Barley Hall, York – Review

Barley Hall in York was, until the 1980s, disguised as a fairly unremarkable office block. Just before the building was about to be destroyed, its origins and rich history were uncovered. Since then it has become open to the public to visit and explore, and to find out more about the time period it comes from. After walking through the dark, low alley way which runs off one of York’s busy streets and is necessary to find the hall, you come out into a small and quaint cobblestone courtyard, which is overlooked by the building itself. Dark wooden beams are exposed, breaking up the whitewashed walls, and tall windows looking into the great hall. Stairs (not accessible) run up to a balcony which stands over the entrance and gift shop.

The oldest part of Barley Hall dates back to around 1360, and a new wing was added in 1430. Shortly after this time, the hall became home to William Snawsell, Lord Mayor of York, who was also a goldsmith and alderman. The house is described on the website: ‘The medieval building has now been lovingly restored to its original splendour with stunning high ceilings, beautiful exposed timber frames, and possibly the only horn window in England. It has been decorated to replicate what it would have looked like as the Snawsell home around 1483 and boasts a magnificent Great Hall’. The description is incredibly apt, as visitors are greeted with large, open rooms with naturally lighting, beautifully furnished according to how it would have been at the time.

The house is also scattered with incredible artefacts and costumes designed to replicate what historical figures would have worn, in some cases even while visiting within the house. Furthermore, around the walls you see signs, indicating the historical background of the house, the area and key events andpeople of the time. However what is perhaps the key factor behind the intimate feel of Barley Hall is not any of these things – as important and perfect these details may be – but is instead probably the interaction available the visitors and the furnishings and those who work there. Staff are exceedingly welcoming and enthusiastic, and all of them really know their stuff when it comes to the history around the building. It is also refreshing to visit somewhere where you are given so much freedom to ‘make yourself at home’ and really get involved, and have the opportunity to understand how the original residents lived within their home. All in all, a magnificent few hours easily spent, and worth the price of tickets, as once purchased you can visit as many times as you wish for the following 12 months.