Life in the Monastery of Evesham seems to have been sustained at a high standard throughout its long career. If all the “religious houses” had kept true to their vows and aims as that at Evesham did we should no doubt have a very different story to tell. One abbot alone appears to have been an exception to this general rule of good conduct. This was Roger Norreys, a “dissolute monk” of Canterbury, who was thrust upon the unwilling convent by Prince John when acting as regent in King Richard’s absence. After many years, and with much difficulty, he was convicted “of seven or eight distinct offences” and deposed. After the public exposure of his vicious life, and his unjust and tyrannical rule, it is surprising that instead of being severely punished he was sent to the cell of Penwortham and allowed to hold office as Prior until his death. The story of the fight between the convent, headed by Thomas de Marleberge, a clever and well educated young monk who afterwards became abbot, and the wicked and shameless Norreys, is related at full length in the chronicles which have come down to us, written it would seem by Marleberge’s own hand. The scandalous behaviour of the Abbot and the neglected state of his house was no secret, and the knowledge of it prompted the good bishop of Worcester in an attempt to exceed his rights by visiting the Abbey in order to inquire into the state of things existing there. In this act he defeated his own ends, for the Abbot and monks immediately united in common cause against so flagrant a breach of their privileges, claiming, what was finally acceded to them, exemption from all authority except that of Rome. The Abbot left the Monastery, and the monks barricaded every entrance, so that when the bishop arrived he was forced to encamp with his retinue upon the green outside the walls. By the indiscretion of the bishop a legal point was raised upon which the monks would by no means yield, preferring their present miserable condition rather than allowing the slightest infringement of what they believed to be their rights. The whole story, giving a curious insight into the state of the country at that time, is too long to relate here: an expensive and troublesome lawsuit followed, which was carried from court to court in England and Rome, and was finally settled some fifty years later in favour of the Monastery.
The last of the abbots and one of the most striking figures on the roll was Clement Lichfield. To him we owe much of the architectural beauty of both the parish churches; and besides erecting the bell tower he adorned the choir of the “great church,” as it was called, with perpendicular decoration.