Monument record MYO3520 - Holy Trinity Priory


Priory for Benedictine monks for the Alien Benedictine Abbey of Marmoutier, formerly a pre-Conquest house of canons, was founded by Micklegate, Trinity Lane, St. Mary's Churchyard, and the city wall. Part of the 12th century priory nave is incorporated in the present church and sections of the choir walls are preserved in the rectory gardens. A section of the boundary wall is visible from St. Mary's vicarage garden. Original minster, Christ Church, probably built around 1086, but destroyed by fire in 1137. Church rebuilt around 1180. New chancel added between 1459 and 1466. Main gatehouse was erected during the 13th century and demolished in 1854. Additional polygon extending into Micklegate represents possible site of medieval burial ground.


Grid reference Centred SE 5988 5149 (197m by 222m)
Map sheet SE55SE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (11)

Full Description

HOLY TRINITY PRIORY occupied a site of about 7 acres (fn. 68) inside the southern section of the city wall. The roughly rectangular precinct was bounded by Micklegate on the north-west, with the priory gateway situated some 100 yards along the street from Micklegate Bar; (fn. 69) by Trinity Lane on the north-east; (fn. 70) by the churchyard of St. Mary's, Bishophill, Junior, and a boundary wall running thence towards the city wall on the south-east; (fn. 71) and by a boundary wall parallel to and about 50 ft. Inside the city wall on the south-west. (fn. 72)
The building of the church probably began soon after the re-foundation of the priory in 1089 (fn. 73) and was continued during the following three centuries; the church comprised nave, choir, transepts, and a central tower. (fn. 74) The conventual buildings must have stood to the south-east of the church (fn. 75) but nothing is known of their nature or exact position. (fn. 76)
After the Dissolution the site and buildings were granted to Leonard Beckwith in 1543. (fn. 77) The church was used thereafter as a parish church, (fn. 78) but the central tower collapsed in 1551 (fn. 79) and a gift was made to two Clerks of the Privy Council in 1552 of 'Trinity church in York with all manner the lead, timber, bells, glass, stone and other things . . . Belonging'. (fn. 80) The nave remained standing after the fall of the tower and, after suitable repairs to its eastern end, continued to be used as a parish church. The priory site was bought by Sir John Goodrick of Ribston (W.R.) in the 17th century (fn. 81) and was known as Trinity Gardens. It was sold shortly before 1855 for building purposes and for the construction of Priory Street; this involved the demolition of the 13thcentury priory gateway about 1854: it stood where Priory Street now joins Micklegate. (fn. 82)
Little now remains of the priory. Part of the nave of the church is incorporated in the present church, (fn. 83) and sections of the choir walls are preserved in the rectory garden. One section of the boundary wall survives and may be seen from the vicarage garden of St. Mary's, Bishophill, Junior. (fn. 84) From: 'The sites and remains of the religious houses', A History of the County of York: the City of York (1961), pp. 357-365. URL: Date accessed: 13 February 2012.

