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Beverley in 1835

Beverley, a market town, a borough, and a township, the capital of the East Riding of the county of York. Beverley and its liberties form a separate division of the wapentake of Harthill. It contains the three parishes of St. Mary, St. Nicholas, and St. Martin, and a small part of the parish of St. John, without any house or building upon it.

By the Boundary Act is added to the ancient borough, for the purposes of electing members to serve in parliament, such part of the parish of St. John as is comprised within the liberties of Beverley. That portion of the parish of St. John which lies within the liberties of Beverley contains and is co-extensive with six of the eight townships into which such parish is divided. These six townships consti tute the liberties. It is 180 miles N. by W. of London ; 9 miles N. by W. of Hull, and 28 miles E. by S. of York. It is situated at the base of the Wolds and about a mile from the river Hull. It is governed by a mayor, a recorder, 12 aldermen, and 13 capital bur gesses ; and it sends two members to parliament. The population of the borough and liberties of Beverley is 8,302. It is one of the polling-places, under the Reform Act, for the East Riding of Yorkshire, and the court is held here for the election of the Knights of the Shire.

The ancient history of Beverley is obscure. The tract of country from the Humber to the Tyne was occupied by that powerful nation of ancient Britons, the Brigantes ; and there are some indications of there having been British settlements in the vicinity of Beverley, but whether during the Roman sway, prior to that period, or immediately after, appears un certain. No remains have been discovered which are suffi cient to warrant the idea of this town haying been a Roman station ; historians whose writings are generally received as authentic date the origin of Beverley at A.D. 700.

The woods and marshes of Deira lay immediately to the north of the Humber. These marshes are supposed immediately have been lakes, or meres whenever the river Hull overflowed the country. That there have been many such meres in Holderness and the adjacent country is evident not only from the appearance of the district, but also from the names of many places within such district. Woodmansea, Rotsea, Watton (Wet-town), Hornsea, &c. There is still a large mere at Hornsea. The termination sea (or sey, as it is also spelt) is nearly synonymous with mere. Beverley also takes its name from one of these lakes - Beverlac, the lake of beavers, so named from the beavers with which the neighbouring river Hull abounded.

In the early part of the eighth century, John, archbishop of York, dedicated a church which he founded at Beverley to St. John the Baptist ; and he afterwards converted it into a monastery ; he passed four years in this retirement, and when he died was buried here. Towards the close of that century the church and monastery were ravaged by the Danes, who destroyed all the books and ornaments ; the monastery of Beverley remained three years desolate ; afterwards the presbyters and clerks returned to Beverley and repaired the place. In the time of Athelstan the church of Beverley was visited by that monarch on his route northwards to punish the bad faith of Constantine, the king of Scotland. Athelstan changed it from a monastery into a college. He placed himself under the protection of the sainted John of Beverley, returned from his expedition victorious, and in gratitude to his patron-saint, he conferred great privileges and rich possessions on the church of St. John. This was probably about the year 937-8. Athelstan granted a charter to the people of Beverley, exempting them from certain tolls, and conferring upon them important privileges, in allusion to which the following distich is to be seen in the minster church, between the pictures of Athelstan, the founder, and St. John of Beverley, the patron-saint of the church ;

Als free, make I the
As hert may thynke, or eyh can see.

The charter of Athelstan was confirmed by succeeding kings, or similar ones were granted. John especially conceded to them freedom from “toll, pontage, passage, stallage,” &c. in consequence of which the burgesses had to pay him five hundred marks. Of these rights and privileges the people of Beverley became afterwards exceedingly tenacious. Mr. Poulson, the modern historian of Beverley, writing of the year 1424, says, “It is probable that as trade increased they (the burgesses) resorted to all the markets and fairs of the neighbouring towns for the disposal of their goods, which they had an opportunity of vending, without being subject to the above impositions” (tolls or customs), “and which, at the time referred to, would give them advantages over their less privileged competitors.” It seems to have been the constant practice of the burgesses to apply for a ratification of their privileges on the accession of every new king ; and it appears that they were compelled to this mode of preserving their rights from the constant demands made upon them in other boroughs for the payment of toll.

