By Dan Spencer
In the fifteenth century Norwich was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in England.
By the end of the century its population was to grow to as many as 12,000 people, thereby supplanting York’s position as the second most populous city in the kingdom. Norwich’s wealth was based upon its manufacture and export of cloth to the continent. This meant that the city was expected to make a significant contribution to the 1415 expedition.
Norwich, and the county of Norfolk as a whole, was expected to make a sizeable loan to fund the military expedition. On 14 July 1415, a provisional licence was granted by the king for the granting of a large garnished gold ring as security for the repayment of a loan of 1,000 marks (a mark was two thirds of a pound, 13s 4d in pounds sterling), granted by the county of Norfolk. This consisted of 500 marks given by the mayor, sheriffs and commonalty of Norwich, 400 marks by the mayor and commonalty of King’s Lynn, with the remaining amounts contributed by three individuals of the county. This security was later confirmed by the king on 24 July 1415. Norwich was to make further loans in the following years to fund Henry’s war with France, including 300 marks in 1417.
At least some of the residents of Norwich also took part in the campaign, including a Robert Hopper who took out a protection to serve in the retinue of the king’s brother, the Duke of Clarence. The city was keen to hear news of Henry’s progress in France, with a William Custans paid 40s for carrying a letter from the king to Norwich at the end of the expedition. Later a messenger from the Earl of Dorset was paid 20s for carrying a letter to the city from the recently captured town of Harfleur.
This information came from Lorraine Attreed, The King’s Towns: Identity and Survival in Late Medieval English Boroughs (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2001); Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1413-1416; Rymer’s Foedera Volume 9; William Hudson, The Records of the City of Norwich, Volume 2 (Norwich: Corporation of the city of Norwich, 1910).
Photograph of Norwich Cathedral came from Wikpedia, Wikipedia Commons Licence