The church of HOLY TRINITY, Micklegate, also called Christ Church, (fn. 80) belonged in 1086 to Richard son of Erfast. (fn. 81) It later came into the hands of Ralph Paynell (fn. 82) and was given by him to the abbey of Marmoutier (Bas-Rhin) as the church of the cell of that house which he founded in York. (fn. 83) According to Paynell's foundation charter the church had formerly been served by a community of canons, but was then almost reduced to nothing.
It is to be supposed that Christ Church had served the religious needs of the neighbourhood from its foundation. Nothing is known of the manner in which those needs were served after the foundation of the priory until 1280 when a priest was instituted to the church of St. Nicholas in the porch of Holy Trinity. (fn. 84) In 1289 a priest was inducted into the vicarage of the church of Holy Trinity (fn. 85) and another in 1304 to the vicarage of the altar of St. Nicholas in the church of Holy Trinity. (fn. 86) Between 1307 and 1311 the priory's title to the church was disputed by a descendant of Paynell but without success. (fn. 87) Three more institutions to the vicarage of the church of Holy Trinity occur in the 14th century; in 1372 one to the vicarage of the church of St. Nicholas in Micklegate; in 1408 one to the perpetual vicarage of the altar of St. Nicholas in the porch of the monastery of St. Trinity; and in 1430 two presentations described in much the same terms. (fn. 88)
In 1452 a will describes St. Nicholas's as juxta the conventual church. (fn. 89) In 1453 the priory agreed to allow the parishioners of St. Nicholas's to build a tower for their church on the gable ('pynyon') of the priory church. (fn. 90) Two years later the appropriation of the church of Holy Trinity was confirmed to the priory who were given licence to have the cure of the church at the altar of St. Nicholas therein served by any secular priest or chaplain at their pleasure. (fn. 91)
The explanation (fn. 92) of these documents seems to be as follows. The church given to the Benedictines by Paynell was used for a time as the priory church. The new priory church was built adjacent to the ancient church and in such a way that the ancient church, which was probably small and in a ruinous state, came to form part of the priory church. The local inhabitants continued to use the church they had always known even if it now appeared to form part of a priory: they related their devotions to an altar dedicated to St. Nicholas within this building. At least from the 13th century onwards secular priests were appointed to serve the parochial needs. The different terms used at their institutions reflect the lack of physical distinction between parish and priory churches which to contemporary eyes formed one building. Equally, the institutions reflect clearly the fact that a parish of Holy Trinity existed and that its church was that which had been the centre of a religious district before Paynell gave it to the Benedictines, however ruinous it might have become and however much it might appear to be no more than an adjunct of the priory church.
Holy Trinity Priory surrendered at the end of 1538. (fn. 93) How soon the parishioners began to use the nave of the priory church—it may, indeed, have been this they used before the suppression—is not known. The church of St. Nicholas is not mentioned in the plan of union of churches of 1548. In 1586, however, the city united the church of St. Nicholas with that of Holy Trinity and the parish is thereafter known as Holy Trinity. (fn. 94) Presumably the remains of St. Nicholas's had by this time become ruinous and the parishioners seized the opportunity to claim the nave of the priory church, the choir and transepts having already fallen into the hands of depredators. (fn. 95)
The advowson of the vicarage passed to the Crown at the Dissolution and was transferred to the archbishop in 1868. (fn. 96) St. John's, Ouse Bridge End, was united with Holy Trinity in 1934 and, in 1953, St. Martin-cum-Gregory. (fn. 97)
The 'rectory of the church of Holy Trinity' was valued at £6 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 98) In 1341 the valuation was the same but 13s. 4d. had been lost in tithes of hay. (fn. 99) What is meant by the valuations is not clear. It is possible that they represent tithes from those lands of Holy Trinity which, after the Dissolution, were associated with the parish—the lands immediately outside the walls and the detached portions in Dringhouses and Knapton. The valuation is only slightly more than the pension paid by the priory to the so-called cantarist of St. Nicholas's. Tithes derived from these lands were commuted in 1841 and 1839 respectively; 401 a. of land in Knapton, mostly arable, were commuted for £132; 280 a. of arable, 252 a. of meadow and pasture, and 9 a. of wood in Dringhouses (where 106 a. were exempt from tithe) were commuted for £130. (fn. 1)
