Life in a Medieval College: The Story of the Vicars-Choral of York Minster

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

PART TWO: VICARS-CHORAL AT York

CHAPTER 3
THE BEDERN

The early history of this place, once a courtyard about 270 feet long and 130 feet wide, but since the year 1850 a street, is far from certain. There is some support for the statement that when, in the year 1060, Aeldred became archbishop of York, he provided for the provost and the seven culdees1 who were attached to the cathedral church a habitation with refectory and dormitory in the court afterwards, and still, known as the Bedern. When, after the devastation of the north by the soldiers of William I, Thomas of Bayeux, the new king's nominee to the see of York, arrived at York, he found only three of the former seven clergy attached to the cathedral church. Without delay, he set to work to reform the constitution of the church at York on the lines of that of the cathedral church of Bayeux, appointing, on the Norman model, a dean, a precentor, a chancellor and a treasurer,2 and founding, by degrees, other canonries, though the full number of 36 was not reached until long afterwards. As, hard by the cathedral, there was a collegiate court which was suitable, at any rate temporarily, to be the home of cathedral clergy, Thomas probably housed some of the canons in the Bedern, where he is said to have built a hall for their use and to have restored the old dormitory and the refectory. Solid ground, however, is not touched until, in the year 1248, according to Dugdale3, William of Lanum (Laneham, in Nottinghamshire), a canon of York, presented to the vicars the land in the court known as the Bedern for the purpose of their habitation. This statement implies that, at this early date, the canons of York, like those elsewhere, were finding

____________________
1
) Latin, Colidei (those who served God).
2
) The names of these four are not known, but they would almost certainly be Normans.
3
) Monasticon Anglicanum Vol. VIII. p. 1475.

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