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Bridlington in 1836

Bridlington, formerly written BRELLINGTON, but now commonly pronounced Burlington, is a port and market-town in the East Riding of the county of York, in the wapentake of Dickering, in the parish of Bridlington, and in the township of Bridlington-quay. The population of the parish of Bridlington in 1831 was 5,637 : the population of the township of Bridlington-quay, including the market-town of Bridlington and quay, was 4,792. In the bathing season there are about a thousand additional residents. The parish of Bridlington comprises the following places :- the town of Bridlington-quay, the town of Buckton, the hamlet of Easton, the chapelry of Grindall, the town of Hilderthorp, the town of Sewerby and Marton, and the hamlet of Speeton. The area of the parish is 12,410 acres. The town is about a mile from the east coast.

The face of the country as far as Bridlington is diversified with lofty swells, and the wolds in some places extend to the coast, which, near the villages of Speeton, Bempton and Flamborough, rise in cliffs of 100 or 150 yards in perpendicular height. At Bridlington the country sinks into a flat, which continues for 8 or 9 miles to the south without almost any variation. Bridlington is distant from London by Lincoln 203 miles ; by York 238 miles : it is 40 miles east by north from York, and 32 miles north from Hull. Its distance from London in a straight line is 167 miles. It is one of the polling places under the Reform Act, for the election of Members of Parliament for the East Riding of the county.

Early History. - Bridlington is considered by some authorities to have been the site of a Roman station - Gabrantovicorum. The vicinity of Flamborough Head as a post for observation, the sheltered bay, the Sinus Portuosus of Ptolemv, and the direction of a Roman road from York and Aldborough, are all circumstances which strengthen the supposition. The remains which determine the exact sites of inland towns inhabited by the Romans, have here been long ago swept away by the encroachments of the sea. After the invasions of the Danes, and after the Saxons had established themselves in Britain, the northern portion of the country was the last subdued ; nor was this effected until the landing at Flamborough of Ida, A.D. 547. Whether the tumuli which abound throughout this district were raised during the time of the Saxon invasions, at an earlier or a later date, is still matter of speculation. The generally received opinion is that they are remnants of a time prior to the Roman invasion ; and late discoveries are in favour of this opinion. On the 10th of July, 1834, a tumulus was opened at Gristhorpe, near Flamborough cliff, a description of which has been published by Mr. Williamson, who infers from its contents that the person entombed therein was “one of the aborigines of the soil.” The coffin was of oak, and of the rudest shape and structure ; the interior having been hollowed out apparently with chisels and hatchets of flint. The body within the coffin was enveloped in a strong skin, which is supposed to have been a part of the man's dress when living. No pottery was found. Flint heads of arrows, and of a javelin, pins of horn, bone and wood, and the fragment of a horn ring, were among the contents of the coffin ; in addition to which was a spear-head of brass, or some other composition of metal. The body is considered to have been about 6 feet 3 inches in height, and its muscular attachments are very strong. The coffin and its contents are placed in the Scarborough museum.

When William the Norman ravaged the country for 60 miles between the Humber and the Tees, the monastery of St. John of Beverley alone escaped the general ruin, owing to the veneration in which the patron saint was held by the Conqueror ; the ravages far exceeded those of the Danes three centuries before. The manor of Bridlington formed part of the extensive possessions of Earl Morcar, and was confiscated in 1072. This manor, as well as large grants in Lincolnshire, was conferred on Gilbert de Gant, a nephew of the Conqueror, and son of Baldwin, Earl of Flanders. The possessions of Gilbert de Gant descended to his son Walter.

Ecclesiastical History. - To Walter de Gant Bridlington owes the foundation of its priory, the most distinguishing feature in its early history. The revenues with which this monastic establishment was endowed were on a scale of munificence correspondent to the rich possessions of its founder. When completed, probably in 1114, it was peopled with canons regular of the order of St. Augustine. The mo nastery was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Nicholas. The charter of Walter de Gant, and the confirmatory charter of Henry, are in Dugdale's Monasticon ; and the bull of Pope Calixtus II., confirming all the grants, is preserved among the manuscripts of Roger Dodsworth, in the Bodleian library at Oxford. These documents are given at length in Prickett's Historical and Architectural Description of the Priory Church of Bridlington. The estates of the priory were of immense extent, and included not only lands in its vicinity, but also in many other parts of Yorkshire, and in Lincolnshire. Gilbert de Gant, the son of the founder, was a great benefactor to the priory; and many other nobles added liberal donations to its wealth. Henry I granted to the prior a full and complete civil jurisdiction over the manor and town. Stephen granted them a jurisdiction over the port and harbour. John granted them an annual fair, and a weekly market. Richard II. granted them his license to enclose the priory with walls and houses built of stone and lime, in order to defend themselves from the ships of enemies which entered the harbour. Other kings granted them additional favours and protections. A summary of the possessions of the priory is given in Burton's Monasticon Eboracense. The canons were careful to have their grants confirmed, in many instances by the heirs of the donor, the archbishop of the province, the king, and the reigning pontiff. The monks of Bridlington are often mentioned in early histories and several of them were eminent for piety and learning. Mr. Whitaker, the historian of Craven, speaks of “the religious” as attendants at the great annual fairs held in different parts of the country. He says the canons of Bridlington regularly attended the fair at Boston every year, between 1290 and 1325. In the computus of the priory at Bridling ton is a yearly account of wine, cloth, groceries, &c., bought “apud sanctum Botolphum.” The last prior, William de Wode, was installed in 1531 ; having taken an active part in a rebellion soon after the suppression of the lesser monasteries, he was attainted of high treason and executed at Tyburn, A.D. 1537. William of Newburgh was a native of Bridlington, though a canon of Newburgh. His Historical Chronicle commences with the Norman conquest, and is carried down to the reign of John.

