A POPULAR exhibition at a medieval town house in York has been extended, while plans for a new exhibition for the autumn have been postponed.

The Press is today focusing on Barley Hall, one of the Jorvik Group of attractions, as part of its ‘We’re Backing York’ campaign.

Located in Coffee Yard off Stonegate, Barley Hall is described as a hidden medieval gem in the heart of the city.

Since reopening on July 10 following lockdown, the attraction has been welcoming visitors from every corner of the country.

Plans for a new exhibition in Barley Hall for this autumn have been postponed, extending the stay of the Magic and Mystery exhibition, which explores different aspects of magic – from alchemy to its relationship with religion – until 2021.

Sarah Maltby, Jorvik Group’s director of attractions, said: “People are still finding their feet at the moment – social distancing and face coverings are part of the ‘new normal’ for us, and to be honest, it was impossible to predict how long it would take before visitor numbers reached sustainable levels, so it made sense to delay launching something new, but if we continue as we are now, we should be ready to launch for the start of next year’s key tourist season.”

The unique nature of the building posed a few challenges for the Barley Hall team, particularly creating visitors routes that did not involve arriving and departing visitors passing each other in the limited room between the house.

However, the gift shop was moved to the first floor to allow greater room for a socially-distanced admissions space, and visitors work their way through the house on a one-way system, exiting via a staircase from the first floor. A small part of the building – the pantry and education room – is currently inaccessible as it has only one entry and exit point, but this does not diminish from a visit.

“Historic buildings often have corridors and spaces that are narrow by modern standards at the best of times – they certainly were not designed to facilitate two metre social distancing, so it has taken a fair bit of planning to ensure that visitors can still enjoy a full experience of this unique property, whilst keeping them safe during the visit,” Sarah said.

As with all three of the open Jorvik Group attractions, pre-booking is essential to manage numbers within the building, creating a reduced capacity compared to normal opening.

Visitor numbers during the summer have averaged around 70 per cent of normal capacity.

“We are very pleased with this, particularly as early predictions suggested that tourism would be slow to recover. Whilst we’d love to see that figure rise over the autumn and winter, it shows that there is clearly an appetite for York’s unique brand of history, and whilst the number of overseas visitors is significantly down across the city, our booking system shows visitors are coming from every corner of the British Isles, with many people embracing the ‘staycation’.”

So far, visitor numbers this year for Barley Hall are around 10,000 lower than a normal year, but thanks to the government’s furlough scheme and prompt re-opening – with the Visit England “We’re Good to Go” accreditation, there have been no redundancies across the Jorvik Group.

Barley Hall is currently open daily from 10am to 3pm (4pm from September 21). Admission prices are £6.50 for adults, £5 for concessions and £3.50 for children. Triple Tickets, including admission to Jorvik Viking Centre, Barley Hall and DIG are also available. For more information, visit www.barleyhall.co.uk