BEVERLEY, a borough, market-town, and the head of a union, in the E. riding of York, 9 miles (N. W.) from Hull, 29 (E. S. E.) from York, and 183 (N.) from London; comprising the parishes of St. John, St. Martin, St. Mary, and St. Nicholas, the first of which includes the townships of Aike, Eske, Molescroft, Storkhill with Sandholme, Thearne, Tickton with Hull-Bridge, Weel, and Woodmansey with Beverley-Park; and containing 8759 inhabitants. This place, from the woods with which it was formerly covered, was called Deirwalde, implying the forest of the Deiri, the ancient inhabitants of this part of the country. By the Saxons, probably from the number of beavers with which the river Hull in this part abounded, it was called Beverlega, and subsequently Beverlac, from which its present name is deduced. About the year 700, John, the fifth archbishop of York, rebuilt the church, and founded in the choir a monastery of Black monks, dedicated to St. John the Baptist; in the nave a college of seven presbyters or secular canons, with seven clerks, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist; and in the chapel of St. Martin, adjoining the church, a society of nuns. This collegiate and monastic establishment was richly endowed by the founder, and successive benefactors, and became the retreat of the archbishop, who, after having filled the see of York for 33 years, with a reputation for extreme sanctity, spent the remainder of his life in retirement and devotion; and, dying in 721, was canonized by the title of St. John of Beverley. The foundation of the monastery naturally led to the erection of buildings in the immediate neighbourhood, and appears to have been the origin of the town, which gradually grew up around it. In the year 867, it was nearly destroyed by the Danes in one of their incursions under Inguar and Ubba, who murdered many of the monks, canons, and nuns; but after remaining for three years in a state of desolation, it was partly restored by the monks, who again established themselves at the place.

In the early part of the tenth century, Athelstan, marching against the confederated Britons, Scots, and Danes, caused the standard of St. John of Beverley to be carried before his army, and, having returned victorious, bestowed many privileges upon the town and monastery. He founded a college for secular canons, which, at the Dissolution, had an establishment consisting of a provost, eight prebendaries, a chancellor, precentor, seven rectors, and nine vicars choral, and a revenue of £597. 19. 6. He also conferred on the church the privilege of sanctuary, the limits of which, extending for a mile around the town, were marked out by four crosses (the remains of three of which are still standing), erected at the four principal entrances: an account of the culprits who took refuge within its walls during the 15th and 16th centuries has been lately published by the Surtees Society. From the time of Athelstan the town increased rapidly in population and importance; and about the year 1060, Kinsius, the 23rd archbishop of York, built a hall, nearly rebuilt the church, to which he added a tower, and contributed greatly to its internal decoration. The memory of St. John of Beverley was held in such veneration, that William the Conqueror, having advanced within seven miles of the town, gave strict orders to his army that they should not damage the church; the day of his death was appointed to be kept holy, and the festival of his translation, October 25th, was in 1416 ordered to be annually celebrated, in commemoration of the battle of Agincourt, which was superstitiously thought to have been gained through his intercession. At the commencement of the civil war in the reign of Charles I., that monarch fixed his head-quarters at Beverley, and attempted to gain possession of Hull, which was then defended for the parliament by Sir John Hotham, who subsequently made overtures for a reconciliation with the king, and entered into a negotiation for surrendering the town. But Hotham's intention being discovered, he fled from Hull, and was made prisoner on the day following at Beverley, which had fallen into the hands of the parliamentarians.

