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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Trade and Industry
Until the rise of Hull at the end of the 13th century Beverley was the trading centre of the region. In part that role grew naturally out of the town's importance as a religious centre, but it was also fostered by the archbishop of York who, as lord of the town, stood to benefit from Beverley's economic success. The development of the market area in the northern part of the town, the later Saturday Market, is likely to have been an archiepiscopal initiative. The archbishop's great house, the Dings, stood in the centre of the market place. (fn. 1) The earliest reference to properties in the market dates from the beginning of the 12th century, when Archbishop Gerard (1100-8) granted Edric of Beverley two tofts there at a rent of 1s. (fn. 2) The archbishop was also responsible for obtaining royal charters for markets on the town's behalf. Archbishop Ealdred was later credited with securing a fair on the nativity of St. John the Baptist from Edward the Confessor, (fn. 3) but the first extant references date from the episcopate of Thurstan (1114-40). (fn. 4) By that period there were three fairs, associated with the feasts of St. John of Beverley (7 May), his translation (25 Oct.), and the nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June). Thurstan himself secured the extension of the last from two days to five, a grant embodied in a charter from Henry I and confirmed by Stephen. (fn. 5) In 1174 Archbishop Roger of Pont L'Évêque obtained royal authorization for a further fair, lasting for the nine days from Ascension Day to the Friday before Whitsun inclusive. (fn. 6) That fair was later claimed to be toll free, (fn. 7) and it fell outside the terms of Thurstan's agreement with the burgesses whereby he reserved to himself and his successors the tolls of the three fairs then in existence. The archbishop retained an interest in the organization of the fairs, and in 1364 a civic order to the cobblers to keep their stalls in Shoemarket on market and fair days was made with the agreement of the archbishop's bailiff. (fn. 8)
The archbishop also took steps to encourage waterborne trade. The river Hull, east of the town, provided a link with the Humber and so with other inland waterways and the sea. Archbishop Giffard (1266-79) was active in attempts to keep the Hull navigable, persuading local landowners to release their rights in the river. (fn. 9) His most important agreement was with Joan de Stutville, lady of Cottingham manor, who undertook to remove all her weirs from the river in return for an annual rent of £4 payable to herself and her heirs. (fn. 10) Unimpeded passage along the river benefited the archbishop, as the recipient of tolls on riverborne trade, (fn. 11) but it also benefited the town, which accordingly undertook to reimburse him for the rent. (fn. 12)
The river Hull, however, was no nearer than a mile from the town and it was necessary to carry goods by road to and from the staith at Grovehill (fn. 13) or to exploit one of the watercourses which drained from the wolds into the river. By the end of the 13th century one of those streams, known simply as the beck, and later as Beverley beck, had become the recognized water route into the suburbs. Its depth was maintained by regular scouring, (fn. 14) some of it undertaken by the brickmakers, who used the mud as their raw material. Unlicensed scouring was discouraged by the keepers, (fn. 15) but in 1436 John Best, brickmaker, was allowed to work on the beck in return for a rent paid in bricks. (fn. 16) The banks of the beck were cut and shored up with brick and timber, (fn. 17) and damage to them brought the heavy fine of 6s. 8d. in 1416-17. (fn. 18) The development of the beck did not entirely supersede use of the staith at Grovehill. Larger vessels may have continued to load and unload there, and the keepers tried to enforce the use of the staith for landing heavy goods, such as building stone, to minimize damage to the main streets. (fn. 19) Resistance to those orders, however, suggests that most river traffic did use the beck in the late Middle Ages.
The development of the beck has traditionally been ascribed to a deliberate policy of canalization by the archbishop, with Thurstan usually claimed as its instigator. (fn. 20) Some navigable link with the river Hull is likely to have existed by c. 1160, when the church of St. Nicholas was first mentioned. (fn. 21) Nicholas was the patron saint of, among others, sailors and merchants and the dedication may imply a waterhead settlement in the area. It does not, however, prove that the beck was already the preferred link with the river. Early references to the area north of Flemingate and Barleyholme suggest the existence of several watercourses. (fn. 22) It was only in the mid 13th century that there began to be references to 'the' beck, as though one route was becoming pre-eminent. (fn. 23) From the mid 14th century there were references to 'Aldbeck', which lay further north, in Grovehill, and the name implies a superseded watercourse. (fn. 24) It may have been the clearing of obstructions in the river Hull in the 13th century which encouraged the development of the beck, whether or not both were part of the same archiepiscopal initiative. The apparent reorganization of watercourses may also have owed something to contemporary changes in sea level, which had a marked effect in the Hull valley. (fn. 25) The sea level rose in the 13th century and the increased risk of flooding may explain the construction of New dike, mentioned in 1284, which lay east of the town, near Figham. (fn. 26) Changes in the drainage of the area could well have affected the navigability of the streams flowing into the river.
