A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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'This town is well built, and very seemly; rich, and well populated', reported a visitor to Beverley in 1703, (fn. 1) and other commentators in the 18th century were similarly impressed by the handsome and substantial houses, the broad and clean streets, and the many and beautiful gardens. (fn. 2) The town's obvious prosperity came not only from its position as the principal trading and processing centre for a wide agricultural area but also from its recently acquired role as the administrative centre of the East Riding and its related function of supplying entertainment and services for local landowning families. (fn. 3)
When most of the meetings of the quarter sessions for the East Riding came to be held at Beverley in the 17th century the town became effectively the capital of the riding. (fn. 4) That status was enhanced in 1708 when Beverley was chosen as the location for the registry of deeds for the East Riding and Hull and by the mid 18th century the town had also become the centre for all the county militia and lieutenancy meetings. (fn. 5) From 1703 the usual meeting place of the J.P.s and the local commissioners of sewers was probably that part of the guildhall hired for a sessions house. (fn. 6) Meetings were, however, evidently also held in inns in the town, (fn. 7) which were used by various other more or less official bodies. Notable among those meeting places were two inns in North Bar Within, the Blue Bell, renamed the Beverley Arms after rebuilding was completed in 1796, and the Tiger. (fn. 8) When the Blue Bell was offered to let in 1752 it was noted that 'at the said inn the justices of the peace for the riding at the two general quarter sessions in every year, the commissioners of the sewers, and likewise the commissioners of the land tax and window money meet there, and the excise office is there'. (fn. 9) The two inns were also the meeting places of inclosure commissioners and turnpike trustees, and it was there that the gentlemen and clergy of the riding considered topics as diverse as the preservation of game and Roman Catholic emancipation. (fn. 10) From the 1760s both inns also entertained the East Riding Agricultural Society and the Tiger was the meeting place of a freemasons' lodge established in 1793 and of a hunt club formed in 1808. (fn. 11)
The gentry assembled at Beverley for official business naturally exploited its other attractions for, as was said in 1733, 'so sweet and wholesome is the air, so delightful is the situation of the adjacent country, that there is no want of rural diversions, and the best of company', (fn. 12) Horse-racing, cock-fighting, and outings with the local hunt (fn. 13) were the basic pursuits, and to those were added the more refined diversions of the assemblies, the theatre, the library, and concerts. The facilities of the Blue Bell included a bowling green in 1752 and a subscription coffee room by 1793. (fn. 14) Landed families began to gravitate regularly to Beverley for a short season and the town also had 'genteel private families that reside there in a continuance'. (fn. 15)
The position of Beverley as a trading, administrative, and social centre depended on good communications, and the corporation, local gentry, and merchants were active in schemes to improve the beck and the roads leading to the town. The corporation gave much attention to the beck, which was continually in need of dredging and general repairs. Under Acts of 1727 and 1745 additional tolls were levied and loans raised, and later work on the beck culminated in the construction of a lock at the junction with the river Hull in 1802-3. As intended by the Acts, money from the beck tolls was also used for street repairs, increasingly so from the mid 1770s. The corporation also played its part in proposals to bring all the local main roads under the control of turnpike trusts. The road linking Hull and Beverley was turnpiked in 1744, but only after three years of delays and disagreements between the two towns. By 1769 Acts had been obtained for all the other roads. (fn. 16)
Those improvements to communications no doubt benefited the fairs and markets. The Cross fair at Ascensiontide, which had been widely known for the 'mercery' and 'haberdashery ware' sold there by London merchants, was, however, already in decline. Fewer and fewer London merchants attended and the rent for carrying the Londoners' goods from the beck or river, which had been as high as £13 6s. 8d. in 1673-5, had fallen to £4 by 1701 and was only £1 10s. in 1730, the last year for which it was paid. (fn. 17) The empty Londoners' shops in Highgate were evidently gradually replaced by houses, like the two rebuilt as one house c. 1750. (fn. 18) Trade in that part of the town was also affected by the discontinuance of the weekly Wednesday market, perhaps soon after 1731. In contrast, the Saturday market prospered for the sale of