Beverley, Yorkshire, England. Further historical information.



BEVERLEY, a market town and borough in the wapentake of Harthill and the liberty of Beverley;(the several parishes of St. John, St. Mary, St. Nicholas, and St. Martin), 9 miles NNW. of Hull, 10 from South Cave, 10 from Market Weighton, 10 from Driffield, and 29 from York.

Because the information about the various parishes of Beverley is generally presented by the various writers intertwined, I have not attempted to separate out the information for these and all the information is presented here within the "Ancient Parish of Beverley" pages (though no such Ancient parish existed). There is nothing on the pages for the Ancient parishes of St. John and St. Nicholas which does not appear on these pages.[Colin Hinson 2009]

Beverley is one of the most considerable towns of the East riding: the period when it was built cannot be ascertained with precision, but the Collegiate church, or Minster, as it is called, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was founded, according to a MS. in Leland's Collectanea, in 126. It was afterwards destroyed by the Pagans, and again erected by John of Beverley, the fifth archbishop of York, from Paulinus, in 704, who ordained in the choir of the church a monastery of black monks, in the nave a college of seven secular canon, with six clerks, and in the chapel of St. Martin adjoining to the church, a society of religious virgins, or nuns. About a century and a half afterwards this structure was again destroyed by the Danes, who murdered a number of the monks, the canons and the nuns; but Athelstan, king of England, raised another church on the same spot, and endowed it with certain gifts and privileges. In the mean time a town grew up around the church, which obtained the name of Beverlac, the place or lake of beavers, with which animals the neighbouring river Hull abounded. Amongst the immunities was the privilege of sanctuary, the limits of which were marked here, as at Ripon, by four crosses, each of them erected at a distance of a mile from the church. William, the conqueror, whose army assembled seven miles from Beverley, from his veneration for St. John of Beverley, gave orders that none of his soldiers should commit any spoilation upon that sanctuary. According to Stubbs, the prelate, whose name has been through eleven centuries so closely interwoven with the history of Beverley, was born in that place, in the year 640, about the time of the second introduction of christianity into the North of England, by St. Austin and the Roman missionaries. He was descended of a good family. And after a course of religious education, Under St. Hilda, the famous abbess of Whitby, and under Theodore, the 5th archbishop of Canterbury, he became himself, in the year 687, the 5th archbishop of York, under the popular name of St. John of Beverley. His fame for sanctity was so great, that the venerable Bede declares of his own knowledge, that the holy man performed many miracles. At length, grown aged and infirm, he resigned his bishoprick to Wilfrid II. in 718, and retired to Beverley, where having lived three years in seclusion, he died on the 7th of May, 721, and was buried in the church porch belonging to that college which he had founded.

In 1188, this church was again destroyed by fire, and upon opening a grave, on the 13th September, 1664, a vault was found, in which there was a leaden plate, bearing a Latin inscription, which may be thus rendered

"In the year of the incarnation of our Lord, 1188, this church was destroyed by fire, in the night following the feast of St. Matthew, the apostle: in the year 1197, on the 6th of the Ides of March, an inquisition was made for the relics of the blessed John, and the bones were found in the Eastern part of the sepulchre, and here reposited; and dust mixed with mortar was in the same place found, and re-interred."

Subsequently, namely in the year 1726, these relics were again taken up, and deposited in an arched vault prepared for their reception. The pious zeal which shone so conspicuously in the 12th century, soon reinstated the Minster in all its former grandeur, and archbishop Kinsius built the great steeple. In the year 1421, Henry V. after the coronation of Catharine of France, at Westminster, made a pilgrimage to Beverley, because, as the Historians of those times say, a strong report prevailed, that the tomb of St. John of Beverley, sweat blood all the day that the famous battle of Agincourt was fought, and it was imputed to the merits of that saint that this great Victory was won.

