The Hall

The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is of major national importance and is a Grade I 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 lower part of the Hall is constructed mainly of bricks. They were made at a Carmelite Friary close to the Hall and are the earliest to be made in York since the Romans left England almost 1,000 years before the Hall was constructed.
The late Tudor (1601) 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.
Until granted their own Coat of Arms in 1969 the Company used that of the Merchant Adventurers of England. A fine example of this earlier Coat of Arms can be found above the Fossgate entrance.

The Collections


The Company’s art collection, most of which is on display in the Hall, is a valuable record of York in the past five centuries. The walls of the Hall are hung with a number of oils, watercolours, prints and drawings depicting Governors of the Company; significant York men and women, royalty and scenes of York and further afield.
The Hall’s collection of oil paintings are available to view on the Art UK website – the online home for every public art collection in the UK.
The Merchant Adventurers own a number of interesting pieces of vernacular furniture and furnishings. The oldest piece in the collection is an oak coffer known as the ‘Evidence Chest’ dating from the 1340’s whilst one of the newest is the Governor’s Chair designed and made by Robert Thompson, ‘The Mouseman of Kilburn’ in 1940.
The Hall is also home to two collections of silver, one is the Company’s antique and modern silver and jewellery. 

The Gardens


The gardens, in comparison to the Hall are a fairly new addition. The land around the Hall was for centuries full of houses and shops with a track way or road running down to the River Foss (as can be seen in the image, although we now know that the Hall would not have been rendered as the timber framing would have been left exposed).
In the Victorian period, the land around the Hall was a clutter of ramshackle buildings, stables and outhouses. In 1912, Piccadilly was built and raised substantially above the Hall to accommodate trams and a bridge over the River Foss.
The gardens were formed in 1918 as a Rest Garden for the people of York after the First World War and continue to be open for everyone to enjoy.

The Archive



The archive of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York contains documents dating from the early 1200s up to the present day. It includes hundreds of original medieval charters, account rolls and books from the fourteenth century to the present day, rentals from the fifteenth century, maps and plans, building and repair accounts and records, records of admissions of members and apprentices, trade papers and minute books. The archive also includes the Company’s second Royal Charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.



New Publication – Before the Merchant Adventurers: Building the Hall, Account Book of the Fraternity of Jesus and Mary, York, 1357-69


What’s needed to build a Guildhall in 1357? Over 700 trees were cut down. At least 150 tons of stone were shipped by river to York. Thousands of bricks and tiles were bought, and fine timber from the Baltic. Sand, lime, straw, plaster, iron and lead were carted to Fossgate, where sawyers, carpenters, masons, tilers, daubers, smiths, plumbers and glaziers were among the many craftsmen employed.


All this and more was recorded between 1357 and 1369 in the accounts of the Fraternity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and now translated and published for the first time by the Latin Project, York in 2021. This fascinating scholarly publication is available to buy from the Hall’s gift shop for £10.



Access to the archives


The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York holds the Company’s archives.


For information including accessing the archives for research, please click the link here.