The importance of the beck in Beverley's economy should not be exaggerated. In 1377 the burgesses claimed that Beverley was a dry place and far from the sea. (fn. 27) That was a piece of special pleading, to avoid the obligation placed on ports to contribute to a barge for the king, but it does seem to have been true that Beverley's trade depended more on overland routes than on the river. Pavage collected at the beck was consistently much less than that at North bar, although usually more than at the other entry points. In 1344-5, for example, pavage collected at the beck amounted to only 13s. 4d. compared with £5 17s. at North bar. (fn. 28) In 1423-4 the yields were £2 10s. and £15 1s. respectively, (fn. 29) and in 1445-6 they were 12s. and £10 19s. (fn. 30) The river route seems to have been used mainly for the local transport of bulky goods. In 1406 faggots, firewood, coal, and salt were specifically mentioned, (fn. 31) and in 1412 regulations were made governing the unloading of thatch, straw, turves, hay, sand, faggots, timber, and tiles. (fn. 32) The river was also the obvious trading route to or from the port of Hull and it may not be coincidence that the beck's importance increased alongside the growth of Hull.
A flourishing community developed around the beck head. In the late Middle Ages it was the town's most prosperous suburb, with its wealth rivalling that of the central wards. Its prosperity was unequally distributed, with the south side, Barleyholme, regularly assessed at around twice as much as the northern side. The latter was in the provost's fee, and the uneven development may in part be due to the fact that the tolls on the north bank continued to be taken by the provost. The imbalance may also have had a topographical explanation if, as seems likely, Barleyholme occupied slightly higher, drier ground. In 1344-5 the boxes in Barleyholme yielded 15s. 11d. and those on the north bank 6s. 3d., occupying second and ninth places, out of eleven. (fn. 33) In 1437 Barleyholme was the third most heavily taxed of the 14 wards, yielding £1 9s. to Corn Market's £2, with the provost's fee, north Beckside, in ninth place. (fn. 34) The 1440 assessment produced a similar grading, (fn. 35) and by 1462 Barleyholme had moved into first place. (fn. 36) The suburb had its own market. By 1365 there was a regular meat market in Barleyholme, (fn. 37) and in 1412 small boats, or catches, unloading messy or bulky cargoes were ordered to make a contribution towards the cost of keeping the market place clean. (fn. 38) The market place was presumably the site of the Dings which were recorded at the beck in 1448. (fn. 39)
The prosperity of the Beckside suburb was not only based on incoming trade. In the 15th century, when Barleyholme was becoming the most prosperous ward of the town, its trade, to judge by pavage returns, was slumping, not only absolutely but also relatively to other parts of the town. (fn. 40) Early in the century the yield at the beck was consistently in second place to that at North bar, but by the 1440s it had been overtaken by the income for Norwood, suggesting that more goods were being landed at Hull bridge. Moves against forestalling at Hull bridge also point to an increase of trading there at around that time. (fn. 41) By 1460-1 the Norwood takings had fallen again, but those at the beck were then rivalled by those at Newbegin bar. Beckside's continuing prosperity under those conditions presumably derived from the craftsmen based there. Among the tradesmen to be found along the beck were the shipwrights, whom the keepers found it necessary to regulate in the 15th century. In 1407-8 a man was fined for building a catch on the banks of the beck, (fn. 42) and in 1467 the keepers attempted to ban shipbuilding on the upper reaches of the beck without a licence. (fn. 43) Beckside residents also included shipmen (fn. 44) and basket-men, or creelers. (fn. 45) The latter, with the porters, were responsible for unloading vessels which docked at the staith at Grovehill (fn. 46) or at the beck and for transporting the goods into the town. (fn. 47) Freshwater fishermen kept their boats on the beck, as did the fowlers. (fn. 48) Other tradesmen with an interest in the beck were the tilers or brickmakers (fn. 49) and the potters, (fn. 50) both of whom could find their raw material in its vicinity, and the millers, whose fraternity was based in St. Nicholas's church. (fn. 51) There were several mills around the head of the beck, including Maliface mill, (fn. 52) Ragbrook mill, (fn. 53) and the Bedern mill. (fn. 54)
The commercial centre of Beverley in the Middle Ages was the area around Saturday Market, although that name did not come into use until the 16th century. (fn. 55) In the 12th and early 13th century it was simply 'the market' or, slightly later, 'the high market', (fn. 56) but by the mid 13th century some occupational differentiation was becoming apparent. One of the first areas to be distinguished was the corn market. In the mid 13th century Alan Beche gave Meaux abbey land 'at the market where grain is accustomed to be sold'. (fn. 57) The corn market occupied the area still known as Corn Hill, at the southern end of the market place, (fn. 58) but the name was sometimes used of the market in general in contrast to Fish Market, later Wednesday Market, and it also gave its name to the whole market ward. (fn. 59) The northern end of the market area, which may then have stretched to Hengate, (fn. 60) was occupied by, among others, the butchers. The meat market was a distinct area by the earlier 13th century, (fn. 61) and was mentioned as the shambles (fn. 62) and the butchers' street (fn. 63) in the middle of the century. The butchers' street was probably the forerunner of the Butcher Row mentioned in 1336 and regularly thereafter. It lay in the market place opposite the bull ring at the northern end of Lairgate, where bulls were baited before slaughter. (fn. 64) Nearby was Noutdrit, or cattle dung, Lane, mentioned from the early 14th century, and the 15th-century Podyng Lane was also in the same area.
