The NCEM holds the archive for productions of the York Mystery Plays from their revival in 1951 to the present day.

York Mystery Plays were magnificent examples of medieval drama, telling the story of the Bible, from the mystery of God's Creation, through the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, to the Last Judgement and the modern day interpretations continue to enthral audiences and volunteer cast alike.

To the townspeople of York who first drew together to perform and watch what they called the Corpus Christi Plays, the battle between Good and Evil was not theoretical theology, but an all-pervading fact of life. Disease and sudden death were an ever-present threat.  The Plays taught a simple message -in broad Yorkshire - but not in a simple way as they were sophisticated, often lavish and always theatrical. The Cycle of Plays is made up of a number of individual pageants of which 48 are known.  These separate episodes were originally presented on wagons through the streets, by York's guilds of craftsmen. Different guilds often presented appropriate scenes, so for example the Shipwrights were responsible for the Building of the Ark, while the Butchers played the Death of Christ. Revived in the ruins of St Mary's Abbey in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, the Plays have been performed many times since in a variety of venues and continue to speak to the audiences of today.

NCEM’s Director, Delma Tomlin MBE, has been involved in productions of the Plays across many years and was inspired to start this archive in 2001 after a particularly magnificent production in York Minster.  Today the archive is searchable via the website www.yorkmysteryplays.org  For advice & further information, please contact the NCEM’s Voluntary Archivist Margaret Scott at margaret.scott@ncem.co.uk

Get Involved

If you or your family have been involved in the Plays and have memories to share – or you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with our voluntary archivist margaret.scott@ncem.co.uk

We welcome donations of photos, papers and memorabilia of all kinds.


Includes photographs and interviews through history


The actors from every production are recorded in the archive


The archive captures images of the people and their wagons as they travel through the streets of York


Keep the music alive in these difficult times