If you happen to be in north Norfolk a visit to St Mary’s Church at Wiveton two miles inland from the coast, between Wells and Sheringham, is recommended. It was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, at the time of the area’s greatest prosperity when it was one of the major seaports in the east of England. Before the harbour silted up in the seventeenth century it once saw the import and export of goods such as wool, grain, malt, fish, spices, coal, cloth, wheat, barley and oats. In the south aisle of St Mary’s there is a memorial to Grocer Raulf Greneway (c.1500-1558). A white marble plaque is set with brass inserts: Greneway’s arms at the centre, flanked by those of the Grocers’ Company bearing nine cloves to the left and Greneway’s merchant’s mark in a quatrefoil to the right.
Below them is a plaque indicating the local philanthropy of ‘Citizen and Alderman of London’ Greneway. In the tradition of many a man made good Greneway is supposed to have been a foundling, some say abandoned by the green way of Stony Hill in Wiveton. He left for London where he was apprenticed to a Grocer and duly made his fortune. He married well, his second wife was the daughter of the French-born apothecary who accompanied Catherine of Aragon to England in 1501 and remained in her service until her death in 1536. His wife Katherine’s brother acted as his agent in Spain. Greneway was elected an Alderman in 1556, and had been made a Warden of the Grocers’ Company in 1555 becoming Master in 1557. In his will, proved on 3rd May 1558 which provided for his burial at St Dunstan in the East, he remembered the people of Wiveton. Recorded on his memorial brass is the wording of his will whereby he left funds so that ‘Every Sunday, before noon, for ever … 13d in money and 13d in bread’ be provided to each of thirteen needy parishioners. The charity exists to this day providing pensions and fuel grants. Incidentally his widow went on to marry another wealthy Grocer, Sir John White (d.1573) who had been Master of the Company in 1555, and Lord Mayor on 1563. Before you leave the area it is worth looking at St Margaret’s Church, Cley-next-the Sea, just across the River Glaven from Wiveton. Here you will find another Greneway, this time John. Six stalls with misericords of c.1530 are carved with a merchant’s mark with JG impaling the Grocers’ Company arms with the nine cloves. This may refer to Raulf’s brother John, both were sons of John Greneway of Wiveton who had died in 1515.
Dr Clifford would welcome the help of any member who finds themselves in north Norfolk. She is keen to receive a good quality picture of Grocer Raulf Greneway’s white marble plaque in the St Mary’s Church, Wiveton.