The town is the capital of the East riding of Yorkshire. It is pleasantly situated at the foot of the Wolds, about a mile from the river Hull, in the heart of an extensive sporting district: the approach from the Driffield road is remarkably fine, having, particularly on the north-east side, many elegant buildings, and terminating in an ancient gateway which leads into the town. The common pastures of Westwood are a favourite promenade; on part of them named the "Hurn," about half a mile from the town, races take place annually, about the beginning of April, and a commodious stand has been erected for the accommodation of spectators. The air is free and salubrious; and the numerous conveniences and attractions in this neat, clean, and wellbuilt borough, have long made it the favourite resort and residence of many highly respectable families. The town is about a mile in length, and consists of several streets, and some handsome and commodious public buildings; it is lighted with gas, and well supplied with water. Here are several tanneries, breweries, and malt-kilns; eight corn-mills; and two large establishments, one for the manufacture of paint, colour, cement, and Paris white, and the other for Paris white only, which is made from excellent chalk rock, obtained about a mile south of the town. There is also a large iron-foundry, in connexion with which is an extensive and flourishing manufactory of agricultural implements; and numerous poor persons are employed in the market-gardens and nurseries in the vicinity of the town. Great facilities are afforded for the transmission of produce by means of a canal called Beverley Beck, supposed to have been constructed by Wm. Wickwane, Archbishop of York, and which was improved under two acts of parliament passed in 1727 and 1744; it connects the town with the river and the port of Hull. The Hull and Bridlington railway passes by the town; and in 1846 an act was obtained for making a railway from Beverley, through Pocklington, to York, above 31 miles in length. The market is on Saturday: the market-place occupies an area of four acres, in the centre of which is a stately cross supported on eight pillars, each of one entire stone. There was formerly a market on Wednesdays, the market-place for which has a neat cross, but is of smaller area than the former: there is also a market-place for the sale of fish, built in an octagonal form. Fairs are held on the Thursday before Old Valentine's-day, on Holy-Thursday, July 5th, and November 6th, chiefly for horses, hornedcattle, and sheep; and on every alternate Wednesday is a great market for sheep and horned-cattle. The fairs and cattle-markets are held at Norwood, where is a spacious opening.

The prescriptive privileges of the borough have been confirmed and extended by several charters, especially in 1572 by Queen Elizabeth, who, also, in 1579 assigned certain chantry lands and tenements for the repairing of the minster, and four years subsequently gave other lands for the support of the minster and St. Mary's church. By the dissolution of the monastic institutions, the town had suffered so much, that a few years afterwards it was unable to pay its portion of taxes (£321) due to the crown; and in consequence of a petition to the queen, she remitted them during royal pleasure. The corporation now consists of a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors; the borough is divided into two wards, and, as at present constituted, comprises only the parishes of St. Martin, St. Mary, and St. Nicholas. The liberties, comprehending certain townships in the parish of St. John (which extends into the northern division of the wapentake of Holderness), were severed from the borough by the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, except as regards the election of members to serve in parliament, and were united to the East riding. The mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and there are eight other justices appointed under a commission from the crown: petty-sessions are held weekly. Among the privileges which the freedom of the borough confers is the right of pasturing cattle, under certain restrictions, on four pastures, containing about 1200 acres, and managed under an act obtained in 1836. The elective franchise was conferred in the time of Edward I., but was not exercised from the end of that reign till the 5th of Elizabeth, since which the borough has continued to return two members to parliament. The right of election was formerly vested in the freemen generally, whether resident or not; but, by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, the non-resident electors, except within seven miles of the borough, were disfranchised, and the privilege was extended to the £10 householders of the borough and liberty, over which latter the limits were extended. The mayor is returning officer. The general quarter-sessions for the East riding are held here; and for that division also, Beverley is a pollingplace in the election of parliamentary representatives. The powers of the county debt-court of Beverley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Beverley, and part of that of Skirlaugh. The guildhall has been repaired and beautified, and is a neat building: adjoining it stands the gaol, lately erected, but now used only for debtors, and for securing prisoners previously to examination. The house of correction for the riding is a spacious building, erected at an expense of £16,000, at the extremity of the town, on the road to Driffield and Scarborough; the principal front has a portico of four Ionic columns, with a handsome pediment.

