On the final morning at Skipsea Sands Holiday Park we woke to overcast skies and rain, it seemed that we had the best of the weather, this is the problem with an English Summer, it can be all over in just a week. The golden corn field was now a dirty brown. No breakfast on the balcony this morning so we packed our bags and left.
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 raincoat now only required shirt-sleeves.
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 the English town 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.
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 the Minster, a wonderful monastic church but at the other end of town, just inside the last surviving five hundred year old town gate, stands the glorious medieval church of St Mary.
Sir Tatton Sykes, a 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 a local enthusiast 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 wild, 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.
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.
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 I pointed out that my granddaughter had spent an inflated £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 and back to Grimsby. It had been an excellent few days in East Yorkshire.
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