subfonds YDA/4 - Archiepiscopal records from Bishopthorpe Palace

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Archiepiscopal records from Bishopthorpe Palace


  • 1467-[ongoing] (Creation)

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Approximately 10 cubic metres

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Scope and content

These are records which have come from Bishopthorpe Palace, the residence of the Archbishop.

In the medieval period the Archbishop had a number of houses, and his household was peripatetic. He had residences on his Yorkshire estates at Beverley, Otley, Ripon, Sherburn, Cawood and Bishop Burton, on his Nottinghamshire estates at Scrooby and Southwell and in London and in central York. Over time, some of these residences were alienated with their associated estates, while others fell into disuse and were later demolished. The residence at Scrooby, for example, was demolished in the early 17th century and the castle at Cawood was demolished, apart from the gatehouse, in the eighteenth century. The old Archbishop’s palace in the Minster Close at York fell out of use and was leased out and incorporated into a later mansion by a lay tenant until it was demolished, apart from the chapel (now the Old Palace, housing the Minster Library and Chapter Archive) in the early nineteenth century. The Archbishop’s house in London, York House, had been granted to the Archbishop by Queen Mary in 1556, but the Archbishop only lived there briefly before leasing it to the successive holders of the office of Keeper of the Great Seal; it was exchanged with the Crown in return for a grant of Yorkshire property in 1624. The palace at Bishopthorpe thus became the centre for the Archbishop and his household.

Archbishop Walter de Gray first acquired the village of Thorpe St Andrew (later called Bishopthorpe) in 1226 and he demolished the old manor house of St Andrew’s to build an archiepiscopal palace. Bishopthorpe Palace has been the residence of Archbishops of York since 1241. The original thirteenth century building was further developed in the late fourteenth century by the building of another wing. During the eighteenth century there was extensive remodelling and substantial additions and alterations were made. Today, it is not merely the Archbishop’s home but also a public space for meetings and worship and the working centre for the Archbishop’s office staff.

The records generated and maintained by the Archbishop and his staff at Bishopthorpe Palace comprise his personal files, papers and correspondence (although many of the papers relating to earlier archbishops survive either poorly or not at all), records relating to the Diocese and the Province of York, and also some material which overlaps with, or forms part of, the series of records which were previously stored at the York Diocesan Registry.

Records in this section include: Archbishops’ papers (early 16th century-ongoing); papers relating to schools and charities (16th - 19th centuries); records of the Schola Archiepiscopi [theology school at Bishopthorpe] (1891-1898); records of Operation Firm Faith (1956-1957); benefice papers (1704-1778); volumes relating to the state of the diocese (1697-1938); records of provincial administration (1929-1983); records of diocesan administration (1758-ongoing) and records of relations with overseas churches (1943-1974).


Further accruals are expected

System of arrangement

This is part of the new arrangement of the York Diocesan Archive which is currently being prepared.
The new arrangement draws on the earlier arrangements of 1973 and 2003-2005 but will also incorporate some reorganisation, based on a comprehensive survey and inventory of the archive, and much new cataloguing.

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Language of material

  • English
  • Latin

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Finding aids

Until the new arrangement of the York Diocesan Archive is complete, the online finding aids to series level on the Archives Hub, should be consulted. These reflect the 1973 arrangement as modified in 2003-2005.

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Some of the material which was of a similar nature to other diocesan records is now no longer arranged here but has been interfiled with the diocesan series. This includes some visitation records which are now in Archiepiscopal Visitation YDA/6 and archbishops’ estate records now under York Diocesan Registry YDA/2.

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Created by K. Webb April 2016




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