Hall Histories: Vicars Behaving Badly

Our Hall Histories series continues with a closer look at York vicars behaving badly… When you book your business meeting or afternoon tea here, you won’t forget the scandalous stories of those who called Bedern Hall home.

John Hunter

John Hunter

Medieval York. The intense cloistered life of the vicars is taking its toll and several have started to stray. Word has it that William Burdcleuer has been keeping a woman, despite strict instruction to stay celibate. To make matters worse, she was spotted out in the centre of York after curfew with their two children. The scandalous reputation of the vicars choral spreads across the city well beyond Bedern Chapel on Bartle Garth.


John Hunter, a chaplain at York Minster, is often spotted wandering tipsy around the Goodramgate area. Eventually, things come to a head when he is charged with “continual drunkness”. His response? “My throat is so dry that I have much need of a drink”. He’ll get off lightly this time thanks to his many years serving in church and frailty in old age.


Other whispers have been heard that a select group of vicars are favouring their games of hawking over their choir rehearsals. As aristocrats, they can afford to take their birds of prey out for a hunt after training them in their falconry sessions.


For the majority of the vicars though, a more pious life is lead. As part of their duty, they show guests around the shrines at the college and welcome tMS Add. 534, closedhem to Bedern Hall. If a visitor wishes, they’ll have them recite from the Bedern Tablet. These 4 foot by 3 foot panels set out the social hierarchy of the city from God to the saints to York Minster at the top, and peasants to miscreants at the bottom. The vicars must know this thoroughly, including the history of the Minster from its biblical origins to its current standing in the world. They must remember all that’s listed on 6 panels by heart as soon as they’ve completed their first year in office. One slip up and their senior canon will be onto them.


At the end of the day though, the vicars certainly know how to enjoy a feast. From their esteemed social position in York, they regularly tuck into treats such as peacock, partridge, red grouse and pheasant. If they’re lucky, the cooks at Bedern Hall might even serve up some deep-sea fish. Enough to keep them full as they sing their many services at York Minster every day…


Bedern Hall is still standing in the centre of York! You can follow in the footsteps of William Burdcleuer and John Hunter when you visit, providing you behave yourself…. Find out how to get to the Medieval refectory on Bartle Garth via Goodramgate or St Andrewgate here.