Augustine Steward, Mayor of Norwich

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Augustine Steward, Mayor of Norwich

Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: St Peters Hungate, Norwich, Norfolk, England
Death: Died in St Peters, Hungate, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Geoffrey Steward and Cycelle Boyce
Husband of Alice Steward (Reppes); Elizabeth Steward and Alice Steward
Father of Faith Rayley/Aldrich (Steward Reppes); Elizabeth Sotherton; Cecily Steward; Barbara Layer; Anne Steward and 3 others

Managed by: Donna iLine Howse
Last Updated:

About Augustine Steward, Mayor of Norwich


Family and Education

b. 1491, son of Geoffrey Steward of Norwich by Cecily, dau. of Augustine Boys of Norwich. m. (1) Elizabeth, dau. of William Rede of Beccles, Suff., 2s. 6da.; (2) Alice, da. of Henry Repps of Marshland, Norf., 1s. 2da.3 Offices Held

Common councilman, Norwich, 1522-6, auditor 1525, 1528-9, 1531-3, 1535-7, 1540-1, 1543-5, 1547-8, 1554-5, 1557, 1560, 1564, alderman 1526-d., sheriff 1526-7, mayor 1534-5, 1546-7, 1556-7; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, sewers 1566.4 Biography

Augustine Steward was a mercer who had been born and christened in the parish of St. George’s Tombland, Norwich. He was admitted a freeman of the city on 12 Mar. 1516 and after serving for some years on the common council was elected an alderman in 1526, a position he was to retain until his death. In 1535 he was one of the men with whom the 3rd Duke of Norfolk discussed the under-assessment of Norwich towards the subsidy recently granted; he evidently agreed with the duke’s proposal that the city’s contribution should be increased, for in the following year he was described as ‘the chief advancer of the King’s profit there’. After the death of Reginald Lytilprowe he became the government’s leading supporter in Norwich, and his ‘good services’ to the King earned him the praise of the duke and of Sir Roger Townshend and commended him to Cromwell.5

Steward’s standing with these magnates made him a valuable agent in the city’s efforts to benefit from the Reformation. It was during his first mayoralty that negotiations were begun between the corporation and the cathedral authorites for a revision of Wolsey’s settlement of a longstanding dispute between them. Steward continued to pursue the matter, approaching Cromwell in May 1537 for his favour and later asking the minister to reverse Wolsey’s judgment placing the cathedral outside the city’s jurisdiction. Early in 1539 he was one of the attorneys appointed to argue the case before the King and on 6 Apr. letters patent were granted in the city’s favour. In the meantime he had also become the moving spirit in the attempt to anticipate the dissolution of the house of the Blackfriars by acquiring it for the city. In 1538 he and his kinsman Edward Rede, after consultation with the duke, asked Cromwell for his assistance to this end, and when the house was suppressed it was granted to the city on 1 June 1540, Steward himself paying the £81 required.6

Steward’s Membership of Parliament was a natural extension of his civic services. His first election in 1539, several years after his first mayoralty, was also doubtless favoured by both Norfolk and Cromwell: he and another (unknown) citizen had already been chosen when Cromwell asked the city to return John Godsalve, and despite its demurrer Steward had Godsalve as his fellow-Member and as his colleague in supervising the collection of the subsidy they had helped to grant. It was during the third session of this Parliament that Steward helped to bring the suit for the Blackfriars to its conclusion. Although it has been stated that Steward was re-elected to the following Parliament the return in question, which survives in a damaged condition, has a ‘Joh..........’ as second Member for Norwich with William Rogers. Steward was next returned, with the local lawyer Richard Catlyn, towards the close of his second mayoralty in 1547: any doubt as to the propriety of his thus returning himself is likely to have been offset by the connexion with the Protector Somerset which the marriage of his daughter to Somerset’s cofferer John Pykerell had given him, but it was probably as a consequence of his election that he was replaced by John Aldrich as one of the commissioners to survey the suppressed hospital at Norwich. Although he is not mentioned in the Journal he is likely to have been interested in two Acts of this Parliament, one for the weaving of worsted (1 Edw. VI, c.6) passed during its first session and the other for the making of hats, dornick and coverlets in Norwich and Norfolk (5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.24) passed during its final one. While attending the session of 1552 he acted as one of the city’s attorneys in a case heard before the court of wards.7

During Ket’s rebellion Steward was made acting mayor after the insurgents had taken the mayor prisoner. As one of the richest citizens he had much at stake and it must have been with relief that on the Marquess of Northampton’s arrival he presented the city’s sword and entertained the marquess to dinner. But Northampton quickly withdrew and when the rebels entered Norwich they forced their way into his house, ‘took him, plucked his gown beside his back, called him traitor and threatened to kill him’, and then ransacked the house. On the approach of the Earl of Warwick the rebels sent Steward and Robert Rugge to negotiate on their behalf, but on being taken to Warwick the two revealed to him how his troops could retake the city. Despite his harrowing experience and a rebuke from Warwick for pusillanimity, Steward retained his standing in Norwich and was regularly in office for a further 15 years.8