The dissolution of the Collegiate church of St. John, took place on the 20th of March, 1544, in the 37th year of the reign of Henry VIII. The silent and almost imperceptible dilapidations of time, had in five centuries brought the Minster at Beverley, into a state of ruinous decay, and in the year 1710, a considerable sum of money was raised by a general brief, and by individual donations, with which sum it was re-edified and adorned; the choir was paved with marble of various colours; a magnificent arch, curiously engraved was raised over the altar, under which was placed a table of fine white marble; the large East window was decorated with rich painted glass, collected from the other windows, amongst which are the twelve apostles. Since that time, the screen between the Choir and the nave has been rebuilt of Roach abbey stone, curiously carved in Gothic work; the floor of the body of the church is paved with stone from the same quarry, and the galleries have been rebuilt, and beautifully finished after the Doric order, resembling those of St. Albans, at Rome. From some cause not explained, the North gable end of the Minster had shrunk, and hung over the foundation 42 inches; to remedy this dangerous deformity, Mr. Thornton, a carpenter, of York, aided by Mr. Rushworth, a stone mason, formed a machine by which this part of the building, was, in 1739, actually screwed up into its proper place, and restored again to the perpendicular line!

The clergy of the Minster at present consist of a curate, and two assistants, the patronage being in the Mayor, Aldermen, and capital burgesses. The certified value of the living is stated in Bacon's Liber Regis at £31. 6s. 8d. The curate is the Rev. Joseph Coltman, and the Rev. James Eyre, and the Rev. William Hildyard, are the assistant curates. At the South East transept stands the freed-stool mentioned by Camden, made out of one entire stone, and said to have been removed from Scotland. On which is inscribed

Haec sedes Lapidea, Dicitur, i.e. Pacis Cathedra, ad quam Reus Fugiendo Perueniens Omnimodam Habet Securitatem.

In English thus :-" This stone chair is called Freed Stool, i.e. The Chair of Peace, to which what criminal soever flies, hath full protection."

At the upper end of the body of the church hangs an ancient tablet with the picture of St. John and of King Athelstan, and between them this distich,

"Als Free make I The

"As hert may thynke or Egh may see."

Hence the burgesses of Beverley generally pay no toll or custom in any port or town of England, and before they travel, they can, if they choose, receive at the Mayor's office a certificate, setting forth, " That King Athelstan, of famous memory, did grant and also, king Henry I did grant and confirm to the men of the town of Beverley an exemption from all manner of imposts, tolls, tallage, stallage, tunnage, lastage, package, wharfage, and of and from all and every the like exactions, payments and duties, throughout, and in all places whatsoever, by land or sea, within all the dominions of England and Wales; which said grants have been confirmed by all, or most of the succeeding kings and queens of England. And these are also to certify, that the bearer, (mentioning his name and trade) is a burgess of the said town of Beverley, and is thereby discharged of and from all and every the like exactions, payments, and duties." Similar privileges extend to the inhabitants of the liberty of St. John of Beverley, who may also, by application to the deputy steward of the court, obtain a certificate of exemption. This privilege, though of general, is not of universal application; for it appears, that in the year 1803; an act of parliament was obtained in favour of the Hull and Driffield navigation, for making some alteration in the bridge, called Hull bridge, by which act vessels belonging to the burgesses of Beverley have since been subjected to a toll, or tonnage. This, however, is the only toll which can be legally exacted from them, when they are supplied with the requisite certificate. The right of exemption from tolls has been granted, or confirmed by charter and letters patent to the burgesses of Beverley, by no fewer than twenty one sovereigns, commencing with king Athelstan, in 925, and ending with James II in 1688. Another privilege attaching to the free burgesses of Beverley, and a much more important one, is the right of pasturage on the fertile and extensive commons belonging to that borough:

These are
*Westwood, containing 504 acres.
And Swine moor.263

Each freeman is allowed to turn three head of cattle into Westwood, six into Swinemoor, three into Figham, and one into Hurn. For this privilege only seven shillings per head is paid for cattle pastured during the summer upon Westwood, ten shillings and sixpence per head upon Swinemoor, nine shillings upon Figham, and two shillings and sixpence per head upon Hurn, from May-day to the races in the beginning of June; and three shillings and sixpence the remainder of the year.

