Record Details

NHER Number:588
Type of record:Building
Name:St Helen's Church and the Infirmary Hall at the Great Hospital, Norwich

Summary

The Church of St Helen forms a large part of the Great Hospital. It was founded in 1249 by Bishop Waler de Suffield as a house for decrepid chaplains and poor sick people. The current buildings shows work of the 13th, 14th, and a major rebuild in 1480 by Bishop Goldwell, with further extensive 16th century and later alterations.

The building itself is of flint and brick rubble with stone dressings and a slate roof, which replaced lead roofs which were stripped in 1809-10. From the beginning the building was both parish church and hospital, constructed as a long aisled infirmary with a chancel, the later built around 1380 by Bishop Despenser. The south porch is all that remains of the 13th century building.

Inside, the long aisle was cut in half after the Reformation, when the hospital passed into the city's hands, and the western end of the ailse forming the men's wards, the eastern end remaining a church, and the chancel becoming the women's wards. On the first-floor, the Eagle Ward retains the original ribbed chancel waggon roof with bosses and 252 painted spread eagles, built in honour of Anne of Bohemia in 1383.

Images - none

Documents/files/web pages

Location

Grid Reference:TG 23732 09017
Map Sheet:TG20NW
Parish:NORWICH, NORWICH, NORFOLK

Full description

Medieval hospital and parish church.

Church of St Helen.
Medieval hospital and parish church. 13th, 14th, and 15th century with major 16th century and later alterations. Flint and brick rubble; stone dressings; slate roof replacing lead roofs stripped in 1809-10; three red brick chimneys. Aisled infirmary hall, nave, chancel, south transept, south porch and south-west tower with additions, including first floor in chancel and infirmary hall and stair towers on the south side. South porch of three bays with no vault is all that remains of the 13th century building. Upper floor repaired 1754. Chancel rebuilt by Bishop Despenser around 1380, has four three-light and one two-light early perpendicular windows on north side, those on the south side replaced by smaller 18th century windows with wooden intersecting tracery. East window of seven lights is partly blocked by 16th century inserted chimney stack and is flanked by diagonal buttresses. Interior has inserted 16th century floor on massive re-used moulded beams. Pump ward on ground floor has north range of cubicles, those on the south side removed. Stair cut through south wall and partly contained within an extension adjacent to the south transept has moulded handrail and acorn finials to newel posts. Eagle Ward on first-floor has original ribbed chancel waggon roof with bosses and 252 painted spread eagles. Full set of panelled cubicles with fluted pilasters. Fireplaces at east and west ends. Church comprises nave and aisles of three bays and a south transept, all rebuilt around 1480 by Bishop Goldwell. North aisle has three flat-headed three-light windows, another with two-centred head, and a three-light east window. Three three-light clerestory windows. A dour-light window in the south transept is flanked by diagonal buttresses. Interior has quatrefoil piers; blocked chancel arch; small 15th century window in west wall of south aisle; arch-braced roofs on corbels and lierne vault in south transept. Poppyhead bench ends; box pews and raised pulpit at east end and Ivory family pew in south transept, dated 1780 and inscribed with names of William Ivory, son of famous architect, and his wife. Infirmary Hall, late 14th century. Four bays; south aisle demolished. Three-light window with two-centred head at west end of north aisle. 16th century stair tower on south side has 18th century three-light window with intersecting tracery. Similar smaller clerestory windows. Blocked west window of infirmary hall has 16th century brickwork (with some repairs) and four-tier moulded wooden mullioned and transomed windows with leaded lights. Interior has inserted floor with 19th century cubicles in Parker Ward on ground floor and in Fawcett Ward on the first floor, reached by stairs with moulded handrail and acorn finials to newel posts. Arch-braced roof; large fire-place at east end concealed by tongue and groove boarding. South-West Tower. Legacy for construction in 1375. Four stages with diagonal buttresses. Two-centred window; string course; two-light traceried belfry windows and brick parapet. Weather vane. Part of the Great Hospital founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter de Suffield. After 16th century alterations men were accommodated in the west wards; women in the former chancel.
Information from (S1).

1991. Trial excavation in south churchyard.
Modern garden soils only disturbed. Footings uncovered.
Report in file.
A. Shelley (NAU), 25 July 1991.

S. Heywood (NCC) notes that one staircase tower includes part of the demolished aisle.

(S2) notes the pulpit is in front of the blocked chancel arch, the altar is in the south transept but the pews in the same transept face the pulpit not the altar, in pre-Ecclesiological practice.
E. Rose (NLA), 24 May 2002.

