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William Hey was born in Derbyshire in 1811, the son of the Reverend Samuel Hey. Educated at Sherborne School and then at the University of Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1834 and MA in 1837.
He was ordained deacon at Ely in 1837 and priest at York the following year. Between 1839 and 1847 he was headmaster of the Collegiate School, Clifton. In 1847 the Collegiate School amalgamated with St Peter's School, York, and Hey remained headmaster of the combined schools until 1864.
From 1854 he was also vicar of St Helen on the Walls, York, and a Prebend of York. In 1864 he was made Canon Residentiary of York and in 1874 he was made Archdeacon of Cleveland and Rural Dean of Easingwold. From 1877 until his death he was vicar of the united parishes of St Olave's and St Giles, York.
William Hey died 22 November 1882 at York.