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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Horse-racing on Westwood evidently began in 1690, when the corporation gave permission for a course to be made where it had been 'now lately used', (fn. 1) and in 1712 the race days were 9-11 September. (fn. 2) The town's M.P.s were said in 1730 to have contributed 'largely' towards the expenses of the races and it was decided that innkeepers setting up booths should pay the race managers for the privilege; that became the normal practice. (fn. 3) In 1733 racing was prohibited until the week before Midsummer because the pasture had been damaged the previous year. (fn. 4) Whitsun week was chosen in 1749 at the request of the innkeepers and although there was some variation three days at Whitsun became the usual race time. (fn. 5) Hurn was first mentioned as the venue in 1765 (fn. 6) and the next year Lord Rockingham was asked to solicit a king's plate to be run for on the new course. (fn. 7) The race stewards were given a lease of ground on which to erect a grandstand in 1767, a subscription was raised for the purpose the same year, (fn. 8) and the stand was in use in 1768. (fn. 9) The stewards were also licensed in 1769 to build a stand for the 'tryers', presumably the judges. In 1772 the corporation subscribed to the improvement of 'the stand', (fn. 10) and the course itself was improved by the purchase of nearly 1 a. in Bishop Burton in 1769 and the exchange of a similar area there in 1787. (fn. 11) The corporation subscribed to the races several times in the 1820s and 1830s. (fn. 12)
The Holderness Hunt was said to have begun a one-day meeting at Beverley in March 1828 which ten years later was moved to Burton Constable, where its success resulted in a lapse of the Whitsun meeting at Beverley. (fn. 13) After three years in abeyance the Beverley races were revived in 1848 (fn. 14) and the Whitsun or summer meeting was thereafter held on two days in June. (fn. 15) In addition a spring meeting in April was held from 1865 to 1875, (fn. 16) and an autumn meeting at various dates between August and November was held from 1886 to 1901. (fn. 17) A new grandstand was built in 1887 and afterwards enlarged, (fn. 18) but it and the original stand were later demolished.
The Beverley and East Riding Race Co. Ltd. was formed in 1902 to manage the races at a time when the tenancy agreement with the pasture masters was in doubt; the matter was resolved, however, and proposals to build a new course at Walkington were scrapped. (fn. 19) The course was used as an airfield during the First World War, but racing was resumed in 1920 (fn. 20) after the course had been improved the previous year by the exchange of nearly 5 a. in Bishop Burton. (fn. 21) The course was enclosed and an entrance charge made for the first time in 1935. (fn. 22) An additional meeting was begun in 1938 and a new grandstand was built in 1939. (fn. 23) The course was again in military occupation during the Second World War, but the traditional two-day summer meeting was revived in 1946 and spring and autumn meetings were introduced the next year. (fn. 24) New stands were built in 1959 and 1967. (fn. 25) By 1987 racing had been increased to about 15 days a year. A training course, the tan gallop, on Westwood was made c. 1870 (fn. 26) and was still used for horses from local racing stables in 1988.
There were assembly rooms in North Bar Within by 1745. (fn. 27) A site in Norwood was bought in 1761 and new rooms, designed by John Carr of York, were built in 1761-2; the cost was met by the sale of 44 shares at £25 each and a loan of £250. (fn. 28) The rooms had a symmetrical front with a two-storeyed centre, behind which was a ballroom flanked by singlestoreyed wings housing card and tea rooms. (fn. 29) From the beginning twelve assemblies were held fortnightly during the winter, later two in race week as well. (fn. 30) A large new hall, designed by H. F. Lockwood of Hull and having a highly ornamental interior, was built behind the assembly rooms in 1840-2, and the old and new buildings were named the Beverley and East Riding Public Rooms. (fn. 31) The new hall was said to have been intended for meetings of the Beverley and East Riding Agricultural Association and the Beverley and East Riding Floral and Horticultural Society, but those bodies were soon defunct and the rooms were used for a wide variety of events. (fn. 32) Moving pictures were shown there in 1897 and 1912. (fn. 33) A roller skating rink was opened there in 1909 and again in 1929. (fn. 34) The rooms were sold in 1934 and converted to the Regal cinema the next year, when the older part was demolished and the newer completely altered inside. (fn. 35)
