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Yorkshire Bridlington Old Town, Yorkshire

Bridlington Old Town - Away from the bustle of the harbour and beaches, this is a step back into the past.

Bridlington is a town of two parts, which have grown to form a whole. Bridlington Quay grew up around the harbour. Bridlington Old Town, about a mile inland, grew up around the Priory and, until the C19th, was a much more important settlement than Bridlington Quay. It was the major trading area for many of the surrounding villages which were dependent on the goods and products sold here. When the railway arrived in in the 1840s, economic activity moved to the harbour area.

High Street and Market street still have many their original buildings from the C17th and was used as the film set for Walmington on Sea in the recent “Dad’s Army" film. The Old Town became a conservation area in 1969 and a copy of the Heritage Trail leaflet can be downloaded here.

A settlement grew up around the priory (#2) and was granted as weekly market and an annual fair. It was fortified by a wall in the C12th, during the conflict between Stephen and Matilda. Only the arched gateway of the Bayle Gate survives. Over the years this has had many different functions - courthouse, prison, town hall and school. It now houses a local history museum.


Just past the Bayle on the right is the tiny Applegarth Lane, which was once part of the priory orchard. This was the site of the first Baptist chapel to be built in Bridlington in 1698, along with its burial ground.



Kirkgate running along Church Green and the Priory is lined with C18th houses.


High Street is still the main shopping street in the Old Town with many small shops with their original bow fronted windows. Numbers 42 to 50 are the oldest houses dating back to the C16th.




It still supports a butcher, baker (behind High Street) and general store along with art galleries, antique shops and tea rooms.

Market Street is much wider as this was the site of the weekly market.


The corn trade was very important and the original corn exchange was on Market Street. Trade had moved to the Black Lion at the junction of Market Street and High Street by 1870. The Corn Exchange House was rebuilt on Market Street in 1972 in the style of the original 1824 building.



Opposite the Black Lion was the Bank, in a splendid Victorian building. This is now a beauty saloon.


The stocks and pillory outside the Pack Horse Inn are a replica. Wrongdoers faced public humiliation by being fastened into them and pelted with rubbish by the onlookers. Their use was abolished in 1837.

This is an area that very much repays exploring on foot.

Between the Bridlington Quayside and the Old Town

The area between the Bridlington Quayside and the Old Town does tend to be ignored which is a shame as there is plenty to stop and look at as you walk between them.

Quay Road and St John Street connect the quay with the old town. Once the railway arrived in the 1840s, the area between the two was gradually developed to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors.



Small arcades of shops were built, including these on Quay Road which still retain their cast iron canopy.


St John’s Burlington Methodist Church, with its unusual Russian onion domes, was built as a Wesleyan Chapel in 1884 in response to the increasing number of holiday makers when existing chapels were described as ‘inadequate’. Burlington was the old name used by local residents for the Old Town until the 1930s.


A Baptist Chapel was built on the junction of Portland Place and Quay Road, replacing older buildings.


Bridlington Town Hall is a splendid William and Mary style building dating from 1931 and an example of civic pride. A marble staircase led from the entrance hall to the panelled council chamber on the left and a ballroom. Now retitled Bridlington Customer Service centre it still contains the council offices and the Job Centre. In front is a formal garden with grass and bedding displays. To the rear are Queen Victoria Gardens.

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Bridlington Priory

Bridlington Priory was once one of the largest and wealthiest Augustinian Priories in Yorkshire with land stretching from Blubberhouses in the north, Askham Richard in the west and down to Spurn Point.


The Manor of Bridlington was given to Gilbert de Gant by William the Conqueror. His son Walter founded a priory here in 1113 on the site of an earlier Saxon Church. His tomb is still in the south aisle.

The old town of Bridlington grew up around the priory. The priory was fortified in the C12th during the conflict between Stephen and Matilda, with four gateways leading into the monastic buildings.

John de Tweng, a C14th prior, became the last Englishman to be canonised before the Reformation in 1410. His shrine quickly became associated with several miracles. Pilgrims and royalty flocked to the tomb. The last prior was one of the ringleaders in the disastrous Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed at Tyburn. The priory was dissolved in 1537 and all the priory buildings were pulled down and used for building stone. The shrine and tomb of St John were burned in the Market Place. Only the nave survived as this had belonged to the town and and became the parish church.

