“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 East Riding of Yorkshire, with a population of around 30,000 people. It is most famous for its large er, a large tract of pastures just outside the town, known as the Westwood, and horse-racing.
Beverley minster dominates the town’s skyline and can be seen for miles around on a clear day. The structure is based around one man, Saint John of Beverley, who founded a monastery on the present site of the minster and spent his final days here before his death in AD721. The church itself is built around his tomb and took just over 200 years to construct from 1220-1425. It replaced the monastery, which had since been destroyed by the Vikings. The building is highly renowned for the twin towers on the western front and its marble interior. In the choir stalls there are sixty-eight misericords, which are supports for worshippers during long prayers and near the altar is a rare example of an Anglo Saxon frith stool.
The Minster became a place of pilgrimage for many worshippers, wishing to pray at the grave of Saint John of Beverley, a most remarkable man. Born to noble parents in the village of Harpham he was educated at Canterbury Cathedral and became a bishop at Hexham, Whitby and York in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria during the eighth century. Through his life he was noted for his kindness to the poor and the miracles in which he performed. Amongst his accomplishments was to look after a mute boy and teach 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, something which became the centrepiece of the minster and the town of Beverley. John was made a saint in 1037 and his feast is celebrated on 7th May each year, the day he died. Nowadays in commemoration of his death, members of the congregation and choir at Beverley Minster travel to Harpham Church for a commemorative service, while in return children from the village come to the Minster and lay primroses around his grave.
St Mary’s Church is another large place of worship in Beverley and was first built in 1120. Inside it contains a carving of a white rabbit, which is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll for the character in his novel, “Alice in Wonderland.”
Beverley, like York was a walled town, with several gateways into its centre. The North bar, which was constructed around 1410, is a fine example of a medieval gateway. Other entrances were to be found in modern day Keldgate and Newbegin. Strangely, the defences around Beverley were not quite as effective as other towns because over the centuries both a group of Catholic rebels in 1537 and the Royalist army in 1643 easily breached the walls and raided the town. Any efforts to formally defend Beverley were abandoned after the civil war, with the ditches filled in and the other gateways knocked down, leaving only the North Bar remaining.
Beverley Westwood is an expanse of land just outside the town. It has four main pastures, which houses a racecourse, golf course, and grazing cattle. Originally the area was used for quarrying chalk and clay used for bricks, evident by the many peaks and hollows across the Westwood. In 1836 The Pasture Act was passed meaning that the land was maintained by the town’s Pasture Masters, who were elected from the freemen of Beverley every March. They had the power to bring in their own set of byelaws, which 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 in each year.”
It also asserts that the four pastures, named Swinemoor, Figham, Westwood and Hurn should be considered as one large, single area. The 1836 act, nor any of its byelaws ever stated who actually owned Beverley Westwood, and it was not until 1978 that a court decided it should be owned by the council.
The Treasure house and art gallery is a new attraction which was only built in 2007. It houses a museum, library, local archives and also acts as a guildhall for the town. The art gallery contains work from local artists, most notably, Fred and Mary Elwell.
The town is well known for its large amount of musical gatherings. Beverley folk festival is held at the Racecourse in June each year. It 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 across the town’s pubs and bars as well as comedy, poetry and craft stalls on site. The Beverley Chamber music festival takes place in St Mary’s Church each September, along with a five-day early music extravaganza which is held in May.
The East Riding Theatre opened in December 2014 and shows a range of plays, musical events and comedy.. This replaced the famous Beverley Playhouse, which controversially closed down in 2003. It showed a range of film screenings, held music concerts and until 1947 included a corn exchange, which was the building’s original purpose.
Beverley has a broad mix of pubs and hotels, which appeal to all ages. The most famous of these is The White horse Inn, known as “Nellies,” by locals. It is the second oldest pub in Beverley, dating back to around 1666, but unlike nearly all other drinking houses it has retained many of its original features, including stone floors, old fireplaces and a virtual rabbit warren of rooms, serving low-priced ale.
Beverley is fairly well linked to other Yorkshire towns and cities. There is no major motorway running nearby, but the A1079 dual carriageway and A164 provides easy access to Hull and the Humber Bridge respectively. Heading West down the A1079 one is in easy reach of Market Weighton and the road to York. Heading North East takes you towards Bridlington and other coastal towns, such as Hornsea.
The town’s train station was opened in 1846 on the York and North Midland railway line. It was an important junction until 1965 when the tracks to Market Weighton and York closed. Currently it provides regular services to Hull, Bridlington and Scarborough. Sow Hill bus station is the largest in East Yorkshire and has routes to Hull, York, and Bridlington amongst others.
Horse-racing is the principal sport in Beverley where there have been established meetings from as far back as 1767, when the first grandstand at the racecourse was built. The flat course is 1.3 furlongs in length and has around 20 meetings per year, including Ladies Day in August, which attracts massive crowds. The course, situated on the Westwood also provides spectacular views of the Minster and the town.
