Merchant Adventurers Hall
June 23 – A Room with a View
The Merchant Adventurers Hall and Holy Trinity Church
Cash stowed safely away, I concentrate on what is important – seeing York. Our first stop is the Merchant Adventurers Hall. In 1357, a number of influential men and women came together to form a guild, or religious fraternity. The Merchant Adventurers risked or "adventured" their own money in overseas trade.
An immense barn-like structure with exposed timbers bearing carpenters' marks, the Hall was used to transact business affairs, for social meetings and as a hospital or hospice. Additions were built on two separate occasions in the 15th century. Walking across the floor of the Great Hall is like walking aboard a ship's deck at sea. I don't know whether the floor has warped over the centuries or if the foundation has settled, but sea legs are definitely required.
A large collection of artifacts from the early 14th century through the 18th century fill the anterooms. These include chests, chairs, portraits, an impressive silver collection and huge ceremonial maces. One chair has a tall, curved spindled back and I stand wondering which craftsperson had devised this and for what purpose. Apparently I'm not the first person to wonder this, as a plaque nearby states that the elaborate spindles were for decoration only.
The undercroft is hung with banners of the coats of arms of twenty medieval guilds including skinners, glaziers, pewterers and goldsmiths. One of the banners is hanging low enough for me to examine closely. The gold fringe and tassels are faded and the painted leather cracked but I can tell these had once been very fine and colorful works of art which the guild members had been proud to display.
Our footsteps echo on the planks of the Great Hall as we pass through on our way back out to the cobbled street. Making our way steadily toward the crowning jewel of York, we stop in at Holy Trinity Church, a small peaceful place tucked away behind an archway off of Goodramgate.
There is a tour in progress inside the Church. School children are seated in the pews and appear to be very attentive as the guide explains how each of the pew cubicles had been purchased by families and how the position of the pew said a great deal about who and how wealthy the families were. We stand and listen for a bit, admiring the intricate carvings.
Research tells that Holy Trinity Church was originally part of a priory which was founded in 1089. It was damaged by fire in 1137, rebuilt in the 12th and 13th century, and restored in the 19th century.
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