It appears that Beverley was a manufacturing town at an early period, and it is mentioned as one of the towns which might freely buy and sell dyed cloths. It is probable that the arts of weaving and dyeing were carried on at Beverley, woad and wool being two of the articles which paid a toll when taken there for sale. In the reign of Henry II some outward-bound Spanish merchants were plundered on the Essex coasts of scarlet and other cloths, which were recognised as being those of Beverley, Stamford, and York.

In the time of Edward III Hull was a town of increasing importance ; its first and great charter was granted at Westminster in 1299. This town was an impediment to the advancement of Beverley, and as it offered greater facilities for domestic and foreign commerce, it obtained the preference due to its superior situation at the junction of the river Hull with the Humber, and the pretensions of Beverley as a port became disregarded.

To raise the declining commerce of Beverley, a charter incorporating the town was procured in the 15th year of Elizabeth, and the right to send two burgesses to represent the burgesses in parliament was acknowledged. This right the men of Beverley had exercised as early as the time of Edward I, but for a long series of years they had ceased to avail themselves of such privilege. The last and the governing charter is that of 1 James II. A printing press was established in Beverley in the year 1509, by Hugo Goes, supposed to be the son of a printer of Antwerp, but as he soon after removed to London, it has been presumed that he received little encouragement to remain at Beverley. During the civil wars in the time of Charles I and Cromwell , Beverley was frequently a scene of agitation and excitement, being by turns subjected to the exactions of each party. It was here that Sir John Hotham was arrested by his nephew, on his flight from Hull, “as a traitor to the commonwealth.” Sir John had represented Beverley in several successive parliaments. Shortly after his arrest, he and his son were executed on Tower-Hill.

The modern town of Beverley is of great length, considering its population, being considerably more than a mile from its commencement, on the road from Hull, to its out skirts on the Driffield road. The principal street is wide and airy : the market place, which comprises an area of nearly four acres, is ornamented with an octangular market cross. Its present commerce is chiefly confined to tanned leather, oatmeal, malt, corn, and coals. There is an extensive colour and whiting manufactory, an iron foundry, and a ship building Yard. The shambles is a modern building of brick, part of which has lately been converted into a corn exchange. The employments of its 1,567 families, comprising 6,728 persons, in 1821, are thus shown :-

Families occupied in agriculture : 176

Families in trade and in manufactures : 731

Other classes not above comprised : 660

The population of the borough and liberties in 1821 was 7,521.

Beverley communicates with the river Hull by a canal called Beverley-Beck : this canal, which was made navigable a bout the year 1344, is about a mile in length, and is kept in repair by certain tolls, which two local Acts of Parliament (13 Geo. I, 18 Geo. II) empower the corporation to collect.

The finest object in Beverley is the collegiate church of St. John, commonly called the Minster-church. Like many cathedral churches in the kingdom, this edifice has been built at different periods, and exhibits the several styles of Gothic architecture which Mr. Rickman has distinguished under the names of the early, the decorated, and perpendicular English. The principal window at the east end is said to be copied from that of York. Its pointed arch is divided by mullions, which are strengthened by parallel ones on the inside ; these bear a small gallery connected with the transoms, which divide the lights into two portions. This window is the only one in the Minster which can boast of stained glass. The windows of the nave are of the decorated style. The arch is divided by mullions into four lights, and these mullions branch out into the flowing tracery of various figures. The entrance to the nave on the north side is by a porch of exquisite beauty ; it has a panelled front, which is perhaps unequalled. The west front is also an object of interest to the architect : it is described by Mr. Rickman as being by far the finest of its style in England. He says, “that what the west front of York is to the decorated, so is this to the perpendicular style, with this addition, that in this front nothing but one style is seen, - all is harmonious.” For a more particular description we refer to Mr. Rickman's work on “Gothic Architecture” p. 105. The dimensions of the Minster are :-