South of Noutdrit Lane was Soutermarket, or the cobblers' market, (fn. 65) which was in existence by the late 13th century. The cobblers were still obliged to pitch their stalls there in 1462, unless they had a house and shop elsewhere. The stalls were to stand on the south side of Shoemarket Lane, arranged in order of the owners' seniority. (fn. 66) South of the cobblers' was the bakers' row, (fn. 67) known in the 15th century as Bread Row. All three lanes ran east-west across the market, from the high street to Ladygate. (fn. 68) Forming one side of Ladygate but fronting on to the market was Smith Row, and the 14th-century Glover Row was probably also in the market. In the 15th century there were references to Mercer or Merchants' Row, which apparently stood between the market and Lairgate. In 1444 the merchant John Brompton bequeathed money to the apprentices there. (fn. 69) The centre of the market was occupied by the Dings. The cloth market was held there, and in 1345 the keepers ordered that cloth was to be sold only in the Dings, under penalty of 8d. a cloth. (fn. 70) The building also housed the market bell. (fn. 71)
Another market lay closer to the minster. It was at first called Fish Market, but the name Wednesday Market came into use in the mid 15th century. The market existed by the early 13th century, when land ad forum piscis changed hands. (fn. 72) Stalls there were mentioned later in the century. (fn. 73) The market lay on both sides of the high street, (fn. 74) this section of which had become known as Fishmarketgate by the end of the 13th century. Towards the north-west the market extended at least as far as the junction with the modern Well Lane, which in the 14th and 15th centuries was part of Fishmarket Moorgate—the road leading from the fish market towards Westwood. It probably also included the modern Butcher Row, for there are two references to Fishmarketgate properties 'towards' or next to the modern Wilbert Lane. The southern boundary is less easy to define, but Fishmarketgate certainly extended some way down what is now Highgate. A 13th-century house in the high street next to the fish market backed on to a common ditch next to Eastgate. Several 14th-century properties were also described as fronting the high street and backing on to Eastgate, and in one case the high street was specifically identified with Fishmarketgate. It is not clear, however, whether Fishmarketgate extended right up to the minster.
The relationship of the two markets to each other is uncertain. Fish Market's proximity to the minster implies that it may have been the earlier, and it has been suggested that the market was originally held in the large triangular area defined by the minster, Highgate, and Eastgate, and that the northern market was laid out later. (fn. 75) If so it is possible that the latter was a deliberate attempt by the archbishop to create a market under his control, rather than that of the chapter. Part of Highgate was later regarded as within the provost's fee, (fn. 76) and several of the canons also held land there. (fn. 77) What is clear is that the northern market came to dominate day-to-day trade. The fishmongers are the only group known to have been based in the southern market, and by the late 14th century they were also trading in the northern market. In 1386-7 there was a reference to a fish market behind the Dings, (fn. 78) and in 1446 it was claimed that time out of mind the fish market had been held in Corn Market from the feast of St. Mark (25 Apr.) to Corpus Christi Day. (fn. 79) Accordingly, when in 1452 the town leased a stall to the fishmonger Thomas Hadisse he in fact took two: one in the common fish market next to the Dings and one in the other fish market called Wednesday Market. (fn. 80) The southern market may, however, have been the site of at least one of the town's fairs. In the 16th century the Cross fair was held in Highgate, (fn. 81) and that is unlikely to have been a post-medieval innovation. It may be significant that the Cross fair, at Ascensiontide, was in the Middle Ages thought to be the one fair from which the archbishop did not receive toll. (fn. 82)
