In addition to the popular Jorvik Viking Centre, the York Archaeological Trust offers multiple historical attractions in the beautiful city of York, England, individually available, or combined in the Pastport ticket.
We sampled four of the five attractions on our latest last trip to York: Jorvik Viking Centre, Barley Hall, and the Richard III and Henry VII Experiences. The other experience, Dig!, is an experiential attraction aimed younger attendees, who are encouraged to “dig up” relics from throughout York’s history.
Barley Hall – an example of a 14th century medieval home
Barley Hall, a medieval townhouse hidden in plain sight within the walls of York, is a unique, historical experience, interesting for all ages. Originally begun in 1360 as the townhouse of Nostell Priory in West Yorkshire, this lovely medieval structure was expanded around 1430. William Snawsell, a leading citizen, later lived in it, but eventually, it was covered over and used as an office block. In the 1980s, it was derelict enough to be destroyed, but fortunately, the remains were discovered before demolition. Local archaeologists uncovered layers of history as well as the gorgeous bones of the building, so purchased and rehabilitated it, returning it to its former glory.
Walking into the courtyard at the entrance to Barley Hall, I was struck by the timber, wattle, and daub construction. Since it was a cold and windy day, the outsized, studded wooden main door was closed. Pushing it open and stepping over the high threshold into the stillness of the hall entrance, I was transported back to fifteenth century York – specifically, to an upper-class family home of that era. From the first room, guests are encouraged to sit, touch, sniff, and try everything. In the first room, try on the clothing, lie on the bed, or touch the items on the table. You can really make yourself at home at Barley Hall!
Interspersed with the experiential exhibits are informative and engaging displays detailing the flow of history around the house. As I wandered from the small steward’s room to the Great Hall, which was ready for a grand feast, I swear I heard echoes of voices from the past.
Upstairs, I perused the permanent exhibits as well as the Power & Glory temporary exhibit, which explains more about Henry’s ascent to the throne, as well as shows 6 of the grandest costumes from the BBC drama Wolf Hall. A visit to the guilds of York, a Tudor classroom, and a quick descent to the buttery and pantry to see how and what was prepared for meals and celebrations, then back up and out, after checking out the gift shop, which had the usual history books as well as other nifty items for purchase.
The Richard III and Henry VII Experiences – learn about these English kings and the times in which they ruled
The two pocket museums enclosed in the walls of York, the Richard III and Henry VII Experiences, share a detailed history of these two monarchs and their ties to York. Each experience is at a different “bar” (or gate) in the walls of York, which was originally built by the Romans. We climbed from central York to Monk Bar to get to the Richard III Experience, then walked the wall. The narrow, worn, and uneven stairs led us, spiraling upwards to the entrance, where a very lifelike mannequin awaits (as well as live staff). After showing my Pastport (and my companion purchased a ticket), we continued the climb, past a warning about seeing human remains, upwards still, to the third floor.
A 20-minute film rewards the three-floor climb to the top, as well as various exhibits detailing troop movements in several important battles and artifacts found in the fields. Note that if the few seats available are full and you’d like to see the video, take a gander at the other exhibits first and then return for a later viewing.
The Richard III Experience focuses on the timeline of the Plantagenet family, the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster, as well as two major and devastating battles – Wakefield and Towton, which are explained with 3D maps. And as you head down the stairs from the top, the final exhibit reconstructs the discovery of Richard III’s bones in a Leicester car park – perhaps an inglorious end for such a ruler?
The Henry VII Experience at Micklegate is opposite the Richard III Experience at Monkgate, and in good weather, is a lovely one-mile walk along the walls from one to the other. This museum also is multilevel and covers Henry’s family and timeline, but offers more information on the guilds and the business of living (e.g., tending the sick, working, sanitation, and more). And on the middle floor of this museum, there’s an entire fighting costume (two helmets, chainmail hood, padded jerk, and more) that you may try on.
Both Experiences are accessible with one ticket, so are in a sense one museum with a mile long open-air component.
The Skinny: Pastport enables a year’s worth of admission to five attractions – Jorvik Viking Center (£11 adult/£8 child), Barley Hall (£6 adult/£3 child), Richard III and Henry VII Experience (£5 adult/£3 child), and Dig! (£6.50 adult/£6 child). Purchased separately, these would be a total of £28.50 adult/£20 child. Merely purchase the Pastport at your first attraction (or better yet, pre-book to avoid the queues), and the cost lowers to £20 adult/£13 child.
If you prefer to focus on medieval times only, you can use the Medieval Pass to visit Barley Hall, plus the Richard III and Henry VII Experiences for only £8 adult/£4.50 child.
Details are listed below:
Barley Hall, 2 Coffee Yard, off Stonegate, York, Y01 8AR Ph: (+44) 01904 615505 www.barleyhall.co.uk Individual Admission: Adult-£6, Concession-£4.50, Child-£3 Hours: April-Oct (Summer): 10 am – 5 pm, Nov-Mar (Winter): 10 am – 4 pm. Mobility-impaired access is minimal, as this is a historic building without a lift (elevator), though large print and braille guides are available for vision-impaired.
Richard III Experience, 6 Goodramgate, York, YO1 7LQ Ph: (+44) 01904 615505 www.richardiiiexperience.com Individual Admission: Adult-£5, Concession-£3.50, Child-£3 (entry to both Experiences combined) Hours: April-Oct (Summer): 10am-5pm, Nov-Mar (Winter): 10am-4pm. Mobility-impaired access is minimal, as this is a historic building without a lift (elevator).
Henry VII Experience, Micklegate, York, Y01 6JX Ph: (+44) 01904 615505 www.henryviiexperience.com Individual Admission combined with Richard III Experience Hours: April-Oct (Summer): 10am-4pm, Nov-Mar (Winter): 10am-3pm. Mobility-impaired access is minimal, as this is a historic building without a lift (elevator).
Jorvik Viking Centre, Coppergate Shopping Centre, 19 Coppergate, York, Y01 9WT Ph: (+44) 01904 615505 www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk Individual Admission: Adult-£11, Concession-£9, Child-£8 Hours: April-Oct (Summer): 10am – 5pm, Nov-Mar (Winter): 10am-4pm. Mobility-impaired access via a small elevator. Different languages available.
Dig!, St. Saviour’s Church, St. Saviourgate, York, YO1 8NN Ph: (+44) 01904 615505 www.digyork.com Individual Admission: Adult-£6.50, Concession-£6, Child-£6 Hours: 10am-5pm year-round (last entry at 4 pm). Mobility-impaired access, as well as provisions for vision-impaired. Hearing-impaired folks are urged to visit on quieter days. Accommodations for those with autism are available.
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