Corbet Family - Part 1
John Corbet is first found acting for Norwich in 1534-5, when he and Nicholas Hare were paid 24s.8d. by the City for business done in the Exchequer. Three years later Corbet was admitted freeman and on 21st September 1538 excused all Civic Office. This exemption notwithstanding, on 13th August 1540 he was elected steward of the Sheriff’s court in succession to Edmund Grey; he held this office, at a fee of 20 shillings, raised to 26s.8d. on 1544, until 16th August 1547, when he replaced Edmund Grey as Recorder. He was Recorder for three years, but when he resigned on 3rd May 1550 he ‘of his gentleness offered to be in readiness at all times to do any pleasure for the City and Commonalty’, and he was then granted an annual fee of 4 marks and asked to act for the Recorder in his absence.
He combined with his offices at Norwich that of steward of Yarmouth. He also embarked on service in the County: he was presumably the John Corbet senior (to distinguish him from his younger brother) who was put on the commission of the peace in November 1540, his father being probably dead by then, and he was certainly named in the commission of May 1542.
The possibility that Corbet was one of the Members for Norwich in the Parliament of 1536 arises from the inclusion of a ‘Mr. Corbet’ among four Members named on the dorse of an Act for continuing expiring laws passed by that Parliament. The fact that Members so named, probably as having scrutinized the bill concerned, were usually lawyers (as were at least two of the three whose names appear with Corbet’s) tells against his identification with Roger Corbet, the only other bearer of the name who can be presumed to have sat in this Parliament.
If John Corbet did so, it was almost certainly for Norwich. One of the two Members for Norwich in the Parliament of 1529, Reginald Lytilprowe, may either not have survived or have been unable to reappear in its successor, as the King asked all the previous Members to do, and the City could well have chosen Corbet, then on the threshold of his career in its service, to take his place. It is also possible that the long interval before his election for Norwich in 1554 reflected Corbet’s dependence upon the 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
Corbet Family - Part 2
His rise to prominence began with Norfolk’s return to power in 1540, but although the county historian Blomefield’s description of him as ‘being in the duke’s service’ appears to be unsupported by evidence it is consonant with his close connection with (Sir) Richard Southwell and (Sir) Robert Southwell, themselves followers of the Duke before the tragedy of 1546. In a grant of 1545 Corbet is called the King’s servant, and to judge by the £20 annuity he was to receive from Queen Mary for services at Framlingham (if he, and not his younger brother who lived at Framlingham, was the recipient) he was both a loyal servant of the crown and probably a co-religionist of the Queen. This may have had something to do with his election to her 3rd Parliament for Norwich, where although no stranger he no longer had an official position.
“Kett`s men and the Sprowston Dovecote”
The rebels were threatening to burn the house and deface the Dove-Cote (formerly St. Magdalene Chapel, Lazar House), property of Master Corbet's of Sprowston, committing many other outrages wherever they came. On the day 9th July 1549, they had thrown down the quickset hedge and filled up the ditches that enclosed the common a pasture of the City, called the Town Close, which hedge and kept in the neat cattle of the poor Freemen of the City, which were there pastured and looked after by the “neatherd”, who received off every owner, by custom, a halfpenny for every beast kept there; and so that ye fence which, by good and provident advice of their forefathers, had been raised for the common profit of the City, was thus cast down by the very persons whose interest it was made for.
In the event the City had cause for satisfaction, for he and Alexander Mather succeeded, where previous Members had failed, in pushing through an Act (1 and 2 Philip and Mary, c.14) to establish a new industry for making russells, satins and fustians there: Corbet was one of the founder-members of the company established by the statute to organize the industry.
In February 1556 John Corbet became a member of the Fellowship of “Russell” makers of Norwich. An Act of Parliament gave this fellowship permission to weave cloth and make clothes for sale in the City of Norwich. “Russell” is a yarn spun from Norfolk wool. It is possible that John Corbet used the wool from sheep reared at his manors including Sprowston.
Since the 14th century the people in and around Norwich was weaving material made from Wool or Silk. The breed of sheep known as the “Lincoln” was one that was liked by Landowners and Weavers in the 16th and 17th centuries because of its long coat.
Of his part in the other proceedings of the Parliament it is known only that he was not among those who quitted it early and were prosecuted for that offence. Corbet had grown rich on the spoils of the Dissolution. Among his larger purchases were those of the Manor of Sprowston, formerly belonging to the Bishop of Norwich, for £176 in 1540, of the Manors of Kirby Bedon, Poringland and Rockland, formerly of the Abbey of Langley, in 1542, and (with Richard Southwell) of the Chapel of Mary Magdalen in Sprowston, and a Chapel in Rainham, Essex, for £276 in 1548.
One further grant in May 1553 of the wardship of lands and person of James Nunne, which he used to find a husband for one of his daughters (Elizabeth), seems to have ended his acquisitions: during Mary’s reign he was busy in ensuring their peaceable descent to his son Miles Corbet. On 6th April 1555 Corbet gave to feoffees, including (Sir) Christopher Heydon, the Manor of ‘Bastwick Viles’ and other lands in Bastwick, to the use of Miles Corbet and Catherine Heydon, (Sir) Christopher’s sister, on their marriage; the same feoffees also received his Manor of Woodbastwick to his own use for life, with remainder to Miles and Catherine.
By his will, he disposed of his other lands giving more detailed remainders. His manor of Sprowston he bequeathed to his wife for life with remainder to Miles, to whom he left nearly all his other lands except those to be sold to pay his debts or bequests. The will was dated 26th December 1558 and in it he asked to be buried in the church of whatever parish he might die in, but if in Norfolk in the Chapel at Sprowston ‘where my poor father lies buried’. (St. Mary & St. Margaret Parish Church).