The monastery existed four centuries ; when it was dissolved its revenues amounted to £550 per annum, an immense income at that day. In 1539 it was demolished, and the manor and rectory became the property of the king, by whom they were granted on lease to various individuals ; eight pounds a year being assigned to be paid by the lessee for the maintenance of a parish priest. In the time of Charles I. the manor and rectory were separated and sold to different persons ; the latter passed through several hands, and is now a perpetual curacy of £143 per annum.

History. - In 1643, during the differences between Charles and his parliament, Bridlington became the scene of temporary hostilities. The queen, who was bringing a supply of arms and ammunition from Hellevoetsluis, under the convoy of Admiral Van Tromp, arrived in the bay, having narrowly escaped the squadron under the command of Admiral Batten, who had been stationed to intercept her. After her landing, Batten entered the bay with two of his ships, and for some hours the town was subjected to his cannonading ; he was then obliged to put to sea, as the ebb of the tide would have left him in shoal water. A lively sketch of this transaction, from the pen of the queen, is given in Thompson's Historical Sketches of Bridlington, which is taken from the Gentleman's Magazine for August, 1744. A hostile squadron, under the celebrated Paul Jones, visited Bridlington on the 20th September, 1779, soon after his descent upon Whitehaven. On the following night by moonlight all action commenced, so near to Flamborough Head, which was crowded with spectators, that some of the balls grazed the cliffs. The conflict was between the four ships of Jones and the convoy of the Baltic fleet, the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough. The action, which was very sanguinary, lasted several hours, when the two convoy vessels struck. Jones reached the Texel safely with his prizes.

The Priory Church. - This venerable and splendid specimen of ecclesiastical architecture has been well judged worthy of a description and illustrations. A few general observations and extracts from Mr. Prickett’s work may be made here, but can convey no adequate idea of these re mains or of their former beauty. The nave and an arched gateway leading to it are the only parts now left of the once spacious monastery. The west front has had two towers, of which the lower stories only remain. This front still retains a great degree of architectural magnificence, and is in the style of the beautiful collegiate church of Beverley. The date, 1106, preserved on a stone placed very conspicuously over the entrance, is supposed to mask the year of its foundation. The grand western entrance is an exquisite specimen of the architecture of Henry VII's time ; excepting however the north-western tower, which belongs to a much earlier period. The style of the north-western tower is early English, as is also the whole of the north side of the church. The west window is 55 feet in height from its base to the crown of the arch, and 27 feet in breadth. The head is filled with good perpendicular tracery ; the lower compartment below the transom is the only portion at present glazed, and is 15 feet high. Along this there is a gallery connecting the two western towers ; and it is remarkable that the upper part of the window is 2 feet wider than the part below the transom. The north porch is a truly splendid specimen of architecture, and perhaps better worth preservation than any other part of the fabric ; but it has been sadly neglected, as the entrance is seldom used, and the earth has been suffered to accumulate so much against the whole of the north side of the church that there is now a descent of several steps into the porch. The length of the present church in the interior is 185 feet ; and the distance of the farthest pillar from the east wall of the church, whose foundation ha s been taken up, 152 feet ; so that the ancient church seems to have been nearly of the same length as Beverley minster, about 333 feet ; its breadth is 68 feet, and height about 60 feet. An octagon turret with its leaden cupola, which was erected (for the reception of the bells) on the top of the basement of the south-west tower is as anomalous and disfiguring as can well be conceived. About one-third of this church is fitted up for public worship, and will contain nearly a thousand people. (An Historical and Architectural Description of the Priory Church of Bridlington. By the Rev. duke Prickett.)

The dissenting congregations in Bridlington are two of Wesleyan Methodists, one of Baptists, one of Independents, one of Quakers, and two of Primitive Methodists. A chapel called 'the Union' is used by persons of different denominations. The Wesleyan Methodists have two Sunday schools which contain 300 children ; the Independents' Sunday school contains 80 children ; and there are other Sunday schools of minor importance.

