Archive of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York

The archive of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York is a treasure trove of information on the life of a medieval guild and its place in York's history. Including medieval charters and account rolls from the 14th century, title deeds from the late 12th century and 16th century trade papers, the historical archive holds a wealth of material to explore the business, religious, social, cultural and architectural history of York. The collection as a whole contains material up to the present day, charting the 650-year development of the Company from a religious fraternity into the modern organisation that today promotes entrepreneurship, education and charitable works in the city of York.

Click the links below to find out more about this fascinating archive!

Find out more about our partnership project, about the archive collection and where you can access further information and reading.

Find out more about the Borthwick Institute, other guild archives in our care and collections we hold which support research into the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York. 

The archive contains a wealth of information on commerce from 15th century onwards, including the Trade Papers series which details the Merchant Adventurers' relationships with other trading companies, towns, and organisations. Other records in the collection show the connections between the Company and York businesses like Rowntree & Co.

The archive is a rich source of information on the social and cultural life of York from the medieval period through to the modern day. The early guild established a hospital for the poor in the Merchant Adventurers Hall, as well as being a distributor of pensions to people throughout the city. The archive also details the Merchant Adventures role in the guild traditions of York, including the Mystery Plays.

Originally established as a religious fraternity, the archive allows us to build a picture of religion and religious observance in York, from long-standing connections to churches in the city and payments to York's Carmelite Friary in 1392, through to the Jane Stainton sermon which has been preached annually on 30th January since 1692. The archives also contains a number of prayer books, including a unique Finnish hymnal.

The collection holds a huge number of documents on the architecture of both the medieval Merchant Adventurers' Hall and the city of York more widely. The Company owned a wealth of properties throughout York and especially on Fossgate and the surrounding streets. The records include receipts and vouchers for the original building of the hall in the 14th century, architectural plans for its later restorations in the 20th century, and ongoing conservation and heritage craft work on the Hall since the early 2000s. The Hall also has numerous examples of stained glass including work by York stained glass artist Harry Stammers.