Tag Archives: Beverley East Yorkshire

Museums of Hull

After a second night demolishing the Premier Inn in Beverley and the children had caught up on their e-mails we had to clear out and make plans for going back home to Grimsby.

Fearing for the house and not wanting to get back too soon I thought that we might take a detour through UK Capital of Culture – The City of Hull and specifically an area of the city that has been reinvented for the occasion as the Old Town and more specifically, the Museum Quarter.

Odd, isn’t it?  I have no trouble with Madrid or Prague, Rome or Lisbon having an Old Town or Museum quarter but I find it difficult to get my head around this in nearby Hull.

Hull Museum Cat People

It was rather a surprise to most people when Hull became UK Capital of Culture because it has to be said that it great swathes of it are a bit of a dump and the journey in along the A1079, the Beverley Road, did nothing to alter this opinion, it is a dreadful approach to the city, through run down streets of decrepit shops, cheap mini-markets, tattoo parlours, dodgy finance places and betting shops, not the sort of place that anyone would like to spend too much time without a bodyguard that’s for sure.

Anyway, we made it to the Old Town and after a bit of difficulty found a parking spot and made our way to the Museum, which by contrast is all rather nice.

I have to say that my expectations were low but once inside I quickly had to reassess my uninformed predictions.  Entrance is free and within five minutes I was open mouthed with respect for this Municipal Museum.

Three Museums actually.

We started in the Street Life Museum which recreates city life in the early twentieth century with buses and trains which amused the children and old fashioned shops that I remembered well enough but left my grandchildren unimpressed.

Hull Museum Street lifeinside-streetlife-museum

Upstairs we moved back two hundred years and there were carriages and recreations which I liked but scared some of the children.  There was a street scene which included a wheelwright workshop and that interested me because my great-great grandfather , Thomas Insley of Shackerstone in Leicestershire was a wheelwright and carriage maker just about one hundred years ago before his business went bust with the advent of the motor car.

At the very top of the building was a view over the River Hull and the previous site of the industrious city docks, all gone now of course but once this was one of the busiest fishing ports in England, a status only disputed by nearby Grimsby.  Rather sad now, no fishing, no ships just crumbling piers and rotting lichen covered timbers which will soon give in to the inevitable and fall into the muddy water and simply disappear.

I spoke briefly to a visitor from the south of England who seemed genuinely surprised by the history of the city.  I told him the story that Hull was allegedly the most bombed city in World-War-Two, this was because that despite a blackout no German Bomber crew could hardly miss the River Humber and also because having reached the English coast many crews lost their nerve to carry on, declared an imaginary aircraft fault and simply discharged their bombs on the first available target and just went home.

carriage-makers-1903

After the Street Life Museum we moved on to the History Museum but by this time the children were beginning to run out of patience so we rather dashed through the history of the area from the Iron Age to the Medieval and after an hour or so as I became increasingly conscious of their lack of attention we moved on.

We missed out the William Wilberforce Museum and the history of the abolition of slavery and I thought I might do that another day by myself.

Hull History Museum

So we left the Old Town of Hull and made our way back south for the return journey to Lincolnshire on the opposite side of the Humber and crossed the estuary over the suspension bridge.

At a little over two thousand, two hundred metres the Humber Suspension Bridge is the seventh largest of its type in the World.  This statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World for the next sixteen years and the distance by road between Hull and Grimsby was reduced by nearly fifty miles as a consequence of the construction.

For the record, the longest single span suspension bridge is currently the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in Japan.

Eventually we left the visitor area and made for the toll booths and crossed the river and then made our way back to Grimsby past the port of Immingham to the north which handles the largest quantity of goods by weight in the UK and by day is an untidy, grimy sort of place dominated by ugly petro-chemical works and soulless grey industrial buildings but by night is transformed into a glittering Manhattan skyline of tall buildings and bright lights and occasional dancing plumes of flames burning off excess gases which actually makes it all look rather attractive.

Over the last two days we had done our best to demolish the Premier Inn Hotel in Beverley and the Museums in Hull now it was the turn of my house to take the strain!

hull-humber-bridge

Beverley Minster – The Musicians

Beverley Minster Musicians

The minster is famous for its carvings of medieval musical instruments. There are over 70 such carvings, illustrating instruments that are familiar to modern viewers, but also a variety of unusual medieval instruments. Among the carvings are depictions of bagpipes, flutes, pipes, organs, tambourines, shawms, cymbals, trumpets, lutes, and more.

