After the Dissolution
Suddenly some of York’s magnificent religious buildings had no purpose. Most of them fell into ruin, including the Abbey church of St Mary’s which once rivalled the Minster in grandeur.
Only the nave of the Holy Trinity Priory church remained because local people had won the right to worship there before the reformation.
There were other effects. The Abbey had operated a boarding house for 50 poor scholars of the Minster School, and St Leonard’s maintained a grammar school. Both were lost.
Suspicion that the famed Minster library harboured support for the supremacy of the Pope led it to dispose of most of its books. The Abbey library, and that of the Austin friars, were also dismantled.
The servants from the monasteries lost their livelihoods. The closure of St Leonard’s Hospital left a gap in care for the sick and elderly which lasted for centuries.
All the properties owned by the monasteries came on the market and various wealthy families did very well by buying them. The exception was the Abbey grounds, a walled area which was retained and used by the crown until the 19th century. Amongst other things, it became the home of the Council of the North.
The Council in the North
Originally set up by Richard III in 1484, the King’s Council in the North was re-established by Henry VIII in 1522. It was reorganised again after the Pilgrimage of Grace, the king appointing Robert Holgate as president in 1538.
The council, which moved permanently into the Abbot’s house at St Mary, later known as King’s Manor, was a legal body. It had three main areas of concern: bringing criminals to justice, hearing cases about debts and other civil offences, and the enforcement of religious observance.
It covered an area including Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and Cumberland, and had a staff of more than 300 dealing with 450 lawsuits a year.
One of its major roles was to ensure northern town authorities complied with national legislation, and as the council was based in York the mayor and corporation were right in the firing line. In 1577, for instance, the Council in the North insisted that York Corporation enforced statutes forbidding the eating of flesh in Lent.
The Council in the North remained powerful until the end of the sixteenth century. As the next century progressed it lost much of its administrative authority.