 91–6, 97, 99, 100, 101, 119, 136, 160, 172, 181, 186, 27–31 Elm Hill, No.9 (Britons Arms)  179, 185–6, 203, 223, 253, 64; Nos.12–18  230–1; Nos.21–27 227–9, 88; Nos.28–30  133; No.32  133, 234; Nos.34–36  133, 140, 141; Pettus House 133 Everard’s House, St Martin-at-Palace Plain  66, 88–90, 99, 100, 101, 119, 136, 162, 182, 25–6 Fye Bridge Street, Mischief P.H.  130–1, 133 Fye Bridge Street, Nos.7–15   121–4, 133, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 186, 43–4, Plate 6 Garsett House, St Andrew’s Plain  140–1, 220, 53 Gildencroft, Nos.2–12  206, 247, 252–4, 92–3 Great Hall, The, Oak Street  87–7, 99, 100, 101, 119–20, 136, 162, 178, 201, 24, 42 Howard House, Surrey Street  141 King Street, Murrell’s Yard  259; Nos.47–51 240; Nos.54–64 133, 223; No.66  133; Nos.164–178  133, 221, 222, 225, 257, 83, 86; Raven


Yard  133–4, 140, 52; Swan Yard 233–4, 91 Lower Goat Lane, No.21  227, 240 Magdalene Street, No.33  133 Pottergate, Nos.69–71  208, 224, 230 Princes Street, Nos.4–6  223, 230; No.9  98; No.20  179, 187–9, 208, 209, 224, 230, 238, 282, 67; Nos.22–26  228, 255, 67 Pykerell’s House, Rosemary Lane  82, 85–6, 87, 97, 100, 101, 102–3, 119, 136, 178, 23, 33 Samson and Hercules House, Tombland  133, 142 St Benedict’s Street, No.20  209, 232, 238; No.28  209, 232, 238; No.49  209, 222, 231–2, 238, 239, 282, 89–90; No.58  209, 233, 238, 91; No.86 232 St Andrew’s Hill, Nos.2–4  221, 224, 226, 85 St Andrew’s Street, Nos.23–27  228; Rugge house  132–3, 51 St George’s Street, Nos.25–27  179, 189–90, 209, 223, 230, 238, 282, 68–9; No.63  221, 255–6, 94; Nos.80–82  209, 230, 239; Nos.86–88 265, 101 St Martin’s Lane, Nos.47–49  257–8, 96; Nos.67–69  257, 266 Sir Garnett Wolsey P.H., St Peter’s Steps 219 Strangers Club, Nos.22–26 Elm Hill  99–100, 127–30, 133, 136, 139, 167, 47–9, Plate 7 Strangers’ Hall, Charing Cross  60–75, 96, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 105–10, 132, 135–6, 138, 140, 142, 159–61, 167, 171–3, 183, 186, 217, 222, 251, 5–14, 34–7, Plates 2–3 Suckling House, St Andrew’s Plain  78–82, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 110–14, 132, 136, 138, 140, 159, 160, 167, 171–3, 220, 18–19 Timberhill, Nos.5–7  257; No.33  223, 224; Nos.39–43  222–3, 225, 84 Tombland, No.5  234; No.8  179, 190–1, 208, 226–7, 70 Tombland Alley, Nos.1–2a  255–7, 95 Wensum Lodge (Music House), King Street  59, 90–1, 97, 98, 142–3, 54 Westlegate, No.20  227–8, 255, 87