* Westwood is held by a grant from Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York; and Figham by a grant from William Wykham, archbishop of the same province. There is a tradition, that Westwood was presented to the freemen of Beverley, by two maiden sisters, whose " Virgin Tomb" stands in the body of the church, near the pillars of the little South aisle, but this popular error is wholly unsupported by evidence.

The Church of St. Mary, though greatly inferior to the Minster as a building, is a venerable parish church, of which the King is the patron, and the Rev. Robert Rigby the vicar. In the King's books this living is valued at 14 2s 4½d. In this church there are several monuments, but the most remarkable of them is one dated 1689, which records the fate of two Danish duelists, who are here interred, and whose epitaph runs thus :

Here two young Danish soldiers lie
The one in quarrel chanced to die;
The other's head, by their own law,
By sword was severed at one blow.

The places of worship not within the pale of the establishment are the Independent Chapel, Lairgate, the Rev. James Mather, minister; the Methodist Chapel, Walkergate; the Friends Meeting-House, Wood lane; and the Baptist Chapel, Walkergate, the Rev. John Carlton, minister.

The Hospitals at Beverley consist of Mrs. ANNE ROUTH'S HOSPITAL, in Keldgate, for ancient poor widows, in which there are thirty two inmates, who are each allowed five shillings per week, with a gown and a supply of coals yearly, arising from the rents of estates in different parts of the county. Mr. CHARLES WARTON'S HOSPITAL, in Minster moorgate, for poor widows, of whom fourteen are accommodated, and have each allowed four shillings a week, with a gown each, and coals yearly from an estate called Killingraves, between Beverley and Bishop Burton; the Trustees of which charity also apprentice a number of boys annually, with a premium of four pounds each. SIR MICHAEL WARTON'S HOSPITAL, * in Minster moorgate, for six poor widows, who are each allowed three shillings weekly, with a gown and coals annually. FOX'S HOSPITAL in Minster moorgate, for four poor widows, who have each four shillings a week, a quantity of coals yearly, and a new gown every two years, from a small estate and money in the funds. TEMPERTON'S HOSPITAL, Walkergate, for supporting six poor persons, men and women; the funds arising from landed property. There are also twenty-two Maisons de dieu and four Bead Houses, which afford accommodation to as many poor families, with some small allowance to each. Exclusive of these benevolent institutions, there are several other charities under the direction of trustees, who make periodical distributions to the poor. Formerly there were in this place a preceptory of Knights Hospitalers of Saint John of Jerusalem, and hospitals dedicated to St. Nicholas, St. Giles, and the Trinity; and an hospital without the North Bargate, with a house of black and another of grey friars.

* This gentleman contributed during his life time £500 towards the repairs of the Minster, and bequeathed £4000 as a perpetual fund to beautify and keep it in order.

The Free Schools of Beverley are the Grammar School, the National School, and Graves's School. The Grammar School, which is of ancient date, is probably coeval with the Collegiate Society of Saint John, for it does not appear when or by whom it was founded. The patronage of this school is now in the corporation. The old school of brick stood in the Minster yard, on the scite of the cloisters and conventual buildings, but in the year 1816, it was taken down to improve the church, and by the liberality of the, Corporation a new school was built in a commodious and handsome style, in Keldgate, with a large and convenient house attached, for the convenience of the master. The school is open to sons of burgesses indefinitely, on the payment of two pounds per annum for their instruction in the classics, and two guineas for writing and arithmetic. The sons of non-freemen and day scholars pay six guineas for the classics and three pounds for writing and accompts. The present master is the Rev, J. P. Richards, whose stipend is a hundred pounds a year, being ten pounds from Dr. Metcalf's endowment, twenty pounds as an annual gift from the members of the borough, and seventy pounds as an annual donation from the corporation. There is no church preferment attached to the grammar school, but the parishioners of St. Mary's sometimes give the lectureship of their church to the master, This school has two fellowships, six scholarships, and three exhibitions to St. John's College, Cambridge. Among the eminent men who have been educated here may be mentioned John Alcock, D. D. Bishop of Ely, John Fisher, D.D. Bishop of Rochester, John Green, D.D. Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Ingham, a worthy divine, and Henry Revel Reynolds, an eminent physician. There is a select library of classical hooks attached to the school, containing several Aldine editions. - Graves's Free School is situated in the square adjacent to Tollgavel. This establishment is of modern origin, and owes its institution to the munificence of the Rev. James Graves, late curate of the Minster who bequeathed a sum of money amounting to about £3000. in the public funds for the education of youth in Beverley. For about two years a temporary school room was used; but in 1814 the trustees purchased the old play house, and having divided it by a partition, fitted it up for schools for boys and girls. Here one hundred boys from the town and neighbourhood receive gratuitous instruction, under the tuition of Mr. William Watson, on the Lancastrian plan; and one hundred girls on the plan of Dr. Bell, and in the afternoon the girls are taught needle work by Mrs. Watson. At the National School, which is situate in Minster moorgate, about 160 boys are taught by Mr. G. Blyth.

