Merchant Adventurers Hall

In 1357 a groupof prominent men and women of York met to form a confraternity dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Confraternities functioned as commercial unions, fraternal organizations that provided support in times of crisis, and social units. A modern stained glass roundel reproduces the configuration (but not the style) of the original shield of the confraternity. The name was later changed to the Company of Merchant Adventurers. Since this organization provided the central meeting area of the merchant class in York, its seems probable that Margery Kempe, daughter of a Lynn mayor, would have had some dealing with individuals associated with the Guild of the Trinity. Margery herself was admitted as a member of the Trinity Guild in Lynn in 1440.

The exterior of the Hall, built in the late 14th century shows it's impressive size, commensurate with the position of York as one of the premier cities of the realm, a city that had already supported the construction of its cathedral's Chapter house impressive enough for a meeting of Parliament. The construction technique of exposed beams is typical of the secular building of its time, and similar houses are still extant in the city, many on or near the street called the Shambles.

Given the large size of the Hall, both the upper and lower floors are divided down the center. Since the beams of English oak used for the roof would not span the entire width of the hall, its roof is actually two pitched roofs side by side. Oak, when well cured and kept dry has remarkable strength. Like many parish churches of the times, the wooded upper structure is one of the most striking visual features of the building. On the left, the hall shows later portraits of prominent citizens of York and royalty. The area to the right shows an 18th-century altar decoration that once must have contained texts of the Commandments, Lord's Prayer, or other Scripture.

From 1373 the undercroft, the lowest level, was used as a hospital for the indigent. Both the physical and spiritual needs were met thought caretakers and a designated chaplain. The hospital was dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary and its chapel, constructed in 1411, had three altars, stained glass, statues, and other furnishing typical of a parish church, all of which were removed in 1549 as part of the decrees against "superstitious images."

An oak evidence chest dates from the late 13th century. It was purchased by the Merchant Adventurer's Guild in the early 15th century and appears in an inventory list of 1488. Thus it is easily the kind of object that Margery Kempe would have seen in her many interviews with individuals of importance.