Medieval Beverley was not only a regional trading centre. The town's prosperity from the 12th to the 14th century also depended heavily on the wool trade, which had both a national and international dimension. Raw wool was exported to the cloth towns of the Low Countries. Flemings were trading in Beverley in the 12th century, when they gave their name to Flammengaria, later Flemingate. A 12thcentury grant of property in the street included among its witnesses one Boidin of Flanders. (fn. 83) Beverley men were also active in the trade. In 1230 a Flemish ship arrested in Hull was carrying wool belonging to merchants from Beverley as well as from Ypres and Damme. (fn. 84) By the end of the century the involvement of Beverley men in the export of wool had eclipsed not only that of the Flemings but also that of merchants from other parts of the north of England. Between 1298 and 1305 three of the four greatest exporters of wool through Hull were Beverley men, and the town also yielded the highest number of wool exporters: c. 70 compared with 56 from York. (fn. 85) The sums involved were considerable. In 1313 a group of Beverley merchants hired three Flemish ships in Hull to export wool and wool-fells valued at £4,000, (fn. 86) and in 1335 a Beverley merchant advanced over £900 to the prior of Malton against the priory's wool clip. (fn. 87) Beverley merchants found it worth while to maintain European bases and were resident in Bruges in the 1330s. (fn. 88) The export of wool reached its peak in the 1350s and had slumped dramatically by the 15th century. Beverley merchants were still, however, active in the reduced market and in the 1430s the local merchant Thomas Brompton owned a wool-house in Calais, where the wool staple was then based. (fn. 89)
The national decline in wool exports was partly offset by a growth in the export of cloth, and Beverley was well placed to weather the change. The town's reputation as a producer of good quality cloth had been established by 1163, when a charter of Henry II to York noted that Beverley weavers were among those permitted to make rayed and dyed cloth. (fn. 90) In the following century the cloth of Beverley had a national reputation, with the king making regular purchases of burnets, coloureds, and blues. (fn. 91) The cloth was also exported. Spanish merchants were buying Beverley scarlets in the 1270s. (fn. 92) In 1319 Beverley merchants were among those who freighted three Flemish ships with cloth, including four whole Beverley cloths valued at the high price of £28. (fn. 93) In 1412 a Beverley ship forfeited to the king was carrying 77 woollen cloths and 27 bed hangings. (fn. 94)
Cloth production kept its place as the town's major craft throughout the Middle Ages. Its fluctuations cannot be charted in detail, but such evidence as survives suggests that it was still holding up at the end of the Middle Ages. In 1366-7 Beverley supported three dyers. (fn. 95) In 1456 there were 4 dyers, 9 fullers, and 22 weavers, and in the late 15th century the town had 8 dyers and 42 weavers. (fn. 96) There were probably a great many other townsmen on the periphery of the trade. Alan of Hurnbleton (d. 1331), one of the vicars choral, grew teasels and madder on his land outside Keldgate bar. (fn. 97) In 1434 a butcher's messuage in Fishmarketgate included a wool-house. (fn. 98) Some processes in the craft were undertaken piecemeal, including carding and spinning, and never acquired a guild structure. It is likely that initially all the craft processes in the cloth trade were controlled by the merchants who sold the finished product. The laws of the weavers of Beverley, reflecting the situation in the early 13th century, excluded weavers from buying or selling cloth outside the town and denied them the freedom of the town unless they abandoned their craft, measures which left the trade in cloth in the merchants' hands. (fn. 99) A legacy of this situation is found in the cloth regulations recorded in a town cartulary of the late 14th century. The orders were enforced by the bailiff and keepers, with fines going half to the town and half to the lord. (fn. 100) The emergence of a self-regulating craft structure cannot be precisely dated. In 1390 the weavers, walkers or fullers, and coverlet weavers had their own plays in the Corpus Christi cycle, which implies a degree of organization, although not necessarily full guild status. (fn. 101) By 1431, however, the dyers, weavers, shearmen, and fullers had formed guilds, and their stewards walked in the Corpus Christi procession. (fn. 102) The weavers' ordinances had been first enrolled in 1406, the fullers' in 1422, the dyers' in 1431, and the shearmen's in 1432. (fn. 103) The fullers, however, had regulated their craft appearance in the Ascension Day celebrations of 1396 and the shearmen claimed that their ordinances were immemorial. (fn. 104) The importance of the cloth trade in the economy of Beverley gave the town a continuing interest in its regulation. In 1437 it was the keepers who set standards for cloth, although they did so with the consent of the craft and with the proviso that forfeitures for breach of the regulations should be divided between the town and the craft. (fn. 105)
Although the cloth for which Beverley was famous was of wool, its weavers also worked in other materials. Alan of Humbleton in 1331 bequeathed to Alan his boy all his bales of hemp and flax, (fn. 106) and in 1369 men dwelling in Keldgate and Lairgate were accused of soaking their flax in the town ditch. (fn. 107) At the end of the 15th century the weaver Robert Dacres had a woollen loom and two bastard looms on which he produced linen and canvas as well as broad cloth and kersey. (fn. 108)
