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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Beverley after 1945
Beverley remained an important regional road centre through which traffic passed from Hull to York, Malton, Driffield, and Bridlington. With the revival of private motoring in the 1950s congestion in the narrow streets in the centre of the town soon became acute. The traffic found particular bottlenecks in Hengate, next to St. Mary's church, and at North bar, through which squeezed double-decker buses specially modified for the purpose. Both bottlenecks involved major historic monuments and the choking with traffic of North Bar Within, one of the town's finest streets. To moderate the flow of traffic moving closely round the east end of the minster was only slightly less urgent. The question of relief roads therefore became a dominant local issue, but in a place with so many old streets and houses any plan was likely to meet with conservational objections. A further difficulty for traffic proposals was that new roads would be unacceptable on Westwood, always a place of immediate public concern in the town.
The roads question was actively debated in the 1960s and 1970s. The closing of the Beverley to York railway in 1965 and the decision soon after to build the Humber bridge at Hessle (fn. 1) both threatened to increase the pressure on Beverley. Two complementary solutions were proposed. Outer bypasses to the south-west and south-east would take Hull traffic to York, Bridlington, and a new industrial estate near Swine Moor. They would be financed by the government and therefore subject to national political and economic considerations, but they were relatively uncontroversial in the town, though the line of the south-western bypass brought many objections from landowners and farmers outside Beverley. The bypasses would be supported by several inner relief schemes, and it was they which gave rise to prolonged disputes and to two public inquiries in the 1970s.
The construction by the Ministry of Transport of the south-eastern bypass, running from Hull Road at Figham to the junction of Grovehill Road and Swinemoor Lane, was begun early in 1972 and the road was opened in March 1973. (fn. 2) The south-western bypass was planned in the late 1960s; (fn. 3) it was to be about 6 miles long, running from the Hull to the York road and completely avoiding Westwood. The national economic difficulties which followed the oil crisis of 1973 led to a delay, and the road was not begun until 1979; it was opened in 1981. (fn. 4)
The first of the inner relief schemes to be implemented was vigorously opposed, for it brought a fundamental change to the character of Saturday Market. It involved cutting a short new road from Sow Hill, at the north-eastern corner of the market place, to Walkergate. That was done in 1967-8. Together with the making of Wylies Road c. 1960 and the widening of Manor Road c. 1969, it enabled heavy traffic, including the buses, to avoid the two notorious bottlenecks. (fn. 5)
Even greater controversy surrounded the other inner relief proposals. In 1969 it was reported that the county council had plans to widen Lairgate but they were rejected by the town council in 1970. (fn. 6) Other proposals, designed to bypass Toll Gavel, involved the construction of a new road from Walkergate to Railway Street and the destruction of many old houses. They were debated at a public inquiry in 1971 and rejected by the Department of the Environment in 1972. A less destructive scheme, proposed in 1973, was accepted in 1978 after another public inquiry. (fn. 7) The building of New Walkergate, as it became known, in 1980 (fn. 8) allowed Toll Gavel and Butcher Row to be made a pedestrian precinct in 1982; they were repaved and equipped with a set of Crosskill's lamp standards from the old gas undertaking the next year. (fn. 9) In 1987 the main outstanding proposals were for a northern bypass and a southern relief road, from Queensgate to Figham, to reduce further the flow of traffic in the town centre.
