Today's Citizens, Past Lives at Beverley
Since the Middle Ages, religion has played an important part in the life of the community. In AD 714 Bishop John of York came to Beverley to spend his last years here. The fame of his miracles spread and, after his canonization in 1037 as St John of Beverley, pilgrims journeyed to his tomb. The church founded by St John became a Collegiate church in 932 but nothing of the college remains. The building of the Minster was started c.1230 and was to become the “principal architectural ornament” of Beverley (Crowther, J, Beverley in Mid-Victorian Times, 1990, 90).
A religious census on 30th March 1851 shows an attendance at the Minster of 386 adults and 213 children in the morning and 492 adults and 236 children in the afternoon (Markham, J, The Living Past, 2001, 92). Seats were in such demand that the Minster had an offshoot, St John’s Chapel in Lairgate, opened in 1840. Still standing, that building is now the Memorial Hall. Beverley’s second parish, St Mary’s, served the northern part of the town and, like the Minster during the Victorian period, underwent much needed refurbishment following vandalism and neglect.
Beverley has a strongly Protestant tradition, with several denominations in the town. The longest established nonconformist Protestant sect in Beverley was Presbyterian, with congregations dating back to the 17th century and meeting places in various parts of the town.
Several different kinds of Methodism flourished. For example, John Wesley visited Beverley many times between 1759 and 1790 and a thriving society of Wesleyan Methodists grew. The Wesleyan Methodists had two chapels, one in the centre of town and one by the Beck. The Primitive Methodists were well supported and various other forms of Methodism had followers in the town. Many of the industrialists of Beverley were Methodists, including William Crosskill of the ironworks.
There were two Baptist sects in Beverley in the 19th century. A small Scotch Baptist Chapel was erected in Swaby’s Yard in 1808. The sect survived well into the 20th century. There was also a Baptist Chapel in Well Lane, built in 1834, to replace one in Toll Gavel. It was demolished in 1909 for the construction of the new Lord Roberts Road.
The Society of Friends, or Quakers, had been active in the 18th and 19th centuries and the Mormons did missionary work from their base in Hull.
The Roman Catholic community was very small. The church was situated just outside North Bar. Adjoining it was the priest’s house and a small school.
Missionary work was important during the Victorian period. The Church Missionary Society held regular events in Beverley. Sermons supporting the Society were preached regularly. Other societies with religious connections included the Religious Tract Society and the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. Both sold religious books and pamphlets in the town. The Sabbath Observance Society and the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to the Jews also had their supporters.
Sunday Schools were attached to most places of worship. To encourage children to attend Sunday School regularly, social activities such as outings to the seaside and picnics on the Westwood were frequently arranged.