Monument record MYO4292 - St Peter's School
|Centred SE 6021 5261 (0m by 1m)
|City of York, North Yorkshire
Type and Period (1)
Early historians of York schools have argued that St Peter’s School has a continuous existence from the 7th century. Modern historians take a much more sceptical view. However, there certainly was a Cathedral Grammar School that existed for most of the Middle Ages. At the Reformation, this appears to have ceased and the school was re-founded in 1557 at a new site, outside the City Walls, in a place known as The Horsefair. It was known as either ‘the free shole in the horsefair’ or ‘the cathedral school of the church of St Peter of York’. The buildings were badly damaged during the Siege of York in 1644 and the school removed to a site within the City Walls in the Bedern.
The site chosen for the re-founded school was in the Horsefair, at the end of Gillygate, a site now occupied by the Union Terrace car park. It was the site of a number of religious buildings ‘Saint Annes Chappell neighe the Hospitall of our Ladye and al-mose [alms] house of St Anthonye in the Horsefaire besyde the walles of the city of Yorke.’ (Raine 1955, 275). St Mary’s hospital (founded 1330) closed during the Edwardian Reformation.
We do not know who the first headmaster was, the first master who we have knowledge of was called John Fletcher. He attended St John’s College, Cambridge but did not take a degree. He taught in a school in Bishophill and in 1564 was made headmaster of Archbishop Holgate’s Grammar School, despite objections. Shortly after, he became headmaster of the free school in the Horsefair but was deprived of that position in 1575.
Guy Fawkes of Stonegate attended the school in the company of John and Christopher Wright of Plowland Hall near Patrington (so the school had both day boys and boarders.)
From 1614 to 1638, the headmaster was the Reverend John Johnson MA who was also vicar of St Martin’s Coney Street.
In 1648, a schoolboy Henry Dodwell was described as being ‘in grammar learning at the free school situate in Bederew (Bedern) within the City of York.’ . A year later when the Dean and Chapter was abolished, the school’s revenue was maintained. After the Restoration, Archbishop Sterne’s injunctions state ‘that the schoolhouse in the Horse Fair demolished in the late warre be re-edifyed.’ . However, this was not done and the school remained in the Bedern. In 1660, the Reverend William Langley MA of Pembroke College, Oxford was appointed headmaster. Although the school was in the Bedern, it was still called ‘the Free School of the Horse Fair.’ In later years, the school moved from the Bedern to St Andrew’s Church, then to a building in the Close, now occupied by the Minster School. In 1844, it moved to its present site in Clifton.
Following the dissolution of St Mary's Hospital in the Horsefair in 1557, the site was taken over and converted for use as a grammar school. The school had formerly been located in St Mary's Abbey, but following the Dissolution, a new site was required. In 1644, it was damaged during the Civil War, and although later documentary sources refer to the school `of the Horsefair', it is uncertain whether the name was retained on a new site or whether the buildings remained in use. Certainly by 1730, the premises were ruinous. The school was eventually relocated to the College of the Vicars Choral in The Bedern. The plan of the buildings was recovered during excavations at Union Terrace in 1972. The evidence suggests that widespread demolition occurred in the later 17th century and that no occupation extended into the 18th century. Unusually, a group of inhumations was discovered in the school chapel, and may relate to plague victims in 1604, or, as is more likely, to victims of the Civil War aggression.
Union Terrace : excavations in the Horsefair 1989 by J D Richards, C Heighway and S Donaghey 7-9,29-31 vol.11, fasc.1
635704 Excavation UNION TERRACE
YAT, A History of St Peter’s School c1557 – 1644 at the Union Terrace Site (Unpublished document). SYO1923.
YAT, Former site of St. Peter's School, Union Terrace FINDS (Unpublished document). SYO1932.
NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.
Related Monuments/Buildings (2)
Related Events/Activities (2)
Record last edited
May 1 2020 11:02AM