York's Barley Hall holds pleasures

Genevieve la flechiere of the Kingdom of Drachenwald reports on a visit to Barley Hall, a 15th century merchant's house, in York, England.

Genevieve la flechiere writes:

Greetings from your servant Genevieve,

The past weekend my lord Robert and I travelled with TE Alaric and Nerissa to attend a haunted evening in York, organized by Baron Laughlan of the Drachenwald Companye of Merchant Adventurers.

The site was Barley Hall, a splendid 15th c merchant's house in the middle of York. It was 'rediscovered' under more modern facades during renovations, and rescued in the 1980s, and is now mostly restored and open to the public.

Some photos (many by candlelight) are in my LiveJournal (View by clicking on "original article")

The main hall and a couple of the rooms are beautifully furnished to a 15th century style, with painted canvas hangings covering the walls, woven covers for the seating, and reproduction tablewares sitting on solid wood trestle tables and benches. The restoration saved as much of the original structural wood as possible - the rest is modelled after this construction, using period techniques wherever possible.

The boldly patterned tile floor is based on the original design discovered during excavations, with tiles produced by a local pottery. The central hearth in the hall (a dark square in most of the photos) was rescued from another local excavation.

One modern feature in the hall is a glass wall at ground level, so that people walking through the right-of-way passage outside can see into the hall. While the glass does make you feel a bit like a museum oddity, in the evening we drew the full-length curtain and restored the hall's dignity and privacy.

The hall provided a fine setting for listening to Gaita (Master Otto von Graz and Mistress Caitlyn) dancing to their music, dining in the evening, and enjoying each other's company.

Though there is no working kitchen, the hall did supply a hotplate and some serving wares, so Baron Laughlan (with the help of those experienced cooks Marks & Spencer) was able to serve a hearty meal of soup, roast chicken and savoury and sweet pies, with mulled wine to warm us. It wasn't a conventional Society feast, but it was quite satisfying nonetheless.

Mistress Caitlyn and Master Otto and their basket of instruments are, as always, inspirational. Together their performances look relaxed and effortless, hiding the years of practice and learning that have gone into them.

Lady Sabyn de Lisieux and Lord Jon of Dauncy helped round out many dances with still more accompanying instruments, and Lord Robert sang his own verses of 'miri it is'.

As others stayed up to chat and listen to music, I retired early to crash upstairs - tired enough that I heard only one more song before zzzzzzzzzz...

While it was restored by the York Archeological Trust, Barley Hall is now an independent trust, and is not supported by English Heritage or other agencies. They're open most days to the public, and also accept bookings from schools and private parties - like us.

I think we made a good general impression on the hall managers, who attended our evening meal in medieval clothes. We surprised them, pleasantly, on Sunday morning, asking for pans and brooms, and where to put away the clean dishes. I hope our efforts to be good guests bodes well for future bookings.

Many thanks to Baron Laughlan for making the contact with the hall, and for organizing this event.

Nothing else is like staying in an original building, and we should keep up as good relations with Barley Hall as we can, to hopefully book again in future.

If you're headed to York, I recommend a stop here.

The hall's website has more history of the restoration, and their event schedule. http://www.barleyhall.org.uk/

The Ricardian Friends of Barley Hall (US) are keen supporters of this house. It's a fine model of the merchant city that Richard Gloucester represented and protected when he was named Duke of York, and he is fondly remembered in other plaques and memorials in the city. They provide an excellent history and overview of the hall.



Genevieve la flechiere
seneschal, Thamesreach (London, England)

Quaere sigillum imperatoris