Beverley

“I come from Beverley in East Yorkshire and no one there would step outside their front door, or even their back door on a Saturday night; or any other time for that matter, unless they were dressed to the nines.” – Anna Maxwell Martin


Beverley is a market town situated in the historic East Riding of Yorkshire. With a population of around 30,000 people, it is most famous for its large tract pastures just outside of the town, called Westwood, and for horse racing.

Beverley Minster

Beverley Minster dominates the town’s skyline and can be seen for miles around on a clear day. The impressive structure was based around one man called Saint John of Beverley. He founded a monastery on the same site as the present minster and spent his final days here before his death in 721.

They began to build the church around his tomb in 1220. Over 200 years later, in 1425, Beverley Minster was finally completed. It replaced the monastery which was destroyed by the Vikings.

The building is highly renowned for the twin towers on the western front and for its marble interior. Within the choir stalls there are 68 misericords which are used as a support for worshippers during long prayers. Near the altar, there is also a rare example of an Anglo Saxon frith stool.

Beverley Minster became a place of pilgrimage for many worshippers. They prayed at the grave of Saint John of Beverley who was a remarkable man.

Saint John of Beverley

John was born to noble parents in the village of Harpham. He was then later educated at Canterbury Cathedral and became a bishop at Hexham, Whitby and York in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria during the eighth century.

Throughout his life, John was known for his kindness to the poor and the miracles that he performed. One of his accomplishments was looking after a mute boy and teaching him how to speak. He also healed the sick and became a well-respected figure in Anglo-Saxon society.

After his death, pilgrims flocked to his grave which was to later become the centrepiece of the minster and the town of Beverley. In 1037, John was made a saint and his feast is celebrated on the day that he died, 7th of May, each year.

Now, in commemoration of his death, members of the congregation and choir at Beverley Minster travel to Harpham Church for a commemorative service. Children from the village also pay their respects by visiting the minster and laying primroses around his grave.

St Mary’s Church in Beverley

St Mary’s Church is an impressive building that was first built in 1120. It is also used as another place of worship in Beverley.

Inside the church you will find a carving of a white rabbit. This rabbit is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s character in his novel “Alice in Wonderland”.

Defences in Beverley

Beverley, like York, was once a walled town with several gateways into its centre. One of these was the North Bar. It was constructed around 1410 and is a fine example of a medieval gateway. Other entrances were found in modern day Keldgate and Newbegin.

Strangely, Beverley’s defences were not as effective as other towns. Over the centuries, a group of Catholic rebels in 1537 and the Royalist army in 1643 easily breached the walls and raided the town.

Any efforts used to formally defend Beverley were abandoned after the civil war. Ditches were filled in and all of the gateways but one were knocked down, leaving only the North Bar remaining.

Beverley Westwood is divided into four pastures and has housed many industries over the centuries. Picture credit: Sally Gaden (IFY community)
Beverley Westwood is divided into four pastures and has housed many industries over the centuries. Picture credit: Sally Gaden (IFY community)

Beverley Westwood

Beverley Westwood is an expanse of land which can be found just outside of the town. It has four main pastures which is home to a racecourse, golf course, and grazing cattle.

Originally, the area was used to quarry chalk and clay to make bricks. This is evident by the many peaks and hollows that can be found across the Westwood.

In 1836, The Pasture Act was passed. This meant that the land was now maintained by the town’s Pasture Masters who were elected from the freemen of Beverley every March.

The Pasture Masters had the power to bring in their own set of bylaws. These are on display adjacent to the A1079 towards the North Bar. This includes a law that states:

“Each ewe together with its lamb or lambs is to be counted as one sheep, only until the third Monday in July each year”.

The bylaws also assert that the four pastures named Swinemoor, Figham, Westwood, and Hurn should be considered as one large, single area. The 1836 act, or the bylaws, have stated who owns Beverley Westwood. It wasn’t until 1978 that a court decided it should be owned by the council.

Attractions in Beverley

The Treasure House and Art Gallery, built in 2007, is a more recent attraction that’s been built. It’s home to a museum, library, and local archives while also acting as a guildhall for the town. The art gallery contains work from local artists, more notably Fred and Mary Elwell.