corn, meat, butter, eggs, poultry, fruit, vegetables, fish, wool, and general goods, and it was provided with several new buildings: an ornate cross in 1711-14, a butchers' shambles in 1753, and a fish shambles in 1777. (fn. 19) In the early 19th century the market served an area within a radius of 10-12 miles, with some 50 carriers' carts attending each Saturday from villages in north Holderness and the Bainton and Hunsley Beacon divisions of Harthill wapentake. (fn. 20) The butchers, who numbered 45-60 between 1774 and 1830, were the most prominent group in the market and their shambles in the early 18th century had as many as 45 stalls. In 1825, however, the front of the butchers' shambles was converted to accommodate the growing number of corn merchants. (fn. 21) The inclosure of common fields and other agricultural improvements in the riding from the 1760s led to a great increase in Beverley's corn trade and by 1791-2 there were at least 54 corn-factors, oatmeal dealers, and millers trading in corn in the town. (fn. 22) Large quantities of corn were sent direct from the beck to the West Riding, the boats returning with coal. (fn. 23)
The only full record of the goods on which tolls were paid at the beck dates from the second quarter of the 18th century. Apart from corn and coal the main commodities then carried were malt, skins and hides, wool, bark, stone, bricks and tiles, and turves, reflecting some of the major trades of the town. (fn. 24) Between 1727 and the passing of the 1745 Act tolls usually produced from £75 to £85 a year but the income then rose to over £100. In 1748 the corporation began to let the tolls. Those at Grovehill and Hull bridge were included in the 1748 lease at a total rent of £100. The rent rose to £140 in 1770, £180 in 1780, £315 in 1803, and £435 in 1825. (fn. 25)
The declaration in 1790 that 'Beverley is not a town of trade' echoed the statement of Defoe's made some 65 years earlier that there was 'no considerable manufacture carried on there'. (fn. 26) The economy of Beverley did, nevertheless, have a significant trading and industrial base. Among the sources which reveal both the quantity and range of occupations are the parish registers for the minster and St. Mary's. For much of the earlier 18th century they give, with few exceptions, the occupations of all adult males whose children were baptized or buried, or who were themselves buried or married. Details from the registers for the period 1715-34 may be compared with information on the occupations of resident freemen from three later poll books (see Table 7). (fn. 27)
Although the poll books are likely to ignore many labourers and servants, they include a high proportion of all other occupied males, for none but freemen were allowed to exercise any trade, wholesale or retail, within the borough. (fn. 28) In 1811 many hawkers and pedlars were prosecuted for trading when unfree and shoemakers were frequently indicted for that offence. Action was not confined to the lesser tradesmen and there are examples of maltsters, mercers, woollen and linen drapers, clockmakers, innkeepers, tallow-chandlers, tanners, and an apothecary being proceeded against. (fn. 29) Similar control was also exercised by the trade companies, of which the brotherhoods of the mercers, carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, butchers, bakers, bricklayers, and oatshillers, and the combined fraternity of the tanners and skinners were all still functioning in 1724-5. The shoemakers' fraternity was recorded again in 1775, the tanners' and skinners' in 1788, and the butchers' as late as 1829. (fn. 30) Freedom could be purchased but the cost was increasingly prohibitive. It rose from £5-£10 in the early 18th century to at least 70 guineas plus fees in 1825. (fn. 31) In 1831 a bookseller and stationer chose to give up his business and leave the town rather than take up his freedom, and in the same year proceedings were begun against five other non-freemen. (fn. 32) In 1833 one of the corporation's critics asserted that the economy of the town would remain limited until it was opened to strangers. (fn. 33)
The trades of the town were principally concerned with processing agricultural products and providing services for the residents, the local gentry, and the farming community. In 1695 the making of malt and oatmeal and the tanning of leather were given as the three main trades. (fn. 34) The maltsters were a wealthy and influential group at the beginning of the period but they declined in number and many of the maltkilns scattered about the town became disused. (fn. 35) There were 28 maltsters between 1715 and 1734, nine in 1774, and only three in 1830. As the number of maltsters declined that of brewers increased, from one in 1774 to six in 1830, and the larger businesses combined malting and brewing. (fn. 36) Among the brewers was Robert Stephenson, who bought the Golden Ball and its brewery in Toll Gavel in 1797. (fn. 37) Earlier, brewing had been carried on in inns and