The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is a stunning medieval guildhall set in beautiful gardens in the centre of York.
It is a grade 1 listed building and scheduled ancient monument. It was built between 1357 and 1361, before most of the craft or trade guild halls in Britain, making it one of the largest buildings of its kind and date in Britain.
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. By 1430 most members were mercers, and alongside the fraternity they set up a trading association or guild. They used the Hall to transact their business affairs, to meet together socially, to look after the poor and to pray to God. The term adventurers is believed to have come about because the members invested money in businesses, and the risk involved made them adventurers.
The Hall belongs to and is still regularly used by The Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York, who, although no longer dedicated to mercantile activities are prominent in York and still exist as a charitable membership group.
The Great Hall is the largest timber-framed building in the UK still standing and used for its original purpose. The roof of the hall comprises two spans supported by a row of large central timber posts. It includes complex crown posts and is held together by wooden pegs.
There are three main rooms in the Hall: the Great Hall where the Medieval merchants first gathered to conduct business and to socialise. Below this lies the Undercroft, which was used as an alms house to help the sick and the poor, and the Chapel.
Changes have been made to various parts of the building over the years, including a two-storey annexe which was added in Elizabethan times.
The annexe boasts a fine Perpendicular window of five lights:
The sash windows that you see below are from the Georgian era. Before that the hall would have had much smaller windows, high up the walls.
There are also some beautiful modern stained glass windows. The two below depict buildings and activities on York’s quayside:
And in the chapel and undercroft: