Merchant Adventurers' Hall

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The medieval Merchant Adventurers' Hall seen from Piccadilly. On the right is the brick chapel; on the left the timber-frame construction of the upper storey can be seen.

The Merchant Adventurers' Hall is a medieval guildhall in the city of York, England, and was one of the most important buildings in the medieval city. 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. The main part of the building consists of the Great Hall and the undercroft, which was originally a hospital or almshouse for poor people of York.

The Great Hall is a timber-framed structure and was built over a five-year period. It is the largest timber-framed building in the UK still standing and used for its original purpose. The roof of the hall is of two spans supported by a row of large central timber posts. It includes complex crown posts and is held together by wooden pegs.

Entrance to the Merchant Adventurers' Hall from Fossgate

The undercroft, like the Great Hall, is divided in two by its supporting row of timber posts. The undercroft also provides access to an attached chapel built for the use of the ill and poor in the hospital as well as the members of the Merchant Adventurers' Guild. It is still used for worship.

There are Georgian additions including large windows and lecterns in the hall and chapel.

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. They have an extensive set of records, with documents dating from the 13th century and accounts dating back to 1432. The pre-1960 archive is described in ‘A Guide to the Archives of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of York’ by David M. Smith, (Borthwick Texts, York, 1990) and a listing is available on the Access to Archives website. The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York holds photocopies of many medieval deeds, account rolls, rentals, and of Guild minutes for the period 1677–1985.

The Hall is open as a museum and can also be hired for parties, dinners and special occasions. It is also licensed for weddings and holds wedding receptions throughout the year.

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. There are about 300 members, most are men but women can also become members. Membership is hereditary or mostly by invitation, and includes influential York families, business people, and senior public sector staff.

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Coordinates: 53°57′28″N 1°04′44″W / 53.9579°N 1.0788°W / 53.9579; -1.0788