index White Swan Inn, St Peter’s Street  97, 98–9, 101–2, 32 immigration into  39, 40, 44–5, 48, 155, 205, 244–5, 246, 249, 250, 261, 268–72, 276–7, 284 See also Stranger communities under Norwich landscape and topography of  38–9, 47–51, 52–7, 97, 132–3, 147–8, 166, 172–5, 183, 207, 236, 243, 268, 279 maps of  2, 52, 54, 203, 225, 230, 2, Plate 1 marketplace  38, 48, 50, 56, 97, 132, 146, 148, 150, 152, 156, 157, 191, 194, 219, 238, 240 market cross  48, 157, 58 stalls  50, 59, 148, 251 tollhouse  48, 148, 150, 160 Norman conquest, impact on  38, 192, 207 New Draperies or ‘Norwich Stuffs’  See textile industry under Norwich New Mills  148 plague  See epidemic disease in under Norwich population of  37, 39–40, 41, 44, 45, 50–1, 54, 148, 163, 192, 202, 205, 236, 244, 246–8, 267–70 See also immigration into under Norwich poverty in  11, 40, 42–3, 44–5, 48, 51, 52, 54, 56–7, 192, 201, 243–50, 268, 271, 276–7 census of the poor (1570)  24, 38, 40–1, 44, 51, 246–9, 254–5, 269 houses of the poor; 42, 52, 54, 55, 56, 247–8, 249, 250–62; 262–7, 273–5, 277 poor relief  45, 48, 165, 246, 248 quays  38, 51, 90, 91, 97, 148, 154 records  37, 41–3, 57, 59, 164, 207, 269–70 enrolled deeds  50, 57, 59, 192, 198, 199, 207, 250 freemen’s lists  40, 41, 43, 244 hearth tax  41–3, 51, 244, 261 landgable  57, 86, 194, 198, 199, 201 lay subsidy  39, 40, 41–3, 51, 244, 271 Reformation, impact on  38, 40, 47, 50, 145–6, 151, 162–6, 167–9, 170, 172, 245–6, 281, 284 See also civic ceremony under Norwich

religious houses  38–9, 155–6, 161, 163 Carrow priory  138, 147 College of St Mary  152, 154, 157, 165 Dominican friary (Blackfriars)  78, 154, 157, 163, 164–6, 183, 272, 60 Franciscan friary (Greyfriars)  56, 181, 182 See also cathedral under Norwich riot  40, 44, 48, 126, 146, 147, 155, 163, 164, 172, 246 shops  59, 79, 102, 114, 119, 121, 126, 140, 148, 154, 156, 186–7, 191, 199, 201, 207, 209, 216, 235, 237, 239–40, 250, 251–2, 65 See also workshop under Norwich slum clearance  54, 82–6, 132, 234 social disorder in  11, 44–5, 47–8, 153–4, 163, 164, 245–8, 268, 284 See also conflict in and riot under Norwich Stranger communities  41, 45, 246, 249–50, 269–77 epidemic disease, impact on  268 location of settlement  51, 249–50, 271, 102 occupations  41, 270, 272 material culture of  272–6, 103 suburbs  52, 142–3, 261 tenements  55–7, 60, 79, 90, 97, 121, 177, 179–82, 192–202, 215, 243, 251, 254, 272–5 industrial activities in  192–3, 196, 198, 201, 202, 207, 226, 241–2, 266–7, 282, 283 overcrowding in  262–8, 276–7, 284 vacant plots  2, 47, 57, 205 See also yards and courts under Norwich textile industry  37, 39–46, 50, 60, 140, 148, 162, 184, 192, 195–6, 205, 221, 226, 240–1, 245, 247–50, 254, 266, 268–72, 276, 282, 284 See also workshops under Norwich undercrofts  53, 178, 183–5, 186, 187, 189, 190, 191, 203, 206, 230, 253 in merchant houses  59, 62–9, 72–4, 76–8, 79–80, 82–3, 89, 90–2, 96–9, 101, 103, 126–7, 139–40, 172 wards  46, 47, 48–49, 59, 250, 3 Conesford great ward  48, 50, 51, 246, 248, 261 Mancroft great ward  48, 50, 97, 132, 244, 246


index socio-economic differences between  42, 50–1, 97, 132, 167, 196, 243, 246, 249, 261, 271–2 Over the Water (Ultra Aquam) great ward  48, 50, 51, 178, 179, 184, 196, 271 Wymer great ward  42, 48, 50, 60, 78, 132, 191–2, 246, 261 271 waste disposal  47–8, 56, 196, 198, 205, 267–8 cesspits  56, 59, 89, 178, 181–2, 201, 207, 213, 262, 267 water supply  47–8, 113, 196, 267, 268, 277 water mills  See New Mills under Norwich Wensum, river  38, 50, 51, 59, 86, 89–90, 91, 97, 123, 127, 132–3, 148, 154, 183, 196 wharves  See quays under Norwich workshop  179, 192–202, 207, 226, 235–7, 239–42, 245, 262, 266–7 worsted seld  40, 148, 162 yards and courts  54–5, 179, 194, 201, 214, 215, 222, 234, 235–6, 241, 243, 250, 255–61, 262–7, 277 Norwich Preservation Trust  121, 124 Norwich, School (of artists)  55 Norfolk, county of  38, 39, 40, 41, 45, 46, 148, 222, 223 Norfolk and Norfolk Archaeological Trust  86, 124, 179 Norfolk Archaeological Unit  56 Norfolk Historic Environment Record  52 Page, John, clerk  91 Paine, Lady Emma, wife of Joseph  110 Paine, Sir Joseph, mayor of Norwich, 110, 142, 172–3 Pantin, W.A.  20, 28, 77 parishes  6, 7, 11, 13, 16, 24, 33, 37, 44, 47, 48–51, 97, 132, 146, 150–1, 152–3, 155, 166, 213, 239, 245–6, 247, 249, 254, 266, 283–4 See also churches and parishes under Norwich Paston, family  91, 99–100, 127, 142 Paulet, family  79, 80, 100, 160 Pearson, Sarah  15, 16, 19, 20–1, 28 Pettus, family  132, 133, 171 Pettus, Sir Augustine  171 Pettus, Sir John, mayor of Norwich  133, 171