Cloth making was probably practised throughout the town. The only craftsmen who seem to have been at all localized were the fullers, whose need for an adequate water supply led them to congregate along the streams on the east side of the town. The name Walker beck was attached to the watercourse which flowed parallel with Saturday Market from Norwood, and which passed under the high street at Cross bridge. In the late 13th century it was also applied to a watercourse north of Flemingate, (fn. 109) and the road from Flemingate to St. Nicholas's church crossed the stream at the fullers' bridge (pons fullonum). (fn. 110) That was presumably the route taken by the fullers to the tenter grounds which lay on the edge of the town, and in the 14th century there was a Tenter Lane in that area. (fn. 111) Another Tenter Lane near Walkergate may have led to the tenter garths in Aldford, (fn. 112) perhaps the same as the 15th-century tenter garths in Norwood. (fn. 113) There was also a tenter garth on the south side of Flemingate. (fn. 114) Dyers may have settled near the fullers. The name Dyer Lane for one of the lanes off Walkergate is no earlier than the 18th century, but there were medieval dyers living just south of there in Spynes Lane. (fn. 115)
The other main industry in medieval Beverley was tanning, although it came far behind cloth making in importance and was apparently declining by the late Middle Ages. In 1366-7 the town had 30 tanners. (fn. 116) In 1457 there were 17 barkers or tanners and in the late 15th century 14. (fn. 117) Presumably they worked mainly on the edge of the town, but few references to their tan pits survive. The Barkhouse garth mentioned in 1375 may have been the site of a tannery, although its location is unknown, and a lane leading off Lairgate was known as Barker Lane in 1409. (fn. 118) The quantity of leather produced in the town encouraged other trades: cobblers, glovers, and saddlers all used leather as their main raw material. In Beverley sources the cobblers are usually grouped with the tawyers. (fn. 119) There were 19 of them in 1457 and 20 at the end of the century. Although some efforts were made to confine cobblers to their own area of the market, shoemaking is likely to have been scattered throughout the town. Archaeological evidence of leather-working has been found in Wilbert Lane, for example. (fn. 120) In addition to the leather-working crafts, Beverley generally supported at least one parchment-maker in the late Middle Ages. (fn. 121)
Medieval Beverley also had a flourishing brickmaking trade, based around the beck and along the bank of the river Hull in Grovehill. In the late 14th century the abbey of Meaux took action against Beverley tilers who were removing soil from the river banks in Sutton and Wawne. The provost of Beverley backed the tilers, whose brick kilns lay within his fee, claiming that the flood plain pertained to the archbishop as lord of the water of Hull, but the tilers lost their case. (fn. 122) In the 15th century tilers took soil from the beck and from Grovehill dike, (fn. 123) and possibly also from the close called the Tong, which was leased to a tilemaker in 1449-50. (fn. 124) In 1366-7 five tilers, one of them a woman, Margaret Limeburner, contributed to the tilers' box. (fn. 125) In 1456 there were 14 tilers and in the late 15th century there were nine. (fn. 126) At least three tileries stood within the provost's fee at Beckside early in the 15th century. (fn. 127) In 1467 the keepers ordered that no kilns be built further into the town centre than those already in existence, because of the smell and the damage caused to fruit trees. (fn. 128) The remains of a 14th-century tilery near the beck were excavated in 1986. (fn. 129)
Most of the bricks produced were no doubt used within the town, although in the 15th century a few thousand were sent to Hull, where the brickmaking industry had collapsed. (fn. 130) The earliest known references to the use of brick in Beverley date from the 14th century, although a Richard tegularius or tiler was mentioned in 1202. (fn. 131) Building in brick, and rents paid in brick, are a feature of all the extant keepers' accounts. In 1344-5, for instance, the keepers received 16,000 bricks from the tilers and bought 2,000 for repairs to the Dings. The town bars were rebuilt in brick in the early 15th century and in 1409-10 High bridge, over the beck, was repaired using brick faced with freestone. The beck banks themselves were shored up with brick, as was Bar dike, at least in part. (fn. 132) Later in the century brick was used in work on the Dominican friary. (fn. 133)