After the dissolution the destruction of chapels like St Mary de Campo across the country gained pace with an explosion in demolitions. As the church shifted so did how it viewed and managed properties. This resulted in the deconsecration and sale of various buildings. In Norwich St Mary was just one loss in a long list that included St Olaves, St Mary Unbrent, St Crouch, and St Vedast, along with Whitefriars and Greyfriars and a huge number other ecclesiastic buildings priories and friaries.
Subsequently as these were dismantled building work also started to take place; consolidation and expansion of other churches, such as St Andrew and St Clement, and development or rebuilding of notable properties such as Augustine Steward House, Suckling Hall, and Samson and Hercules House mortared these buildings so firmly into the street pattern of the city for centuries to come.
After Miles Spenser’s death in 1569 what remained of the property on the site was left to his nephew William Yaxley. He in turn sold the property to Thomas Cornwallis of Suffolk, the eldest son of Sir John Cornwallis a steward to the household of King Edward VI.
Thomas, an MP for Suffolk was directly involved in the suppression of Kett’s rebellion of 1549 on the side of the Crown. He was captured by the rebels and only released when the Earl of Warwick’s forces quashed the revolt. Cornwallis’ support for Queen Mary saw him appointed to the Privy Council and eventually he became Comptroller of the Household before being relieved of his post when Elizabeth I, whose sympathies lay elsewhere, came to the throne.
Between 1573 and 1586 a wealthy and now retired Sir Thomas set about converting and rebuilding what was now known as Chapel of the Field House He created a new hall and gallery, and added a kitchen stables, tennis court and formal gardens were laid out. The house passed to his son Charles for £1000 in 1603. Charles an ambassador in Madrid probably never lived here and in 1609 Chapply Field House was sold.
The property was bought by Sir Henry Hobart, Attorney General, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and also the MP for Norwich. Such was his influence and eminence nationally that the corporation saw fit to gift back parts of the site to him. They also leased the original croft and fields back to him too, forming the site into an impressive estate. Part of the croft now forms what we know as Chapelfield Gardens. It was a prudent move given his stature at the time. Henry is probably most famous for initiating the rebuilding of Blickling Hall on the original site of the Falstaff and the Boleyn house using the beautiful designs of Robert Lyminge.
On his death in 1625 the lease passed to his son Sir John Hobart the 2nd Baronet, who represented Norfolk in Parliament. He was also a member of the much vaunted Long Parliament of 1640 to 1660 and another eminent character in the human landscape of both the county and the country. Sir John married twice. He and his second wife Frances employed John Collinges a nonconformist theologian and had a Chapel created in the house for him.
After Sir John’s death Frances continued to live in and look after the house and grounds, Collinges continued to lecture in the chapel whilst being the vicar of St Stephens until being removed at the restoration in 1660 and was banned from using the Chapel at Chapply Field House when an act was passed restraining religious meetings. He continued to lecture independently from the old granary behind Blackfriars and a building in Colegate which was eventually replaced by the Octagon Chapel one of the earliest Methodist Chapels in the world.
The house passed to Sir John Hobart the third baronet on Frances death. Sir John was a staunch Parliamentarian and became High Sheriff of Norfolk, a much respected man under whom Chapply Field House became a headquarters for local Whig activity in the city. The Hobarts at this point moved themselves back to Blickling Hall.
Under John and his son Henry the house was leased out with an agreement that the Hobart’s could still enjoy a very limited use of two chambers when required. The site falls into historical silence. Animals grazing on the croft again and lodgers staying quietly within the walls.
Feature image: Detail from Cleer’s map of Norwich 1696.
Map: Speed’s map of 1616.
Inset portrait: Chief Justice, Sir Henry Hobart. Public Domain – Wikipedia/National Trust Collection.
Inset portrait: John Collinges – Mansfield College, University of Oxford