Length from east to west : 334ft 4ins

Breadth of the nave and side aisles : 64ft 3ins

Length of the great cross aisle : 167ft 6ins

Height of the nave : 67ft 0ins

From the vaulted roof of the nave to the summit of the centre tower : 40ft

Height of the side aisles : 33ft 0ins

Height of the two west towers : 200ft

The celebrated Percy Shrine, which is within the choir, is an elegant specimen of the decorated style, and of most exquisite workmanship. To which of the ladies of the house of Percy it was erected is a matter of controversy on which much difference of opinion exists. The collegiate establishment was dissolved in the 1st year of Edward VI, and its revenues were confiscated. Elizabeth, in the twenty -first year of her reign, granted certain chauntries and lands (part of the former property of the church) to the mayor, governors, and burgesses of Beverley, for the repair and maintenance of the fabric of the Minster. The income of this estate, in the year 1806, was £528, 12 shillings and 9 pence ; but at present it is near £800 per annum.

Sir Michael Warton, by his will, dated 23rd May, 1724, bequeathed £4,000 to the same and other purposes. This bequest has been invested in land, and in 1806 produced an income of £323, 6 shillings and 9 pence, making the whole income of the Minster (in 1806) £851, 19 shillings and 6 pence. Of this sum £390, 15 shillings has been appropriated by authority of parliament to the different officers of the church, and the remainder, £461, 4 shillings, constitutes the fund for repairing the fabric ; but the repairing fund, owing to the increased value of Elizabeth's grant since 1806, must now be much greater. The distribution of the above-mentioned sum of £390, 15 shillings is as follows :- Head curate, £1001 ; two assistant curates, £209, 15 shillings ; organist, £60 ; receivers, £21. From other sources the salary of the head curate is raised to £175, 15 shillings and 6 pence, and that of each of the assistant curates to £120.

In the year 1708 the Minster was found to be in a very dilapidated state, but by the active exertions of Mr. Moyser, M.P. for the borough, a fund was procured for its restoration ; since this date it has never been suffered to fall into decay.

St. Mary's Church is an exceedingly handsome and spacious Gothic building, with an elegant tower at the intersection of the two parts of the cross. Its estates pro duce about £800 per annum. This income is “for adorning and keeping in repair the fabric, utensils, and habiliments of St. Mary's Church ; for paying the salaries of the sexton and common servants of the church,” &c. There were formerly two other churches in Beverley, but they no longer exist. In ancient times there was a monastery of Black Friars, and another of Franciscans or Grey Friars, an establishment of Knights Hospitallers, and other houses more or less connected with the ancient religion of the country, for private retirement, and for the relief of the poor and infirm.

The most ancient dissenting meeting-house in Beverley is the Independent Chapel. The present building was erected in 1800, but there existed one prior to it, which was built in 1700. The Wesleyan Methodists, the Church Methodists, the primitive Methodists, the Baptists, and the Quakers have all places of worship here. The Church Methodists took their rise at Beverley ; they separated from the Wesleyans chiefly on the ground of the government of that body being placed in the hands of the travelling preachers, who assemble in conference and make laws for the government of the whole body. The Church Methodists contend that the people ought to possess a fair proportion of power, both in the legislative and executive government of the Methodist Society. No services at present take place at the chapels of the Church Methodists and the Quakers. The number of children in the various Sunday Schools is as follows :- Church Sunday Schools (including day scholars) 481. Wesleyan Methodist Sunday Schools 328. Independent Sunday Schools 250, and Baptists' Sunday Schools 80.

