The Hall

The Merchant Adventurers' Hall is of major national importance and 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. It is very unusual to be able to see in one building the three rooms serving the three functions of a medieval guild; business and social in the Great Hall, charitable in the Undercroft and religious in the Chapel.

The animation on the right provides an impression of how the Hall may have looked when it was first built. Click here to watch the development of the Hall over six and a half centuries.

You can find out more about the history of the Hall and what it was used for by visiting our online resource 'Find out More'.

To download a map of the Hall, click here.

The Collections

Many portraits hang on the walls of the Hall, many of them of Governors of the Company; others are of royalty or of benefactors of the Company; and there are portraits of women and families related to Members.  The style of the robes worn by the Governors (and by Lord Mayors) remains much the same over time, but the other clothes, the hair styles and even the look of the faces alter through the centuries.

The Company also has a fine collection of photographs of Governors from the 1850s. There are a number of other oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints to be seen in the Hall. Many depict views of York; some include the River Ouse, which was a vital link with Hull and the Continent for the Company's overseas trade. The Company's prints and watercolours are valuable records of York in the past two centuries. They show daily life, buildings and improvements, such as the new walk along the Ouse. A selection of watercolours can be seen in the Committee Room and prints in the Reception Area.

The Company owns some interesting pieces of furniture and furnishings. The oak 'evidence' chest dates from the early 1300s, making it one of the oldest pieces in the collections. In it were stored the title deeds to the many properties which the Company once owned.

There is a display of the Company's antique and modern silver and jewellery in the Governor's Parlour. Pieces on loan from a collection of York silver are exhibited in the Undercroft.

A collection of guild banners are also on display in the Undercroft. They were made in 1909 and you can find out more about them by clicking here.

Outside the Hall

  • The gardens around the Hall were formed as a Rest Garden for the people of York after World War I. Until about 1900 the area was a clutter of ramshackle buildings and hovels.
  • The lower part of the Hall is constructed mainly of bricks. They are the earliest to be made in York since the Romans left England almost 1,000 years before the Hall was built.
  • The decorations on the barge-boards on the front of the Hall are scrolls of vines with bunches of grapes. At the point where the gables meet is a diamond carved with a large Tudor or double rose. Similar decoration is found on the York building in Pavement known as the Herbert House.
  • Until granted their own Coat of Arms in 1969 the Company used that of the Merchant Adventurers of England. A fine example of this is found above the Fossgate entrance. It was made about 1850 by M N Hassey, who also carved the bust of Shakespeare at the Theatre Royal and a statue of the Virgin Mary at the Bar Convent (both in York).

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Stephen Watson, 17th century member

Evidence Chest

Guild Banner

Close-up of decorations on barge-boards on the front of the Hall

Fossgate entrance Coat of Arms

The Company is the sole Trustee of the Registered Charities numbered 235256 and 700792. VAT number 475 4666 09.