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We read that the Town Arms were set up, and that the Train Band (the volunteers of the day) were drilled in the green space enclosed by the cloister, so that the clank of arms and the tramp of soldiers succeeded to the solemn chants and soft footings of the Friars.
In 1657 all the property was sold to Mr. John Woodroffe for £2,600, under the condition that he should cause a broad row (now Queen Street) and a narrow row (now Row 92) to be made according to a plan specified. It is curious to notice that at this late period rows were still made, Queen Street itself being called a broad row. The property was afterwards re-sold to various persons, and thus after four centuries these buildings were divided or pulled down, and the only parts now remaining intact are this remnant of the cloister, another bay in the cottage to the north, and a few fragments which are to be traced in adjoining properties.
This part of the cloister a few years ago was bought by Thomas Proctor Burroughs, F.S.A., of this town, who intended to open it up, but on his death it was sold, and it is now vested in the Tolhouse trustees. Up to the year 1888 it formed part of two cottages, and was divided into three small rooms, the floor levels of which were about 5 ft. above the original floor of the cloister, as will be seen by the stove in the modern chimney, which is about 4 ft. above the present floor. The groining was (perhaps happily) concealed by a low flat plaster ceiling. All this has been removed, and the soil lowered to its original floor line. In 1894 the Tolhouse trustees purchased the property to the north containing the fourth bay of the cloister, and this bay has been opened out and added to the other three bays. A narrow doorway was discovered in this fourth bay with a moulded arch, the mouldings of which die into
a plain chamfered jamb. The whole level of this part of the town has been raised 5 ft. since the thirteenth century, as shown by this relic, and by similar indications at the Tolhouse.
The date of this work is about the middle of the fourteenth century. It will be seen by the arrangement of columns on the walls of the bay next the present. outer entrance, that this is the south-west bay of the cloister. On removing floors and digging out soil under the central bay, the original cill of one of the traceried openings into the cloister court was discovered intact; together with the original plinth below the same, and the mouldings of the outer jambs next the buttresses. From the cill we can see that the traceried opening was divided into three lights, and on looking at the north bay, we observe that the arch of the groining is struck from a different centre to that of the arch of the traceried opening.
It was hoped that sufficient remains of the tracery would have been found to have decided the designs ; but though some few pieces have been found, they are not sufficient for this purpose. The mouldings of the mullions can be seen perfectly on the cill.
Two doorways, one on either side of a modern fireplace, were also discovered. The mouldings of one of the arches are fairly perfect, but the label mouldings have been knocked off. These doors, it is thought, led into small rooms, not into a Strangers Hall, as at Norwich. No remains of a lavatorium have been found here, although at Norwich it occupied a corresponding position in the cloister.
The groining, as may be seen, is fairly preserved ; and the carving, though coarse, is good. The central boss to the second bay represents the Lord's Supper; that in the south-west angle bay is very much damaged,
but a hooded monk is plainly to be seen,
It was thought that the central bosses illustrated the life of our Lord, but the hooded monk upsets that theory; unless the early carvers represented Apostles in monks' costumes (at Fressingfield Church St. Peter is represented with a monk's hood). It is hoped soon to carefully clean all the carvings, when perhaps more can be said on this subject.
In the adjoining premises, approached from Row 92, on the first floor, on a line with the south-west bay, and concealed by a flat ceiling, is another perfect piece of groining, springing from carved corbels. And further still at the back of some buildings in the rear of the Unitarian Chapel in the same row, some early Perpendicular work and a doorway are to be seen; these being also about the same level as the old floor on the top of this groining. These are the only portions of the conventual buildings remaining. Unfortunately the work over the cloister has disappeared, except the buttresses, which are perfect.
Of all the thousands of records in which the history of England lies hidden, I think it may be said, without fear of challenge, those remaining with the Clerks of the Peace for the different counties are the least known, not merely to the general public, but even to those who have charge of them. Nor is this surprising when we consider the little care that their predecessors have taken to keep the rolls arranged until the task of arranging them became too great to be lightly undertaken.
At the end of the last century the Government appointed a Select Committee to enquire into the state of the public records throughout the kingdom, which Committee did not neglect the county records. They requested the several Clerks of the Peace to report to them on the nature of their contents and other matters. The replies of the Clerks may be seen in the Report of the Committee, issued in 1800; but one does not gather much from the returns, the custodians, as a rule, knowing but little of what was under their care.
William Stokes, Clerk of the Peace for Norfolk, pleads, as an excuse for his lack of knowledge, that he has
been but recently appointed; but he managed to make the Committee understand that there were no documents relating to the county of an earlier date than 1700. The late Clerk had been in the habit of keeping part of the records at his private dwelling-house, and Mr. Stokes is anxious that a commodious room should be provided for them within or adjoining Norwich Castle. Whether a room was found for them then and there, I cannot tell ; but archæologists will, I am sure, be thankful to the late Mr. William Stokes for his desire for the better preservation of the records. Indeed, he went further, and suggested that a general catalogue and indexes should be made of every description of the public documents of the county. If only wishes were actions what more could be desired ? From an archæological point of view, Mr. Stokes was the right man in the right place.
No doubt the action of the Government Committee opened the eyes of many Clerks of the Peace to the national value of their records, and it is reasonable to suppose that better care was bestowed on them in consequence.
I am not aware, however, that anything practical was done with our Norfolk records for many years. In 1823 the Shirehall was opened, since which date they have been preserved there, and deposited in the lockers at the top of the strong room, where they remained until quite recently.
Some few years ago the Norfolk County Council came into possession of the records, and, as already reported to this Society," Mr. Hudson and Mr. Tallack arranged them at the request of the President of the Society, who is also Chairman of the Record Committee. They found amongst them several files of Enrolments of
1 Norfolk Archeology, vol. xii., Report for 1891, p. v.