The Grammar School of Beverley is of great antiquity ; as far as its history can be traced it has been a free school for the sons of burgesses. The general government of the school rests with the corporation, and that body appoints the master. The only endowment is a rent-charge of £10 per annum bequeathed by Dr. Metcalf and payable out of certain estates in Cambridgeshire. The master receives £70 annually from the corporation and a yearly gift of £20 from the two representatives of the borough, which, if not paid by them, is made up by the corporation : there is also a good dwelling-house for the master at a merely nominal rent.

The master besides receives a quarterly payment from each free scholar : the payment is at present 40 shillings per annum. For this sum freemen may send their sons to learn the classics and mathematics, but English grammar, writing and arithmetic, are not taught without an extra charge of about 40 shillings more ; and therefore few freemen avail themselves of the school. The number of pupils is ten freemen's sons, ten not sons of freemen, and twenty-four boarders. A library of 700 volumes, including many works of value, is attached to this school, which possesses, by the endowments of various benefactors, two fellowships, six scholarships, and three exhibitions to St. John's College, Cambridge.

Graves's Schools :-The Rev. James Graves, formerly curate at the Minster, bequeathed upwards of £2,000 to be invested in the public funds for the education of the children of the poor. The schools were commenced in the year 1810. The number of boys taught by this charity is 80 ; the number of girls is also 80 ; they are instructed on the system of Dr. Bell in both schools.

The National School was commenced in the year 1815 : it is supported by voluntary contributions, and it is for the instruction of boys only. The corporation subscribe £21 annually to this school. About 230 children are taught, and each child, in this school and in Graves's Schools, pays one shilling quarterly.

The Blue Coat School was established by subscription in 1709. It has received some handsome donations, but its funds appear to be adequate to the maintenance, clothing, and instruction of only eight pupils. The other institutions of Beverley are a Savings' Bank, a Dispensary, a News -Room, and a Mechanics' Institute. The latter has 108 members. The borough gaol is only used for the confinement of persons committed for trial, those sentenced to simple confinement, and debtors ; prisoners sentenced to hard labour are confined in the House of Correction for the East Riding of the county, which is built within the liberties of the town.

In places where the church has exercised any considerable degree of influence, we find many charities for the relief of the poor, the aged, and the infirm. Beverley dispenses many such benefactions. Bread is given away in consider able quantities at the Minster, at regular and frequent intervals. There are also almshouses, and hospitals for widows and old men ; donations of coal, clothing, and money, and numerous other ‘gifts' and ‘charities.' In addition to these supplies to the poor, every freeman residing within the borough enjoys a right of pasture for a certain number of cattle over 1,217 acres of fine land, called the common-pastures, under certain regulations, and for small payments. The freedom of the borough is obtained by birth, by servitude, or by purchase ; the last at the will of the corporation.

The worthies of Beverley, especially deserving of notice, are, John of Beverley ; Alured, Alred, or Alfredus, the historian ; John Alcock, successively bishop of Rochester, Worcester, and Ely ; John Fisher, bishop of Rochester ; bishop Green, who was a benefactor to the Blue Coat School ; and several others of minor note. Mary Godwin (Wolstoncroft) was not born at Beverley, as has some times been related : she came from Epping, near London, with her parents, and resided with them at a farm near Beverley.

As the capital of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Beverley contains several public buildings which are devoted exclusively to county purposes. Amongst these are the Sessions House, the East Riding House of Correction, and the Register Office. The Sessions House is situated without the North Bar, on the approach to the town from Malton, Driffield, &c. The House of Correction is in the immediate vicinity of the Sessions House, from which it is separated by the house of the governor. The prisoners are divided into fourteen classes, and have separate beds, and airing yards. In the House of Correction is a treadmill, on which seventy-two persons may be employed ; it is applied to the grinding of chalk for the manufacture of whiting. There is also a school where the prisoners are instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic. This gaol and its appurtenances cost about £42,000.

The Register Office is for the registry of deeds, conveyances, wills, &c. affecting "honors, manors, lands, tenements, or hereditaments" within the East Riding. The Registrar is chosen by freeholders of the East Riding possessing an estate of £100 annual value.