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Norwich Heart, Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust

Norwich Composers

Norwich born Composers of music


Group A: Before 1600


Osbert Parsley

He was born in 1511 and died in Norwich in 1585.  He spent most of his life in Norwich where he was a 'singing man' in the Cathedral choir.

A memorial tablet to Parsley in the north aisle of the nave of Norwich Cathedral provides most of the biographical information so far available. 

                                             OSBERTO  PARSLEY

                       Musicae Scientissimo

                       Ei quondam Consociati

                       Musici posuerunt Anno 158

                       Here lies the man whose Name in Spight of Death,

                       Renowned lives by Blast of Golden Fame:

                       Whose Harmony survives his vital Breath.

                       Whose Skill no Pride did spot whose Life no Blame.

                       Whose low Estate was blest with quiet Mind:

                       As our sweet Cords with Discords mixed be:

                       Whose life in Seventy and Four  Years entwin'd,

                       As falleth mellowed Apples from the Tree.

                       Whose Deeds were Rules whose Words were Verity:

                       Who here a Singing-man did spend his Days.

                       Full Fifty Years in our Church Melody

                       His Memory shines bright whom thus we praise.

It is interesting that Parsley is first found as a singing man in 1535 (aged 24) among the monks of the Benedictine Priory.  The monks had deputed their service of song to paid men singers. The Mass was sung in Latin.  It is understandable that (like others) he found composing Church music for Latin texts more congenial than for English.

The psalm Conserva me, Domine is noteworthy for its flowing lines of polyphony.  His Lamentations is unusual in that the chant appears in the upper voice throughout.  Morley prints Parsley's setting of the chant Salvator mundi  in a three-part canon and calls it 'Praiseworthy'. 

The surviving music set to English texts includes an anthem This is the Day and 2 four-part Morning Services, each of which consists of a Te Deum and Benedictus .  It has been said that when Queen Elizabeth I visited Norwich in 1578 the Te Deum sung was Parsley's composition.

 Noteworthy amongst Parsley's instrumental ensemble music are 5 In Nomines, a five-part composition entitled Perslis clocke, which in one source is described as The Songe upon the Dyall, based on the hexachord and a

Spec nostra for 5 viols.  This has been included in the 2010 programme of the Norwich Branch of the Society of Recorder Players.  Morley also uses the hexachord to start 'Teaching to Sing '.

In 1558 Parsley was married to Rose and bought a house and premises in St. Saviour's parish from John Hering and his wife Helen.  The property was sold in 1589 to John Russell.   

Relevant Recordings

Elizabethan Cathedral Music  [also includes Morley, Inglott]- Choir of  Norwich Cathedral (Priory) PRCD 5004,  5 028612 250441 

The Lamentations of Jeremiah (includes Parsley's) - Lay Clerks of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, (Delphian) DCD34068


  • New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians [NGDM], 2nd Edition (2001), Ed. S. Sadie, Volume 19.
  • N. Boston - The Musical History of Norwich Cathedral (Norwich 1963), originally published in Reports of the Friends of Norwich Cathedral 1938-9.
  • Thomas Morley - A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke  (London 1597), edited with modernised spellings R. Alec Harman (1952).

Thomas Morley 

He was born in Norwich in 1557/58 and died in London in 1602.

The sole record of Morley's date of birth is a note appended by John Sadler to a part of his copy of Domine, non est exaltum cor meum, 'Thomas Morley aetatis suae 19 ano Domini 1576'.

 According to Watkins Shaw his father was a Norwich brewer named Francis Morley, who may also have been a verger at the cathedral between 1562 and 1566.  It is reasonable to suppose that Thomas was a chorister there but the first surviving record connecting him with the cathedral is a patent of reversion from the dean and chapter dated 16th September 1574 promising him the position of Master of the Choristers (including the duties of organist) when it was vacated by its current occupant Edmund Inglott.  A special payment to 'domino Morley' in 1575-6 is evidence he was then resident in Norwich, perhaps as a lay clerk.  He succeeded Edmund Inglott as 'magister pueri' in 1583.  In May 1587 Morley's house and chambers were leased to one Thomas Brown of Brisley and the last payment to Morley as cathedral organist was made in July. 

