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Profit and Prosperity,
Fabric and Fashion

Governor's Parlour

The rivers of York opened up routes to Europe and the world beyond where the merchants could ‘adventure’ in trade and vast amounts of money could be made.


Marion Kent who with her husband John ran a successful mercantile business from York and Hull, was one such merchant who prospered as her city increased in wealth and importance.


When John Kent died in 1466, Marion continued as the head of the business with her name appearing frequently in Customs Accounts where she imported all manner of goods. Marion became a Member of the Mistery of Mercers (as the Merchant Adventurers were known prior to 1581) in 1470 and just four years later and unusually for the time became a member of the ruling body of the Guild. She died a wealthy and successful woman in the early 16th Century.


This pen and ink drawing from 1915 shows a busy and bustling York during its Medieval heyday in the 15th Century.

Marion Kent would have worn similar clothing to this modern interpretation of a mid to late 15th Century gown from the Low Countries (now the Netherlands and Belgium). As a wealthy merchant, she would have worn the latest fashions from the Continent made out of the finest materials, all imported into York via the River Ouse.


For more information on historic clothing, including this outfit visit:


In the 15th Century when Marion Kent was trading, there were over 80 Guilds operating in York. The 20th Century banners show the Guilds of the Pewterers, Skinners, Merchant Adventurers and Masons.

John Stow was described as, “the most eminent silk mercer in York”. He was also a Merchant Adventurer and Sheriff of York. In 1760, John along with his wife Catherine Ellen, had matching portraits painted wearing the costly fashionable silk he traded in.


John Stow


Catherine Ellen Stow

Image Credits 15th Century York - Edwin Ridsdale-Tate, 1915: York Mansion House

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