Posted by: marymarthatours | September 8, 2010

Barley Hall in York, England

One of the sites that I most want to see and study when Martha and I visit York, England, this month is Barley Hall. My previous visits to York predated the rediscovery and reconstruction of this amazing medieval building in the 1990’s. Hidden under 600 years worth of subsequent structures and adaptations in York’s Coffee Yard were bits and pieces of timbers, flooring, and roofing that provided the clues needed to recreate the original building.

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During and after the reconstruction of Barley Hall

Barley Hall began its life in the 14th century as the in-town hostel or lodging for the Priors of the Augustinian Nostell Priory located outside of York. Timbers found during the excavation stage of the reconstruction have been dated to 1360. A century later, the building was home to wealthy goldsmith and Lord Mayor William Snawsell and his family. It is this period in the building’s existence that has been recreated and highlighted in the reconstructed Barley Hall.

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Barley Hall’s restored Great Hall (photo by Fingalo) and view of hall from snickelway passage

One of the most fascinating aspects of Barley Hall is that a public alleyway, called a snickelway in York, runs right through the middle of the house. At its earliest stage, this area would have been the interior “screens passage” separating the Great Hall from the food prep areas of pantry and buttery. Today when you walk through the snickelway, you can look through a glass panel right into the Great Hall of Barley Hall.

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Barley Hall’s restored buttery and pantry (photos by Verity Cridland)

My visit to Barley Hall won’t be just for the pleasure of seeing another piece of history that has been saved. I have a “commission” to fulfill there. My childhood friend Mary B. (in our day, every third girl was named “Mary”) has asked me to draw up plans that will enable her to recreate Barley Hall as a 1/12th scale miniature. Thank goodness she presented me with scaled drawings of the reconstruction to start with, so I have some measurements to work from. With those drawings, I’ve gotten a good start on the scaled down plans, but I really need to see the building myself. So when we get to York, perhaps on the day that Martha goes off to visit fabric shops, I will be at Barley Hall with my clipboard, my measuring tape, and my camera, getting all the details down that will help make Mary B.’s Barley Hall as accurate and delightful as possible.

(by Mary)

Barley Hall website:

For more on Coffee Yard and the rediscovery and reconstruction of Barley Hall:

For mystery fans, check out Barbara Whitehead’s “The Killings at Barley Hall”, in her series of York-based mysteries. The action takes place just as Barley Hall is under reconstruction in the 1990’s.

Photo credits:

Reconstruction, Barley Hall exterior, and snickelway photos: from Barley Hall website and used by permission.

Great Hall: copyright Fingalo and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License 2.0.

Pantry and buttery: copyright Verity Cridland and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution License.


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