Thomas Keregan's company from York performed in Beverley c. 1730 (fn. 36) but the venue is not known. Beverley remained in the York circuit and Joseph Baker's company played at the theatre in Walkergate. A site there was bought in 1754 by Thomas Wrightson and by 1759 he had built a playhouse. (fn. 37) In 1771, when Tate Wilkinson's lease of the theatre had nearly expired, he was ordered out of the town by the mayor, who would not countenance a breach of the law 'by suffering a naughty play at Beverley'; perhaps the theatre was unlicensed. (fn. 38) The theatre was disused by 1776 (fn. 39) and was converted by Wrightson (d. 1781) to two houses (now nos. 90-2 Walkergate). (fn. 40) The Walkergate building was soon replaced by another in Register Square (later Cross Street), built by Edward Rushworth on a site which he bought in 1772. Samuel Butler was playing in it as part of the Richmond circuit in 1788 and he evidently continued to use it until 1804. (fn. 41) After its closure it was sold to Graves's charity trustees in 1814 and used as a school. (fn. 42) The next theatre was built in Lairgate by Abraham Peacock in 1804 on a site which he acquired in 1799; (fn. 43) it was opened in May 1805. (fn. 44) The building held over 600 people and the season was usually from May to July; it was said to be generally well attended in race week. (fn. 45) Butler died at Beverley in 1812 and the theatre was lost from the Richmond circuit in 1816, (fn. 46) the year after Peacock had sold it to James Walker. (fn. 47) It was later used successively by companies from Sunderland, Chester, and Sheffield. (fn. 48) It was closed in 1840 (fn. 49) and an attempt to have it reopened in 1844 met with opposition. (fn. 50) It was said to have been demolished by Lady Walker at the instigation of Anthony Atkinson. (fn. 51)
Several other buildings and temporary structures were later used for theatrical and other performances. A wooden building on the site later occupied by the Mechanics' Institute, Cross Street, was used by James Cooke's circus in 1841; (fn. 52) the institute itself and the assembly rooms, Norwood, both housed theatres in the 1850s; (fn. 53) a theatre in 'Mortle' (presumably Morton) Lane, Walkergate, was advertised in 1856; (fn. 54) a temporary theatre was later built by a Mr. Jones in Hall Garth and another theatre there belonged to H. M. Straker in the 1880s; and yet another temporary building was in use in 1904. (fn. 55)
Moving pictures were first shown in Beverley at the assembly rooms, Norwood, in 1897 (fn. 56) and those rooms briefly accommodated the Electric Cinema Picture Palace in 1912. (fn. 57) Pictures were shown in the corn exchange, Saturday Market, early in 1911 and the Picture Playhouse was opened there later that year. (fn. 58) From the first the Playhouse was operated by Ernest F. Symmons (d. 1957). (fn. 59) Its earliest rival was the Marble Arch cinema in Butcher Row, built in 1916; it seated 1,100 people and included a cafe. (fn. 60) In 1935 the assembly rooms were converted to the Regal cinema, the older part of the rooms being replaced but the large hall behind retained; the Regal included a ballroom and cafe. (fn. 61)
Film performances at the Playhouse ended in 1963, a year after the introduction of bingo. (fn. 62) At the Marble Arch bingo was begun in 1961 and films were last shown in 1964; the building was closed in 1967 (fn. 63) and demolished. At the Regal films were replaced by bingo in 1968. (fn. 64) In the 1970s the town was without a commercial cinema except for the years 1971-2, when the Memorial Hall, Lairgate, served in that capacity. (fn. 65) A film society was formed at the Playhouse in 1972 but was wound up in 1981. (fn. 66) The Playhouse was reopened as a cinema, however, in 1982. (fn. 67)
The earliest circulating library in Beverley was evidently that begun by John Munby in 1740, (fn. 68) and other circulating and subscription libraries were established in the 19th century. (fn. 69) The longest lived was Green's library, in Saturday Market, which was said to have been started in 1793 and continued into the 20th century. (fn. 70)
A public library, given by J. E. Champney and designed by John Cash, was built in Well Lane (later Champney Road) in 1906 on a site given by William Spencer. (fn. 71) It is of red brick with stone dressings in the Queen Anne style. The lending library was opened the next year with a stock of 2,500 books. (fn. 72) A new wing to house the reference library, designed by H. W. Cash, was opened in 1928; it, too, was given by Champney together with his collection of 5,000 books. (fn. 73) In 1971 the lending library was enlarged and a junior library and gramophone record room added. (fn. 74) The total lending and reference stock was increased from 5,300 in 1910 to 27,800 in 1953. (fn. 75) In 1985 it was 112,700. (fn. 76)
Art Gallery and Museums.