Pettus, Sir Thomas, mayor of Norwich  171 Pinchin, William  240 plague  See epidemic disease plate, silver and gilt  102, 111, 156, 158, 173, 276 Plunkett, George  55, 265 Pole, William de la, earl of Suffolk  154 population, urban  5, 9, 10, 11, 20, 22, 24–5, 31, 37, 39–40, 41–3, 44–5, 51, 52, 54, 148, 163, 177–8, 194, 202, 205, 236, 244, 249–50, 261, 267–8, 269–72, 283–4 pottery  2, 5, 192, 196, 198, 202, 205, 210–13, 250, 265, 272–6, 283, 78, 103 Pound, John  38, 41–3, 46, 50, 57, 163, 173, 244–5, 246, 261–2, 266, 269 poverty, urban  5, 8, 10–11, 24, 26, 27, 28, 34, 40–1, 42–3, 44–5, 48, 51, 52–5, 165, 192, 201, 243–50, 253–5, 261–2, 268, 277 Priestley, Ursilla  57, 234 privacy  7, 14, 22, 23, 26, 30, 32, 59, 90, 101, 106, 136–7, 142, 146–7, 154, 158, 162, 168–9, 171, 209, 232, 238, 281–3 probate inventory  See inventory; inventories processions  12, 22, 152, 154, 155, 156–7, 165, 166 puritan  8, 11, 23, 33–4, 146, 272 See also Reformation, Protestant Pykerell, Thomas, mayor of Norwich  42, 82, 86, 178 Rawcliffe, Carole  38, 47 Reformation, Protestant  5, 11, 12–13, 22, 33–4, 38, 40, 41, 48–50, 113, 146, 151, 162–4, 165, 168–9, 170, 245–6, 249, 254, 268–9, 284 dissolution of chantries and guilds  5, 22, 163, 166, 168, dissolution of monasteries  5, 47, 78, 163, 164–6, godly reformation of manners  8, 11, 44–5, 48, 205, 245–6, 249 impact on towns  5, 8, 10, 11, 12–13, 164–6 Reynolds, Matthew  38 Richard II, King  148 Richardson, Catherine  33, 276 Rimmer, Jayne  28, 53, 187, 206, 250–1, 254, 262 riot  40, 48, 126, 146, 147, 155, 163, 164, 172, 246 Rosser, Gervase  11, 155


index Rugge, family  132 Rugge, Francis, mayor of Norwich  133 Rugge, Robert, mayor of Norwich  132 Rutledge, Elizabeth  60, 91, 244, 250

Suckling, Robert, mayor of Norwich  110, 111, 171, 173, 248 probate inventory of  111–14, 138, 140, 167, 173

