Schools in Tudor and Stuart York

York Minster School in 2011.

The Reformation had an impact on some of York’s schools, particularly the Minster School and St Leonard’s Hospital. From the 1530s St Mary’s Abbey, where poorer students of both the Minster and St Peter’s schools were lodged, was less and less able to maintain the boys who lived there. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539, as was the nearby St Leonard’s Hospital.

In 1547, chantries (chapels where prayers were made for the souls of the dead) were abolished, the priests who had run them were required to teach reading and writing instead. The Minster School was re-founded in 1557, with about 50 boys attending (half the number of earlier times).

The gap left by the Dissolution was in part filled by Archbishop Robert Holgate’s new grammar school in 1546, and the city corporation set another school up on Ouse Bridge in 1553.

St Peter’s School continued to teach boys - Guy Fawkes attended St Peter’s - and boys who had sung at the Minster School until their voices broke were required to go to a grammar school for a further five years, and this was usually St Peter’s.

Many churches and chapels throughout the city offered basic instruction in reading and religion, as they had done during the middle ages, though not always instruction in writing. Reading was always taught before writing, and often children did not stay in school long enough to learn to write. Many people in York learned to write from scriveners (professional writers and copyists).

During the Stuart period the Bar Convent School was established, the first Catholic institution in England for teaching girls. Initially it was a boarding school, a day school opened in 1699. Girls came from far away to attend, often from wealthy Catholic families. The day school was free for poorer girls. A school for Catholic boys was established in 1796 in a temporary, rented room close to the Minster.

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