alehouses, of which there were 48 in 1725. (fn. 38) There were reported to be 222 guest beds in the town in 1756, with stabling for 361 horses. (fn. 39) Directories record 32 inns in 1791, 36 in the 1820s, and some 50 drinking places, including 13 beerhouses, in 1834. (fn. 40) As oatmealmaking declined, with a drop in oatshillers from eight in 1774 to one in 1802 and none at all in 1830, the associated trade of milling expanded. In 1700 there were two windmills on Westwood and at least two water mills on Mill Dam drain. Further windmills were built c. 1761, in 1800, and in 1802, all on or near Westwood. One of them was let to an anti-monopoly association, established in 1799 in response to high flour prices. (fn. 41) By 1823 there were also two windmills at Grovehill, one of which was bought in 1830 by Josiah and Robert Crathorne, who later developed it into a large business. (fn. 42)
Tanning remained a prominent industry throughout the period. Twenty-eight tanners were named between 1715 and 1734, while 17 voted in 1774, 12 in 1802, and 17 again in 1830. A list of members of the brotherhood of tanners in 1788 comprises 10 tanners, 11 skinners, and 2 leather dressers. Five of the tanners had their yards in Flemingate, the others in Keldgate, St. John Street, Lairgate, Walkergate, and North Bar Without. In 1828 the only tanneries were along the southern side of the town, from Keldgate to Hull Road. (fn. 43) The skinners and tanners no doubt depended at first on local hides but in the second quarter of the 18th century hides and skins, as well as bark, were being imported by way of the beck. (fn. 44) In 1775 Thomas Dewsberry, a tanner in Walkergate, moved to London, where he offered his services to tanners in Beverley, both in selling their leather and in supplying them with raw hides and skins from Ireland. (fn. 45) The early account books of William Hodgson's tannery in Flemingate, which was established in 1812, record that from the beginning most of the raw materials were imported, including hides from Spain, Holland, Germany, Argentina, and South Africa, and 'kips', or small hides, from Russia. The tannery was fitted with a steam engine in 1822 but, although probably the largest tannery in the town, it had only 10-15 employees in the years 1825-8. (fn. 46) Skinners, fellmongers, curriers, and leather dressers were also numerous, and there were usually one or two furriers dealing in rabbit skins from warrens on the wolds. (fn. 47)
The local customers of the tanners and associated tradesmen were the shoemakers, glovers, hatters, and breeches makers who figured among the clothing trades. Those trades were at all times the most numerous section of the trading community because of the large numbers of shoemakers. There were 123 shoemakers between 1715 and 1734, 67 in 1774, 73 in 1802, and 96 in 1830. Shoemaking was the largest craft in most pre-industrial towns and villages, but in Beverley it seems to have supplied more than the immediate needs of the inhabitants. When the cordwainer Robert Banks died in 1724 he had 105 pairs of men's shoes, 60 pairs of women's shoes, 11 pairs of 'little' shoes, and three pairs of boots in his shop, a stock which suggests a considerable retail trade. (fn. 48) Glovers, of whom there were 30 in the period 1715-34, do not occur in the poll books, but there were eight breeches makers in 1774 and four in 1830, and three hatters in 1774 and 10 in 1830.
The textile trades were still present in the town, on a small scale, in the 18th century. As many as 37 weavers were recorded between 1715 and 1734. Some of them worked serge and worsted but the majority were probably linen weavers, for there were also 15 linen or flax dressers. The last mentioned were more numerous during the Napoleonic Wars, when bounties were paid for growing flax, and there were 17 flax dressers in 1802. The marked rise in the number of weavers around 1820 may have been associated with the four linen manufacturers recorded c. 1830. (fn. 49) Several bleaching yards existed, both north and south of the town. (fn. 50) Nine dyers were recorded between 1715 and 1734, and a dye works on the south side of Keldgate was operated for most of the period by the Habershams and their successors the Scrutons. (fn. 51) The making of bone-lace, which was fostered in the last years of the 17th century as an employment for the poor, was mentioned again by Defoe (fn. 52) but no reference to lacemakers has been found. Charles Pelham of Brocklesby (Lines.) did, however, send lace to be mended at Beverley in 1748. (fn. 53)
The considerable amount of building work in the town throughout the period, ranging from the large-scale restoration of the minster between 1717 and 1730 to the piecemeal activities of speculative builders like Thomas Wrightson and William Middleton later in the century, stimulated the building and allied trades. (fn. 54) In 1716 permission was given for bricks to be made on Westwood for building the Hothams' house, and by 1747 there were brickyards east and south of the town. (fn. 55) Two or three brickmakers worked in Beverley during the period. (fn. 56)