Little has come to light about the commercial activity which yielded Steward such wealth, but there is a reference to a venture of about 1530 in which, with his father-in-law Reginald Lytilprowe and others, he had a factor at Danzig freight a ship to a value of 800 marks for a voyage to Yarmouth. Part of his profits went into Norfolk land: in 1530 he bought the manor of Welborne, and in 1548 the manor of Barton Buryhall, which 12 years later he settled on his son-in-law Robert Wood. He made his will on 9 Oct. 1570, asking to be buried in St. Peter’s Hungate ‘where my well beloved wives are buried’. After bequests to churches and to St. Giles’s hospital, Norwich, he divided his property between his children. He appointed as executors two sons and as supervisors six ‘sons-in-law’, including John Aldrich, Thomas Layer† and Thomas Sotherton. He attended his last meeting of the Norwich assembly early in 1571, but he was replaced as one of the aldermen in April of that year and his will was proved in the following November.9 Ref Volumes: 1509-1558 Author: Roger Virgoe


   1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2].
   2. Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 203; Hatfield 207.
   3. Aged ‘79 years and a half’ on 9 Oct. 1570, PCC 43 Holney. Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 268-9.
   4. Norwich ass. procs. 1-3 passim; CPR, 150-3, p. 396; 1553, p. 351; 1569-72, pp. 218-20; Norwich Census of the Poor (Norf. Rec. Soc. xl), app. viii.
   5. PCC 43 Holney; B. Cozens-Hardy and E. A. Kent, Mayors of Norwich, 48; Merchants’ Marks (Harl. Soc. cviii), unpaginated; Norwich old free bk., f. 60v; chamberlains’ bk. 1531-7, ff. 63v, 102v, 132; LP Hen. VIII, ix, xi-xiii.
   6. Norwich chamberlains’ bk. 1531-7, f. 82; ass. procs. 2, ff. 165v, 166, 171v, 177v, 179v.; LP Hen. VIII, xii, xiv, xv, add.
   7. Norwich mayors’ ct. bk. f. 152 ex inf. Dr. J. Miklovich; ass. procs. 2, f. 203; 3, f. 20; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r.[1-2]; LP Hen. VIII, xv; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 222; C219/18B;58; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 125.
   8. Holinshed, Chron. 971-9; N. Sotherton, The Commoyson in Norfolk, 1549 (Jnl. Med. and Ren. Studies vi), 87-97; Norwich ass. procs. 2, f. 229; 3, f. 20; APC, vi. 82.
   9. LP Hen. VIII, add.; Blomefield, ii. 545; CPR, 1547-8, p. 373; 1558-60, p. 265; PCC 43 Holney; Norwich ass. bk. 3. passim.


Augustine Steward 1491 - 1571

Augustine Steward was born in 1491 in the Tombland house opposite the Erpingham Gate of Norwich Cathedral. His father, Geoffrey, was a Norwich mercer and alderman. Shortly after Augustine's birth the family moved from Tombland to a prestigious, stone-built house (Suckling House) in St. Andrews. Augustine was apprenticed to his father, who died in 1504. Augustine's mother then married John Clerk, a rich merchant and grocer. John was mayor of Norwich in 1505 and in 1510. Augustine's mother traded as Cecily Clerk with her own registered merchant's mark. A successful mercer

Augustine, known as Austen, became a highly successful Norwich mercer, who signed himself Awstyne Styward. He married twice and lived in the Tombland house where he was born. His first wife was Elizabeth Read of Beccles with whom he had a family of two sons and six daughters. His second wife, Alice Repps, from West Walton gave him a son and two daughters. Augustine was a Norwich councillor from 1522 to 1525, an alderman from 1526 to 1570 and Sheriff in 1526, He was Mayor in 1534, 1546 and 1556, a record that was only equalled by two other men within the sixteenth century. Augustine was also M.P for Norwich in 1542 and a Burgess in Parliament in 1547. During the sixteenth century, the office of mayor meant undertaking a demanding, full-time task for a year. A mayor's own business had to be successful and so arranged that it could run without him. The mayor was expected to use his personal funds for some civic hospitality. However, the Corporation did stage a three-part show to mark Steward's third term in office. It was recognised that Augustine had 'allwayes ben a good and modest man, hee was beloved of poore and rich'. Rebuilding the Guildhall

Steward's influence was prominent in the 1534 rebuilding of the Council Chamber of Norwich Guildhall. He was involved with purchasing Black Friars Church, (St. Andrew's Hall), from the Crown, for Norwich. A 1540 charter conveyed the Black Friar's Monastery to the city for £81, paid by 'our beloved Augustine Steward, of our city of Norwich, merchant.' A portrait of Augustine in his mayoral robes can be seen in the Blackfriar's wing of St. Andrew's Hall. Kett's Rebellion