Beverley is well known for its numerous musical gatherings throughout the year. One of these is Beverley Folk Festival which is held at the racecourse every June. The festival contains several marquees across the site and attracts some of the top names in folk music, including Billy Bragg, Chas ‘n Dave, and Seth Lakeman.

During the festival weekend, there are several fringe events. These can be found across the town’s pubs and bars as well as comedy, poetry, and craft stalls on site.

Another festival is the Beverley Chamber Music Festival. This takes place in St Mary’s Church each September along with a five day early music extravaganza which is held in May.

Beverley Theatres & Playhouses

Opened in December 2014, the East Riding Theatre shows a range of plays, musical events, and comedy shows. This theatre replaced the famous Beverley Playhouse which was controversially closed down in 2003.

Beverley Playhouse showed a range of film screenings and even held concerts. Up until 1947, it also included a corn exchange which was the original purpose of the building.

Pubs in Beverley

You can find a broad mix of pubs and hotels dotted around Beverley. The most famous being The White Horse Inn, or “Nellies” which it’s known to by the locals. It is the second oldest pub in Beverley dating back to 1666.

Unlike most other drinking houses, Nellies has kept most of its original features. These include the stone floors, fireplaces, and a virtual rabbit warren of rooms, serving low-priced ale.

Travelling in Beverley

Beverley is fairly well linked to other Yorkshire towns and cities despite there being no major motorways nearby. The A1079 and the A164 both provide easy access to Hull and the Humber Bridge.

Heading West down the A1079 makes it easy to get to Market Weighton and the road to York. Heading North East will take you towards Bridlington and other coastal towns, such as Hornsea.

In 1846, Beverley’s train station opened on the York and North Midland railway line. It was an important and popular station up until 1965 when the tracks to Market Weighton and York closed. Currently, Beverley train station provides regular services to Hull, Bridlington, and Scarborough.

Sow Hill bus station in Beverley is the largest in East Yorkshire. It also provides regular services to Hull, Bridlington, and Scarborough.

Horse-racing is the principal sport int he town, Picture credit: Charles Rispin geograph creative commons .
Beverley racecourse is a popular sporting venue. Picture credit: Charles Rispin geograph creative commons .

Sport in Beverley

Horse racing is the most popular sport in Beverley. Established meetings date back to 1767 when the first grandstand at the racecourse was built.

The flat course is 1.3 furlongs in length and hosts around 20 meetings per year. One of these meetings include Ladies Day in August which attracts massive crowds every year. The course, which is situated on the Westwood, also provides spectacular views of the minster and the town.

Beverley Markets

Not only is Beverley famous for its horse racing, it’s also well known for its markets and fairs. Over the centuries these have been a major hub for farmers and trade in livestock.

Beverley’s cattle market was also a prominent feature in the town up until its closure early in the new millennium. Despite local opposition, it was replaced by a large Tesco.

Beverley has a large Saturday market which traders have flocked to for centuries. Picture credit: Kaz Jones.
Beverley has one of the most elaborate market crosses in Yorkshire. Picture credit: Kaz Jones.

Uniquely, Beverley has two markets. One on a Saturday, and the other smaller market on a Wednesday. Both markets can be found at two different locations in the town centre.

The market held on Saturday’s dates back to 1714. There is a wide variety of stalls people can browse and purchase from.

Shopping in Beverley

Shopping in Beverley offers a smart pedestrianised street called Toll Gavel. This connects the two streets making for easy shopping. Along Toll Gavel there are a number of high street names and independent retailers.

More recently, a shopping complex called Flemingate was built near the minster. It offers visitors places to shop, eat and drink, watch films, and go to the gym.

Education in Beverley

Beverley is home to the oldest state school in the country. It was founded as far back as 700 alongside the collegiate church on the grounds of the minster.

In the 17th Century, the original buildings were demolished and replaced before moving to Keldgate. Then, in 1902, it moved to its current location on Queensgate.

The all-boys institution has since expanded and acquired facilities that are expected of a modern day school. It has continued to maintain its good reputation in the town. Its sixth form merged with the all-girl Beverley High School which was founded in 1908.

In 2002, Beverley College merged with its counterpart in Bridlington to form East Riding College. Its campus is located on Gallows lane and provides a range of higher education courses to people aged 16+.

Two miles away from East Riding College is Bishop Burton College. It’s an institution which offers practical courses in agriculture, farming, catering, and animal care to name a few.

