Dating from 1465, St William’s College was once inside the walled Minster precinct. It was built to house the priests who served the various chantries in the Minster until the Reformation made them redundant. Their job was to pray for the souls of the deceased who had had the foresight (and the money) to ensure faster progress through Purgatory.
The chantry priests of York had reputation for drunkenness and other unruly behaviour, and there were often clashes with the townspeople who lived outside the Minster’s jurisdiction. A council meeting held in 1490 complained about ‘certain Vicars of the church of York’ who had ‘assembled riotously’ and attacked ‘certaine persones of the same Citie’. It was alleged that the vicars had gathered in great numbers ‘in maner of warre’ and when confronted by the city’s sheriffs had ‘shot many arrows’.
Today St William’s College is a rather more peaceful place, and a popular venue for weddings, banquets and conferences.