This was my favourite…

Beverley Minster Musician

Beverley, East Yorkshire – A Minster and a Parish Church

St Mary's Church Beverley

The ‘Georgian Quarter’ is not a huge area, the main road ‘North Bar Within’ is barely two hundred yards long but it has been well preserved and is flanked with elegant town houses with handsome front doors with gleaming brass furniture.

It is rare that one small town boasts two wonderful historic churches, but that is the case for the East Yorkshire town of Beverley. The most famous of the two is without doubt Beverley Minster, a wonderful monastic church but at the other end of town, just inside the last surviving medieval town gate, stands the glorious medieval church of St Mary.

Sir Tatton Sykes, prolific nineteenth century church restorer, once famously remarked that the west front of St Mary’s was ‘unequalled in England and almost without rival on the continent of Europe’. Now, Sir Tatton may be forgiven for seeing the church with the rose-tinted spectacles of local enthusiasm but the truth is that St Mary’s is a beautiful church, and must surely warrant inclusion in any list of the great parish churches of England.

We had come to see the Minster of course but finding ourselves outside the church it seemed rude not to pay a visit and we were soon very glad that we did.  It is an eye-catching structure from outside and the doorway is framed with stone carvings of gargoyles with scary faces and bulging eyes but once past the ugly bug invitation committee we passed into an elaborate and sumptuous interior which is in contrast to the normal austerity of Anglican churches.

Inside the church is a treasure chest of stained glass windows, two magnificent ceiling paintings, one of the constellation of stars and another of Anglo-Saxon Kings of England and a trail of stone carvings that requires a printed map to try and find them all.  Most famous of all is perhaps the carving of the March Hare, a rabbit dressed as a Pilgrim and said to have inspired Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland although I can find no real evidence to support that particular claim.

Mad March Hare Beverley St Mary's

We spent half an hour or so in the Church which too be fair was long enough for Kim and Pauline because they now had plans to visit the shops.  I may have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of shopping and today I was ably supported by my friend Richard.  The trouble with English towns is that they all have the same shops, there is practically no individuality in the town centres.  Every shop that I can expect to find in my home town could also be found here.  These are not shops that interest me a great deal in Grimsby so it was completely unlikely that they would do so here in Beverley.

Even worse than this however is the fact that town centre shops are in decline and just as in every other English town there is an over-supply of banks, building societies and pay day loan money lenders.  The trouble with financial service providers is that they simply cannot make their window displays interesting and except for a different logo all they can display is a list of lending and savings rates most of which are much the same anyway.

To be fair there were some local shops here in Beverley and two iconic WH Smiths bookshops (Grimsby WH Smiths closed down in 2015) but nothing that was so interesting that it would get me through the door.  I was more interested in the road surface.  Beverley market place has traditional cobbles and in 2013 there was a lot of controversy when the local council wanted to tear them up and replace them with modern block paving in the interests they said of health and safety.  Luckily the residents of the town were having none of it, there were howls of protests and eventually the council was obliged to back down.

Beverley Minster

After lunch in smart little town centre café we made our way now along busy streets with buskers and street entertainers until we reached the Minster.  A magnificent Gothic structure which towers over the whole of the town.  Inside there was some music, an organ recital and we were told that we could only go in by paying £5 to listen to it.  That was enough for Kim and Pauline to abandon the plan straight away and return to the shops but Richard and I were assured that it would finish in five minutes and then we could go in for nothing.  Like true skinflints we decided to wait!

Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England most usually those that have been associated with monastic life sometime in the past.  Church hierarchy is a complicated matter because a Minster falls between Church and Cathedral but can confusingly stray either way.  Beverley Mister is a Church but thirty miles away York Minster is a Cathedral.  Beverley has a Bishop but he is based in York.  In London, Westminster is a Cathedral and an Abbey and a Minster and down the road there is a Roman Catholic Cathedral of the same name.

It is an impressive building for sure and inside there are soaring columns, high vaulted windows, chapels and tombs but decoration is sparse and compared to St Mary’s Church it seemed strangely austere and functional.  We stayed for a while until we were spotted taking photographs without a permit (£3) from which we were excused when Richard pointed out that he had spent an exaggerated £15 in the gift shop and then we left.

By now it was late afternoon so we returned to the market to collect our garden ornament purchases and then we left Beverley and made our way back to the Humber Bridge.

Beverley Minster

Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire

Beverley Yorkshire Post Card

“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.

Reader's Digest Touring Guide to Britain

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.

Beverley Georgian Quarter

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.

Beverley Market Place

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!

Rusty Garden Flower