The majority of the Hall was built in 1357 by a group of influential men and women who came together to form a religious fraternity called the Guild of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1430 the fraternity was granted a royal charter by King Henry VI and renamed 'The Mistry of Mercers'. It was granted the status of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of York by Queen Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century. Medieval York was a very important city. Its location meant that it was an important military base in the frequent wars with Scotland during the Middle Ages. It was also the wealthiest city in Northern England and second only to London for most of the Middle Ages. This success was partly because medieval York was an important river port. Merchants from York traded along the English coast but also with European ports. This meant that York merchants soon became rich enough to be able to build this Hall. The building of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall was very ambitious and took four years to complete, with work starting in 1357 and finishing in 1361. Since then there have been many additions and changes to the Hall. The three anterooms and the Governor’s Parlour were all added after the main Hall was built. The present chapel is from 1411.
Most of the materials used to build the Hall are local. For example, the roof timbers are oak from the Vale of York and the lead in the gutters and drainpipes is from the Pennines. In 1358 we know that 100 oak trees came from Thorpe Underwood, 14 tons of stone came from Tadcaster and 20,000 bricks were bought from the Carmelite Friars of York. The original roof was tiled rather than thatched to lower the risk of fire. With so much wood in the Hall a fire would have been a disaster. It is the largest timber-framed building in the UK still standing and used for its original purpose. Members of the Company were involved in selling goods in northern Europe. They sometimes went to far-flung places like the Baltic and Iceland. They sold their cargoes there and they brought back all sorts of exciting goods to sell in York, such as mirrors, seal meat and squirrel skins. Normally the Hall is accessible to all but due to flood damage, the lift at the Hall is currently out of action. Access for those in a wheelchair or with mobility issues is to the ground floor only. It is a short walk from this hall to the Merchant Taylors' Hall in York, another medieval guildhall but in less original condition. The guild still exists.
Location : Fossgate, York YO1 9XD
Transport: York (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes : 10, 10A, 24, 26, 45, 45A, 46, X4, X46 and X47 stop outside.
Opening Times : Monday to Thursday 09:00 to 17:00; Friday/Saturday 09:30 to 15:30; Sunday 11:00 to 16:00.
Tickets : Adults £6.00. Children Free Concessions £5.00.
Tel: 01904 654818