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By the C18th the church buildings were getting in a poor state of repair and there were a series of restorations culminating in a major restoration in the C19th by Gilbert Scott. He redesigned the roof and was responsible for adding the tops to the two west towers.

It is a splendid building set in its graveyard, and almost too big to photograph. The two west towers are a local landmark and are unusual because they are asymmetrical. The north west tower is early English. The south west tower is Perpendicular. Between them is the glorious Perpendicular west window which is described as being the largest in the north.

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At the base of the north west tower is a Norman doorway, one of the few bits of the Norman church to survive.


Next to it is a splendid Perpendicular doorway set under a crocketed ogee arch and carved arches. On either side are empty niches for statues.


The north wall is the oldest part of the church and is early English with its lancet windows and heavy buttresses.


The north porch with its room above, corner turrets and empty niches for statues would have been an importance entrance into the church.


The south wall is later and the prior’s buildings were originally built onto it. These are now a blank wall. Above is the clerestory with large Decorated windows.


There are two doorways on the south wall, each set under a series of pointed arches with carved heads at the bottom. The tops of the pillars have carved capitals.


The massive buttresses on either side of the east window are all that survive of the transept crossing of the pre-reformation abbey.


Bridlington Priory cont...

Inside it feels a very large church as there is no chancel arch separating the nave and chancel. The arcading on the north wall is from 1250. Clustered pillars with twelve shafts and plain capitals support pointed arches. Above is an open triforium with a gallery running the length of the church. Above this are the clerestory windows added in 1270. The stone is brilliant white and shines in the sunshine making a marked contrast to the dark wood roof.


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The stained glass windows in the massive east and west windows flood the church with colour.



At the back of the nave is a marble memorial to the dead of the First World War.


Next to it is the wooden memorial with the names of those who died in the Second World War. This also includes the role of honour of C Squadron of the 23rd Hussars which trained at Bridlington.

The side aisles are narrow and the walls are covered with memorial stones and wooden hatchments.


At the back of the south aisle is the Founder’s Tomb, a carved slab of black Tournai marble. This is thought to be the marble slab covering the tomb of Walter de Gant whose remains were buried before the high altar. Standing on pale stone legs this has a carved top. At the top are two dragons or wyverns. Below is a stylised representation of a church. Below this is what is described as a fox and a pigeon attempting to drink from a narrow topped vessel. At the bottom is a lion.


Near it is the C14th font made from Frosterley Marble. The wooden canopy was made in 1955 by Robert Thompson of Kilburn, the mouse man.


Beyond is a tapestry made by members of the congregation which uses appliquéd panels to tell the history of the priory from 1086 to the present day.


There is a model showing what the priory would have looked like before the Dissolution of the Monasteries with a large cruciform church with a central tower. There is a display case with the robes of an Augustinian canon as well as Medieval finds from the priory grounds. These include a wool weight, lengths of chain from chained books in the library and C13th or C14th floor tiles.

The wooden pulpit on a stone base, dates from 1850. The panelling, canopy and spiral staircase with wrought iron balustrade, were added in 1960 and are again the work of Thompson of Kilburn. The coats of arms on the gate at the base of the stairs are of the archiepiscopal sees of York and Canterbury with the three Bs of Bridlington. Round the top of the canopy are carved scenes from the life of Christ.


Separating the chancel from the side chapels is carved oak parclose screen. In front are three tiers of choir stalls carved by Thompson of Kilburn.


Those on the back have carved angels playing instruments between the seats.


The curate’s chair has carved ends with mythical animals.


The simple table altar has a carved reredos made from Caen stone.


The C19th stained glass east window illustrates the tree of Jesse. At the centre bottom is Jesse. Above him are King David and King Solomon. At the centre top is the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. From Jesse, a branch of a tree can be traced to the figure of Mary and Jesus in the top window. On either side of the window are small boards with the Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandments painted on them.

To the left of the chancel is the organ. To the right is the small chapel of St John of Bridlington which is used for private prayer. The altar has blue and gold drapes around it and the woodwork is by Thompson of Kilburn.

This is a splendid building and well worth visiting. Check the website for opening hours which vary from winter to summer. There is a small shop. Members of the congregation welcome visitors and are very proud of their priory and keen to talk. There are quiz sheets to find the 18 Thompson mice scattered around the church.

There is parking on the road in front of the church. The post code of the church is YO16 7BB and the grid reference TA177680.


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