Meet the medieval servants at York’s Barley Hall

Volunteers will take over York’s recreated medieval townhouse throughout the summer to showcase the lives of servants in the medieval period.

Volunteer Helen Houghton busily fixes the master’s shirt at Barley Hall’ ‘Meet the Servants’ – photo courtesy York Archaeological Trust

A famous saying tells us that history is always written by the victors and the powerful, however the award-winning volunteer team at York’s Barley Hall will be showing what it was like for the people on the other side, those in service during the medieval period.


“Barley Hall is reconstructed to mirror what it would have looked like when the wealthy Snawsell family lived in the house in the late 15th century, after William Snawsell, the master of the hall, had completed his term as Lord Mayor of York,” says Helen Harris, Head of Volunteering at York Archaeological Trust. “One side of what we look at today is where the family lived and the other side of is, of course, the servant’s lives.  It is this, often-misrepresented, ‘other side’ that the volunteers are keen to show to our visitors so that they get a complete view of life in the Middle Ages.”

Indeed, it is this ‘other side’ approach that the volunteers will be showcasing every Wednesday during the summer holidays. Daily tasks on display from the team will vary from week to week and will include cleaning and household tasks, table etiquette at a medieval feast and displays on food and drink available on offer during the Middle Ages. Members of the volunteer team will also be on hand, in full period costume to answer any questions and bring the hall to life.

Barley Hall’s living history days will take place every Wednesday throughout the summer. The event is included in the standard admission; Adults £6, Child £3.00 and Conc. £4.50. More information and pre-booking can be found at or by calling 01904 615505.

Volunteer Fiona Hyde preparing the Great Hall at Barley Hall’s ‘Meet the Servants’ event – photo courtesy York Archaeological Trust



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