Masses were to be said at Sprowston for his soul and those of his father and mother. He left considerable legacies to his wife and his son Miles, who was to provide for Corbet’s daughter Anne, 500 marks to his youngest daughter Bridget, and £20 to his brother, Richard. Miles was the sole executor and the supervisor was Sir Christopher Heydon, ‘my right worshipful friend’. The will was proved on 10th January 1559, Corbet having died six days earlier at Sprowston, where a monument was erected in his memory.
Corbet Family - Part 3
Mary Corbet (1542-1606) Was the daughter of John Corbet (1514-1559) and Jane Berney (1507-1574). A sum of 700 Marks was paid in the form of 300 marks and then four sums of 100 marks paid over two years on the signing of the marriage vows. Her father also paid for the meat and drink at the ceremony. She married Roger Wodehouse/Woodhouse (1541-1588) of Kimberly Tower, Norfolk. Their eldest son Philip (1562-1623) was named after his godfather, a close family friend Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey. They also had a daughter, Catherine (b.1566), also another son called Matthew. Kimberly Tower boasted more than twenty rooms for living and Sleeping, Mary`s bedchamber was decorated in red and blue. On August 22nd 1578, Queen Elizabeth 1st stayed at Kimberly Tower during her annual progress, on August 27th she knighted Roger Wodehouse.
The `Mark` was a silver coin minted in 1570.
England since 1486 had experienced a period of stability under Henry VII and now Henry VIII and with National troubles no longer a problem, on a local basis it was a time of prosperity. The Lords of the Manor did not have so many demands placed on them by their Monarch, except when the King or Queen wanted a loan. It was more of a demand, for if it was given, it was never paid back. Lords of the Manor had a retinue of servants, as well as paid men to take up arms; they were needed because there were frequent disputes over land and property. This was certainly the case in the 15th century, but less so in the 16th century.
The lady of the household usually stayed at home, unless called to the Royal Court, she frequently spent long periods on her own, especially if her husband had business in London. If the Lord was away a lot he appointed a Steward or a trusted servant, to assist his wife in the running of the Estate or Manor. The history of the Corbet family is one of great wealth, influence and power, for over 150 years, not only in Sprowston and the City of Norwich, but the Nation as well. They were lawyers, merchants, farmers and soldiers: in the 17th century they became a family divided by Civil War, the Crown against Parliament, one of Oliver Cromwell`s top lieutenants was a Corbet. The earliest reference of the name Corbet, is at the end of the 11th century, a Sybilla Corbet was a mistress to King Henry 1st, son of William the Conqueror, she gave birth to six of his children out of wedlock (three sons and three daughters), their descendants were to become Earls and wives of Kings of England and Scotland. In Norfolk the earliest Corbet I can find, was Sir Robert Corbet, who was guardian to a John Lowdham, aged 7, who lived in Frense, Norfolk, in 1385. There is also mention of his wife and his son and heir Robert. It was a John Corbet of Brockdish, who is mentioned as residing in Sprowston, early in the first decade of the 16th century, he was the 3rd son of Corbet of Morton in Shropshire.
This John Corbet also had connections to Spixworth, he was Sheriff of Norwich in 1529 and it is stated quite clearly as living in Sprowston. He may have been living at Magdalen House, which was part of the large estate connected to Lazar Hospital; it was in 1540 that Aslak Manor (one of the two manors of Sprowston) was purchased, two years later John Corbet of Brockdish died in 1542. His son and heir John Corbet inherited the Manor, a lawyer, married to Jane Berney and they had four sons and six daughters. It was their first son Miles Corbet who was to purchase Mounteney Manor, thus uniting both of Sprowston`s two Manors in 1545.
By purchasing Mounteney Manor, the package also included Catton, Beeston, Wroxham, Plumstead and Hassingham; it had four manor houses and 200 acres of Heath that had sheep grazing rights and rents.
John Corbet`s brother William was elected to the position of Water Bailiff on the River Wensum, for the City of Norwich, this was a position of wealth, and the official Records state:- Where before this time Leather, Tallow and Dyers kinds of vital and other things have been conveyed out of this City and County of Norfolk and by water of the Wensum towards the sea to be conveyed to the parties beyond the sea contrary to the Laws of this Realm. And Dyers things to be sold by measure upon the said water as Coals, Corn, Salt and such other things have been sold by unlawful measure. And Herring unlawfully packed both in cages, barrels and unlawful nets and destruction of Fish in the said River have been unlawfully used, for the lack of one Water Bailiff to view, search and see such enormities should not be done.
For reformation where of by this whole Assembly is elected one William Corbet, Water Bailiff of this City, to search, see and diligently execute the whole effect of Office of Water Bailiff aforesaid. And that the same Water Bailiff shall have for his labour in the same amount of all such forfeitures that he shall find and be so Tried according to the Law and also a Yearly Fee of …….Shillings, (amount not known) of the goods and of the Commonaltie and Meat and Drink of the Shreeves and that the said Water Bailiff shall be eligibly and Yearly elected, named and chosen on St. Matthews Day. At this time the best way to move goods some distance was by boat, it was also a safer way for people to travel. The merchants of the City of Norwich very much liked the idea of a closed shop, and that the people living within the City and its walls, purchased goods from the said merchants and not from traders situated outside the City walls!
In June 1548 John Corbet purchased from the Crown, Lazar Hospital and its property, also the Rights of Magdalene Fair (Sprowston Fair), which in the year 1556 the City of Norwich changed the City boundaries. Which included the Fairsteade area, by Royal Charter?