Monument record MYO3659 - St-Peter-in-the-Willows


Also known as St Peter's Church, it was united with St Margaret's in 1555 AD. The location is approximate.


Grid reference SE 6101 5138 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (0)

Full Description

St. Peter-le-Willows – Historical and Archaeological Sources

From 'The parish churches', in A History of the County of York: the City of York, ed. P M Tillott (London, 1961), pp. 365-404. British History Online [accessed 7 April 2017].

The church of ST. PETER-LE-WILLOWS is first mentioned in 1279 when Kirkham Priory (E.R.), who held the advowsons of this church and St. Michael-without-Walmgate Bar, wished to unite the churches because the endowments were insufficient to support a priest for each: (fn. 853) the union did not take place. A claim by the hospital of St. Nicholas to a third part of the church was first met by a pension of 1 mark paid to the hospital. The priory eventually assigned lands to the hospital in settlement of this claim and a rent in respect of this property was still being paid by the priory in 1357. The church was confirmed by the archbishop in 1303 as the possession of the priory who held it until the Dissolution.
The benefice is called a vicarage in 1535; it was then valued at £1 11s. 6d. clear, the income being derived from personal tithes (18s.), oblations (6s.), and the farm of two tenements (10s.). It was proposed in 1548 to unite the benefice with St. Margaret's; the church had evidently been disused for some time: together with the churchyard it was immediately sold by the corporation to Alderman John Northe for £1. The act of union was completed in 1586.
The rectory of St. Margaret’s was not valued in 1291. In 1535 it was valued at £2 17s. clear; the income comprised 10s. from a tenement in Walmgate and personal tithes and oblations. In 1649 the rent from the Walmgate tenement, then £2 18s. 8d., was said to be the only income of the benefice; in 1664 the common reputed value was £8. In 1716 £5 17s. 6d. was received in rents from houses and a churchyard (presumably St. Peter-le-Willows) and the remainder of the income comprised Easter offerings; no tithes, pensions, or augmentations were received.
A license to alienate lands to found a chantry in the church was granted to Nicholas Swanland and Robert Halton in 1396. The chantry was at the altar of the Virgin and cantarists were admitted to it at least between 1400 and 1431.
The church lay on the west side of Long Close Lane, off Walmgate, just inside the bar: remains of the fabric have been found. The parish comprised a small area around the church. It retained its identity for secular purposes until 1900 and is marked on the Ordnance Survey Plan of 1852.

From - Wilson, B and Mee, F (1998) The Medieval Parish Churches of York: the Pictorial Evidence; York Archaeological Trust, 145.
St. Peter of the Willows stood on low lying ground south of Walmgate and near the bar. First mentioned in 1279, it was a relatively unimportant church with a low taxation assessment and receiving few bequests, though there are references to the choir, images of St. Mary and St. Anne and a relic in the form of a saint’s finger. From 1533, the living was held in plurality with St. Margaret’s but parishioners continued to use St. Peter’s until its closure and demolition in1549. Some foundations were uncovered in 1827 and in 1945, wall footings were found, together with burials suggesting an extensive graveyard to the west of the church.
In 1973, York Archaeological Trust undertook excavation work uncovering further burials, a charnel pit, and the remains of buildings believed to be part of the church. In 1396 a license was granted for the building of four houses in the churchyard of St. Peter’s on of which was “by the King’s highway in Walmegate 90 ft long by 30 broad.” This has tentatively been identified as no.111 Walmgate which is 90 yards west of the site of the vanished church.

From - Raine, A. (1955) Mediaeval York: A topographic Survey Based on Original Sources; John Murray, 111-112.
Near to Walmgate Bar, on the south side of Walmgate until recently was the street called “Willow Street,” the greater part of which has now been demolished. The name goes back to the time when willows grew in the low lying ground here abouts. In mediaeval times, a church stood in this street called St. Peter in the Willows. In May 1945, workmen, trenching for drains for temporary houses, came upon some remains of Saint Peter’s Church at a depth of 3 ft. I saw wall footing with a few courses of Tadcaster stone, but the excavations were not long enough or wide enough to show the dimensions of the church. The burials found seemed to point to a considerable churchyard on the west side of the church. An earlier find had been made in 1827 when workmen “were making some alterations in a building, which, upon investigation, proved to be the ancient church of St Peter-en-les-Willows... Some years ago in digging a garden near this place, a number of bones were found.”
That it was not an important church can be gathered from its taxation in comparison with that of other churches around York. It seems to have increased in importance somewhat during the 15th century. It is not often mentioned in wills. In 1389, Margaret Hagthorp asks to be buried in the choir of St. Peter’s in Walmgate and leavers her best torch to burn before the image of St. Mary. Several wills mention the image of St. Anne. In 1486, John Bawde leaves 6s. 8d. To make a silver reliquary to hold the finger of a saint which is kept in the church. In 1526, Margaret Symson gave her little silver goblet “for to kepe rensyng in of solemne days.”
In the Act of uniting the parishes in 1547, St. Peter’s was ordered to be pulled down. This was done in 1549. John North paid 20s. To the City Council for the ground and churchyard of St. Peter. A reference to a public well in the parish occurs in 1576 when Mr. Bryan Maxwell barred the road to the well by putting up a gate. He was ordered to remove it. Should he refuse, two constable were to take it down.

Historic towns trust, 2012, Historical map of York about 1850 (Map). SYO1357.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Map: Historic towns trust. 2012. Historical map of York about 1850.

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Record last edited

Aug 7 2019 12:31PM


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