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The story of the Delinquent Bishop of Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:11 15 June 2012

Author David Berwick with the book he has written called The Divine Delinquent - Bishop Hall of Norwich.

Author David Berwick with the book he has written called The Divine Delinquent - Bishop Hall of Norwich.

Archant

The amazing story of the colourful and controversial Bishop Hall is told in a fascinating new book

The extraordinary story of the controversial and brilliant Norwich bishop who managed to leave the Tower of London without losing his head and came to the city where he was humiliated and “exiled” in Heigham is finally being told in a new book.

The life and times of Bishop Joseph Hall, once told to “go and eat his books” after his salary was chopped, are told in a new book by Norwich author, historian and cathedral guide David Berwick.

Bishop Hall (1574-1656) was a fascinating character, perhaps the first English satirical author, who appears to have been air-brushed out of national and Norfolk history.

Now a new biography The Divine ‘Delinquent’ – Bishop Hall of Norwich will change all that and give us an insight into the life and times of this colourful man of the church and man of the people.

As a cathedral guide David started to investigate and research his rollercoaster life. “I became totally hooked and before long it became an obsession to make this great story available as a readable account by an enthusiast rather than that of an academic.

“I have read learned accounts of his life and found them to be ‘dry’ and rather unappealing. My book attempts to be more informal by introducing Joseph to my readers as a person they feel comfortable with and who they may well identify with in these financially difficult times,” he said.

“I want to empathise with Joseph’s trials and his triumphs and as far as I know there has been no biography of him for nearly half a century and mine is the first to devote more than half its contents to his life here in Norwich,” said David.

Joseph was born in 1574. A brilliant scholar he was elected a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before moving to a life in the church. He married Elizabeth in 1603 and they had six children.

He had a good relationship with King James I and also shared common interests with Charles I – moving up the ladder he preached peaceful tolerance between churches in dispute.

He was considered too minded towards Rome by many powerful leaders.

In 1641 he agreed to become Bishop of Norwich but was locked up in the Tower of London for almost six months on trumped up charges of treason.

He was one of lucky ones and was freed, allowing him to come to Norwich.

By now he had enemies in high places. He was cruelly treated and branded a delinquent. His family possessions were taken from him and publicly auctioned. His income of £4,500 a year was cut to £400 and then taken away completely.

When he asked how he was going to provide for his family he was told: “Go and eat your books”.

Eventually he was driven out of the Bishop’s Palace and moved to Heigham, a humble parish he loved, where he assisted at St Bartholomew’s, and lived in what became The Dolphin Inn – this was his palace and Old Palace Road is named after the building.

He dedicated the rest of his life to helping the poor and needy. And the people loved him.

When he died in 1656 his body was laid to rest at St Bartholomew’s, More than 300 years later his remains were re-buried at the cathedral after the graveyard was redeveloped.

The book is being launched at Norwich Cathedral on Friday July 6 at 7.30pm where it will be available at a special price of £7.50. Refreshments will be served and if you would like to attend email Julia Jones at jjones@cathedral.org.uk or call Norwich (01603) 218448 by Friday, June 22. Copies can be reserved by contacting davidaberwick@btopenworld.com or calling Norwich 612206.

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