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Visit this beautiful building in York
Merchant Adventurers' Hall (York)
Member Name: nixtee
Merchant Adventurers' Hall (York)
Advantages: Doesn't cost much, worth the entry fee, city centre location, interesting, on-site refreshments
Disadvantages: Doesn't take long to get around, kids may find it boring
I discovered the Merchant Adventurers' Hall through my York Pass Guide which I had been given with my York Pass. The York Pass allows free entry and discounts for a large number of attractions in and beyond York, and so rather than paying to get into the Merchant Adventurers' Hall all we had to do was present our York Passes. Without a York Pass, entry into the Merchant Adventurers' Hall costs £3 per adult, £2.50 for over 60's and students, £1 for young people (between 7 - 17), £7 for a family of 2 adults and 2 or more children, and free for children under 7. So a visit isn't going to break the bank!
The Merchant Adventurers' Hall is situated between the streets of Fossgate and Piccadilly in the centre of York city. It is best accessed via Fossgate and through a signposted passageway - we easily spotted it from the other side of the street.
The building is a medieval guild hall, built over 650 years ago, and one of the best preserved in the world. It is still used and owned by the company that built it, the York Company of Merchant Adventurers. It is a beautiful 14th century timber framed building with exposed beams.
We entered the building via a number of steps into the main entrance, however I believe there is another way in for those with problems navigating the steps. Once we had shown our York Passes (at the reception to the right having climbed the steps), we were pointed in the direction of the Great Hall and told that would be the best place to start.
The Great Hall is home to a number of portraits hanging on the walls. The portraits are of Governors and benefactors of the Company, family related to members, and Royalty. The Great Hall was used for business and for feasts and it is evidential that it is still in use today and not just as a museum. There are information panels here to explain the history of the hall, as well as a large fireplace.
Back through the door of the Great Hall, and opposite the reception, the room holds a collection of silver, documents and furniture (not to be sat on or touched due to their fragility).
Downstairs there is a small area where you can use some touchscreens to learn more or play a little game (acting as a merchant buying and selling goods - I didn't do too well at this and lost money rather than making it!). Down here are the Undercroft and the Chapel.
The Undercroft doesn't have a high ceiling like the Great Hall, this is due to frequent flooding and so the floor has been raised by 1.5 metres. The Merchant Adventurers provided charity to the sick and poor and this is where they were taken care of, so you could say that this part of the building was a hospital or almshouse. There isn't much in here, most likely due to the flooding in the past. I did notice a couple of flood marks set in the stone of the Merchant Adventurers' Hall complete with the dates of the floods, including one as recent as the 1980's.
Here you'll also find the Chapel. It is probably just a bit smaller than the average village chapel, but it is dominated by a large stained glass window behind the alter and this helps brighten the room. The pews are aligned down the sides of the chapel, with standing room on the stone floor in the centre. The chapel is still in use for Company services.
Heading back to the stairs, but walking past them rather than going up them, you will find the toilets. Walking through to the toilets, there was a large dressing room of sorts, with plenty of hanging space for clothes, a few seats and a large mirror - I imagine this space is now used by wedding parties etc to get ready for events.
Something you don't notice when entering from Fossgate is the fact that the Merchant Adventurers' Hall is set much lower down that Piccadilly. One a bus tour, we were told that this is due to streets being redeveloped over centuries and the city being flooded many times and so newer buildings do seem to be set higher.
Outside the Merchant Adventurers' Hall is a beautiful walled garden. Here you can sit and admire the building and/or buy refreshments from The Hairy Fig delicatessen (funny name, I know!) in the courtyard. We'd been walking around the city all day and so sat with a peach juice in the sunshine.
It won't take long to get around the Merchant Adventurers' Hall, but I found it interesting and enjoyable. York is steeped in history and the Merchant Adventurers' Hall is no different. At £3 for an adult, £1 for under 17s and under 7's being free entry, it's certainly somewhere to spend some time while in York.
It is interesting to note that the Merchant Adventurers' Hall is available for private hire for weddings and conferences. I imagine it would make a lovely wedding venue, especially as the chapel is on-site.
The Merchant Adventurers's Hall is open all week during April - September, but closed on Sundays between October - March. Opening times vary throughout the week.
Summary: An interesting city centre museum in York.
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