Brief Chronology

Although the Taylors appear in the City's freemen from 1273, the earliest reference to guild organisation are the ordinances and register of members dating from 1387, and entered in the City's memorandum book among the City Archives. In medieval days the tailors were closely associated with the religious and charitable confraternity of St. John the Baptist, the fraternity that built the present Hall. During this period the York Tailors enjoyed a golden age, playing a major role in the social as well as economic life of the City. As one of the leading York City craft guilds, the tailors also played an important role in the famous sequence of York Corpus Christi mystery plays.

From the reign of Elizabeth I the Company’s archives survive in greater quantities. The earliest surviving Apprentice Register begins in 1605, and shows that during the following four years 165 boys were apprenticed within the Company, of whom about a fifth were born in the City, the remainder being nearly all immigrants from nearby Yorkshire villages. Such a pattern of recruitment remained usual for the next two centuries. 

Until the 1830s the Merchant Taylors’ Company, which included a few women among its members, was essentially a working body of master tailors, York freemen of some substance but rarely of outstanding status or wealth within their City. Only by leasing their Hall for a variety of purposes, mostly educational, theatrical or convivial, did they succeed – where most other once celebrated medieval English guilds eventually failed – in preserving their buildings into the early nineteenth century.

When, in 1835, the Municipal Corporations Act formally removed all guild restrictions on industrial activity,the Company of the York Taylors – and their Hall – faced their greatest crisis by far. Indeed they were almost unknown to most residents as well as visitors to the City. 

Until within living memory, the Hall itself stood in seclusion behind a row of unprepossessing cottages on the north side of Aldwark. Throughout the Victorian period the Hall provided a suitable site for elementary schooling and although the Company was continuously plagued by severe financial problems, the continuity of its membership was never allowed to lapse completely. 

Thanks to the labours of Mr H E Harrowell, a well-known York solicitor, and many others, from the late 1930s onwards, the Great and Little Halls have gradually been restored to their former splendour. Now maintained by the Members of the Company, it stands as a memorial to six centuries of continuous, if ever-changing, guild history and to the endeavours of the many generations of Merchant Taylors who have preserved it from oblivion.

 

1273

Taylors are first mentioned in the Freemen's rolls when they are described as Taylours and licensed to export wool.

 

1370

The Guild controlled its own admission and was administered rigorously by a Master and four Searchers.

 

1380

Tailors used Petre Hall (Pear Tree Hall/Peter Hall) for their communal business activities

 

1415

First specific reference to the "the land and hall of the fraternity of St John the Baptist" (the earliest fabric of the present Great Hall dates from about this period)

 

1446

First mention of an adjoining York Taylor's maisondieu or almshouse

 

1453

Henry VI's charter incorporates a perpetual fraternity or guild of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, with a Master and four Wardens

 

1446-1503

The Small Hall first built in timber framing

 

1539

Last record of the Guilds of St John the Baptist, dissolved at the Reformation

 

1551

Merged with Drapers and Hosiers

 

1575

Great Hall fireplace constructed

 

By 1589

Tenements existed adjoining a Gatehouse on Aldwark

 

1662

Royal Charter of Charles II

 

1694

Waits' (Musicians) Gallery added to Great Hall

 

1702

Henry Gyles paints Queen Anne Window in the Small Hall

 

1703

Medieval maisondieu demolished.

 

1714-1715

Both Great and Little Halls faced in brick.

 

C. 1730

New almshouses built

 

1835

Municipal Reform Act abolishes craft guild restrictions on industry.

 

1961

Kitchens built adjacent to the Hall, providing catering facilities on site.

 

1963

Royal Grant of their own Arms to the Taylors' Company of York.

 

1994

New Reception Wing completed.

 

2015

Commissioning of new stained glass windows to replace those in the East to mark the 600th Anniversary of the Hall.