The total effect of the measures already taken was to accentuate the separation of the 'historic' centre of Beverley, together with Westwood, from the new industrial and residential areas which had grown up east of the railway line. It was a notable victory for private conservational initiatives and for the civic society which had been formed in 1961 and took a leading part in the opposition to the earliest proposals. (fn. 10)
After 1945 the progress of slum clearance had continued along pre-war lines, but on an increasing scale. A survey by the medical officer of health in 1952 identified 511 houses as suitable for immediate and 719 for eventual demolition. In the 1950s between 20 and 40 were demolished annually, many of them in yards and side streets off Keldgate, Minster Moorgate, North Bar Within, Toll Gavel, and Walkergate, as new houses became available. (fn. 11) The scale of council house building also increased: in 1964 it was reported that there were 5,415 houses in the borough, of which 1,132 had been built by the council since the war. (fn. 12) Some of those houses were provided on the Cherry Tree Lane and Goth's Lane estates, including 75 temporary dwellings in 1944-5, and a five- and six-storeyed block of flats was erected in Wilbert Lane in 1959; most building took place, however, on the big new Riding Fields and Swinemoor estates, where nearly 800 houses were put up. (fn. 13)
The cumulative effect of these programmes was that a majority of the town's population, within the old borough boundaries, lived in new housing on the eastern side of the town. It also meant that the coherence of some of the old streets was being damaged, as much by demolition as by new developments. Some areas, for example that behind the buildings on the eastern side of Saturday Market, were becoming half empty. At the same time there was pressure for additional car parking, believed to be necessary if the old centre of the town was to remain a prosperous shopping area: a plan to clear the remaining buildings from the land between Saturday Market and Walkergate for a car park ensured that it became a victim of planning blight. (fn. 14)
Post-war Beverley, as a result of the growth of motor transport, also became an increasingly popular middle-class residential town. Much of the demand was satisfied at Molescroft to the north, and by 1981 the population of the 'urban area' was 19,184, some 3,000 more than that in the area of the former borough. (fn. 15) In the 1960s there were also the first signs of redevelopment in the old streets with the building of a block of flats in Highgate in 1969. (fn. 16) The demolition of the Primitive Methodist chapel in Wednesday Market in the late 1950s, and its replacement by a large and strident garage, was another danger signal. (fn. 17) The need for conservation was becoming obvious at the time of the passing of the Civic Amenities Act in 1967. The Act was quickly followed in February 1968 by the designation of virtually the whole of the older core of Beverley, stretching from the sessions house in the north to the beck, as a conservation area. (fn. 18)
Attitudes in favour of conservation toughened in Beverley, as elsewhere, in the 1970s, strengthened by reaction to the local government changes of 1974. The new district council abandoned plans for car parking to the east of Saturday Market and encouraged the rebuilding of the area with houses and shops in lanes and courtyards. (fn. 19) Car parks were provided elsewhere, for example west of Lairgate. Beverley also joined with other authorities in the area to try to limit the number of large super-stores, three of which were built near the Hull city boundaries. One smaller supermarket had already been built on the site of the Marble Arch cinema and adjoining property in Toll Gavel in 1969, (fn. 20) but in general in 1987 the centre of Beverley was a place of small shops, few of which were empty. (fn. 21) In 1974 a conservation area advisory committee was formed which included planning officers, representatives of amenity groups, and local traders and residents, who were to meet immediately before every meeting of the district council's development committee. (fn. 22) The most striking example of the extent to which official attitudes changed under the pressure of public criticism was the saving of the former Dominican friary. By 1960 the building was hemmed in by Armstrong's engineering works and in a poor state of repair. In 1962 Armstrong's applied to demolish it, but a preservation order was made that year and confirmed in 1965. (fn. 23) Eventually Armstrong's left Eastgate in 1981 and the factory was demolished. The friary itself was restored and converted to a youth hostel, and by 1987 work had begun on building houses on the rest of the site. (fn. 24) The decision in 1982, after prolonged opposition and recourse to the High Court, to allow houses to be built on a site immediately south-east of the minster was seen by conservationists as a major defeat. (fn. 25) Perhaps more important for the survival of Beverley was the process of repair of individual houses with financial help from the government under its home improvement and town centre schemes. In 1984, for example, Beckside benefited from such treatment. (fn. 26)
After 1945 the industrial map of Beverley remained broadly the same as it had been in the 1930s, though there were signs of anxiety about the future, the first of which was the appointment of an industrial development committee by the town council in 1945. (fn. 27) In 1963 employment in the Beverley factory inspectorate area was over 4,300 in 20 factories, 7 of which, employing 340 people, had been established in the town since 1941. (fn. 28) The need to foster new and diversified light industries lay behind the creation in 1964 of the Swinemoor Lane industrial estate, partly on the former municipal refuse tip. The estate soon attracted a variety of firms, including one making caravans. (fn. 29) The manufacture of caravans became a successful local industry: by 1971 six firms were established in the town and another was about to be launched on the Swinemoor Lane estate. (fn. 30)
