Explore the Jorvik Group

From domesticated animals destined for the dining table to bears, lions, porcupines and even dragons, the part that all kinds of wonderful beasts played in medieval society is set to entertain visitors to Barley Hall with the launch of a new exhibition on 1 July 2024.

Beasts At Barley Hall is the latest creation from York Archaeology’s exhibition and interpretations team, showcasing some of the weird and wonderful animal-related finds unearthed in and around York over the last 50 years.  From a chess piece carved from a horse’s molar tooth to part of a quill from a porcupine and a comb made out of elephant ivory, these items tell us about crafts, travel, trade and treasures that would have graced York’s households in the medieval period.

“Depiction of animals – real and fantasy – are commonly found in decorations from the time of Barley Hall, from cockerel motifs in jewellery to leather decorated with a dragon motif,” comments head of interpretation for York Archaeology, Dr Chris Tuckley.  “Alongside the exotic, we’ll also be looking at domestic pets and pests – including the mice and rats which were frequently carriers of disease in the medieval kitchen – as well as the animals farmed to fill the master’s table.”

The exhibition is set across the whole of Barley Hall, including the small courtyard garden and the Butler’s Pantry.  Different parts of the exhibition will highlight the role of hunting in medieval society, heraldry and an illuminated ‘bestiary’ manuscript.

Beasts at Barley Hall will replace the very popular Bard at Barley Hall exhibition, which features costumes from TV and film productions of Shakespeare’s most popular works, including those worn by Al Pacino, Helena Bonham-Carter and Michael Fassbender.

Admission prices for Barley Hall are £9.00 for adults, £7.25 for concessions and £5.25 for children, with family tickets available from £24.50 (two adults and two children).  For more information, or to prebook a visit, please see barleyhall.co.uk.