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

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
THE BOOKS OF LEASES

It will remembered that, owing to the wealth of records of the history of the college which is the subject of this book, the claim has been made, and can be substantiated, that in the medieval period, for practically every year if not for every year without exception, there exists, either in original deeds or in the early books of records, at least one record. Between the accession of Queen Elizabeth and the dissolution of the college in the year 1936, there is an almost equal wealth of material. The surviving buildings of the vicars-choral at York cannot compare with those Lincoln, Chichester, Salisbury, Wells, Exeter1 and Hereford. For continuity and wealth of records, however, York cannot be approached by any similar college. The contents of the lease-books now demand our attention.

These books are important not only for the detailed information which they contain about the property of the vicars and the annual income received from property by each vicar, but also for the entries of the exact dates on which vicars either died or resigned from the college, and for the information which they contain about the relationships of landlords and tenants. They reveal a strong sense of the corporate character of an ancient brotherhood, a meticulous attention to the business of the college by the successive sub-chanters, and a continuity with the past which only corporate bodies of long standing can enjoy. The more familiar the writer has become during the past thirty years with the solidarity of the college in the face of actual as well as threatened assaults on its corporate character, the more lamentable does the final extinction of these colleges appear to have been. From this dissolution deans and chapters have lost more than they have gained.

____________________
1
) Since the year 1942, alas!, Exeter has lost much.

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