Norwich, John de (DNB00)

NORWICH, JOHN de, Baron Norwich (d. 1362), was the eldest of three sons of Walter de Norwich [q. v.] by his wife Catherine. Inheriting considerable estates acquired by his father in Norfolk and Suffolk, he obtained a royal license in 1334 for a weekly market and annual fair at Great Massingham in the former county (Blomefield, v. 522; Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 90). After taking part in the English invasion of Scotland in the following year, he was appointed in April 1336, when the French were expected upon the coast, admiral of the fleet from the Thames northwards (Rot. Scot. i. 442; Fœdera, ii. 943). By the beginning of 1338 he was serving abroad with his Norfolk neighbour, Oliver de Ingham [q. v.], the seneschal of Gascony, who, during a visit to England in March, obtained Norwich's appointment as his lieutenant (Fœdera, pp. 1012, 1023). His youngest brother, Roger, was also employed in Guienne (ib. ii. 1022). Two years later, if the second text of Froissart (ed. Luce, ii. 216) may be trusted, Norwich was assisting in the defence of Thun l'Evêque, a French outpost which had been captured by the English and Hainaulters. Though his pay seems sometimes to have been in arrears, his services did not go without reward. A pension of fifty marks was granted to him in 1339, he was summoned to parliament as a baron in 1342, and next year received permission to make castles of his houses at Metingham, near Bungay in Suffolk, and Blackworth, near Norwich, and Lyng, near East Dereham in Norfolk (Dugdale).

In 1344 he was once more serving in France, and, returning to England, he went out again in the summer of the next year in the train of Henry, earl of Derby (who in a few weeks became Earl of Lancaster), the newly appointed lieutenant of Aquitaine (ib.; Fœdera, iii. 39). In Froissart's account of Lancaster's campaign of 1346 Norwich figures prominently in an episode which M. Luce has shown to be unhistorical. The Duke of Normandy, the son of the French king, brought a large army against Lancaster in the early months of this year, and Froissart (iii. 111) says that, after taking a couple of towns near the Garonne, he laid siege to Angoulême, which was defended by ‘un escuyer qui s'appelloit Jehan de Noruwich, appert homme durement’ (ib. p. 328). On Candlemas eve (1 Feb.) Norwich, finding further resistance impossible, is said to have obtained a day's truce from the duke in honour of the Virgin's festival, and seized the opportunity to get away with the garrison and throw himself into Aiguillon, at the confluence of Lot and Garonne, which the enemy presently invested. But the story will not bear scrutiny. Angoulême was far away from the scene of operations in the Garonne valley, and its introduction is due to Froissart's misapprehension of Jean le Bel's ‘cité d'Agolent,’ a fanciful name for Agen in allusion to its fabled defence against Charlemagne by a Saracen of that name (ib. Preface, xxiii. xxix). But although Agen (on the Garonne, eighteen miles above Aiguillon) was within the field of the war, it did not stand a siege in the spring of 1346, and we are left to conjecture on what occasion, if ever, Norwich executed the stratagem here ascribed to him. At Easter 1347 he appears to have been in England, and arranged an accord between the Bishop of Norwich and one Richard Spink of that city, whom the bishop claimed as his bondman (Rot. Parl. ii. 193). But in the course of the year we find him again in France, where his second brother, Thomas, had fought at Crécy the year before (Dugdale; Froissart, iii. 183). In the January parliament of 1348 he had a grievance. The holder of his manor of Benhall, near Saxmundham, had died without heirs, and on his wife's death the estate would in the ordinary course escheat to Norwich as lord of the fee. But the king had granted it by anticipation to Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, whose second wife was Norwich's sister Margaret. His petition was declared to be informal, and we do not learn whether he obtained redress (Rot. Parl. ii. 198). He was again summoned to parliament in 1360, and died in 1362.

Norwich founded a chantry or college of eight priests and a master or warden in the parish church of St. Andrew at Raveningham, four and a half miles north-west of Beccles. The early history of this college is very confusedly told in Blomefield's ‘Norfolk’ and Tanner's ‘Notitia Monastica;’ but, unless they are mistaken, Norwich had taken some steps towards its institution as early as 1343, and the first prior in Blomefield's list is placed in 1349, though the definitive charter of foundation bears date at Thorpe, near Norwich, 25 July 1350 (Tanner, Not. Monast. Norfolk, 1.; Blomefield, v. 138, viii. 52). It was founded ‘for his own soul's health, and that of Margaret, his wife, for the honour of God, and his mother, St. Andrew the apostle, and all the saints,’ and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In 1387 it was removed to the new church at Norton Soupecors or Subcross, two miles north of Raveningham. A second and final translation to the chapel of the Virgin in Metingham Castle was effected in 1394 (Tanner, Not. Monast. Suffolk, xxxiii.) It was dissolved in 1535, when its income stood at just over 200l.

Norwich's eldest and only son, Walter, whose wife was Margaret, daughter of Sir Miles Stapleton, a Yorkshire knight, by the heiress of Oliver de Ingham, had died in his father's lifetime; and Walter's son, at this time fourteen years of age, succeeded his grandfather. He was given possession of his estates in 1372, but died in January 1374, without having been summoned to parliament (Nicolas, Historic Peerage, p. 362; cf. Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 91). As he left no issue, the barony became extinct; but the estates went to his cousin, Catherine de Brewse, daughter and heiress of his grandfather's second brother, Thomas, who fought at Crécy. She, however, retired into a nunnery at Dartford in Kent, and in 1379 or 1380 William de Ufford, second earl of Suffolk, son of the first earl, by Margaret Norwich, was declared to be her next heir. But she had already devolved the best part of her estates upon trustees, with a view, no doubt, to the further endowment of Norwich's college.

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Rotuli Scotiæ, and Rymer's Fœdera, edited for the Record Commission; Tanner's Notitia Monastica, ed. Nasmyth, 1787; Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum, ed. Caley, Ellis, and Bandinel, 1817–30, vi. 1459, 1468; Dugdale's Baronage; Nicolas's Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope, 1857; Blomefield and Parkin's Topographical Hist. of Norfolk, ed. 1805; Weever's Funeral Monuments, p. 865.]

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