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

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
THE END OF THE COLLEGE

In the month of March, 1832, the first of the great reform bills passed the house of commons and, two months afterwards, was accepted by the house of lords. As every student of the history of our country knows, this event led to a complete reform of our parliamentary system. Side by side with this new outlook on the governmental system of the country there went a new outlook on the church and her finances. While reform was in the air, little or nothing could escape it. Towards the end of the year 1831, an "ecclesiastical commission", the first of its kind, was appointed to enquire into various matters connected with the church, not least the distribution of its revenues. In time, this body became a permament body, and recently its scope has been enlarged and its title altered to "the Church Commissioners". By the year 1865, an enquiry had been made into the duties and the finances of the bodies of vicars-choral at the nine cathedral churches at which there still existed such bodies. The findings on the position at York need not be detailed here. The chief of them was to the effect that the Commissioners should take over the ownership of the real property of the vicars, administer it, and pay to the vicars every year the sum of £1400 out of which the stipends of the vicars should be paid, the number being fixed at five. At the same time, the dean and chapter agreed to pay each year to the funds of the vicars the sum of £6-13-4 in token of the claim which the vicars still had on them for the loss of dining-rights. On their part, the vicars agreed to pay to the dean and chapter the sum of £15 a year as a token payment for the services in the choir of their old-time deputies, the songmen. These two payments continued to be made till the dissolution of the college in the year 1936. At the same time, also, the vicars drew up their own rules for their attendance at the cathedral, each vicar being

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1
) This sum had been agreed on in the statute of Henry VIII ( 1541).

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