The rebuilding of Wighton chancel

Exract from the Cellerar’s rolls of 1440/41 (Picture: Norfolk Record Office)

Once the nave had been rebuilt, the chancel - the eastern part of the church - also had to be renewed. This was controlled by Norwich Cathedral priory, and the cellerar at the priory was responsible for paying for the work. Some of the cellerar’s account rolls still survive, including the one for 1440/41 which includes the following entry (shown in the photograph above):

Expenses concerning the works on the old chancel at Wighton

For purchase of five and a half tontights [tons] of free stone: 49s 6d.
For burnt lime £4 8d.
For sand and stones 3s 8d.
Item: payment to James Woderove for work on said chancel for 57 days at 4d per day, 19s.
Item: spent on other freemasons working with him working 26s 8d.
For payment to stone masons/stone cutters working on walls there: 54s 1 1/2d. In wages for cutting freestone for said chancel 5s 2d.
Wages paid for labouring & demolishing the old walls and helping stonecutters £4 10s 10d. For hire of carts for carriage of materials for work on same chancel 21s 8d.
For trowels, sieves and hurdles and other intstruments/tools purchased for the same work 8s 11d.
Item: payment for boarding and lodging: 43s 10d.
Item: to James Woderove and his colleagues for expenses going to and from Wighton 3s 8d.

Total: £20 15s 1/2d.

This documentary record of James Woderove (or Woderofe) overseeing the work is very important. Woderove was the most prominent mason working at Norwich Cathedral Priory during this period - a series of payments was made to him for robes and works at the cathedral between 1415/16 and 1450/51 - and he was regarded highly enough to be sent for by Henry VI to work on the new chapel at Eton in 1449. He may well also be responsible for work at Great Cressingham and Blakeney (north porch); the tower of St George, Colegate, the naves of St John Maddermarket and St Peter Hungate in Norwich; and in the lower stages of the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.

Another record shows that it wasn’t until nine years later that a carpenter, William Bishop, was paid to start roofing the chancel. The total cost was £16. We don’t know the reason for the delay, but this was a period of recession in medieval England.