It seems likely that Morley knew Edward Paston of Thorpe-by-Norwich.  In a letter dated 3rd August 1587 to the 4th Earl of Rutland, a kinsman by marriage, Paston recommends the unnamed bearer as someone to teach his daughters the virginals who 'was placed at Norwich Organest, And by my perswacion, he hath left his room to come to your L'.  No ordinary organist but a person 'such as in my judgement your L. shall hardlie get the like'.  The Pastons had Roman Catholic leanings, as did Morley as correspondence between Charles Paget and Thomas Phellippes shows.  This might account for Morley's desire to leave the puritanically-inclined establishment at Norwich, which had seen two canons destroy the cathedral organ in 1576. Paston had some manuscript partbooks devoted exclusively to Italian madrigals.  This may have been the origin of Morley's enthusiasm for such compositions.

Morley graduated Bmus at Oxford on 8th July 1588 and from then is found in London (organist at St. Paul's cathedral etc.).

He was sworn in as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal on the 24th July 1592 and the swearing in of George Woodson 'in Thomas Morley's room' on 7th October 1602 is generally regarded as evidence of Morley's death shortly before.          

Dating from his Norwich period are 2 motets from 1576 Domine, Dominus noster and Domine, non exaltatum cor meum  - his earliest known works.  5 more motets are incorporated in his book of 1597 A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke.  In his 'Notes on Dittying' (setting words) 'you dispose your music . . . to express  . . .whatsoever matter it be.'   Morley in his pieces, however, favoured a light style rather than the chromatic word painting of countryman John Willbye, born in Diss. 

Morley's First Booke of Consort Lessons (1599) is the first published chamber music for specified instruments - mostly other composers' works.  It does include a (Morley?) Volta - a favourite dance of Queen Elizabeth - in which ladies were lifted off their feet, 'lascivious and wayward,' warned contemporary, Arbeau.                   

Morley was not only a composer, but editor, arranger, translator, propagandist for Italian music and stimulator of the English madrigal style. The granting of the monopoly on the printing of music (in 1598) shows this Norwich-born composer became the most prominent in England.

 Relevant Recordings 

  • Elizabethan Cathedral Music (see under Parsley)
  • David Munrow, Early Music Consort of London - Two Renaissance Dance Bands (Testament 1996) SBT 1080, 749677 10802
  • Thomas Morley - Ayres & Madrigals (The British Music Collection, Decca)     28947 61971
  • Thomas Morley - Now is the merry month of Maying: Madrigals, Alfred Deller consort (1993) 08 9073 71


  • See under Parsley: NGDM Vol. 17 etc.
  • Watkins Shaw - Thomas Morley of Norwich, Musical Times cvi (1965)
  •       pages 669-73
  • Oxford Companion to Music, 8th Edition 1950, Ed. Percy Scholes.
  • Thoinot Arbeau [Jehan Tabouret] - Orchesographie (1589) 

William Inglott 

An English organist and composer, he was born in 1554 and died in 1621 in Norwich.

William was the son of Edmund Inglott (or Englott, the name is spelt both ways in the records) who was organist at Norwich Cathedral in 1560 and who received 'the grant of the office of master and tutor of 8 singing children' on the 31st December of that year.  Edmund's name is still listed in the First Audit of 1580 as 'm'r of the coristors'.  Edmund was executor for his brother Robert's will, proved 5th March 1554-5, in which he is described as Sir Edmund Inglott.  'Sir' was the normal title accorded to the clergy at this time.  His brother, Sir Robert Inglott, was instituted to the Rectory of Bodham, 16th March 1540.   When Edmund died is not known, but must have been before the Annunciation 1583 when Thomas Morley succeeded to his position.  

William seems to have been a more peaceable man than his father who, according to the Court Roll of Amner's, attacked one of the lay clerks in 1561, Henry Smith by name, with a dagger and drew blood.  Ten years later, Edmund Inglott himself was attacked by John Bascoum and blood was drawn.

William had a brother, also confusingly called Edmund.  Both Edmund the younger and his brother were choristers at Norwich Cathedral under their father.  William was a chorister in 1567-8, and appointed lay clerk at the Cathedral in 1576.  

On 6th May 1579 Queen Elizabeth I granted 'A Patent of teacher and Master of the singing boys . . . to William Inglott (son of Edmund Inglott of Norwich) on the death of the said Edmund'.  He did not succeed his father for another nine years.  He was organist at Norwich from 1587-1591 and again from 1611 (or earlier) to 1621.  In the intervening period from 1597 to 1609 William Inglott was organist of Hereford Cathedral.

On his death in 1621 the south west pillar of the screen (pulpitum) in Norwich Cathedral was painted in his honour with this inscription.

