Discovering Hidden Beverley on FootMon 10th August 2020
My wanderings around town during these last 4 troubled months have rarely failed to deliver some nice visual surprises, especially on fine days - which have been all too rare of late. For Beverley has layers of interest, from the obvious blockbuster appeal of the Minster and Westwood, to many what might be best described as hidden parts. These take some time to discover and can only be enjoyed by that perfect means of travel: feet. Of course, none of these are really hidden, just relatively unknown. I do suspect though that few Beverlonians, or we lucky incomers (thirty years residence, does not qualify me for the first group) will have fully explored all the locations I cover here.
These could all be done in a couple hours, or savoured one at a time, I wish you warm summer days for your journeys. Most of you will probably not need a town map, but we will include one just in case and in anticipation of post-lockdown visitors returning in large numbers, to experience what we fortunate ones can enjoy each day.
1) Let us start in a lovely area of town, Wood Lane, leading off the north end of Lairgate, up to leafy Woodlands. As you pass out of Wood Lane, you traverse the line of the former town earthen wall and ditch, there are traces of it in adjacent gardens - no peeking! What a beautiful district this is - a veritable Hampstead in East Yorkshire - if not quite as expensive. I venture to suggest that most of you have never considered heading down the first turning on the right, Quaker Lane, a quiet, unassuming cul-de-sac.
This time do, soon you will see the Quaker Meeting House, quite a striking piece of early 1960's minimalist architecture, yet it is what lies behind that brought me here on a sunny Sunday morning in early July. The Quiet Garden is an absolute gem, a hidden oasis of calm. Lovely ornaments and seating, in a garden with a wild feel, make this an ideal spot to sit and think, which as I understand it lies at the heart of being a Quaker. Many will know that Highgate also has an outstanding hidden garden, but this has been closed of late, the Quaker one seems invariably open and welcoming: a treat not to be missed.
2) You could now walk south down Lairgate and then down the lovely Minster Moorgate to reach Eastgate and the site of my next bit of hidden Beverley - Outer Trinities. There are many ways into this complex of beautiful residences, built with great style and care some 30 years ago. The much-admired architecture experts, John Grundy and Beverley's own David Neave, rightly see them as outstanding examples of modern development. They are built upon a deep past, layered over the cloister area of the Dominican Friary and the outer areas of a complex run by the mysterious Knights Hospitaller's in medieval times.
Of course, at the Youth Hostel, there is still much to see of the Dominican buildings, they blend beautifully with the modern homes. No Hospitaler remains still stand, but 15 years ago I found a carved stone in my garden nearby, which I am claiming as one of theirs! Wander around the squares, passages and pathways, of these lovely buildings. Find the sculpting in the central square, they are visually thrilling and show what good modern urban development can deliver in such a key location.
The homes are more individual than most modern ones, look especially for the one with a turret, reminiscent of a fairy-tale castle. Fortunate are the owners, I wonder if a Rapunzel has ever lived there. Best of all, seek out the wonderful sheltered housing the Cloisters, built around a garden. This seems to me like Barchester come to town - for those who know their Trollope - and fittingly so, as this much-admired Victorian novelist unsuccessfully stood for election as an MP here in 1868.
His bitter experiences are covered in his novel Ralph the Heir, in which the Beverley Arms is prominent. One final thing, can any reader suggest an explanation of the wording etched around the central piazza - 'Laughs at Locksmiths'?
3) Now head for what must be Beverley's most overlooked large public building: St Nicholas church on the bend of Holmechurch Lane. To get there from Outer Trinities, you could either go by the shopping centre, or down Flemingate itself. As regular readers will know, I adore churches, give me one that is open, and I can't keep out. At churches, history, architecture, community and spirituality meet - what is not to like? Yet I had never once been inside imposing St Nicholas Church - until one glorious day in late June, when much to my pleasure and surprise it was open for controlled visits for 2 hours over Wednesday lunchtime. It is to be hoped that this system is still in place when you visit - or that you can attend a Sunday service once they resume.
My updated version of the indispensable Pevsner guide to local architecture, is rather dismissive of this fine Victorian building - 'an interior of drab brick.' Well, David Neave is usually right, but not for me this time. It has an appeal not unlike Tuscany, but perhaps I was intoxicated by the fine weather. Marvellous too, to be greeted by the vicar, Mike Peatman. There is a nice mystery inside this surprising building. The font is clearly medieval, it has the 4-leaf clover design that is much in evidence at the Minster, but where does it come from? Some say from the original church that was sited across the lane, others say Long Riston, or perhaps even from the Dominican Friary. Wherever, it is a beautiful object in a lovely building.
4) As you head back to the town centre, another little surprise awaits. Find the signed public footpath at the rear of the church, it heads past the striking new buildings of the primary school onto Grovehill Road. Go left, on both terraces, you will see fine examples of fabulous tiling in the porches. Many seem to me to be original, a beautiful discovery, rarely seen by those who rush by in cars.
So, a dip into our lesser known districts - I know there are many others. As these are residential areas, please be considerate on your visits. The hills, however, are calling me and perhaps now it is safe to head for them in what remains of this never to be forgotten year.
Keep safe, keep healthy, keep walking! Ian Richardson.