Beverley, once an unheralded town, used to be forgotten by visitors to Yorkshire. It is slowly, but steadily, increasing in popularity bringing new tourists to the area. Beverley has plenty to offer those who wander to the East and is not one to be missed.


Originally, Beverley was called “Indawera”. The town got its current name from the large number of beavers that used to live there. Eventually, the beavers were hunted to extinction in the town as they were the one of the only meats people could eat on holy days.

The town was founded in 705 by St John of Beverley. John would then go on to establish a monastery, church, and school on the site of the current minster.

Beverley is named after the beavers which once lived there in abundance. The animals were eventually hunted to extinction in that area as people were allowed to eat them on holy days unlike most other meats.

During John’s life, he performed many miracles such as healing the sick. This led to Beverley becoming a magnet for religious pilgrims who visited his grave to worship after his death in 721. 

The town then began to grow around this and developed far earlier than other Yorkshire places. Beverley became the 10th largest town in England by 1377.

Throughout the Middle Ages, Beverley continued to grow rapidly. A weekly market was held along with three fairs each year. Both were well attended by traders from all over the North East.

Beverley began to develop its own industries. The main industries being brick making, with stone quarried from the Westwood, and cloth. Flemish merchants and craftsmen came across the North Sea to sell their skills and wares, hence the name Flemingate.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, the religious influence of Beverley began to grow. The arrival of friars and monks who go out and preach also increased, hence the name Friargate. Building Beverley Minster started in 1220 and took over 200 years to be completed.

Beverley was an industrial hub which was way before its time. By the late 14th Century, the population had grown to 5,000 people, making it, at the time, far bigger than both Hull and Leeds. However, this was short-lived as the town declined rapidly in the forthcoming centuries.

The North Bar played an important role int he English Civil War. Picture credit: Dr
The North Bar played an important role in the English Civil War. Picture credit: Dr Patty McAlpin

Protestantism first came to the country under the reign of King Henry VIII. It made long religious pilgrimages unfashionable and unnecessary in its teachings. As a result, the number of visitors to St John’s grave at the minster dramatically declined. This massively affected the town’s economy.

During this time, Beverley was taken over by the crown. Friaries and hospitals that had once thrived during the 1530’s were closed down. The crown would have demolished the minster too if it wasn’t for the strong local opposition led by merchant Richard Gray.

Over the next couple of centuries, Beverley struggled to live up to its medieval heyday and became impoverished. The population declined to 3,000 as people were moving elsewhere to seek their fortune.

During the Civil War, Beverley was Royalist. The town even housed Charles I for several weeks in the North Bar during the conflict after he was refused entry to Hull.

When the 17th Century arrived, it brought with it some hope along with an influx of traders to the town. Ship building began on the River Hull as well as other trades such as brewing, shoe making, and butchery which began to thrive. At the start of the Industrial Revolution, Beverley became an important trading centre for agricultural trades and livestock.

Other places in Yorkshire began to export their wares worldwide. Beverley on the other hand decided to cater for its local area only. This put a stop to Beverley’s wealth and growth during this time compared to other towns, such as Hull.

Nowadays, Beverley has retained its title as the largest town in East Riding. It’s also still the administrative centre for the area.

The rise in tourism and in the service sector has seen Beverley grow into a prosperous market town. Along with a racecourse, minster and Westwood, it is still continuing to grow in popularity.



Beverley is named after the beavers which once lived there in abundance. The animals were eventually hunted to extinction in that area as people were allowed to eat them on holy days unlike most other meats.

Beverley Minster was built around the tomb of Saint John of Beverley. He was one of the most prominent religious figures in Anglo Saxon Britain.

Beverley Minster took over 200 years to be built.

Yorkshire Day celebrations originated in Beverley as a protest for joining the newly formed “Humberside”.

Special buses were made and shaped so they could fit underneath the arch of Beverley Bar until the 1970’s when the bus station and routes changed.

The White Horse Inn, or “Nellies”, is one of Yorkshire’s oldest inns. It’s been a fixture in the town since 1666 and little has been changed.

No one knew who owned Beverley Westwood. It was as recent as 1978 until the court ruled that the pastures belonged to the council.

Beverley is home to the oldest state school in the country which was founded in 700. It is still open and being run as Beverley Grammar.

In 1377, Beverley was the 10th largest town in Britain.