York Mystery Plays

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection consists of photographs and slides of the plays and the buildings/sets that were used for the plays. Also includes sketch books, costume designs, and documents relating to rehearsal as well as a prompt book. It also includes newspaper cuttings about the plays in addition to a ticket, programme and presentation box of Rev. J.S. Purves "The York Cycle of Mystery Plays - A Complete Version".

Administrative / Biographical History

The York Mystery Plays were originally performed in York from the middle of the 14th century until 1569. They would be performed and funded by local trade guilds who would each take responsibility for one play. The end of the feast of Corpus Christi in England after the Reformation meant the plays came to an end. Performances of individual elements of the plays started again at the beginning of the 20th century but it was not until 1951 that they were fully revived by the York Festival of Arts as part of the Festival of Britain. The plays were then initially staged every three years, later being staged every four. Due to financial and practical reasons in 1992 and 1996 the plays were held indoor at the York Theatre Royal. The modern Guilds of York, heirs to the original Mystery Plays presenters, were formally associated with an outdoor production for the first time in 1998. In 2002 they took charge of the production themselves. The Plays have toured outside ever since.

Conditions Governing Access

Material is available subject to the usual terms and conditions of access to Archives and Local History collections.

Other Finding Aids

More detailed finding aids for this collection can be found online by searching the Explore website ( www.exploreyork.org.uk)

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Tester, Community Collections and Outreach Archivist, December 2014.

Conditions Governing Use

Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.