The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall is one of the finest remaining examples of a medieval guildhall still in existence in Britain. Construction was begun in 1357 and completed four years later.
The building consists of a great hall for meetings and business, a chapel, and a charity hospital. The great hall remains virtually unaltered by the passage of time, save for the 18th century additions of sash windows and a 16th century fireplace. The Governor’s Stall is a Georgian invention, and the panelling is Elizabethan.
The Great Hall was built for the guild members to have a place to meet, worship and give charity to the poor. In the undercroft is the hospital, where the poor and destitute of York were cared for until about 1900. The walls of the undercroft are made of brick, one of the earliest examples of brickwork in York. At the far end of the undercroft is the chapel, rebuilt in 1411 in both brick and stone. The furnishings of the chapel are not original; and date from about 1661.
The guild at this hall became known as the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York. A Merchant Adventurer was simply someone who risked or adventured his own money in overseas trade.