Here William Inglott, organist, doth rest

Whose Art in Musick this Cathedral blest

For Descant most, for Voluntary all

He past in Organ, Song and Virginall

He left this life at age of sixty seven

And now 'mongst Angells all sings St. in heaven

His fame flies far, his name shall never Die,

See Art and Age here crown his memorie. 

Inglott's most accessible compositions are his two keyboard pieces in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book:  an extensive Galliard Ground and a theme statement and 12 variations on The Leaves bee Greene.  An untitled piece (a pavan) is in Will Forster's Virginall Book.  He also left an anthem If ye love me and a Service in D consisting of Venite, Te Deum, Benedictus, Kyrie, Creed, Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis (note the Venite then being sung to a 'setting'). 

Relevant Recordings

  • Elizabethan Cathedral Music (see under Parsley)
  • The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, The Leaves bee greene - (Transcription for mixed consort) Charivari Agreable (Signum) SIGCD009
  • The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book - Christopher Hogwood (Organ etc), Vinyl LPs (L'Oiseau-Lyre) 1981 D261D2.


  • See under Parsley: NGDM  Vol. 12 and Boston.


William Cobbold

He was born in Norwich on 5th January 1560, elder son of the goldsmith of the same name and his wife Johane.  He died in Beccles, Suffolk on 7th November 1639. It is reasonable to assume that he was a chorister under Edmund Inglott.   Cobbold was organist at Norwich cathedral from at least 25th March 1595.

A patent was 'granted to William Cobbold son of William Cobbold Goldsmith dated 13th December' in the 37th year of Elizabeth's reign.  He was organist until between 1609 and 1612 when William Inglott apparently returned to the post he had formerly held.  Cobbold continued to be paid as a singing-man at a salary 25% above other lay clerks. In a document of 1620 he appeared together with Inglott as organist.

His first wife Alice died in 1630 and he married his housekeeper Anne Rayner by license on 6th December 1630.  He had property inherited from his father,     houses in Ber Street and 'messuages, lands, tenements, yards rents, shops, vaults, sellers' in St. Andrew's parish (where practising goldsmiths congregated).  These he sold on 5th October 1635 for £320 to Richard Gibbs of 'the Precint' (who had become the next organist when Inglott died in 1621).

Cobbold died in Beccles.  His will (dated 4th August 1637) leaves money to the poor of the Close, St. Andrew's, Timberhill and Tombland parishes, to his colleagues in the cathedral choir (20/-) and 'to Manfred and Godwin the blowers of the organ 12d each'.   His will also directed that he 'be buried in the Cathedral in the north side', but he was actually buried in the South Aisle of Beccles Church where his wife, Alice, and son Francis lay.  

The inscription reads:

                   Here lyeth the body of William Cobbold, some time Organist of Christchurch in Norwich (as the Cathedral was known in the 17th and 18th centuries) who died the 7th of November 1639

The body rest here

But the soule above

Sing heavenly anthems

Made of Peace and Love.

Cobbold was a fine musician and an early hymn tune writer.  Five of the four-voice Psalm settings in Thomas Est's The Whole Book of Psalms (1592) were by Cobbold.  A version of his In Bethlehem Towne is preserved in the Durham Cathedral Music Library.  He contributed a madrigal, With wreathes of rose and laurel to The Triumphs of Oriana which Morley published in 1601. 

He also favoured the English style and genre of the consort song.  Five-part consort songs including an elegy, For death of her, for Mary Gascoigne (who died 19th July 1588) survive in manuscript.  There are also 10 consort songs mostly for voice and four viols in New Fashions.  This includes a Quodlibet based on recurring statements of The Leaves be Green  (cf. Inglott).  The surviving instrumental music includes a curiously named voluntary Anome based on a cantus firmus (fixed melody).

Relevant Recordings 

The Triumphs of Oriana  - I Fagiolini (Chandos) CHAN 0682

The Triumphs of Oriana  - King's Singers (Signum, 2006) SIGCDO82


  • See under Parsley: NGDM Vol. 6 & Boston
  • Watkins Shaw - The Succession of Organists at the Chapel Royal and the cathedrals of England and Wales from 1538 (1991).
  • F. Appleby - William Cobbold in Echoes Mainly Musical from Norwich and Around (ed.) Christopher Smith.
  • Scores in Musica Britannica Vol. xxii (1967), Consort songs ed. P.Brett 
  • (2nd edition) Vol. xlv  (1988) Elizabethan Consort Music. ed. Paul Doe. 

Vaughan Brooks

December 2010