Barley Hall

Barley Hall

About the Author

York resident and regular contributor. Fascinated by this historic city and always keen to promote local, independent businesses. The man taking the photographs and tweeting from @Jorvik

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York’s Barley Hall, a splendid medieval house and a Grade II listed building, was, until 1987, concealed beneath a comparatively modern frontage of a neglected office block. Amazingly the stunning medieval building was discovered prior to the demolition of the office block and its history uncovered.

The Hall was built in 1360 as the York townhouse or hostel of the Augustinian Nostell Priory, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, which owned it up to 1540. The Priors of Nostell were prebendary canons of York Minster and their attendance was required at ceremonies, services and formal meetings in York; consequently having a residence in York was both a necessity and a luxury.

Entrance to Barley Hall

Entrance to Barley Hall

A new wing was added around1430; by this time Nostell Priory’s finances were failing therefore it leased its hostel to private tenants. William Snawsell, Alderman and Lord Mayor of York, was one of the Hall’s most distinguished occupants, living there from the mid 1460s to the late 1480s. Snawsell was goldsmith to the Minster canons and today his workshop can be viewed in The Gallery of Barley Hall.

The building was seized by the crown in 1540 under Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. By the 17th century the building was probably divided into several smaller residences, facilitating the use of ‘screens passage’ (an internal corridor at the end of the Great Hall) as a public short-cut via Stonegate to Swinegate.  Today this snickleway, a public right-of-way, runs through the very centre of the house. In the Victorian era the house was used as tradesmen’s workshops; prior to its sale in 1984 it was a plumber’s workshop and showroom.

Barley Hall Courtyard

Barley Hall Courtyard

The York Archaeological Trust bought the building in January 1987 when a full archaeological study of its interior was carried out, right through to the 14th-century levels, exposing the remains of the Great Hall’s floor. Investigations of the courtyard revealed remains of the exterior stairway to the first floor’s Great Chamber. Three years of careful restoration returned the Hall to its former splendour and it re-opened to the public in 1993.

The Barley Hall’s magnificent high ceilings, beautiful exposed timber frames, and its imposing Great Hall, has been appropriately decorated creating the period of the Snawsell family home. Visit Barley Hall at 2, Coffee Yard – relive the medieval era by soaking up the atmosphere, settle down among the chairs and get hands-on with the artefacts.

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