Education, Charities, Commerce, &c. - In the year 1636 William Hustler, an inhabitant of Bridlington, left a sum of £40 to be paid annually out of his estates for the maintenance of a schoolmaster and usher. The children of the parish were to be taught grammar and other useful kinds of learning. For some time the office of schoolmaster was held by the minister or curate of the parish, and that of usher by the parish-clerk. By a decree in chancery in 1819 the two offices were united, the inhabitants having represented that the office of master had become a sinecure in consequence of the non-residence of the minister. The present master is also the parish-clerk : he instructs 20 boys, children of poor parishioners, in grammar, reading, writing, and arithmetic, on this foundation; he also takes paying pupils. Another school was founded by William Bower in 1781, with £20 per annum for ever “for maintaining and educating the poore children of Bridlington and Key in the art of carding, kniting, and spining of wooll.” Twelve children of poor parents receive instruction in this school. Henry Cowton, by will dated April, 1696, left the rent of certain lands for charitable purposes : these lands at present let for £170 per annum. In 1734 Timothy Woolfe bequeathed by will the sum of £500 to purchase land, the rent of which is to be distributed among the poor for ever ; and in 1795 Isaac Wall bequeathed the interest of £1,000 3 per cent. consols to be distributed amongst the poor for ever. The national school was commenced in 1818. In the year 1822 a grant of £300 having been made by the National Society, the inhabitants raised a sufficient sum for the erection of two school-rooms, one for boys and one for girls, each capable of containing 200 children. The schools were opened in 1826 and nearly 300 children are educated in them. An infants’ school was established in 1828, chiefly by the active benevolence of an occasional resident, which is well managed and contains 100 young children. In addition to these schools there are about 20 others, including day and boarding schools.

There are two public subscription libraries and a small museum. The town-hall is over the priory gateway ; the lower rooms of the gateway are used as a prison ; the corn-exchange is in the market-place. The town was first lighted with gas in the year 1833.

The streets are narrow and irregularly built, and the whole appearance is that of an old town. The trade is chiefly in corn, and was formerly very extensive ; large quantities were brought hither from the great agricultural tract bordering the Wolds and from Holderness, and it was conveyed from this port coastways to London. The opening of the navigable canal from Driffield to Hull has caused the corn-trade of Bridlington to decline. It is one of the places which has an inspector of corn-returns, and weekly accounts of the quantity and price of grain sold are transmitted to the general inspector in London. Malt and ale were formerly articles of considerable traffic ; in 1761 there were 60 malt-kilns in constant use : this trade has very greatly declined. Soap-boiling and bone-grinding for the purposes of manure are now carried on, and the manufacture of hats employs a few persons. These occupations, the retail business necessary for the supply of an extensive agricultural district, and the influx of summer visitors, are the chief means which contribute to the support of the inhabitants.

The imports are chiefly coals from Sunderland and Newcastle, timber from America and the Baltic, and general merchandise from London and Hull : the port is a member of the port of Hull. Two fairs are held annually in a large open area between the priory gate, called also the Bayle Gate, and the church. This area is called the Green, and is supposed to have been the ancient market-place. On the south verge stands the parish poor-house, a large old building, and to be “unhappily crowded with inmates.” At a short distance are two circular mounds of earth 104 yards asunder, called butt-hills, thrown up for the practice of archery before the introduction of fire-arms.

Bridlington Quay in 1836 is a small modern town in the recess of the bay on the sea-coast, the principal street of which runs directly to the harbour and is very wide. The north pier commands a view of Flamborough Head at 5 miles distance. There is good anchorage in this bay, particularly when the wind is unfavourable for coasting-vessels proceeding round Flamborough Head north. The amusements of Quay during the bathing season are chiefly those of riding and sailing. The beach has a fine hard sand, which affords a good walk at low water. There are warm and cold sea -water baths for invalids and rooms which possess all the requisite accommodations. At a short distance there is a chalybeate spring of reputed efficacy, resembling the waters of Scarborough and Cheltenham, but not so purgative. An ebbing and flowing spring, which was discovered in 1811, furnishes an abundant supply of water of remarkable purity. This spring was discovered in 1811 by the late Benjamin Milne, Esq., collector of the customs at this port ; a man who, for this and other services, is justly entitled to rank first among the benefactors of Bridlington. The fossils of the chalk cliffs near Bridlington are numerous and well known. A few years ago a head of the great extinct elk with branching horns, measuring 11 ft. from tip to tip was found in the lacustrine deposit in this vicinity. The peat bogs and shell marl deposits in which the remains of this noble extinct animal have been found in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, are extremely similar to the lacustrine accumulations of Holderness. The entrance to the port and bay is defended by two batteries, one on the south side of the town, mounting 6 guns (18-pounders), and her on the north side, mounting six guns (12-pounders). These batteries enfilade the mouth of the harbour and form a cross fire with each other at right angles. The environs of Bridlington and Quay are exceedingly beautiful. On the 17th February, 1836, Bridlington was visited by one of the heaviest storms ever known. Several houses were destroyed, others much damaged, and the piers were much injured.