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William Mason to Thomas Gray, 15 January 1763

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Dear Sr

I send you with this a drawing of the Ruin you were so much pleasd with when you saw it at York. I take it certainly to have been the Chapell of St Sepulchre founded by Archbishop Roger of wch Dugdale has given us the original Charta Fundationis. But as this opinion seems to contradict the opinion of Torre, & of Drake too, who follows him, It is necessary to produce authentic Authority in proof of my Assertion. These two learned Antiquarys suppose that the Chapell in quæstion ioind to the Minster. Thus Torre: 'Roger ABp having built against the great Church a Chapell.' & Drake: 'Roger was buried in the Cathedral near the door of St. Sepulchres chapel wch he himself had founded.' Vide Drake's Ebor: P. 478. P. 421. From these accts we should be led to conclude that this Chapell was as much and as close an appendage to the Minster as the Chapterhouse is. But the original records on wch they found this opinion May I think be construed very differently.

ABp Roger himself in his Charta Fundationis describes its situation thus. 'Capellam quam–juxta majorem Ecclesiam extruximus.' Juxta is surely near only, not adjoining and this ruin is near enough. In the Extract of this ABps life from an antient MS wch Dugdale also gives us we find these words 'Condidit etiam Capellam Sancti Sepulchri ad Januam ipsius Palatii ex parte boreali ejusd. Eccles S. Petri.' The Ruin in quæstion might very probably be connected with the Pallace gate by a Cloyster of wch on one side there are a string of Arches remaining, and on the outside of the Minster over the little gate next the Tomb there are also vestiges of the roof of a Cloyster wch I imagine went asside the Pallace gateway & connected the three buildings. Vide plan. But between this little gate & the Pallace gate (which still remains) it is very evident there was no room for any thing but a Cloyster, for I dont think they are twenty yards asunder.

The last and only further acct I can find of the situation is from the same Life. Where it is said The Canons of St Peter graviter murmurabant super situ dictæ capellæ eo quod nimis adhæsit Matrici Ecclesiæ. This I think need not be translated litterally. the word nimis leads one to a metaphorical sense. The Preists of St Sepulchre were too near neighbours to St Peters Canons & were troublesome to them, accordingly we find the ABp to quiet matters orderd that the Sacrist of his Chappel should make them a recompence, which is in this extract Stated.

To These Arguments I would add that ABp Rogers donation was very great, (as we find in Drake) to this Chapell. and from the Number of Persons maintaind in its Service I quæstion not but there was a large Convent built round it, of wch there are plainly the foundations still to be seen. and what puts the matter out of all doubt that this building was seperate & entire (tho indeed near to the Minster) is the following fact viz that the Tythes of the Chapell & Chapell itself were sold to one Webster Ann: 4 Q Eliz. 'Capella vocat: St Sepulcres Chapell prope Eccles: Cath Eborum cum decimis ejusdem. W. Webster. Ap: 4, Anno 4 Eliz. Rolls: Chap: Thus you see the juxta & prope are clearly on my side the nimis adhæsit is equivocal. I conclude with a rude Draught of the Platform according to my Idea, but without any mensuration & merely to explain what has been said. I am with the greatest respect & defference to your Sagacity.

yours &c &c &c

P.S. I ought to mention to you, that in the transept (I think you call it) of the Church namely at B there is at the top over the large Pillars, a range of Stonework like the windows in the ruin, viz three pointed arches under a circular one, but of a clumsey proportion. This part I think you said was the oldest in the Minster. Johny Ludlam found this out. perhaps it contradicts all Ive been saying & proves the Building much older than Bp Roger.

Letter ID: letters.0418 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Writer's age: 38
Addressee: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Addressee's age: 46


Date of composition: 15 January 1763
Date (on letter): Jan: 15th 1763
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Aston, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Aston


Language: English
Incipit: I send you with this a drawing of the Ruin you were so much pleasd with...
Mentioned: Drake, Francis
Dugdale, Sir William
York Minster

Holding Institution

Henry W. And Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library , New York, NY, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter LXXIX, 296-301
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12, letter no. CCXLVII, vol. iii, 1-4
  • Essays and Criticisms by Thomas Gray. Ed. with Introduction and Notes by Clark Sutherland Northup. Boston and London: D. C. Heath & Co., 1911, letter excerpt, 251-255
  • Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 3 vols. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, with corrections and additions by H. W. Starr. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935], letter no. 365, vol. ii, 791-793