During Kett's Rebellion in 1549, Augustine Steward played a leading part in negotiations between the rebels and the King's army. Mayor Thomas Codde, who had been taken prisoner on Mousehold Heath by the rebels, appointed Steward his deputy. The Marquis of Northampton, representing the King, was entertained in Steward's house. A plaque on the cathedral wall marks the spot, not far from Augustine's house, where the rebels killed Lord Sheffield and Sir Thomas Cornwallis. Some of Kett's followers ransacked Steward's house but did not harm him. The Earl of Warwick used the house as his headquarters when he put down the rebellion. Augustine Steward House

Steward's home, opposite the cathedral, is a fine, surviving example of a successful Tudor merchant's trading-house with goods stored in the stone undercroft and a shop or workshop at street level. The family lived in the upper storeys. Augustine's house is jettied, and the timbers have warped over time giving the house a crooked appearance. An upper wing of brick, timber and plaster is built across Tombland Alley. Here you can see Augustine's merchant mark and that of the mercer's guild embossed on a corner stone, together with the date, 1549. Through the arch, the old house timbers are exposed and the carpenters' marks can be seen, denoting the order in which the timbers were assembled on-site after being pre-cut in a timber yard. After Steward's death in 1571, the house became in turn, a butcher's, a broker's, an antique dealer's, a bookshop and a coffee house. At present it houses several antique dealers. Allegedly, there are underground passages leading from the crypt to the Cathedral and also to St. Gregory's church. The ghost of a 'Lady in Grey,' a 1578 plague victim, is said to haunt the house. A man of property

Augustine Steward owned Norfolk manors at Gowthorpe and at Welborne. His estate around Tombland extended along the north and west sides of St. George's churchyard into Prince's Street and included the site of an ancient inn. In later life he resided in a large, quadrangle house that he had built on Elm Hill, on the site of Paston Place originally owned by the Paston family. In 1507 all the houses on Elm Hill, except the modern Briton's Arms, had been destroyed by fire. Augustine's new house occupied the area now sub-divided into numbers 20, 22, 24 and 26. The carved beam over the archway of Crown Court bears Augustine Steward's merchant mark on the right and the arms of the mercer's guild on the left. Augustine Steward was buried in the church of St Peter Hungate.


The house on Tombland where Augustine Steward was born still exists and has been called Augustine Steward House. It is generally reputed to date to 1530, however Marion Hardy, in an unpublished biography of Steward, discloses an earlier date for the house in the 1504 will of Augustine's father, in which the house was mentioned as the location of Steward's birth in 1491. Perhaps the 1491 house was damaged in the 1507 fires of Norwich and Augustine Steward re-built in 1530.

Further Reading

   Blomefield F, The History of the City and County of Norwich, Volume 2. (Norwich 1745).
   Hardy, M. Austen Steward of Norwich, unpublished partial manuscript.
   Jones, W. H. A Quaint Corner of Old Norwich: Samson and Hercules and AugustineSteward's Houses, Norwich, 1900.
   Kennet, H. Elm Hill, Norwich: The Story of its Tudor Buildings and the People who Lived in them, ecollectit Ltd, Harleston, 2006.
   Rawcliffe, C. and R. Wilson, (eds), Medieval Norwich, Hambledon and London, London, 2004.
   Solomons, G. Stories Behind the Plaques of Norwich, Capricorn Books, Cantley,1981.


Norfolk Records Office:

The Colman Manuscript Collection Title Deeds

  • Norfolk
  • Norwich, St Cuthbert
  • CatalogueRef COL 1/106
  • Title Demise in fee by Augustine Styward, alderman of Norwich, Nicholas Hare, gent., and Leonard Spencer, gent., to John Underwode bishop of Calcedon, Robert Ferrour and Thomas Necton, alderman of Norwich, Gregory Aldryche, mercer, and Thomas Albon, grocer, of vacant tenements formerly built with gardens etc. measuring 34.25yds. on N side, 19.5yds. on S side, 26.75yds on E side and 9.25yds on W side, had from Launcelot Wharton prior of Horsham St Faith, 7 April previously.
  • Date 2 Jul 1523
  • Description Seals inc. one armorial and one merchant's mark. Noted by Blomefield 'The Suffragans Tenements'.
  • Level Piece
  • Repository Norfolk Record Office
  • Extent 1 parchment
  • Ref No Tree iconSee where this entry fits within the collection as a whole
  • Format Seals, pre-reformation


Virtual Norfolk, History on Line: for information on Augustine Steward's part in

Kett's Rebellion.




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Augustine Steward, Mayor of Norwich's Timeline

St Peters Hungate, Norwich, Norfolk, England
Age 29
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Age 44
Beccles, Suffolk, England
Age 55
Booton, Norfolk, England
Age 80
St Peters, Hungate, England
Norwich, Norfolk, England