“East Yorkshire, to the uninitiated, just looks like a lot of little hills. But it does have these marvellous valleys that were caused by glaciers, not rivers. So it is unusual.” – David Hockney
We have lived in Grimsby in the far east of England for five years. I like Grimsby but it has to be said that it is an odd place. On the south bank of the Humber Estuary it is so far east that the only place to go after this is the North Sea and there aren’t any ferries to Europe as there are in Hull on the north side of the river. It is a dead end. It is a place that you only go to by choice. No one visits Grimsby by accident. You cannot stumble upon it while taking a leisurely drive along the coast as say in Northumberland or East Anglia. It can never be an unexpected discovery.
I mention this because we have friends who live in the charming town of Oakham in Rutland and who visit us here at least once a year. When Richard and Pauline come to stay we need something to do but after two or three times I can assure you that there is little left to see of any interest in Grimsby. On their most recent visit we needed to come up with something new.
My friend Dai Woosnam (who lives in Grimsby) is always chastising me for regularly flying to Europe but neglecting to travel in England and the UK. He cannot understand why I have never been to Bath for example (one of the finest visitor cities in the UK) and to be fair he has got a point because I cannot explain why I have not been to Bath either. Anyway, Bath is too far to go for a day trip from Grimsby so we studied the Reader’s Digest touring guide of Great Britain (1992 edition) for somewhere closer and came up with Beverley, the County town of East Riding in neighbouring Yorkshire, which from the description sounded rather hopeful.
It wasn’t a very promising start to the day weather wise however and grey cloud and drizzle did not fill me with enthusiasm for the forty mile journey west, then north across the River Humber. The cloud was low and as sticky as toffee pudding and as we crossed the Humber Bridge at the highest point we drove through mist and fog but once across and toll paid the clouds began to break as we drove into the East Riding of Yorkshire.
The White Rose County of Yorkshire is the largest in England and for administrative convenience was once divided into Ridings, North, West and East, but no obvious fourth and I wondered why?
Well it turns out that there is a simple explanation because the word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The invading Danes called representatives from each Thridding to a Thing, or Parliament and established the Ridings System. I rather like the idea that Parliament is called a Thing! To this day, Yorkshire consists of three ridings, along with the City of York, and that’s why there is no fourth, or South, Riding.
We arrived in Beverley in the late morning and by the time we had interpreted the complicated car park payment process at a pay and display machine the sky was blue, the sun was shining and a day that started needing a pullover did not now even require a jacket.
The name of the town came into use sometime in the tenth century and I always find it interesting how far the name of an English town or city has travelled world-wide. In the United States the U.S. Board on Geographic names have for some reason dropped the third ‘e’ but there is a Beverly in Chicago, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. Beverly Hills in California is named after Beverly, Massachusetts so can indirectly be included in the list.
In Canada, as in USA the drop the third ‘e’ in Beverly, Toronto but in Australia they retain the correct spelling in Beverley, Adelaide and in a small town in Western Australia.
The place was busy and we followed a stream of pedestrians who seemed to know where they were going and arrived quite quickly at the Market Place. Ordinarily I would not find this an especially thrilling experience, even now after nearly sixty years I can recall being dragged around Leicester Market by my mother on a weekly basis, but Beverley Market, I have to say, was quite wonderful, busy, vibrant and full of life and I was so overcome by the moment I was talked into a rash purchase of a rusty garden ornament for £25 – my entire pocket money for the week.
I knew it was going to take me a while to get over that moment of shopping weakness so I steered us all away from the market and towards the ‘Georgian Quarter’ which I hoped would give me the time that I needed to recover my composure!
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