The Last Pryor of Ingham Priory, Norfolk

NORAH trustee and local historian, David Stannard, will be giving a talk on the fascinating history of Ingham church and priory on 14 and 15 September 2018, as part of the Heritage Open Days (HODs) festival. Details of the talk can be found on the HODs website. If you are reading this after that date, David is willing to give the same talk to local groups. Details are available on NORAH’s register of talks.

As a precursor of his talk, David has written this article. It describes the precarious nature of a monastic house during the reign of Henry VIII. David’s talk and this blog post, provide a wonderful example of why Norfolk’s archives are key to understanding the county’s history, including how it was affected by national events such as the Dissolution of the Monasteries.


Will of John Attwoode of
Registered will of John Attwoode, proved in 1537, citing the Pryor of Ingham as a beneficiary and executor. Norfolk Record Office, NCC will register Godsalve 207.
The Last Pryor of Ingham Priory, Norfolk

The Order of Trinitarians at Ingham in Norfolk was founded in 1198. Their possessions were divided into three parts: one portion for the redemption of captives according to the rule of St. Victor; another part for the relief of the poor and the remaining third for their own subsistence. Essentially the role of the Canons was to act as political intermediaries paying ransoms to release Crusaders captured by the Saracens, and in turn demanding ransom for captured Saracens.


The Pryor is Safe

By the time of the Reformation, John Saye was Pryor of Ingham when the Bishop of Norwich, Richard Nykke, made a visitation to the Priory in person on 12 June 1532.1 The Pryor and four brethren united in testifying that there was nothing worthy of reformation, and the Bishop, who opposed Henry VIII’s reforms, took a similar view.2


The Pryor is Less Safe

On 5 August 1534, Pryor Saye, with six of his brethren, signed their acknowledgement of the King’s Supremacy.3 But in the next year the four County Commissioners for the Norfolk suppression alleged in their secret comperta [discovery] of 1535 that the Pryor and one of the brethren were guilty of incontinence, essentially high treason, by denying Royal Supremacy. On 10 August 1536, the Commissioners wrote to Thomas Cromwell, saying that during their survey they, ‘sent to the house of Ingham to put their books and necessaries in due order before their coming, but on their arrival they found no religious person there.’ It seems, by late 1536, Pryor Saye had become a fugitive with a serious charge hanging over his head.


The Pryor’s Fate

The wider historical record founders somewhat at this point, but the last will and testament of John Attwoode, parishioner of Eccles-juxta-Mare, made on 10 December 15364 gives a clue to the fate of the last Pryor of Ingham. John Attwoode states the following.

Item, I bequethe to my master fra [Brother] John Saye my beste fetherbede ande mye beste blankete ande my beste coverlyghte … the residue of all mye goodes ande cattelles wythe sed dettes movabyll ande unmovable what so ever yt be I hathe pute them ande gyve  them unto my foresaid master fra John Saye …

John also requires Pryor Saye to pay his debts, and appoints him as his sole executor. The Diocesan will register subsequently records that John Attwoode’s will was proved on 4 January 1537 by the Norwich Consistory Court. This surely means that as Pryor Saye was the sole executor, and significant beneficiary of this will, it is highly unlikely that it could have been proved if he was either a fugitive from justice, or had been beheaded for high treason.

However, it seems unlikely that the Pryor would have slept soundly in his inheritance in those troubled and dangerous times.

David Stannard, August 2018


  1. All dates have been converted to New Style dates   
  2. Visitations of the Diocese of Norwich, 1492-1532, ed. Augustus Jessopp (Camden Society, 1888), pp. 27, 173, 210, 276.   
  3. Annual Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, (H.M. Stationery Office, London), vii, appendix 2, p. 67.   
  4. Norfolk Record Office, NCC will register Godsalve 207.   

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