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Norwich author seeks Thorpe Hamlet Middle School pupils' memories of Bishop Hall's burial service

PUBLISHED: 11:11 07 July 2011

Bishop Hall's reinterment service at Norwich Cathedral in 1975

Bishop Hall's reinterment service at Norwich Cathedral in 1975

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A historian researching the life and times of Bishop Hall of Norwich wants to hear from former Thorpe Hamlet Middle School pupils who attended a special service at Norwich Cathedral in 1975.

Derek James reports.

It was an unusual request – a bishop asking schoolchildren to be at the congregation at a unique service to bury another bishop. Strange but true.

This is what happened at Norwich Cathedral back in 1975 and now the hunt is on to try and find those children from Thorpe Hamlet Middle School and discover what they remember of this rare event.

A few weeks ago I told how Norwich historian and cathedral guide David Berwick was giving a talk on the life and times of the brilliant but little known Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich from 1641 to 1656.

David had done his homework following the troubled times of this Bishop Hall – at a turbulent period of history when many lost their heads.

Bishop Hall was a man imprisoned in the Tower of London who ended up being evicted from the Bishop’s Palace and spending his final years at what became the Dolphin Inn and assisting at St Bartholomew’s Church where he was laid to rest after dying in 1656.

His remains were removed from the former church site in 1975 – it was damaged in the 1942 Blitz – but David couldn’t discover where they exactly they were. No-one at the cathedral could remember – until the Evening News photographic library came to the rescue.

We still had photographs of the ceremony when the then Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Maurice Wood, conducted the reinterment service in a “quiet and sunny corner”.

Once he had found the lost burial site David thought he had the complete story of Bishop Hall but there was more information to come...

One man who read my story was former Norwich teacher, author and naturalist Rex Hancy. It certainly rang a bell with him.

In 1975 Rex was a teacher at Thorpe Hamlet Middle and he used to take children to explore the marvels of the cathedral.

He recalls how Bishop Wood, dressed in his fine robes of office complete with crook, approached the group telling them he was the Bishop of Norwich and he was about to bury another bishop. The Bishop said he had some clergy assisting him and a small choir but no congregation – would they all like to be his congregation to witness this unique event?

Rex said the children were delighted and rather awestruck to have been invited and they watched as a small wooden casket, containing all that was left of Bishop Hall, which bore a brass plaque was lowered into the ground.

David is now writing a book about the life and times of Bishop Hall and would love to hear from any of Rex’s class who remember the service on that special day in 1975. You can call him on 01603 612206 or email him at davidaberwick@btopenworld.com

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