York and Ripon Diocesan Training School for Masters

The original reception book.

The college that was eventually to become York St John University opened in 1841.

It took several attempts for the Diocesan Society that founded the college to find a suitable principal.  Rev. William Reed finally accepted the position on a salary of £250 per annum.  His background was exotic.  Born in Jamaica, he entered Queen’s College Oxford in 1827 aged 19 and having graduated returned home to become first a military chaplain and then, from 1836 until his move to York, chaplain to the Bishop of Jamaica.

The College opened on the 17th May 1841, with just one student, Edward Preston Cordukes, a 16-year-old York boy.  One more student arrived in July, and another two in September. These candidates for the college had to bring a certificate with them, to show their “moral character, docility and general aptitude”.  Students could enter the college at 15 years old – (This was raised to 17 in 1844).  In order to be offered a place, they had to pass an entrance exam and a probation period of three months.  By 1842, there were 11 students.

Students were recorded in the reception book, which is still to be found in the York St John University archive.

In the 1840’s students at the college would study holy scripture, church catechism, liturgy, and church history, alongside reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, history, geography, book keeping, mensuration, elements of algebra, geometry and practical mechanics.  As well as this huge variety of subjects, there were occasional lectures in the elements of botany, natural history, and natural philosophy.  Modern languages were charged as extras.  The hours of teaching were advertised as being from 9.00am – 12.00noon and 2.00pm – 5.00pm.

As former principal and historian of the college, Gordon McGregor, says, ‘The demanding curriculum soon extended this timetable. Inspections of the mid-forties recorded a rising bell at 5.30 am, the first study period from 6.00 to 6.45 followed by breakfast and prayers. Between 5.00 pm and 6.30 there was work in the gardens or military drill and after supper more study from 7.00 pm to 9.40, followed by prayers and ‘Gas Turned Off’ at 10.00.’

According to McGregor this routine has to be seen as well-intentioned rather than repressive, in order to fit the needs of individuals and society at that particular time.    

The ‘tuition fee’ was one guinea per quarter, payable in advance, and board was £20 per annum, which included bed linen, but no washing.