The town of Beverley is airy, well built, and extensive. The market place, in particular, is very spacious, occupying four acres of land; it is ornamented by a cross supported by eight columns, each consisting of a single stone, and was erected at the expense of one of the members of the borough. The market, which is held on Saturday, is well supplied, and the business done here in the corn trade is very considerable. The canal, called Beverley Beck, cut in the year 1727, from this town to the river Hull, affords great facilities to trade, by opening a communication with the Humber, and coals are brought in large quantities to the staiths, for the supply of the interior part of the East Riding. Here is likewise a trade in malt and leather, and several of the poorer class find employment in the extensive nurseries of Messrs. George and William Tindall, and the mint plantations of Messrs. Walker, Parker, and Hall.

The annual fairs are held on the Thursday before old Va1entines day, on the 5th of July, on the Wednesday before the 25th of September, and on the 6th of November.

During the civil wars this place was alternately the prey of the King's troops and of the troops of Parliament. At the commencement of the quarrel, when Charles the First attempted to make himself master of Hull, and was refused admission by Sir John Hotham, the governor of that garrison, he had his quarters at Beverley, but the place soon fell into the hands of the Parliamentary forces, and Sir John, when he fled from Hull, on account of his treason against that cause which he had originally so much advanced, was taken prisoner in the streets of Beverley, and afterwards executed on Tower Hill.

The population of this town has, within the last ten years, increased nearly 10 per cent, over the population of 1811. In the former return the numbers were 6035 they now are -

St. Martin's Parish. 2937
St. Mary's ditto. 3214
St. Nicholas, ditto. 577
Total. 6728

The government of the Borough is in a Mayor, (who is always coroner for the time being) twelve Aldermen, and thirteen capital Burgesses, under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth, and renewed by James II. in the year of the revolution. The mayor and capital burgesses are elected annually, on the Monday next before the 29th of September.* By the charter of this corporation the mayor is chosen out of the aldermen by the freemen, and the capital burgesses are nominated by the new mayor, and elected by acclamation (or shouted in, as it is called) by the freemen, immediately after the election of the mayor. The power is vested in the King to remove from their 'respective' offices the mayor, recorder, aldermen, capital burgesses, and common clerk, or any of them; and in 1688 this power was exercised, for on the 11th of June, in that year, an order was sent to Beverley, by the King in council, for the removal of the recorder, four aldermen, and three burgesses. So long ago as the reign of Edward I. Beverley returned two members to Parliament, but after the death of that monarch, this borough ceased to make returns till the 5th of Elizabeth, when it was incorporated. - The election is in the free burgesses, resident and non-resident, of which there are about 2000, and the present members are John Wharton, Esq. of Skelton Castle, and George Lane Fox, Esq. of Bramham Park.

* The list of the corporate body for year 1823 will be found prefixed to this volume, under the head of "Additions and Alterations."

The House of Correction, or gaol of the East-Riding, which was built about the year 1809, on a new site, is situated a little distance without the North bar, and the sessions for the East-Riding are always held in the Court-House within this building. - There is also a court of record held in the Guildhall, called the Provost's Court, in which all causes may be tried arising within the liberties of this borough, except titles to land; and the corporation is said to possess a power of trying capital felonies, but they do not exercise it.