2003.
A dendrochronological date of 1403 was ascertained for timbers of Parker Ward (former nave of church), and 1378-99 for the relict south aisle truss (see note by S. Heywood above). Both timbers were from the same woodland source. Work was also carried out on the cloisters (see NHER 26113).
See report (S3) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 27 February 2003.

January 2006.
Inspection of interior of tower indicated that it is all of around 1380; there is a bequest of 1375.
(S4) in file.
E. Rose (NLA), 14 January 2006.

March 2006. Tree-ring analysis.
The tree-ring data for Derlyngham Tower was unsuccessful as the tree-ring sequence was too short for reliable analysis.
See (S5).
S. Howard (HES), 26 October 2010.

See press cuttings (S6) and (S7) and Alan Carter's Building Survey (S8) in file.
T. Sunley (NLA), 7 November 2007.

2008. Norwich HEART (S9, S10).
An exceptional set of medieval hospital buildings, in continuous use for more than 750 years
The medieval hospital buildings and layout resemble those of a monastery or priory and are set around the smallest cloister in England. The Great Hospital is the only English medieval hospital whose archives and fabric together survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
D. Gurney (NLA), 27 January 2009.

July 2010. Historic building recording.
The southern doorway of the eastern wall of the cloister at the Great Hospital in Norwich was recorded ahead of an application to widen the existing entrance and to establish whether there was any evidence for an earlier doorway into which the current doorway may have been inserted. The survey suggest that this is unlikely that an earlier doorway existed to the south but it is possible that one may have existed to the north.
See (S11).
S. Howard (NLA), 18 August 2010.

Monument Types

  • CHURCH (Medieval to Modern - 1249 AD to 2050 AD)
  • HOSPITAL (Medieval to Modern - 1249 AD to 2050 AD)
  • INFIRMARY (Medieval to Modern - 1249 AD to 2050 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Medieval - 1249 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Unknown date)
  • CLAY PIPE (SMOKING) (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Graphic Material: Various. Various. Architectural plans..
---Publication: Cox, J. C. 1911. Country Churches: Norfolk. Vol II. pp 177-178.
---Unpublished Contractor Report: Purcell Miller Tritton. 2002. The Great Hospital, Norwich. Condition Survey and Conservation Statement. Purcell Miller Tritton.
---Unpublished Contractor Report: Wilson Compton Associates. 2002. The Great Hospital, Bishopgate, Norwich. Record and Analysis Survey of the Buildings Constructed before 1902. Wilson Compton Associates.
---Publication: Messent, C. J. W. 1932. The City Churches of Norwich. pp 34-38.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. The Norwich 12. 2 February.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2010. Wander your way through 1,000 years of city history - Norwich 12.. 24 June 2010.
---Archive: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Norwich - Post Roman.
---Secondary File: Secondary file.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Unpublished Document: Wearing Hastings and Norton. 2005. St Helens Church, The Great Hospital, Bishopgate, Norwich. Restoration of the Derlynton Tower.
---Unpublished Document: Wearing Hastings and Norton. 1991. Specification. 1156. 1/3 The Great Hospital. St Helen's Church & church wards restoration 1991.
<S1>Scheduling Record: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England.
<S2>Monograph: Yates, N.. 2000. Buildings, faith and worship: the liturgical arrangement of Anglican.. p 35.
<S4>Unpublished Document: Rose, E.. 2006. Building Report..
<S5>Monograph: Bridge, M. C. 2010. Derlyngham Tower, The Great Hospital, Bishopgate, Norwich, Norfolk. Tree-ring Analysis of Timbers. English Heritage Research Department Report Series. 75-2010.
<S5>Monograph: Bridge, M. C. 2010. Tree-ring Analysis of Timbers from the Great Hospital, Bishopgate, Norwich, Norfolk. English Heritage Research Department Report Series. 10/2003.
<S6>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 12 Nov 1999.
<S7>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 23 Sept 2006. 23 September.
<S8>Unpublished Document: Carter, A.. 1987. Building Survey.
<S8>Unpublished Contractor Report: Wilson Compton Associates. 2001. The Great Hospital (Hospital of St Giles), Bishopgate, Norwich. Recording and Analysis of the Chancel East Window in Advance of Restoration. Interim Report. Wilson Compton Associates.
<S9>Monograph: Sheehan, B.. 2008. Norwich 12: A journey through the English city..
<S10>Projected and Video Material: Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART). 2008. Norwich 12. A journey through the English city.. DVD.
<S11>Unpublished Contractor Report: Phelps, A. 2010. NAU Archaeology ReAn Historic Building Recording Survey at The Great Hospital, Bishopgate, Norwich. NAU Archaeology. 2180.

Related records

624Part of: Precinct of the Great Hospital (Monument)

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