Sandwich (Kent)  19, 20, 30, 269 Segryme, Ralf, mayor of Norwich  172 servants  6, 16, 24, 26, 31, 39, 42, 74, 114, 115–7, 236, 238, 245, 247, 266 shops  27, 28, 30, 34, 241 See also shops under Norwich Smith, Robert  53–3, 62, 72, 77, 79, 80, 91, 123, 183, 219, 223 Sotherton, Agnes, nee Hethersett, wife of Nicholas  65–6, 71–2, 74, 75, 105, 106, 135, 161, 170, 171 Sotherton, Elizabeth, nee Steward, wife of Thomas (I)  170 Sotherton, family  105–7, 135, 170–1 Sotherton, Francis, nee Foxe, wife of Thomas (II)  171 Sotherton, John, sheriff of Norwich  105, 248 Sotherton, Leonard, sheriff of Norwich  105 Sotherton, Mary, wife of John  107, 138 Sotherton, Nicholas, mayor of Norwich  65–72, 74–5, 100, 102, 105–6, 138, 151, 160–1, 170, 171 Sotherton, Thomas (I), mayor of Norwich  41, 105, 170, 249, 269 Sotherton, Thomas (II), mayor of Norwich  105, 171 Spynk, Richard  147–8 Stalworthy, Thomas  266 Steward, Augustine, mayor of Norwich  99, 105, 124–6, 127, 150, 151, 164, 172, 173, 248, 254–5 Steward, Cecily, wife of Geoffrey  80, 82 Steward, Geoffrey, alderman of Norwich  80, 82 Suckling, Edmund, Dean of Norwich  110 Suckling, Elizabeth, nee Barwick, wife of Robert  110, 171 Suckling, family  110, 111, 171 Suckling, Joan, nee Cardinal, wife of Robert 111 Suckling, John, mayor of Norwich  110 Suckling, Sir John, comptroller of the royal household  110, 171 Suckling, Lady Martha, wife of Sir John  110, 171 Suckling, Richard, sheriff of Norwich  110

Tewkesbury (Gloucs.)  28, 253 Thompson, Henry  120 Thompson, John  120 Thurston, Alexander, mayor of Norwich  131, 133 Tittler, Robert  2, 12–13, 20, 22, 170–1, 205 Toft, Susan, wife of Thomas  123 Toft, Thomas, mayor of Norwich  121, 123 Toppes, Robert, mayor of Norwich  92, 96, 99 towns  See cities and towns trade  1, 2, 9–10, 20, 30, 33, 37, 40–1, 43, 46, 72–3, 90, 96–9, 139–40, 148, 158, 239–40, 271–2 transition  See age of transition Treswell, Ralph  21, 27, 29 typologies (house)  20–1, 72, 223 Underdown, David  8 wall paintings  97, 101–2 Wetherby, Thomas, mayor of Norwich  147, 154 widows  24, 26, 28, 59, 71–2, 75, 80, 82, 105–6, 107, 118–19, 135, 161, 196, 199, 245, 247, 248, 254–5, 261 will(s)  7, 27, 32, 57, 59, 102, 107, 118–9, 120, 121, 123, 138, 152, 164, 173, 196, 254, 276 Williamson, Fiona  48, 269 Winchester (Hampshire)  60, 250 Woburn Abbey (Bedfords.)  60, 91 women  16, 23–4, 26, 39, 44, 46, 75, 111–3, 161, 167, 169, 170–1, 186, 245–9, 261, 266, 275 See also widows Wood, Edmund, mayor of Norwich  121, 123, 172 Wood, Sir Robert, mayor of Norwich  121, 123 workshop  30–2, 179, 199, 201, 202, 207, 215, 226, 235, 237, 239–42, 245, 266 Wurthestede, John de  251 Wyer, Edward  266 Yelverton, Sir William  154 York (Yorks.)  9, 18–19, 20, 22, 27, 28, 43, 46, 53, 60, 155, 161, 168, 250, 253, 254, 262


Plate 1. The Sanctuary Map of Norwich, 1541 (TNA MPI1/221, reproduced by permission of The National Archives).

Plate 2. Plan of Strangers’ Hall undercroft/ground floor (drawn by James Wright after plans in NHER).

Plate 3. Plan of Strangers’ Hall first floor (drawn by James Wright after plans in NHER).

Plate 4. Plan of Bacon’s House ground floor (drawn by James Wright after plans in NHER).

Plate 5. Plan of Bacon’s House first floor (drawn by James Wright after plans in NHER).

Plate 6. Nos 7–15 Fye Bridge Street: mid-sixteenth-century rear wing with moulded timber ceilings (photographs © Chris King).

Plate 7. Nos 22–26 Elm Hill: mid-sixteenth-century street range with impressive first-floor chamber (photographs © Chris King).

Plate 8. Sixteenth-century funerary monuments belonging to important merchant dynasties. Top: The Sothertons, St John Maddermarket church. Bottom: The Sucklings, St Andrew’s church (photographs © Chris King; courtesy of the Churches Conservation Trust and St Andrew’s parish).