The office for the registration of wills and deeds, established in the 6th year of the reign of Queen Anne, called the Register Office of the East Riding, gives name to the square in which it is situated. Of this office H M Maister, Esq. is registrar, and Mr C A Atkinson is deputy

The Theatre is a small building situated in Lairgate, and is generally well attended during the race week, which always follows the week of the York spring meeting.

At the Subscription News Room, held at Mr. Thomas Elcock's, in the Market place, the London daily and some of the, provincial papers are regularly received,

The vicinity of Beverley, towards the West, is elevated and pleasant; the common pasture of Westwood commands a beautiful view of the town and Minster, and of the western parts of Holderness. To the East and South the country, to the distance of several miles, is flat and uninviting, but even here the scenery is greatly improved by, drainage, inclosure, and cultivation; and this extensive tract of fen land, which fifty years ago was a solitary waste, flooded during the greater part of the year, now presents an aspect of fertility.

The following is the entire data from Langdale's Topographical Yorkshire Dictionary:

--Market, Saturday. --Fairs, Thursday before Old Valentine-day, Holy Thursday, July 5, Wednesday before Sept. 25, November 5 for horned cattle, sheep, horses, &c. every other Wednesday for horned cattle and sheep. --Bankers, East Riding Bank, Messrs. Bower and Co. draw on Messrs. Curries, Raikes and Co. 29, Corn-hill; Beverley Bank, Messrs. Machell and Co. draw on Messrs. Sir R. Carr Glynn and Co. 12, Birchin-Lane. --Principal Inns, the Tiger and Beverley Arms. --Pop. St. Mary, 2918 --St. Nicholas, 478 --St. Martins, 2639 --Total, 5035. (The Addenda puts the population at 6,728 -CH) The Church of St. John with St Martin, peculiar, is a perpetual curacy. Patron, the Corporation of Beverley. St. Mary, a vicarage, value, 14L. 2s. 8½d. --Patron, the King. St. Nicholas, (united with St. Mary) a rectory, value, 5L. 0s. 10d. The church of St Nicholas has long been destroyed.

Beverley was sometime called Deir Wold, or the Wood of the Deirans; and subsequently Beverlac, the place or lake of Beavers, an animal then abounding in the neighbourhood. It owes its rise to the piety of early times, for we find that St. John, Archbishop of York, a man of extraordinary acquirements and great sanctity, converted the parish church in this place, into a monastery for Benedictine Monks. In the year 860, it was destroyed by the Danes and lay in ruins three years before it was repaired. King Athelstan, after he had overcome the Scots, on his return came to Beverley, and built a new college of Secular Canons; granted and confirmed to the church many great privileges and liberties; also a sanctuary, the limits of which were marked by four crosses. Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror were both benefactors to it. Valued at the dissolution, at 109L. 8s. 8d. --Dugdale. In 1710, the church being in a ruinous state, subscriptions were raised at the instigation of John Moyser, Esq. of this place, for the purpose of repairing and beautifying the same. In it are several handsome monuments of the Percies, Whartons, Hothams, &c. In 1664, the grave of St. John of Beverley, Archbishop of York, was discovered, with his bones and many relics. This church of St. John, usually styled the Minster, is now converted into a parish church to which that of St. Martin's is annexed; and is, as Dr. Stukely justly observes, "an extraordinary beauty, nothing inferior to York Minster, but somewhat less." The north gable end was, about the year 1739, raised to its perpendicular, from which it had slipped three feet, by Mr. Thornton of York. The admirable machine for this purpose, was engraved in the same year and printed by Mr. Fourdrinier. Besides the Minster there is another church, dedicated to Saint Mary, first built in 1325, to which, in 1667 was annexed St. Nicholas, a large and handsome structure.

Here is an hospital for six poor persons, founded and endowed by William Temperon, in 1723; and another founded in 1636 by Fox Thwaites, for four poor widows, besides other charities. A grammar school of ancient date, but by whom or when founded is not known, with two fellowships, six scholarships, and three exhibitions to St. John's College, Cambridge. The school is open to the sons of burgesses, on the payment of 2L. per annum, for their instruction in the classics, and 2L. 2s. for writing and arithmetic. The master's salary is 100L. per annum, with a dwelling house at a trifling quit-rent.

