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Yorkshire Beverley, the County Town of the East Riding

Regularly voted as one of the best places to live, Beverley is an attractive market town and the county town of East Yorkshire. Popular with locals it tends to be missed by the tourists which is a shame as it is still retains its medieval feel. Despite the presence of large Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and the Flemingate centre, the pedestrianised town centre has avoided the blight experienced by so many high streets. There are few empty shops and the cobbled streets with courtyards off support a range of traditional family owned shops as well as the usual chains. There is a lot of money in Beverley and up market boutiques and shops like Monsoon, Jaeger, Barbour and Laura Ashley are found here.
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Beverley boast two markets. The Saturday Market dates back to the middle ages and the stalls are set up around the splendid market cross, built in the early C18th. Paid for by two local MPs, their coats of arms as well as the royal coat of arms of Queen Anne are painted round the top.
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The splendid brick built Corn Exchange overlooking the Market Place is now a cafe.
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On a Wednesday there is a smaller market in the smaller square at the other end of the town, in the aptly named Wednesday Market. Unlike the Saturday market which sells food clothes and hardware, the Wednesday Market concentrates of food and fresh produce from local suppliers.

There are plenty of eating places in the town as well as a range of pubs. Perhaps the best known is the C16th White Horse Inn, popularly known as Nellies, after the landlady who ran the pub until the 1970s. who ran the pub for many years. The pub retains many of its original features including gas lighting.

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The area has been settled since Saxon times and the most popular derivation of the name Beverley is from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Beoferlic’ or ‘Beaver Clearing in the Woods.’ This is probably a reference to the beavers that used to dwell on and around the River Hull around Beverley. Although the beavers have long since gone, the town's crest still depicts a beaver.

In the early C8th a monastery was founded here by John of Beverley who became a Bishop of York, and was buried here. Many miracles were attributed to him and he was canonised in 1037. Beverley became an important place of pilgrimage and a settlement grew up around the monastery.

The monastery was sacked by the Danes and abandoned. A small church was built a church around his tomb and was later replaced by a Norman Minster and then the beautiful Minster building still standing today. Pilgrim numbers continued to increase bringing wealth to the Minster and the town.

St Mary’s Church was built at the opposite end of the town in the C12th as the parish church for the wealthy townsfolk.

Beverley grew rapidly during the Middle Ages and was the tenth most important town in England, with its prosperity mainly based on wool, although there were also brick and tile works and a leather industry. Beverley Beck was deepened and straightened in the early C12th making it navigable from Hull.

Unlike many town, Beverley never had a stone wall around it. Nothing remains of the ditch with a wooden palisade on top which surrounded the town. Access to the town was controlled by four stone gateways or Bars. Not only did they keep out ‘undesirables’ they also collected tolls from merchants bringing goods to sell. Only the North Bar with its heavy wooden doors survives. This was rebuilt in brick in 1409 and still traffic to or from the north still has to enter through its narrow gateway. As Beverley expanded, the suburbs outside the gate where called North Bar Without, to distinguish them from those inside referred to as North Bar Within.
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Medieval houses were timber frame with steeply pitched roofs. Few have survived but there is a good example on North Bar Within.

By the C15th the wool and cloth trade was in decline and hit by competition from the West Riding. Wealth from pilgrims also dried up after the Reformation. There were outbreaks of plague in the early C17th and many buildings were unoccupied or demolished.

Beverley’s fortunes revived in the early C18th when it became the administrative centre for the East Riding and the Quarter Sessions were held here in the Guildhall. The landed gentry visited for the racing as well as the Assembly Rooms and theatres. Many of the Medieval buildings were replaced by Georgian town houses.
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The population grew rapidly in the C19th with the arrival of industry - tanning, ironworks, cement, paint engineering and ship building. The Beck continued to bring goods from Hull and the arrival of the railway in 1848 transformed the town. Rows of Victorian terraces were built to house the increasing population of industrial workers.

Industrialists and wealthy tradesmen moved away from the town centre and built detached villas to the north and west of the town.

The splendid brick County Hall was built in 1906 to house the newly founded East Riding County Council.
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The Victoria Barracks were built to the south of the town in 1878 to house two battalions of the 15th (The Yorkshire East Riding) Regiment of Foot, which later became the East Yorkshire Regiment. Most of the site was demolished in 1977 when Morrisons was built. All that remains is a single terrace which has been converted into flats.
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The industry is gone but Beverley remains a busy and thriving place as the county town for the East Riding. Tourism is an increasing source of income too and many visitors heading for York are now adding Beverely to their list of places to visit.
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