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Howden in 1843

Howden is a market-town and parish in the wapentake and liberty of Howdenshire, in the East Riding, about 175 miles from London, 20 miles south-east from York, near the north bank of the Ouse, and south of the Hull and Selby Railway. The parish is very extensive, and comprises the townships of Howden, Asselby, Balkholme, Belby, Cotness, Kilpin, Knedlington, Metham, Saltmarsh, Skelton, Thorpe, Yorkfleet, and the chapelries of Barmby-on-the-Marsh and Laxton, having an aggregate population of 4,531 in 1831, and 4,860 in 1841.

The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of the East Riding, and diocese of York ; gross income £163. The church is dedicated to St. Peter, and was formerly collegiate, but the establishment was dissolved in the first year of Edward VI, after which time the church fell into decay. A portion of it is maintained as the parish church, but the remainder forms an extensive and beautiful ruin, which has a very lofty and well proportioned tower. The structure was originally cruciform, and is said to vie with any building of the kind in England for beauty of architecture. The chapter-house, which is octagonal, and contains 30 canopied seats, is particularly celebrated as a fine piece of pointed architecture. It was formerly surmounted by a beautiful spire, which fell in 1750. The town also contains the ruins of an ancient palace of the bishops of Durham, supposed to have been originally erected by Walter Skirlaw, who was bishop about the year 1390, and who built part of the church. The town contains neat chapels for the Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Sandemanians ; and several schools and charities. The houses generally are of mean appearance, but the town has improved greatly of late years, and is lighted with gas. A large building, called the Moot-hall, which formerly stood in the market-place, was removed in 1822.

The town contains three branch banks, has a court for the recovery of small debts, and occasional courts-leet and courts-baron ; and it is one of the polling places for the East Riding. The weekly market is on Saturday, and there are several fairs, by far the most important being a great horse-fair, which generally lasts a fortnight before October 2, which is the principal day. This is considered the greatest horse-fair in England, and it is said that recently more horses have been exhibited here than at any other fair in the world. The dealings are by no means confined to England, but many foreigners attend, and continental princes frequently commission dealers to purchase large numbers of horses here. With this exception, the trade and industry of Howden present no remarkable feature. It lies about, a mile from the Ouse, where there is a ferry and a small harbour for boats, to accommodate the town. The population of the township of Howden was 2,130 in 1831, and 2,332 in 1841.