The public library included a picture gallery where an exhibition was staged at the opening of the building in 1906; the art gallery as such was not opened, however, until 1910. (fn. 77) The reference library extension of 1928 included a first-floor lecture room intended to relieve pressure on the art gallery. (fn. 78) A local artists' exhibition was held in 1911 and 1912, from 1934 to 1939, and annually after the war. (fn. 79) The gallery houses a collection of paintings by the Beverley artist F. W. Elwell (d. 1958). (fn. 80)
A museum of local antiquities and natural history was formed by the corporation in 1908 but was not opened, in the public library, until 1910. (fn. 81) By the early 1950s some of the exhibits were stored at the municipal offices and the library room occupied by the museum was needed for other purposes. It was consequently decided to dispose of exhibits of a general character and to concentrate on local material. (fn. 82) In 1985 some exhibits were in store and others were shown in the art gallery, where a heritage centre was opened in 1984.
An East Yorkshire Regimental Museum was begun at Victoria Barracks in 1920 and rebuilt in 1956. (fn. 83) After the closure of the barracks it was moved to a house in Butcher Row, and in 1984 it was transferred to York, except for exhibits relating to the local volunteer forces which were then placed in the art gallery in Champney Road. (fn. 84) A national Museum of Army Transport was built and opened in Flemingate in 1983. (fn. 85)
Literary Institutes and Newsrooms.
The Beverley and East Riding Mechanics' Institute was established in 1832 and at first held its meetings in the schoolroom in Minister Yard. (fn. 86) In 1837 it bought a site in Register Square (later Cross Street) (fn. 87) and plans were prepared by Henry Farrah for a lecture hall and other rooms. (fn. 88) The hall was built in 1841-2 (fn. 89) and by 1844 a reading room accommodating a library and museum had been added. (fn. 90) Because of inadequate funds a projected classroom may never have been provided. The library had 396 volumes in 1832 and 1,000 by 1852, and the reading room contained local and national newspapers. There were 163 members in 1832, rising to a peak of 360 in 1847 and then falling to c. 200 in the later 1850s. Competition from rival institutions was one reason for the decline. The institute joined the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes in 1846 but sent no reports to it after 1864 and, evidently virtually defunct, was excluded from it in 1868. The building was used intermittently for other purposes and was demolished c. 1890. (fn. 91)
Several other institutions shared the aims of the Mechanics' Institute. Early newsrooms existing in Beverley included a subscription room in Saturday Market by 1823 and another in Cross Street built in 1830. The latter is a single-storeyed stuccoed building with a Doric porch in antis. (fn. 92) In 1853 one of the two principal rooms was used for billiards. (fn. 93) Conservative Association and Reform Association newsrooms were both formed in or about 1837. (fn. 94) A Mutual Improvement Society was founded by the 1860s and there were several denominational societies for the instruction of young people. (fn. 95) In 1857 the Working Men's Conservative Association newsroom was opened. (fn. 96) The Church Institute was formed in 1866, opening its rooms the next year, (fn. 97) and the Christian and Literary Institute held its first meeting in 1873. (fn. 98) Few of those institutions survived into the 20th century, but the Church Institute existed until c. 1905 (fn. 99) and the subscription newsroom in Cross Street until 1935; (fn. 100) the latter was replaced by a newsroom club in the former Temperance Hall, Champney Road, which existed from 1940 to 1963. (fn. 101) One new body, the Literary and Scientific Society, was formed in 1904 and wound up in 1926. (fn. 102)
In 1950 the former St. John's chapel of ease, Lairgate, was acquired (fn. 103) for conversion to a hall as a memorial to those who fell in the Second World War. Shortage of funds caused many delays but the hall was eventually opened in 1959 after enlargement and much internal alteration. (fn. 104) It was still used for a wide variety of meetings and activities in 1988.
The town has enjoyed two long surviving newspapers, both weeklies: the Beverley Recorder, a Liberal organ, was published from 1855 to 1921 and the Beverley Guardian, which was Conservative, was begun in 1856 and still existed in 1988. The only other papers to last more than a few years were the Beverley Echo and the Beverley Independent, and there were several more ephemeral publications.
