Hall Histories: The Vicars Choral in 1400

 BedernVicarsChoralBedern Hall may be a beautiful wedding and conference venue today, but it also has a fascinating past. In this series of Hall Histories, we explore some of the stories of people who dined, worked and lived here over the centuries. Join us as we step back into 15th century Medieval York…

1400. Singers gather in the centre of the Vicars Choral college off of Goodramgate for their evening meal.

The hall is large with soaring timber beams and high stone walls. A roaring open fire provides much-needed warmth after a day of services in the Minster. Its smoke fills the air and drifts up to the rafters of the hall’s majestic oak roof.

There are three large windows. Each one is uniquely designed with elaborate details and intricate IMG_9064stonework. At the far end of the room is a large vault framing a beautiful bay window. Word has it that this window was constructed by York Minster’s master mason. Let’s hope it impresses the visiting dignitary who is seated at the high table, tucking into a feast.


Down at the low table, there’s a tempting smell drifting from the kitchen past the buttery where vats of wine are stocked up ready to quench the singers’ thirst. Venison tonight perhaps?


With their Canon away on royal business, the vicars have been leading worship at nearby York Minster. They’re trained singers able to chant full services. With at least eight a day to cover, they’re glad to finally rest over this meal before bed.


Conversation revolves around the latest choral chant that they’ve been asked to learn by the Canon. While most of their chants are monotone, this one involves multiple parts on different notes. The vicars must listen to each other in order to stay in tune and impress the congregation. Despite training ever since they began singing as choristers, they still must practice hard in preparation for upcoming religious feast days. They now have over 5,000 chants in their repertoire.


After their dinner, the vicars will return to their communal dormitory and settle down in their space shared with around 30 others. Conditions are relatively comfortable for men of their standing and they can even make use of a newly built latrine.

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Bedern Hall will not always be home to such well-off individuals. But for now, it stands as an important gathering place for some of York’s best-respected residents.




Did you enjoy this blog post? To find out more about Bedern Hall’s history, click here. You can also book a tour around our Medieval refectory or join us for one of our regular community events to see this incredible building for yourself.