Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

Introduction — why Beverley Pubs?

As I was born in Hull I may owe my interest in Beverley’s pubs to my ancestors who were residents of Dunswell although generally speaking my interest is in all things local to the Hull area, especially pubs, both past and present. I jointly produced a small illustrated book on some of the lost pubs of Hull in December 1999 with my great friend Graham Wilkinson – sadly no longer with us, but I had been investigating Beverley’s pubs for some time prior to this. I found myself wondering about the Sun Inn in Flemingate (no longer the Tap & Spile thank heavens) following a request for some information on its history by the members of CAMRA in the summer of 1998. Later, on a purely educational visit - for a quiz as I recall, I began to gather a more personal interest. I had begun to live part of each week in Beverley at the home of my partner Gail and I inevitably started to visit the local hostelries. My previous regular visits had been many years prior to this on nights out with friends around Beverley in the early 1980s (usually on the train from Hull on Friday or Saturday evenings).

The new visits led to a search for all the books and literature on the subject of Beverley’s pubs - I was sure that for such an historic town there must be a lot to choose from. Sadly only one small book (The Inn Places of Beverley – see bibliography) had attempted to even skim the surface of what I now know to be a very tricky research topic. There had been minor references of more ancient inns in other local books but nothing particularly useful or detailed except Jan Crowther’s excellent study ‘Beverley in Mid Victorian Times’, which contained a short summary of Beverley’s entertainments during that period. Also in November 1998 historian Chris Ketchell had gathered many of these references into a useful chronology that he produced as a ‘basic framework for any more detailed further study’. My study of the Sun Inn had set me off really, and I decided to try and expand a database of the pubs of Beverley that I had begun the previous autumn as meeting Gail had also begun my involvement with computers. It had been an attempt to discover all I could whilst avoiding the pitfalls of it becoming a life’s work, which it easily could have done. A sudden change of residence found Gail and I both living in Hull at my house in the Avenues and with the loss of my temporary Beverley passport the project was shelved. Back in Hull full-time I became heavily involved in my first Hull book and that was that, or so I thought. The Hull book diverted my attention from the tricky subject of Beverley, but not for long.

The Beverley file glared at me from the shelf pricking my conscience until I found the time to give it another shot. Fortunately I did have other topics to work on (and a life) and so this small work was merely the result of a short eighteen months on-and-off study and published originally as ‘A Toast to the Town – a History of Beverley’s Public Houses’ in 2001. Most of the work is from mind-numbing, yet dangerously interesting searches in libraries and archives but also the result of discussion with those in the know and from my other love, that of collecting old photographs and picture-postcards of Hull and East Yorkshire.

It turns out that Beverley and Hull are quite different in terms of research methods; Hull lost much of its historic architecture in the course of slum-clearance programmes, blitz damage and subsequent rebuilding, new road schemes and of course changing fashions. During these onslaughts many of Hull’s ancient inns, taverns, alehouses and beer-houses were lost, but fortunately, Hull is blessed with various well-kept and easily accessible archives of documents, plans and images; the quality of these resources is such that they are the envy of many other cities in the country. Beverley is another matter as its buildings remain for the most part unaltered or affected by war or council policy and a survey of the pubs I have listed reveals that only 19 have actually been demolished, 23 other pubs that have closed are still in existence but used for different purposes and 37 were still open for business in 2001. My concern for Beverley is its inevitable growth and the damage that over-used lanes and roads, never built to carry the modern levels of traffic, will inevitably bring. Its records and archives so far as they are available, are sadly lacking when compared to Hull. Some unfortunate decisions in the course of changing councils have led to the loss of much archival material. In terms of public houses it is particularly bereft, and those records that remain are often only available for reference within the archive offices and were not been made available for accurate reproduction in this work. Nevertheless some evidence has come to light in the short time I have studied the subject and I have had limited success in tracing the majority of the ‘lost’ pubs of Beverley as well as having a look at those still in existence.

My hope in publishing this work at a point where I knew that there were still some avenues to be explored is that a worthier individual (for worthier read - someone with more time) would build upon my initial study and give the subject the full attention it deserves. Sadly no volunteers have taken the challenge as yet (2009).

‘No, sir - there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn’ (Samuel Johnson)

The old town centre of Beverley has thankfully remained relatively unchanged for decades and in parts, centuries. This unusual level of preservation has enabled some detailed studies of the town’s buildings and their reports make interesting reading - most notably The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments 1982 survey and the very useful Pevsner series of guides, the East Yorkshire volume having been updated by Dr David Neave. Generally focusing on the architectural beauty of Beverley, by their very nature they offer little in the way of specific studies of groups or building types. Several of Beverley’s pubs have achieved amazing longevity and can confidently be dated back centuries in some cases. In terms of variety Beverley has surviving examples of most types of pub building from the simple beerhouse (e.g. the Blue Bell, Wood Lane) to the larger coaching inns (e.g. the former King’s Arms, the King’s Head, the Green Dragon etc.). Only the elaborate Gin Palaces are missing from the picture as Beverley being a small town has never had the need of such grand places that were essentially showcases for breweries and confined to the larger cities. The variety is otherwise fairly complete in terms of examples of the different styles of pub architecture. Beverley has only relatively recently bowed to the pressures of commercial demand and allowed some of its historic pub buildings to be modernised. This has usually meant enlarging smaller cosy taps, bars and snugs into larger impersonal spaces, a trend it seems that most places of entertainment inevitably have to follow.

