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

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

PART THREE: RESOURCES

CHAPTER 5
PARISHES

Something ought to be said in general about the rolls relating to the first three benefices which came to the vicars, namely, Fryston, Huntington and St. Sampson's, York. Nowadays and for a long time, the patronage, as it is called, of a benefice has conferred only the right to present an incumbent to a benefice. In earlier centuries, however, this right conferred on the person or the corporation who owned it the actual rectory of the parish. An agreed sum was set aside by the owner for the stipend of the vicar -- that is, the deputy of the rector, who might be a layman -- and the vicarage-house was at the disposal of the vicar as his house of residence. The remainder of the income was at the disposal of the rector. In the case of these three benefices, the one in York and the other two outside York, the rolls that survive reveal, from year to year, the income which accrued to the vicars as rectors, except when there was a debit balance. There were very few years in which there was not a credit balance. The vicars knew full well what they were doing when, on the grounds of their poverty, they petitioned the dean and chapter and the archbishop to allow them to become the owners, and therefore the "farmers", of the benefices which they acquired. Their excuse for petitioning for the benefice of Fryston was a valid one, namely, the loss which they had sustained, outside the city as well as inside, through the incursions of the Scots; for the benefice of Huntington, the Black Death; and (though this is not mentioned anywhere) for the benefice of Nether Wallop, the unrest due to the wars of the Roses, which affected the city of York to no small extent. Benefices were a form of property and therefore a guarantee of financial stability and security.

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