Posted by: marymarthatours | January 20, 2011

Building Barley Hall – part one (by Mary)


Getting started on the miniature Barley Hall Project

I’ve finally begun working on the Barley-Hall-in-Miniature project that I blogged about before Martha and I took our trip to York Barley Hall in York, England. As you may recall, I had promised to help my friend, Mary B., design a 1/12th scale miniature Barley Hall, the medieval residence now reconstructed in the center of York, England. To see more about that amazing archeological effort go to

The service wing and snickelway entrance

The entire building in Coffee Yard is a huge, L-shaped, two story building. A pedestrian walkway, called a Snickelway passes right through one of the wings. Although Mary B. wanted to build the entire structure, I explained to her that she would need a whole new room to house it. Even in 1/12th scale, all of Barley Hall would be almost 7 feet long by 6 feet deep by about 3 feet tall. I convinced her to start “small” with just the 50’ x 24’ wing that includes the impressive Great Hall, the screens passage (now the Snickelway), the 2 pantries, and the 2nd floor office of the Hall’s resident in the year 1485. I will design the building to be assembled in two separate sections, with the 2-story tall Great Hall as one unit, and the slightly smaller service area and upstairs as a second unit. The plan is to have both units fit together for display.


My starting point, the reconstruction plans

Thank goodness, Mary B. had presented me with architectural drawings of the planned reconstruction, which she had acquired on one of her visits to the site. These gave me a huge start on dimensions and meant that I didn’t have to spend days there with a tape measure when Martha and I went to see the Hall last October. We did, however, take measurements of wall and door heights, window placement and various trim pieces, as well as taking tons of photos to capture all the details.


Martha as doorway measuring stick

Now I’ve got plans, photos, notes, and scribbled sketches spread out all over my drafting table. And I’m already finding that there are a number of challenges to this project.

  • Creating the plans and patterns not only for the overall building, but for each wall, ceiling, doorway, truss-beam, etc.
  • Determining heights of rooms and walls (these are not given on the architectural drawings).
  • Understanding the construction steps needed to build the basic miniature structure.
  • Writing it all down in easy-to-understand construction directions.

One of the things I’ve discovered very quickly is that I will need to actually build a working model of the project in order to work out the order of construction. I don’t want to work in full scale (1/12) using the pricey 3/8” thick birch plywood that Mary B. will use, so I’m making my template in 1/24th scale (commonly called “half scale” by miniaturists) using 3/16” thick foam board. This will allow me to be sure of measurements and will help me put together the sequence of building steps for the instructions. I’ll also take pictures as I go along to include with the instructions. For more about miniature scale see

I’ll plan to add some “Building Barley Hall” updates in the next few months to let you know how the project progresses.



  1. A “Snickelway”? The things I learn here! I am waiting for you two to research and post photos of Enameled Mead Gardens. I read about these medieval treats in a Martha Grimes detective novel and have yet to see a photo or precise description. Please keep us educated!

  2. Ok, thanks to your sugggestion, I’m now studying medieval flower meads. It appears that they were to the middle ages what wild-flower meadows are to today. “Medieval Gardens”, by Anne Jennings, has some great instructions for creating spring and summer flowering meads today. Looks like lots of work.

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