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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There is no evidence that Beverley was ever walled and its defences in the Middle Ages consisted of a ditch, presumably with an internal earthen bank, around part of the town and gates or 'bars' across the main roads. The 'great ditch of the town', on the west side, was first mentioned c. 1169. (fn. 1) It was called Bar dike by 1246 or 1247, when part of it apparently lay on the south side of the town near the archbishop's park. (fn. 2) The earliest gate recorded was North bar, and there was evidently a second bar there beyond the town ditch. 'The northern bar (aquilo barra) towards Molescroft' was mentioned in the late 12th or early 13th century. (fn. 3) A street, land, and houses were all at different times described as lying between the two northern bars, (fn. 4) and plots of land 'above the Bar dike between the northern bars' were recorded in 1329. (fn. 5) Newbegin bar was first mentioned in the early 15th century, when it was alternatively called West bar. (fn. 6) The gate later called Keldgate bar existed, as South bar, by c. 1250, when the street leading to it was called Southbargate. (fn. 7) It was repaired in 13445, (fn. 8) and other 14th-century references show that it stood at the end of Keldgate. (fn. 9) It was alternatively known as Keldgate bar by 1386 and the earlier name was last used in the mid 15th century. (fn. 10) Keldgate, Newbegin, and North bars were apparently the only substantial gates to be built. (fn. 11)
Despite the existence of gates and ditch, Beverley was presumably not defensible in 1322 when the town had to be ransomed from the Scots. (fn. 12) It was probably later the same year that the burgesses petitioned the king for confirmation of earlier charters which they wrongly claimed allowed the enclosure of the town with a wall and ditch; the king agreed to consult the archbishop of York and inspect the charters (fn. 13) but a confirmation made in 1323 did not mention the defences. (fn. 14) A commission of array issued for Beverley during the war with France in 1371 because of the inadequate fortifications (defectum munitionum) suggests that nothing more had been done. (fn. 15)
Much work was carried out, however, by the town during the troubled years of Henry IV's reign. The mostly brick-built 'new bar' which cost £30 in 1405 (fn. 16) may have been a rebuilding of Keldgate bar. (fn. 17) Wooden bars were also made in 1405: although they were presumably insubstantial barriers they were nevertheless intended 'for the defence of the town'. (fn. 18) The defences may also have included chains drawn across the bars and main streets, though the chains were also used to keep carts off the paved streets. (fn. 19) After the unsuccessful rebellion of the Percys in 1408 Newbegin bar was repaired in 1409-10. More important, North bar was then rebuilt in brick at a cost of c. £100, a small part of which was given by townspeople. (fn. 20) The earlier structure, already two-storeyed, (fn. 21) was abutted on the west side by a thick stone wall which was retained during the rebuilding. (fn. 22) The brickwork of the new bar incorporates cusped ogee-headed niches, decorative string courses, crow-stepped battlements, and rib-vaulting over the archway, which retains its portcullis slot. (fn. 23)
Wooden bars erected in the mid 15th century were probably primarily defensive but they may also have served for the collection of tolls. Men were paid both for keeping the bars and for their work on market days, (fn. 24) while pavage was collected at Keldgate, Newbegin, and North bars, besides other places around the town, including Norwood. (fn. 25)
Wooden bars mentioned in the mid-century included one made next to the windmill in Norwood in 1433-4 and rebuilt or repaired in 1445-6; (fn. 26) Norwood mill stood near the junction with Mill Lane. (fn. 27) A timber bar, evidently standing on the outer bank of Bar dike at North bar, was also made or repaired in 1433-4. (fn. 28) The existence, as in that case, of more than one barrier may account for an individual bar being referred to as 'bars' or 'gates'. (fn. 29) During disturbances in the town in 1445-6 watch was kept at Keldgate, Newbegin, North, and Norwood bars and at another bar then made at the Eastgate end of Trinity Lane. Other bars were erected in or near Friars Lane, in Old Newbegin (now Morton Lane), and at the end of Bradwell Lane (perhaps Kitchen Lane). Turnstiles were also put up on the western side of the town, at the ends of St. Giles Lane (now Champney Road) and Wood Lane, with earthen walls on either side of them; similar walls were built in Dead Lane, Friars Lane, and the unidentified Payn Lane. (fn. 30) Another bar may have stood in the unidentified Turnpike Lane. (fn. 31) Old Newbegin bar was recorded for the last time in 1450-1, when another bar was made next to the beck in Aldgate (now part of Hull Road). (fn. 32)