Most of the old staple industries of Beverley remained after the war and in some cases were expanded. A new fertilizer works was started at Woodmansey c. 1950 to join that still in operation at Hull Bridge. (fn. 31) The seed crushing business of Barkers & Lee Smith at Beckside, however, went over to the production of animal feedstuffs in 1952, and the last malting in the town, Glossop & Bulay's, was closed in 1963. The factory of Deans & Son at Grovehill was enlarged after another member of the group to which the firm belonged moved from Middlesex to Beverley in 1961. (fn. 32) Armstrong's continued to make shock absorbers. In October 1954 it reported that it was working at full pressure, and by 1964 it was employing almost 2,000 men. (fn. 33) In 1964 it acquired a new 10-a. site on the Swinemoor Lane industrial estate. (fn. 34) The firm's application in 1962 to demolish the friary had been made in connexion with plans to enlarge the original premises. Hodgson's the tanners was also fully employed, though there were grounds for believing that the future of the industry as a whole was threatened: as a labour-intensive industry it was at risk from foreign competition, and it was also beginning to be threatened by synthetic materials. Barrow, Hepburn & Gale, the owner of Hodgson's, established Bevaloid as a separate company in 1956 to manufacture chemicals. In the 1960s Hodgson's itself diversified into the manufacture of colloids for the rayon industry and in 1964 began the production of leather for shoe uppers and clothing. (fn. 35) The Grovehill shipyard of Cook, Welton, & Gemmell continued to be busy. It was reported that 15 vessels were launched in 1954, five more than in the previous year. They included three minesweepers, four trawlers, and a tug: they were typical of the orders being received by the yard at that time. At least three of the trawlers launched in 1954 and 1955 were exported to South Africa. In 1957 an oil tanker, the Shell Traveller, was launched. (fn. 36) Reports of strikes in 1953 and 1957 indicate that about 650 men were being employed. (fn. 37)
A common feature of several of those businesses, and one which may well have contributed to their wellbeing, was that they were managed by people with strong local connexions. Hodgson's managing director from 1931 was George Odey, a Beverley resident and borough councillor, who was active in the 1960s in defence of local amenities. Gordon Armstrong likewise lived in the town and had a record of public service. (fn. 38) The chairman of Cook, Welton, & Gemmell, down to his death in 1954, was Harold Sheardown, a Hull businessman who was also vice-chairman of the Kingston Steam Trawler Co., which was one of the best customers of the Beverley shipyard. (fn. 39)
In January 1970 Armstrong's was again reported to be working to capacity; it announced in 1971 that it was to open a factory in Canada, (fn. 40) and in 1972 and 1973 the firm made record profits. (fn. 41) Hodgson's tannery was also expanding. In 1971 it, too, announced record profits, acquired one firm which manufactured luggage and was negotiating for another, and stated that it would soon employ an additional 50-100 men in Beverley. In June 1973 it further expanded the manufacture of 'upper' leather, and transferred some of its 'sole' leather plant to Bolton and Hull. (fn. 42) Meanwhile the expansion of caravan manufacture continued. Total unemployment in the town was below 200 in the second half of 1973. (fn. 43)
That prosperity came to an end in the mid 1970s, when Beverley underwent profound changes. Four boom years from 1970 to 1974 were followed by a succession of industrial disasters, and it is surprising in retrospect to observe how quickly and unexpectedly they happened. They may be explained as part of the general process of industrial contraction outside the south-east of England in that period.
The collapse followed the oil crisis of 1973. The manufacture of caravans was immediately affected by the threat of petrol rationing and the great increase in petrol prices. Several firms went out of business and only four small ones survived in 1978. (fn. 44) Changes of ownership suggest that the decline of shipbuilding may have begun a little earlier. Cook, Welton, & Gemmell's shipyard was closed in 1963 and taken over by C. D. Holmes & Co., which sold it to the Drypool Group in 1973. In 1975 Drypool, which also owned yards in Hull and Selby, called in receivers. In November 1976 Phoenix Shipbuilders took over the yard, but it in turn closed down the following year with nearly 180 redundancies. (fn. 45) Shipbuilding had been affected not directly by the oil crisis but by inflation and the change of government. The Drypool Group had got into difficulty by signing fixed price contracts at a time of rapidly rising labour costs. The Labour government which took office in February 1974 refused them financial help, and the threat of nationalization made it difficult for them to borrow. The deep-sea trawlers which froze their catch at sea were, moreover, too large to be built at Beverley, and the collapse of the Hull fishing industry in the late seventies compounded the yard's problems. (fn. 46) In August 1974 unemployment in Beverley rose to 248, and by August 1975 it had reached the record level of 741; it was still over 500 in December. (fn. 47)
Hodgson's tannery was also in difficulty, threatened by competition from imports and from synthetic materials. Barrow, Hepburn & Gale closed most of its departments in Beverley in 1978, with 750 redundancies, leaving little more than a chemical works in operation. Once again a firm was concentrating its production in fewer factories, and that at Beverley was the one to be closed. (fn. 48) Similarly the firm of Storry, Witty & Co., which had made whiting in Beverley Parks since 1895 and paints and colours since the Second World War, was taken over in 1970 by Expandite, a subsidiary of Burmah Industrial Products, and closed down. (fn. 49)