The Beverley Recorder was founded in July 1855 as the Beverley Weekly Recorder and General, Domestic, Foreign, and Historical Register and appeared on Saturday. It contained 8 pages, cost 1d., and was printed and published in Butcher Row by John Ward. At the end of that year the name was changed to the Beverley Weekly Recorder and General Advertiser and the number of pages was reduced to four. From 1857 it was known as the Beverley Recorder and General Advertiser and was produced in Wednesday Market. It was enlarged to 8 pages in 1865 but in 1867, when 'Weekly' was restored to the title, it was reduced again to four. In 1879 H. W. Ward, son of the founder, became the proprietor and the size was increased to 8 pages once more. In 1884 'Weekly' was again dropped from the title. The Recorder incorporated the Beverley Echo from 1903 and the Beverley Independent from 1911. In 1915 H. M. Ward became the proprietor and in 1916 W. I. Watson. The paper was renamed the Beverley and East Riding Recorder in 1917 and the addition 'and Holderness, Buckrose, and Howdenshire Advertiser' was made to the title in 1918, when the price was increased to 1½d. and the size reduced to 6 pages. In 1919 the number of pages was reduced to 4 and the price to 1d. The title was changed in 1920 to the East Riding County Recorder and Holderness, Buckrose, and Howdenshire Advertiser, the size increased to 8 pages and the price to 2d., and the day of publication changed to Friday; the paper was printed and published in Hull, still by Watson. The size was reduced to 6 pages in 1921 and publication ended later that year. (fn. 105)
The Beverley Guardian and East Riding Advertiser was founded in January 1856 and appeared on Saturday. It contained 4 pages, cost 1d., and was printed and published in Saturday Market by John Green. From 1882 the proprietors were Green and his son William. The pages had been enlarged in 1857 and 1880 and the number was increased to 8 in 1882 and to 10 occasionally in 1895 and regularly in 1907. In 1903 the Guardian incorporated the East Riding Telegraph. (fn. 106) During the First World War the paper was reduced first to 8 and then to 6 pages, and in 1917 the price was increased to 1½d. (fn. 107) After the war the size was unchanged, but during the Second World War there were often only 4 pages, of a smaller size. In 1962 the paper was taken over from Green & Son Ltd. by East Yorkshire Printers Ltd. and was printed and published at Driffield. At the same time it was increased to 10 pages of a larger size and the price was raised to 2d. (fn. 108) The size and price later fluctuated. From 1984 the Guardian was published at Driffield by East Yorkshire Newspapers Ltd. and printed at Scarborough. (fn. 109)
The Beverley Echo was said to have been founded in 1877 by Tom Turner in support of the Liberals. (fn. 110) The first surviving copy, dated 12 February 1878, was printed by the Express Company and published for the proprietor by William Tilson; it contained 4 pages and cost ½d. By 1880 the paper was printed and published by Turner, and by 1884 it was produced by the East Riding Printing and Publishing Co. and appeared on Wednesday, with larger pages. In 1885 it was taken over by H. W. Ward and printed in Wednesday Market; the pages were reduced in size and the day of publication was changed to Tuesday. By 1887 it was published on Wednesday and by 1901 the pages were again larger. It was incorporated in the Beverley Recorder in 1903. (fn. 111)
The Beverley Independent was founded in April 1888 and appeared on Saturday. It contained 4 pages, cost 1d., and was printed and published by Francis Hall, at first in Holme Church Lane but from 1890 in Walkergate. The size was increased to 8 pages in 1891. Hall continued to produce the paper until 1911, when it was incorporated in the Beverley Recorder. (fn. 112)
Of the short-lived publications the monthly Beverley Chronicle was said to have been founded by John Ward in support of the Liberals. (fn. 113) The only surviving copy (vol. I, no. 10) is dated June 1855 and suggests a starting date in September 1854. The surviving copy has the full title of the Beverley Chronicle, General Advertiser, and Miscellany of Literature, contains 8 pages, and cost 1d. (fn. 114) The Beverley Express was said to have been published from c. 1856 to 1859 by John Kemp in support of the Conservatives. (fn. 115) The Beverley Argus and Freemen's Journal was founded in October 1875 and published weekly by John H. Hind in Toll Gavel. (fn. 116) No more is known of it. The Beverley Freeman was said to have been published in 1881-2 by Joseph Hind as a Radical organ. (fn. 117) The Beverley Chronicle was said to have been published for a few weeks in 1884 by Robert Eadie and to have been a pamphlet of scurrilous tendencies. (fn. 118) The Beverley and East Riding Telegraph was started in May 1895. The title was changed to the East Riding Telegraph in 1898 and the paper was incorporated in the Beverley Guardian in 1903. (fn. 119)