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The home of a former Lord Mayor of York during the 15th century, now lovingly recreated

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Great Chamber
Great Hall
Lesser Chamber
Steward's Room
Sometime in the 80s, there was a derelict, ugly old office building, right in the centre of York. There were rumour's that, underneath its exterior, were the remains of a medieval townhouse - and so, when it finally went up for sale, the local archaeologists excitedly began to investigate. It quickly became clear that there really was a medieval building under there - and that this was a very important find!
The house was promptly bought by the York Archaeological Trust, who named it after their first chairman, Professor Maurice Barley. Their plan was to rebuild and renovate the building, so it looked the same as it was all those years ago - they wanted to display York's medieval past, as realistically as possible.

The front of Barley Hall
The Trust decided to aim for the year 1483, when Barley Hall's most important resident was alive. His name was William Snawsell, and he was the Lord Mayor of York. William's first job, however, had nothing to do with the government. He was a goldsmith at his father's well-respected shop, right next to York Minster. But from there, in quite a short space of time, he made huge advances in the society of the town. In 1464 he became the Sheriff of York, and just four years later, he achieved the highest position in the local government. In those days, Mayors were only allowed one year-long term - though after his time in charge, William Snawsell continued to work as a councillor for years to come. When he finally retired in 1492, he had served under four different kings.

Inside the Great Hall
Recreating Barley Hall as it was five centuries ago proved to be a lengthy task. Most of the timber in place had become dangerously unsafe, so there was a lot of rebuilding to be done. While some of this work was done on-site, parts of the house were built from scratch, in a completely different part of the country. The structure was then transported into York - which actually turned out to be the trickiest part of the whole project, thanks to the town's tiny streets and narrow lanes. The builders had to import a special crane from abroad, which was capable of working in such cramped conditions.
Of course, when the completed Barley Hall was finally opened to the public in 1993, it was certainly worth the trouble. The level of detail is astounding - the authenticity of every object and every furnishing has been carefully researched. Even better, the York Archaeological Trust decided to ignore the rules usually imposed by most museums. Instructions like don't touch simply don't apply here - visitors are encouraged to wander around, open drawers, pick everything up, and generally explore to their heart's content. There are lit candles, and costumed guides. The experience is unnervingly realistic, and you can really get a sense of what life was like for York's leaders in the 15th century.
Visitor Information
Barley Hall is open Tue to Sun, 10am - 5pm, (Wed to Sun, 10am - 4pm Nov to Mar). Entry costs around £5. Tel: 01904 610275

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