The archive of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York is still held at the Hall and contains documents dating from the early 1200s, before the foundation of the Fraternity and Guild of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the institution from which the present company descends, up to the present day.

 

It includes hundreds of original medieval charters, a cartulary containing copies of many of these 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, and records of the York residences of the Merchant Adventurers of England and of the Eastland Merchants, to name but a few of the archive’s holdings.  There is a fine series of accounts beginning in 1432 and written on rolls of parchment. Many of the original deeds have their seals attached and the Company also possesses its original 15th century seal matrices. The archive also includes the Company’s second Royal Charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.
The deed for the grant of land to build the Merchants’ Hall, 1356
We are now embarking on an ambitious and exciting project to digitise our archive, increasing accessibility and creating ways to share our unique records with new and wider audiences. The archives provide a remarkable insight into the changes as well as the continuity of an organisation and a building which have lasted for over 660 years. Through digitisation we can ensure our archive continues to thrive well into the future.
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.

 

A page of the Account Book of the Fraternity of Jesus and Mary, York
The seal of Queen Elizabeth I on the Company’s 1581 Royal Charter

Publications

 

“Before the Merchant Adventurers: The Accounts of the Fraternity of Jesus and Mary”, (the Latin Project 2007); is a transcription of five account rolls from 1357-1367. Also Dr Maud Sellers’ book contains transcriptions of several company documents, “The York Mercers and Merchant Adventurers 1356-1917” (Surtees Society, volume CXXIX, 1918).

 

The pre-1960 archive has been described in “A Guide to the Archives of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of York” by David M. Smith, (Borthwick Texts and Calendars 16 (York, 1990).

 

“The Company of Merchant Adventurers in the City of York: A Register of Admissions 1581 – 1835”, D.M. Smith (Borthwick List and Index 18 (1996)), and “The Eastland Company York Residence: Register of Admissions to the Freedom 1646-1689 and Register of Apprentices 1642-1696”, A.B. Bisset (Borthwick List and Index 17 (1996)) were published by the Borthwick Institute but are no longer in print.

 

Constructed in the 1340’s, the Evidence Chest held the archives of the Company until the early 20th Century.

Access to the archives

 

The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York holds photocopies of many medieval deeds, account rolls, rentals, and of minutes for the period 1677-1985 (www.york.ac.uk/inst/bihr/).
Access to the original documents for academic research is by appointment only. Due to limited space and restricted opening hours of the archive, appointments should be made well in advance of your visit.

 

Please telephone 01904 654818 or email enquiries@merchantshallyork.org.
Alternatively write to us at:
Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate, York YO19XD.