The 14th to 16th century

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14 th. Century

The medieval village and open fields were clustered around the church at this time. Parts of the church date from this time.

In 1368 the Archdeacon of Norwich visited the church and it was recorded as 'dedicatio Sancta Maria et Sancta Margareta'. The Black Death of 1349 took its toll of the small hamlet near the church. The fear that prevailed at this time made the people move to new dwellings, well away from those that harboured the victims of this unfortunate illness.

Because of the shortage of labour brought about by the plague, not only to this manor but many others, the Lords resorted to increasing sheep farming. Sir John Jermy became Lord of Mounteney Manor

Sheep farming
Going to market
St Mary & St Margaret's church

1391 saw John Aslake inherit Sprowston manor through his marriage to Elizabeth de Sprowston, daughter of Sir Henry.

15 th. Century

In 1475 Sprowston or Aslake manor passed to William Aslake and hence to the Calthorpe family. Sheep farming on a large scale began, bringing wealth to the landlords. The tenor bell in the church belfry is thought to be the work of John Maggs, a bell founder in the Burlingham group, and was cast around 1400. An inscription on the bell reads, in latin:

Omnis - Spiritus - Laudet Dominu which translates: Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.

A mediaeval stained glass roundel, dating from this century can be seen in the parish church of St. Mary and St. Margaret's. Not only is it the oldest of the stained glass windows in the church it is also the smallest.

16 th. Century

It is on record that John Corbet was living in Sprowston at the start on this century. The Mounteney Manor was most likely purchased from the relatives of Sir John Jermy who died in fourteen eighty seven. In 1535 Sir Henry Parker married Elizabeth, the heiress of Sir Philip Calthorpe. Their son, Philip who later sold the manor to Sir Miles Corbet in fifteen forty five. In 1542 John Corbet died having made his will during 1540.

On the 24th. October 1543 William Corbet,son of John Corbet, was elected to the post of Water Bailiff on the river Wensum for the City of Norwich. It was a position of influence and bringer of wealth. The record states:

"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 upon 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 and 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 the 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 one yearly fee of --shillings. (Amount unknown) of the goods 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. Mathews day"

In 1545 the manor passed into the hands of the Corbets.

The Ketts outside Lazar House

In 1549 Kett's rebellion took place. Part of his army destroyed a dovecote at the Lazar house before making their headquarters on Mousehold.

On the 12 th. 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 manor in Sprowston.

In 1559 the two manors of Sprowston became united when Sir Miles inherited Mounteney manor upon the death of his father John Corbet. It was the unification of the manors and the wealth it brought, which enabled the Corbets to build Sprowston hall (now the Sprowston manor hotel) in the same year. It became respectable, for those who were fit enough and could afford it, to travel in a wheeled vehicle. Some wealthy land owners like the Lords of the manors, would own their own two and four wheeled vehicles.

Church plate

Part of the church plate dates from this century. The silver chalice and paten (lid) forming part of the plate, is the oldest and finest article is dated 1572. A replica was commissioned by the Gurney family and donated to the church.

In 1588 Mary Corbet, daughter of John and Jane, sister to Sir Miles was married to Sir Roger Wodehouse.

1591 Sir Miles Corbet was Sheriff of Norfolk.

The Corbets

The first historical reference to the Corbets is at the end of the 11th. Century, Sybilla Corbet of Alcester, Warwickshire, who was mistress to Henry 1st. youngest son of William 1st. She gave birth to six children out of wedlock, three sons and three daughters.

John Corbet is recorded as living in Sprowston in 1502, he was the third son of Corbet of Morton, Shropshire. John was the Lord of the Mounteney manor and was elected sheriff of Norwich in fifteen twenty nine. He died in 1542 and his son John inherited the manor.

This John Corbet purchased from the Crown, the Chapel and hospital of St. Mary Magdalene, (Lazar house) together with sixty-four acres of land at a cost of 216 pounds and 12 shillings. (£216.60). He was one of the Burgesses in Parliament for Norwich from 1554 to 1558 and died in 1559. In the parish church a memorial brass to John Corbet portrays John with his four sons behind him. Another brass shows his wife Jane and their six daughters.

His son, Sir Miles Corbet, inherited his estate. Sir Miles was married twice and both of his wives were named Catherine. He died in 1607 the united manor was inherited by his son Thomas.

Sir Thomas Corbet was at one time high Sheriff of Norfolk. He was married to Anne and they had two sons, Miles and John. Sir Thomas died in 1617 at the age of fifty four.

Sir John Corbet inherited the manor of Sprowston. He was married to Anne and they had one son Thomas, who inherited the manor upon the death of his father in sixteen twenty seven.

Sir Thomas Corbet never married and in 1645 sold the manor to Sir Thomas Adams. He died in 1682.

Other Corbets mentioned in the records


John Corbet - m -Katherine Hopton of Billingford
1531 Sir Roger Corbet -son of John and Katherine
1539 Sir Andrew Corbet -sells Manor to Sir Robert Southwell.
1632 Dr. Richard Corbet -Bishop of Norwich. died 1635. He came from Surrey - m -Alice.
1652 Clement Corbet. died 1652. - m -Elizabeth. died 1664.

It is likely that the name Corbet was connected to many more Manors in Norfolk. The author has only looked at those Manors where there were possible connections or that he came upon by chance. The family tree of the Corbets could be extended, or even corrected, by future historians.