Beverley sent Members to all the Parliaments of King Edward the I. but from that time not till the fifth of Queen Elizabeth, who in 1573, incorporated the town. The right of election is vested in the freemen of the town, who acquire this right by birth, servitude of seven years, or purchase. Number of voters, about 1400. Returning officer, the Mayor.

The town is governed by a Mayor, 12 Aldermen, and 13 capital Burgesses, chosen annually on the Monday before Michaelmas day, assisted by a Recorder and a Town Clerk. The barbarous custom of baiting a bull on the day the Mayor is sworn into office, is still retained, and takes place in October. Here is the Register Office for this Riding, and the House of Correction and Court Room where the Quarter Sessions of the Peace are held.

"The towne, of Beverie," says Leland, "is large, and welle buildid of wood." It is situated at no great distance from the foot of the Wolds, about a mile from the river Hull, and connected with it by a navigable canal made in 1727. The town is more than a mile in length, its principal street is spacious, and the houses remarkably cleanly in their appearance. The market-place contains about four acres, and is adorned with a beautiful cross, supported by freestone columns, each of an entire stone, erected at the expense or the late Hon. Sir Charles Hotham Bart. and Sir Michael Warton; Knight, then Members of Parliament for the town. The following eminent men have been born here.

John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and a martyr to the religion he professed was born here, in 1459, and received his education in the grammar school of this place. He took his degree of B.A. at Cambridge, 1488, and 1491 that of M.A. He became confessor to Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother to Henry VII. who, by his advice, founded St. John's and Christ's Colleges, Cambridge. He was afterwards chosen Chancellor of the University; and in 1504 was made Bishop of Rochester, from which he would never remove to a better see. He was a zealous opponent of the reformation, and of the King's divorce from Queen Catherine. He refused to acknowledge the King's supremacy, was therefore, sent to the tower, where he continued till his trial and execution which took place, June 22, 1535. His head, along with that of Sir Thomas More, not many days afterwards, was fixed on a pole upon London bridge. During his confinement, the Pope made him a cardinal, on which account Henry exclaimed, "Paul may send him a hat, but I will take care that he have never a head to wear it on." He was a man of considerable learning, strict integrity, and fervent piety. He wrote a commentary on the penitential psalms; a defence of the King's book against Luther, a funeral sermon for the lady Margaret, &c. --Biog. Dict. --Zooch

John Alcock, an English Prelate, also received his education in the grammar school of this place of his nativity. He was afterwards educated at Cambridge; became Dean of Westminster, and Master of the Rolls, and in 1471, was preferred to the See of Rochester, from whence he was translated to Worcester, and finally to Ely. He endowed a school at Kingston-upon-Hull, built the hall at the palace in Ely, and founded Jesus College, Cambridge. He died October 1, 1500, and was buried in the chapel at Hull, which he built. --Biog. Dict.

John Green, Bishop of Lincoln, born in 1706; after receiving the rudiments of his education at the grammar School here, he took his degree of Arts at St. John's College, Cambridge, with great credit as a classical scholar; he engaged himself as usher to a school at Lichfield, before Dr. Johnson and Mr. Garrick had left that city. After obtaining several church preferments, he was raised to the See of Lincoln; and died at Bath in 1779. This elegant scholar was one of the writers of the celebrated "Athenian Letters," published by the Earl of Hardwicke, in 1798, 2 vols. 4to. --Biog. Dict.

Thus we find Beverley has yielded to the world three Bishops, two of Rochester, and one of Lincoln, and all educated at this school. --Magna Brit. Drake.

Robert Ingram, a worthy English divine, a native of this place, was born in 1726-7, and educated at the grammar school here, from which he removed to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He was author of "A View of the Great Events of the Seventh Plague," and other pieces. He died in 1804. --Monthly Mag.

Hugh Goes is said, by Herbert, to have printed at this place, so early as 1509, a broadside, being the picture of a man on horseback. "Emprynted at Beverley, in the High-gate, by me Hewe Goes"

[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]