Norwich (Norfolk County, England)

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Norwich, capital of the county of Norfolk, England, was in the 16th century an Anabaptist center. There was a small Anabaptist congregation here probably founded by immigrants from Holland, of Flanders, who had left their countries by 1536 because of persecution. For the same reason some Mennonites from Flanders settled at Norwich about 1567. These Anabaptist-Mennonites apparently had a great influence on the population of Norwich, most of which was opposed to the Anglican state church, censuring its moral laxity, its lack of church discipline, the arrogance of its clergy, and the domination by the state in church affairs. This Separatist-Puritan movement in Norwich, with its ideal of the church as a body of believers, free of the state and its interference, was often called Anabaptist by Anglican churchmen and government officers, but this terminology is, strictly speaking, not correct, because these Puritans did not embrace the principle of believers' baptism on confession of faith with rejection of infant baptism. Yet there was some affinity with Anabaptism, especially concerning the free church idea as formulated by Robert Browne in 1582: "The Church planted or gathered is a company or number of Christians or believers, which, by a voluntary covenant made with their God, are under the government of God and Christ and keep His laws in one holy communion."

The following of these "Anabaptists" must have been considerable. In 1571 half of the population of Norwich, including some 3,000 immigrants from Holland and Flanders, are said to have shared the views of the Anabaptists. In 1580 Robert Browne and his friend Robert Harrison were active in Norwich, but in the fall of 1581 Browne and Harrison had to leave England and moved to the Netherlands, first to Middelburg in the province of Zeeland, then to Amsterdam. A number of Puritans accompanied them, and others followed later. Some of them came into contact with the Dutch Waterlander Mennonites at Amsterdam (see John Smyth) and finally joined them in 1615, but most of them in the course of time returned to England. Norwich always remained a strong center of Congregationalism, opposed to the hierarchy of the English state church.


Dosker, H. E. The Dutch Anabaptists. Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1921: 293 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 276.

Scheffer, J. G. de Hoop and W. E. Griffis. History of the Free churchmen called the Brownists, Pilgrim fathers and Baptists in the Dutch republic, 1581-1701. Ithaca, n.d., 1922: 7 f., 10.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Norwich (Norfolk County, England)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 7 Dec 2023.,_England)&oldid=122782.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1957). Norwich (Norfolk County, England). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 December 2023, from,_England)&oldid=122782.

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