In. 1460-1, the year of Henry VI's deposition, men were paid for keeping Newbegin, North, Norwood, and South bars, and another in the unidentified Belman Lane; one or more timber bars were also set up in Friars Lane. Belman Lane, Friars Lane, and Norwood bars were not mentioned again. There is no evidence that Beverley was able to resist either the Lancastrian or the Yorkist forces and the town was occupied and plundered during the year. (fn. 33) A bar in Aldgate was made again in 1494-5, when it was described as 'behind Hellgarths'. (fn. 34)
Bar dike was recorded several times in the 15th century. In 1423-4 the bridge carrying the road over it outside North bar was repaired with stone and timber (fn. 35) and in 1460-1 the ditch was improved in front of the bars. (fn. 36) Much work involving the use of bricks, timber, and iron was done on Bar dike in 1494. (fn. 37) Recent excavation of the ditch east of North bar showed no evidence of an internal upcast bank, suggesting that the ditch may have been a natural watercourse. Indications of an earlier revetment, perhaps of faggots, were found but the ditch had evidently not been kept in good repair in the later Middle Ages. The ditch had also been encroached upon by the digging of pits in the 15th and 16th centuries. (fn. 38) Parts of the ditch outside Newbegin and Keldgate bars were let, presumably for the herbage, in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 39)
The openness of the town was apparent once more in its occupation and abandonment by a rebel force in 1537. (fn. 40) Leland found no evidence of walls c. 1540 but only Keldgate, Newbegin, and North bars: 'fair gates of brick'; (fn. 41) The defences were again attended to in the mid 17th century. An order of 1642 for the making of a broad ditch, crossed only by footbridges, at the western end of each lane into Westwood may have been for the rehabilitation of the town ditch. The three bars were also ordered to be repaired and kept locked at night. (fn. 42) Nevertheless, the following year a force of c. 900 men was held to be too small to secure the town, which was then plundered by the royalists. (fn. 43) Bar dike was scoured in 1646-7 and again in 1656-7 (fn. 44) and the earthen bank was referred to implicitely in the 1670s and 1680s, when mention was made of 'the bulwark ditch' near Wood Lane. (fn. 45) Fears of a Roman Catholic rising caused watch to be kept again at the three bars in 1678. (fn. 46)
The exact location of Keldgate and Newbegin bars was recorded in 1747. (fn. 47) The brick-built Keldgate bar had a flat, rounded archway flanked by gabled buttresses with a room above it. Newbegin bar, also two-storeyed and of brick, had a pointed archway and a flat, battlemented roof. (fn. 48) It was in a dangerous condition by 1735, when repairs were ordered, and it was demolished in 1790. (fn. 49) Keldgate bar, for long let by the town, was taken down in 1808 because of its ruinous state. (fn. 50) A footway was made along the eastern side of North bar soon after 1792, when adjoining houses were rebuilt. (fn. 51) Rendering was removed from the bar and a footway was added along the western side c. 1867. (fn. 52)
Much of the town ditch had evidently been filled in by the late 17th century and the name Bar dike may then, as later, have been restricted to the largest remnant of it, a rectangular pond west of North bar. (fn. 53) 'Bar dike outside North bar' was dressed in the 1680s and in 1734. (fn. 54) It was described in 1832 as an unwholesome nuisance and a hindrance to drainage, (fn. 55) and it was culverted in 1858. (fn. 56) That part of the ditch which carried a stream from Westwood into Bar dike was culverted in the later 18th or early 19th century. (fn. 57) On the western side of the town parts of the ditch were culverted c. 1858 (fn. 58) and c. 1881, (fn. 59) and the rest was filled in at the making of the Leases c. 1930. (fn. 60)
The course of the town ditch from North bar to Keldgate bar is well known. From North bar the ditch evidently continued eastwards towards Pighill Lane. (fn. 61) It then drained to Beverley beck, (fn. 62) supposedly by way of Pighill Lane sewer and Walker beck, which have been suggested as the course of part of the town ditch. (fn. 63) There is, however, no evidence that those watercourses comprised a defensive ditch or indeed that the eastern side of Beverley had any permanent defences. On the southern side of the town the alignment of boundaries near Keldgate bar (fn. 64) suggests that the town ditch may have been joined to watercourses that eventually drained into Beverley beck; the course is, however, conjectural and there is again no evidence of a defensive ditch on that side of the town. (fn. 65)