Another failure, in quite another quarter, was at Beverley cattle market. Since 1945 it had flourished. It was rebuilt by the corporation between 1950 and 1955 and further improved in 1966 and 1968, and it was believed to be one of the largest pig markets in the country. It was unprofitable, nevertheless, and the corporation in 1978 handed over its management to a consortium of local auctioneers, having lost £36,000 in the previous four years. (fn. 50)
Thus in quick succession in 1977 and 1978 three of the longest-established activities in Beverley had either collapsed or run into serious difficulties. The market continued under the new arrangements. The receiver found no purchaser for the shipyard and it reverted to the ground landlords, Beverley borough council; the site was later developed as the Acorn Industrial Estate. (fn. 51) Hodgson's premises in Flemingate, other than the chemical works which remained in operation in 1987, were sold for other purposes, one of which was to house a Museum of Army Transport. (fn. 52) The effect of these events was shown in the figures of unemployment. By July 1978 there were, including school-leavers, 1,026 unemployed. (fn. 53)
In the 1980s there were further industrial setbacks. Armstrongs was hit by the decline of the British car industry; in 1981 the Eastgate works was closed, with 300 redundancies, and more job losses were to follow at the works on the Swinemoor Lane industrial estate. (fn. 54) In 1986 the Beverley tanning industry was finally brought to an end with the closure of Melrose Tanners, which had worked the Keldgate tannery formerly belonging to the Cussons family. (fn. 55) Unemployment in the new district in 1986 stood at 9 or 10 per cent, compared with 16 per cent in the Hull travel-to-work area. (fn. 56) Much of Humberside, including Beverley, was classified as a development area under the Industrial Development Act of 1982. (fn. 57) The district council's industrial availability schedule of 1986 included about 30 a. of land and buildings in 12 plots of varying sizes, mostly on the Grovehill industrial estate in the area bounded by the eastern bypass, the beck, the river, and Grovehill Road. (fn. 58)
There are several ways in which the depressing picture is relieved. First, commuting between Beverley and Hull and its suburbs was general, and the loss of jobs was not concentrated in Beverley alone: the figures of redundancies reported were higher than the increase in unemployment in Beverley. Secondly, Beverley continued to be a popular residential area, and the district council's efforts were directed towards planning a limit to future growth. In the town development plan of 1986 the main areas proposed for future building were at the southern edge of the town, near the Hessle and Hull roads. (fn. 59) Thirdly, two developments of the seventies both offered new sources of employment.
One development, which was immediately effective, was the enlargement of the role of Beverley as an administrative centre as a result of the Local Government Act of 1972. The new county of Humberside was considerably bigger than the old East Riding, with a total population of 843,282 in 1981, including Grimsby and Hull. Beverley remained the county town. It also became the administrative centre of the new district, later known as the East Yorkshire Borough of Beverley. The district covered, in addition to Beverley itself, the former Haltemprice urban district and about 25 rural villages. It had a total population of 104,931 in 1981, including disproportionately large numbers of the middle class: 22.9 per cent were classified as managerial and professional and 38.1 per cent as clerical and nonmanual in the census of 1981, whereas comparable figures for the county were 14.2 per cent and 29.1 per cent. Beverley also had the second highest percentage of car owners among the districts in Humberside. (fn. 60) In October 1979 it was reported that 800 people were employed in Beverley by the county council and that another 300 were expected to join them from Hull. Accommodation for them included new offices between Champney Road, Lairgate, and Landress Lane that were completed in 1983. (fn. 61)
The second development, which became increasingly clear in the 1970s, was the official encouragement of tourism. As early as 1952 the corporation had been criticized for not advertising Beverley as a tourist centre. (fn. 62) In 1972 the East Riding county council suggested that Westwood might be made a 'country park', in order to attract more visitors. (fn. 63) That did not meet with approval and Westwood remained largely unaltered as one of the town's greatest amenities. Management still rested with the pasture masters, but in 1978 the question of the ownership of the soil was finally settled in favour of the district council. (fn. 64) The same year the council appointed a sub-committee on tourism and began to consider several possibilities for a site for touring caravans, including the racecourse on Hurn. Soon afterwards a guide to the town in four languages was published. (fn. 65) The decision to use the friary as a youth hostel was a further step in the same direction. In 1979 approval was given for the caravan site, not on Hurn but in Beverley Parks. (fn. 66) The combined effect of the measures, however, hardly seems substantial, particularly in comparison with the scale of tourism in York. One requirement was for more accommodation. The Beverley Arms, the principal hotel in the town, was enlarged in 1967, (fn. 67) and the building of a large new hotel was under consideration in the 1980s. In the mid eighties the shopping streets around the minster and North bar contained an increasing number of gift shops and eating houses which catered partly for tourists, but there was little provision for coach parties. A greater awareness of the town's tourist potential was evidently needed, for as one hotel receptionist said in 1986 'there's really nothing to see in Beverley'.