Beverley is famous for its markets and fairs, which over the centuries been a major hub for farmers and trade in livestock. Beverley cattle market was also prominent feature in the town, until its closure early in the millennium. It was replaced by a large Tesco amidst much local opposition.
Uniquely Beverley has two markets, one on a Saturday and another, smaller one on a Wednesday, at two different places in the town centre. The Saturday market cross dates back to 1714 and there are a wide variety of stalls in which to browse and purchase from. Shopping in Beverley offers a smart pedestrianised street, Toll Gavel, which connects the two markets, housing both high street names and independent retailers. At the time of writing a new shopping complex on Flemingate, near the Minster is being constructed and will have popular chain stores, restaurants and a cinema.
Beverley is home to the oldest state school in the country, which was founded as far back as 700AD, alongside the collegiate church on the grounds of the minster. The original buildings were demolished and replaced in the 17<sup>th</sup> Century before moving to Keldgate in 1816 and then to its current location on Queensgate in 1902. The all-boys institution has since expanded and acquired the facilities expected of a modern day school, while maintaining a good reputation in the town. Its sixth form is merged with the all- girl, Beverley High School, 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. Two miles away, Bishop Burton College is an institution which offer practical courses in agriculture, farming, catering and animal care to name but a few.
Beverley is an often unheralded town, almost forgotten by visitors to Yorkshire, but with its Minster, Westwood and racecourse has plenty to offer to those who wander to the East.
The town of “Indawera” was founded in the year 705 by St John of Beverley, who established a monastery, church and school on the site of the current Minster. The miracles which followed St John during his life, such as healing the sick, led to Beverley becoming a magnet for religious pilgrims visiting his grave, after his death in 721 to worship. The town grew around this and began to develop far earlier than other Yorkshire places, making it the tenth largest town in England by 1377. Through the Middle Ages Beverley grew rapidly, holding a weekly market and three fairs a year, which were well attended by traders from all over the North East. Moreover the town was beginning to develop its own industries, namely 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 also began to grow with the arrival of friars, monks who go out and preach, hence the name Friargate. The Minster was also started in 1220, taking 200 years to be completed.
Beverley was indeed an industrial hub, way before its time. By the late 14th Century the population had swelled to 5,000 people, making it, at this time, far bigger than both Hull and Leeds! However the town was to decline rapidly in the forthcoming centuries.
The prominence of Protestantism, which first came to the country under the reign of Henry VIII made long religious pilgrimages unfashionable and unnecessary in its teachings. As a consequence, the visitors to Saint John’s grave at the Minster declined dramatically, which took its toll on the town’s economy. Moreover at this time it was taken over by the crown, which closed down the friaries and hospitals that had thrived in Medieval Beverley during the 1530s. They would have demolished the Minster too had it not been for the strength of local opposition led by merchant Richard Gray. Over the next couple of centuries Beverley failed to live up to its medieval heyday and became impoverished. The population declined to 3,000 as people moved elsewhere to seek their fortune. During the Civil War, Beverley was Royalist and even housed Charles I for several weeks in the North bar during the conflict after being refused entry to Hull.
The 17th Century brought some hope with an influx of traders to the town. Shipbuilding began on the River Hull and other trades such as brewing, shoemaking and butchery began to thrive. At the start of the Industrial Revolution, Beverley became an important trading centre for agricultural trades and livestock.
Unlike other places in Yorkshire, who by this time were beginning to export their wares worldwide, the manufacturers of Beverley decided to cater for its local area only, thus hindering its wealth and growth during this time compared to other towns, such as Hull.
Nowadays Beverley has remained the largest town in the East Riding and is still the administrative centre for the area. A rebirth in tourism to the area and the rise of the service sector has seen Beverley grow into a prosperous market town, with Racecourse, Minster and Westwood still an ever present to those who visit.
Beverley is named after the beavers which once lived here in abundance. The animals were hunted to extinction in the area, largely because they were allowed to be eaten on holy days, unlike most other meats.
Beverley Minster was literally built around the tomb of Saint John of Beverley, one of the most prominent religious figures in Anglo Saxon Britain. It took 200 years to build.
The modern Yorkshire Day celebrations were started in Beverley as a protest at it being part of the newly formed “Humberside.”
Specially shaped buses were created so they could fit underneath the arch of Beverley bar, until the 1970s when the bus routes and station changed.
The White horse Inn, otherwise known as “Nellies” is one Yorkshire’s oldest inns and has been a fixture in the town since 1666. Little has been changed to it ever since.
It took until as recently as 1978 to decide who actually owned Beverley Westwood. In this year the court ruled the pastures belonged to…the council……
Beverley is home to the oldest state school in the country, which was founded in 700AD and is still going today as Beverley Grammar.
In 1377 Beverley was the tenth largest town in Britain.
We currently have one shop in the Beverley area selling our products.
Beverley Tourist Information Centre
Address: Beverley Tourist Information Centre, 34 Butchers Row, Beverley, East Yorkshire,HU17 0AB
Opening: Mon – Saturday 9.30 – 5.00pm
Call in if you are in the area!