How the priest serving the cure of St. Nicholas's was paid during the Middle Ages is not known. In 1535 the king's commissioners appear to have considered St. Nicholas's as a chantry in the priory church—a not unreasonable error under the circumstances—to which the priory paid a pension of £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 2) A similar arrangement may have subsisted from the earliest times. After the suppression of the priory the Crown took over the responsibility for this pension, which in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries formed the principal emolument of the vicarage. (fn. 3) In 1716 there were no glebe lands and no tithes, great or small, were paid to the vicar; besides the Crown pension, the only other income comprised offerings and fees. (fn. 4) In 1764 the Crown pension had been reduced by 10s.; Easter offerings were not demanded because biennial collections came to 'much more'; interest was received on an augmentation from Queen Anne's Bounty pending investment in land. (fn. 5) This augmentation had been made by lot in 1737; two more by lot were received in 1767 and 1795 and £800 from the parliamentary fund by lot in 1813. (fn. 6) In 1825 these first three sums had been laid out in land at Scrayingham (E.R.) and Huntington (N.R.); the parliamentary grant was invested for the time being. (fn. 7) The benefice was endowed with £20 a year by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1867 and in the following year was said to be worth £138; a further endowment of £16 13s. 4d. was obtained in 1882. (fn. 8)
A chantry was founded in St. Nicholas's in or before 1384 by John de Esshton (sometimes Eschton). (fn. 9) By 1495 the chantry had decayed and its emoluments were united with those of the chantry of St. Mary's, Bishophill, Senior, for a time. (fn. 10) Eight years later the parishioners petitioned the corporation to reform the chantry but with what success is not known (fn. 11) and the chantry is not recorded after that date.
Thomas Nelson founded a chantry at the altar of St. Thomas by deed of 1474; the chantry was probably in the priory church. (fn. 12) It was valued at £2 clear in 1535 and £4 19s. in 1546 and 1548. (fn. 13) The commissioners of 1546 claimed that the chantry was needed because there was only a curate whose stipend was paid by the Crown. He was without help for ministration in the church and parish except for the chantry priest. (fn. 14)
As has been explained, the church comprises the nave of the priory church and a tower rebuilt from older materials by the parishioners in 1453. The nave arches and the triforium arcade are late-12thcentury work and other work of this date is predominant in the church. A chancel was constructed in 1886. The west end was reconstructed in 1905 to the designs of C. H. Fowler; a 19th-century gallery and plaster ceiling were removed at the same time. Nothing remains of ancient glass. The font cover is dated 1717. There is a monument to John Burton (1710-71), church historian, author of Monasticon Eboracense (1758) and the model for Sterne's Dr. Slop. (fn. 15)
There are two bells. (fn. 16) The plate comprises, in silver, a cup, a paten, and a flagon, and a modern chalice and paten; there is a brass alms-dish. (fn. 17)
The registers begin in 1585 and are printed up to 1753 for marriages and 1777 for baptisms and burials. (fn. 18) There are churchwardens' accounts for 1682-1774 and rate-books from 1775 to 1867.
The parish of Holy Trinity comprised after the 16th century, and in some sense perhaps before, a long arm of land extending from the church across the city wall on the east of the Tadcaster road, together with detached portions comprising the West Riding townships of Dringhouses and Knapton.
There were two chapels of ease to the parish. St. James's Chapel on The Mount is probably that granted by Stephen to the Priory in a charter which cannot be more closely dated than to his reign. (fn. 19) In a document of 1150-4 (which probably precedes the charter) Stephen notified the citizens of York of his gift of the land on which the gallows had stood (being of his demesne) to St. James's Chapel and its clerks. (fn. 20) The chapel occurs eo nomine in the papal confirmation of the priory possessions of 1166-79. (fn. 21)
The chapel seems to have served as a place of burial for executed felons. One such was pardoned in 1280 because on being carried to the chapel for burial he was found to be alive. (fn. 22) Executed criminals were still being buried in the vicinity of the chapel in the 16th century. (fn. 23)
The chapel was granted to Leonard Beckwith at the Dissolution, with other Holy Trinity property, and appears to have fallen into disuse and ruin. (fn. 24) The chapel probably lay on the east side of the Tadcaster road at the highest point of The Mount; the last traces were removed during road widening at the time when Drake was writing his history of the city in 1735-6. (fn. 25) In such a position the chapel was a natural landmark in the Middle Ages: processions for the installation of a new archbishop began from the chapel (fn. 26) and it occurs frequently in boundary descriptions.
A chapel of ease dedicated to St. Helen and built by the inhabitants of Dringhouses is recorded in the chantry certificates of 1546 and 1548 as lying in St. Nicholas's or Trinity parish. (fn. 27) This chapel appears to have survived the Reformation and was replaced by another building in 1725. (fn. 28) This second building comprised nave, chancel, and a chapel on the south side; there was a gallery at the west end and a circular arch between the nave and the chancel. The present church was built between 1847 and 1849; it was consecrated in the latter year and the dedication changed to ST. EDWARD THE CONFESSOR. The church was built of stone in Decorated style by the widow of Revd. Edward Trafford Leigh for the benefit of her tenants. (fn. 29) It consists of chancel and nave with a porch on the north at the west end, and a sacristy to the south of the chancel. Vickers and Hugill of Pontefract were the architects. (fn. 30) The parish was formed as a consolidated chapelry out of Holy Trinity parish with additions from St. Mary's, Bishophill, Senior, and Acomb in 1853. (fn. 31) The living is a vicarage in the gift of the archbishop. From: 'The parish churches', A History of the County of York: the City of York (1961), pp. 365-404. URL: Date accessed: 20 March 2013.