Historically the role of the local pub has been much more important than today in the 21st Century and certainly in the smaller towns such as Beverley. Drinking featured as a part of almost all aspects of social life. As well as offering company and comfort for the majority of the visitors to an average alehouse or tavern of the 19th Century, they had a multitude of other purposes. For those working in service they offered a welcome escape from their superiors, they were also a meeting place for the young and offered food and shelter for a variety of travellers such as drovers, peddlers and vagrants.

As the church withdrew from popular entertainment in the 16th and 17th Centuries, family events and rites of passage were often celebrated in the local alehouse. Events such as baptisms, marriages, the ‘drinkings’ that usually followed funeral ceremonies, the end of apprenticeships, and what were known as ‘bid-ales’- events which raised money for worthy causes or troubled neighbours, were amongst some of the regular events held in the local alehouse or tavern. As well as being the centre for these more personal and traditional recreations they were often used for meetings of the local community and as the centre for markets and fairs.

In Beverley as in other towns the alehouses and taverns developed into what we now know as pubs or public houses, a term derived from public alehouse. The pub gradually became the principal centre for entertainment; skittles, cock-fighting and illegal gambling were common and music and dancing also became more popular, certainly amongst the working classes. Nearer the town’s centre they were often used for more varied functions sometimes related to specific trades, and wages would often have been paid in the pub; an unhealthy alliance sometimes developed between employers and publicans, where wages were often spent before leaving the pub. Meetings of trade associations and friendly societies were often held in purpose built club-rooms above or behind pubs and employment was often arranged within the bars.

 From the middle of the 19th Century pubs had to become more attractive to the general public mainly due to the challenge from reformers. The temperance movement offered coffee houses in place of pubs and alternative attractions such as day trips. Pubs had to raise their standards and become more visible and it was during this period pubs became more architecturally decorated with illumination playing a large part, often in the form of lamps hung above entrances inviting the public in. Purpose built pubs became common and this afforded the owners the opportunity for even grander and more individual decoration leading to the typical pub frontages of the late Victorian era. These alterations often replaced simple Georgian or earlier fronts and Beverley is fortunate to have surviving buildings from both periods.

The number of pubs within Beverley at any one time during its history may have been linked with the rise and fall in prosperity of Beverley’s trade and industry. There are some surviving inns from an early period of commercial success when Beverley was an important woollen and cloth centre as well as an important market town (Beverley was the 11th most populous town in England in 1377). Trading statistics show an early high during the 14th Century and a gradual decline in the 15th Century, which was exacerbated by the dissolution of the college in 1548. By the middle of the 16th Century the wool trade was extinct and trading reduced to weekly markets and annual fairs. However, by 1700 Beverley’s trade and prosperity had risen again.

Logically inns and taverns were confined to the main thoroughfares e.g. around the Beck and the routes to and from the markets and the churches. Those buildings that survive from the earlier periods that were, or are now, used as public houses therefore are generally situated around Beckside, Flemingate, Highgate, Toll Gavel and the market squares. Sadly very few do remain from the early periods, but notable exceptions are the Sun Inn, the White Horse, and the Lord Nelson amongst others, all built before 1700. The majority of Beverley’s older surviving pubs (with few exceptions) date from the 18th and early 19th Centuries, the second rise of Beverley’s trading and industrial importance. 

The number of pubs, and this is a very general term that includes alehouses, taverns, inns, beer-houses etc. etc., has remained fairly constant in the more recent past, say during the past 200 years. Those currently concerned with the alleged rising number of pubs in Beverley should be pleased to know that in 1557 there were 38 drinking establishments in the town and in the year 2000 there were still 38 pubs in the town. Despite those highs and lows mentioned earlier, the average number of pubs in the town at any one time during the last 400 years has rarely been more than 44.

The information that follows has been presented in the form of a gazetteer for ease of reference and has been illustrated by the author. I have included maps based on Ordnance Survey plans where appropriate to assist in locating the lost pubs and I have also re-drawn some floor-plans from originals held in the East Riding of Yorkshire County Archives to give an impression of the changing face of pub design. Beverley it has to be said is pictorially challenged; that is to say I have had little success in finding old images of pubs. Other photographs may exist in private collections, but are as such unavailable. The pictures that are included therefore are mainly old images from my own collection, supplemented with more modern photographs. All of the modern pictures are by the author unless credited otherwise. There will of course be those people I have been unable to contact who have pictures they would make available and I would ask that if any one has items they think would be of interest that they contact me through the publisher.

My wish is that the book and this updated web edition, are used by the reader as a guide whilst conducting their own research – hopefully within the pubs. Cheers! 

© Paul L Gibson

March 2001 – updated for the web December 2009 and January 2010.

To find an alphabetical listing of individual Beverley pub histories, use the drop-down menu tabs 'pubs and breweries', where there is an entire sub-menu under 'Beverley pubs'

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