The number of woodworkers rose markedly during the period, the increase being largely in the specialist crafts of cabinet making and shipbuilding. The number of cabinet makers rose from 12 in 1774 to 22 in 1802 and 33 in 1830. Shipbuilding seems to have employed a smaller number, but the occupation of 'shipcarpenter' occurs regularly from 1718. In 1763 Richard Hopwood, who had taken his freedom as a 'shipcarpenter' in 1753, was allowed by the corporation to build a shed at Grovehill for building boats, and ground there was let to him in 1767. (fn. 57) During the Napoleonic Wars the industry grew and the number of shipwrights and carpenters recorded rose from one in 1802 to four in 1806 and nine in 1807. Ships of several hundred tons were said to have been built at that time, and in 1803 a new brig of c. 130 tons was on the stocks. (fn. 58) When a ship intended for the London trade was launched in 1829 at the Grovehill yard it was noted that 'shipbuilding has been carried on here to a considerable extent, and several very large vessels have been launched, although at present, not much in this business is done'. (fn. 59)
There were several large nursery gardens in the town. Among those recorded in 1747 was one in the later Champney Road, then occupied by William Sigston and later worked as part of Playhouse Nursery, and several gardens comprising c. 8 a. owned or occupied by Richard Barton. (fn. 60) Samuel and Benjamin Sigston successively worked a nursery in Flemingate in the later 18th century. (fn. 61) The biggest employer in Beverley in 1829 was the firm of George & William Tindall, which was established in 1811 and worked 130 a., chiefly in the Trinities but some also adjoining Lairgate. The nurseries were cultivated by spade and the Tindalls usually employed 50 people. (fn. 62) In 1830, however, the firm went bankrupt. (fn. 63) Mint plantations were started c. 1790 in gardens near Hull Road and Grovehill Lane, and peppermint was processed in several small distilleries. The trade was particularly profitable during the Napoleonic Wars but in 1829 it was in decline because of Dutch competition; six mint distillers were recorded in 1826 but only two in 1831. (fn. 64)
The growth of the town as a social and residential centre led to a marked increase in the number and range of retail shops and specialist services. In addition to grocers, drapers, and mercers Beverley could also boast in the earlier 18th century a goldsmith, a silversmith, a coppersmith, a coachmaker, a gunsmith, a cutler, a wig maker, and a tobacconist, as well as several watchmakers, scriveners, translators, and dancing masters, and numerous musicians. (fn. 65) There was a bookseller by 1710, and in the early 1730s two Hull booksellers, Thomas Ryles and George Ferraby, had branches in Beverley. In 1740 Ryles's successor, his son-in-law John Munby, announced the opening of a circulating library 'at the request of several gentlemen in and about Beverley'. (fn. 66)
The professions of the law and medicine were well represented: in 1717 there were at least 8 attorneys in practice in the town, together with 4 apothecaries, 2 physicians, and a surgeon, and in 1791 there were 9 attorneys, 2 physicians, and 5 surgeons. (fn. 67) A bank was established in 1790 by Sir Christopher Sykes, Bt., and his partners; branches were opened at Malton and Hull and it was later called the East Riding Bank. (fn. 68) The commercial vitality of the town at that time was shown by the opening of two more banks, Appleton, Machell & Smith's, known as the Beverley Bank, in 1793 and Harland & Tuke's, possibly by 1790 and certainly by 1797. (fn. 69)
The boom years beginning in the early 1790s gave way to a period of trading decline in the second decade of the 19th century, but by the early 1830s there were signs of a marked change in the economy of the town. In 1825 a Beverley chemist and grocer, Pennock Tigar, established the firm of Tigar, Champney & Co. at Grovehill, making whiting, paint, colours, and 'Roman cement'; by 1834 the works were especially noted for the production of 'Paris white', made from chalk quarried in Beverley Parks. (fn. 70) Another large-scale manufactory was Crosskill's iron foundry, built also in 1825 by William Crosskill and Anthony Atkinson in Mill Lane; it produced a wide range of articles, including stoves, grates, and fancy ironwork for gates, railings, and conservatories, besides agricultural machinery. (fn. 71) Hodgson's tannery was, moreover, enlarged in 1829 and again in 1834, and a new bark mill built in 1831. (fn. 72) It was noted in 1834 that 'within the last seven years very considerable improvement has taken place in Beverley and its neighbourhood, by an increase of trade, and several extensive establishments now flourish here, which give employment to a great number of hands'. (fn. 73) Beverley was on the threshold of becoming a minor industrial town.