NMR information:

[SE 59905149] Trinity Priory (Bendictine) [AT] (Site of) (1)

The Holy Trinity Priory for Benedictine monks, formerly a pre-Conquest house of canons, was founded by Micklegate, Trinity Lane, St. Mary's Churchyard, and the city wall. Part of the priory nave is incorporated in the present church and sections of the choir walls are preserved in the rectory gardens. A section of the boundary wall is visible from St. Mary's vicarage garden. (2-3)

The site of this priory is now mainly covered by modern development. The section of walling visible from St.Mary's vicarage garden is situated at SE 59975148 and is the only visible remains of the precinct wall. Other remains, of an unintelligible nature, are also incorporated in the garden walls of the rectory at SE 59905155 and the north wall of Holy Trinity Church. (4)

5343 (south side)
Church of Holy Trinity
SE 5951 NE 15/35 14.6.54
Grade I
Late C12 nave and part of one aisle are all that remain of the old Priory Church of Alien Benedictines. The tower is that of the adjacent (destroyed) Church of St Nocholas.
(RCHM Vol. III, Moument 5.)

1. MICKLEGATE 5343 (south side)
Churchyard wall fronting road and turning along Trinity Lane and gates of Church of Holy Trinity and Rectory SE 5951 NE 15/935 Grade II 2.
Probably C18. A brick wall with moulded stone coping. Small wrought iron gate with openwork standards at sides. A pair of C19 iron gates on right-hand side and a section of brick wall on a stone base. (5)

Description of the 10th century cross-shaft fragments in the church tower. (6)

1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:500 1891
2 Medieval religious houses : England and Wales 82 by David Knowles and R Neville Hadcock
3 The Victoria history of the county of York: volume three 360-1 edited by William Page
4 Field Investigators Comments F1 RL 06-JUN-63
5 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest City of York 14-Jun-1954
6 Corpus of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, volume 3 : York and eastern Yorkshire 80-1 by James Lang

2016, 10 Dewsbury Terrace (Unpublished document). SYO1805.

On-Site Archaeology, 2017, 95-97 Micklegate EVA (Unpublished document). SYO2050.

On-Site Archaeology, 2018, 95-97 Micklegate EXC (Unpublished document). SYO2128.

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Unpublished document: 2016. 10 Dewsbury Terrace.
  • --- Unpublished document: On-Site Archaeology. 2017. 95-97 Micklegate EVA.
  • --- Unpublished document: On-Site Archaeology. 2018. 95-97 Micklegate EXC.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (7)

Record last edited

May 12 2020 9:07AM


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