The Town Council Offices, The Ark

The Ark: An historic overview

THE ARK really is a uniquely built building and importantly one of the oldest buildings in Tadcaster.  The earliest records suggest The Ark was possibly built in the late 15th Century, although it may have been earlier.  Over the following centuries it was changed by various additions to the original structure.

The name, “The Ark” is thought to have derived from the two carved heads on the corbels on the front of the building. These are said to represent Noah and his wife. In 1672 The Ark was known as Morley Hall and was licensed to hold Dissenters’ meetings. The owner, Robert Morley, was the first Tadcaster Post Master, and is recorded as such in the Parish Register in 1653.

It is said that the building was used about sixty years earlier by some of the Pilgrim Fathers. This is probably a myth as there is no supporting evidence and none of the Pilgrim Fathers came from the area. Certainly the people of Tadcaster throughout the centuries were not without strong views on religious matters and it is not unlikely that those who later sought freedom in the New World would have found many sympathisers in the town.

During the eighteenth Century the building was divided into two. The solar end became a cottage and shop, and remained a dwelling house until 1959. In the nineteenth Century it was the premises of Messrs. England, butchers, and was also at one time a joiners shop. The other part became 'The Old Falcon Inn', one of Tadcaster's many coaching inns.

The building became vacant in 1959 but was in poor condition. The adjacent “Falcon Inn” was demolished and The Ark was extensively restored over the next two years, the work being funded by John Smith’s Brewery. The first part was restored in 1960-61 and the second part in 1966-67, the whole being opened as a Museum in September 1967. The Museum closed in 1984 but was reopened by volunteers in 1987, but had to finally close in 1989.

In 1992, Tadcaster Town Council purchased the premises to use as its Council Offices and Council Chamber. The building is now a Grade II* listed building and “and as such a unique piece of architecture” and should be preserved “not only as a beautiful relic of the past, but also as a source of interest and instruction”.

Its construction has two main features. It retains the large stones at the base of the medieval posts. The method of construction of the two open trusses is also found in a roof at St Anthony’s Hall in York dating from around 1490.

The Ark Circa 1844

The Ark Today

The Ark

The Ark, Kirkgate, Tadcaster: Milestones

The Ark Timeline 

CIRCA 1500’S - The Ark is believed to have been built. This is identified by the rarity of the type of timber framing in the original structure.

1672 - The ark became known as ‘Morley Hall’ and a licence was issued to enable Morley Hall to hold Presbyterian meetings.

LATE 1600’s - A two story extension was added to the front of the solar. Over the next two hundred years other buildings were added around the rest of the building – chiefly the old falcon inn.

CIRCA 1700’S - The myth that the Ark was said to have been a meeting place for by the Pilgrim Father’s for which they planned their voyage to America.

1900’s – the ark became the premises of Messrs and the other part became the falcon inn.

1959 – the ark became vacant and the falcon inn was demolished. Threat of demolition but a decision was taken to restore the ark and funded by John Smith’s Tadcaster Brewery co. ltd

1962 - The solar was completed (the block at right angles to the street).

1967 - The construction of the hall was completed and the ark became a museum

1984 - The ark closed as a museum and once again became empty.

1987-1989 - A secondary museum was adopted by john smith’s brewery and run by a trust of volunteers it housed artefacts of local and brewing history. Although popular it proved to not be financially viable.

1992 – Tadcaster Town Council purchase the ark to use as council offices and council chambers. Tadcaster Town Council take pride in maintain the ark and are proud to own a huge part of Tadcaster’s history today.

Any further information or photographs of the ark would be gratefully received.