The Minster, formerly the church belonging to the monastery of St. John, is now the parochial church of the united parishes of St. John and St. Martin: the living is a perpetual curacy, of which the net income (with the value of the parsonage-house) is about £195; patrons, the Trustees of the Rev. Charles Simeon. The impropriators of St. John are, the representatives of Sir M. Warton; the impropriation of St. Martin's belongs to the crown. Two curates are appointed, who perform divine service twice every day; each having a stipend of about £132, paid out of the minster estates and funds, appropriated by act of parliament to that purpose. The Minster, as already observed, was almost entirely rebuilt in 1060, by Kinsius, Archbishop of York. In 1664, some workmen, whilst opening a grave in the chancel, discovered a sheet of lead, enveloping some relics, with an inscription in Latin, purporting that, the ancient church having been destroyed by fire in 1188, search was made for the relics of St. John of Beverley, which, having been found, were again deposited near the altar. It is not known at what precise period the present church was built, though probably in the early part of the reign of Henry III. It is a venerable and spacious cruciform structure, in the early, decorated, and later styles of English architecture, with two lofty towers at the west end; and though combining these several styles, it exhibits in each of them such purity of composition and correctness of detail, as to raise it to an architectural equality with the finest of the cathedral churches, to which it is inferior only in magnitude. The west front is the most beautiful and perfect specimen we have of the later English style, the whole front is pannelled, and the buttresses, which have a very bold projection, are ornamented with various tiers of niche-work, of excellent composition, and most delicate execution. The nave and transepts are early English, of which the fronts of the north and south transepts are pure specimens. The choir is partly in the decorated style, with an exquisitely beautiful altar-screen and rood-loft, which, though unequalled in elegance of design and richness of detail, were long concealed by a screen of inferior composition, put up within the last century. The east window is embellished with stained glass, collected from the other windows, and skilfully arranged. Near the altar is the Fryddstool, formed of one entire stone, with a Latin inscription offering an asylum to all criminals who should flee to this sanctuary; and on an ancient tablet are the portraits of St. John of Beverley and King Athelstan, with a legend recording the monarch's grant of freedom to the town. In the choir is a superb and finely-executed monument, the celebrated Percy shrine, erected in the reign of Edward III., to the memory of one of the Percy family; and in the north transept is a fine altar-tomb: both are in the decorated style. Behind the minster is the ancient manor-house belonging to Beverley Park.

The living of St. Mary's is a vicarage, with the rectory of St. Nicholas' united, valued in the king's books at £14. 2. 8., and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £289. St. Mary's, now the parochial church for the united parishes, is a highly interesting structure, and contains portions in the various styles from the Norman to the later English; the towers at the western end are finely pierced, and the octagonal turrets flanking the nave are strikingly elegant. The roof of the chancel, which is in the decorated style, is richly groined, and the piers and arches are well proportioned; there are some interesting monuments, and a font in the later style. The churches of St. Martin and St. Nicholas have long since gone to decay. The Minster chapel of ease, in the parish of St. Martin, was erected at a cost of £3300: the first stone was laid by Mr. Atkinson, then mayor, on the 20th May, 1839, and the chapel was consecrated on the 8th of October, 1841. There are places of worship in the town for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.

The Grammar school is of uncertain origin, though it appears to have existed at a remote period. The fixed endowment is £10 per annum, which was bequeathed in 1652, by Dr. Metcalf, and is augmented with £90 per annum by the corporation, who have the appointment of the master; this grant, however, will be discontinued on the next avoidance. There are several yearly exhibitions at Cambridge University for natives of Beverley educated at the school. The Blue-coat charity school was established by subscription in 1709, for the maintenance, clothing, and education of poor children; the annual income, arising from subsequent benefactions, is at present about £126. There is also an endowed school for 80 girls; and a school in which are about 70 boys and 85 girls, is supported by the interest of £2000 stock, bequeathed in 1804 by the Rev. James Graves, incumbent of the minster. Beverley contains seven sets of almshouses, or charities, in which more than 90 poor people are gratuitously lodged, pensioned, and clothed, viz.: Fox's hospital, Routh's hospital, the Corporation almshouses, Warton's hospital and charities, Sir Michael Warton's hospital, and Tymperon's hospital. Several hundreds of pounds are produced from a number of miscellaneous benefactions. Sir Michael Warton, Knt., in 1724 bequeathed £4000 (laid out in the purchase of an estate near Spilsby, in Lincolnshire, of which the annual rent is now £900), as a perpetual fund for keeping the minster in repair; and Mr. Robert Stephenson, in 1711, left an estate now producing from £70 to £100 per annum, for the maintenance of "Nonconformist preaching ministers." The poor law union of Beverley comprises 36 parishes and places, and contains a population of 18,957. Alfred of Beverley, a monkish historian of the twelfth century, is supposed to have been born here; and Dr. John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, and founder of Jesus' College, Cambridge; Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a martyr to his religious tenets in the reign of Henry VIII.; and Dr. Green, Bishop of Lincoln, an elegant scholar, and one of the writers of the Athenian Letters, published by Lord Hardwicke; were also natives of the town. It gives the title of Earl to the family of Percy.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.