Today's Citizens, Past Lives at Beverley
Transport and Communications
Beverley, at the foot of the Wolds, near to the best crossing point over the River Hull, became a major market town at the centre of the East Riding road network, with a number of major routes converging on the town. The growth of trade along these major roads allowed Beverley to dominate the regional economy until challenged by the rise of Hull in the 14th century.
Until Queen Victoria’s time most people spent their lives in the village where they were born. They might go to the market in the neighbouring town but they rarely went further, their journeys usually being made by foot or on horseback. Business people sometimes made longer journeys and often travelled in horse-drawn stage coaches.
By the coming of the Victorian Age, Beverley was at the centre of a network of roads, most of which were turnpiked from the middle of the eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. The tolls taken on the turnpike roads depended on the type of vehicle. The most common vehicles were omnibuses, carriers’ carts, waggons, wagonettes, gigs, pony carts and drays.
Perhaps the most interesting vehicles using the roads at the opening of the railway age were the long-distance coaches. The improved turnpikes allowed faster coach travel, with fresh teams of horses available at each stage of the journey at the coaching inns. In 1840 there were five main coaching inns in the town – the King’s Head and the Green Dragon in Saturday Market Place, the Beverley Arms, the Tiger and the King’s Arms in North Bar Within (Crowther, J, 1990).
Country carriers carried people and goods and came in from country districts each Saturday. This was market day in Beverley. Newspapers were full of stories about runaway horses and colliding vehicles on these busy days.
From the thirteenth century, Beverley Beck had been the main trading route into Beverley. The canalised Beck linked Beverley to the navigable River Hull. During the 18th and 19th centuries the increase in industrial activity prompted a rise in use of water transport so the inland waterways flourished. Beverley Beck survived the opening of the Hull to Bridlington railway in 1846, although the competition resulted in a steady decline in commercial traffic, which ceased completely by 1987.
Livelihoods were threatened by the railways. Turnpike trustees, coach operators, innkeepers, landowners and farmers all objected. Some people were worried for their own safety – imagine a black smoking monster racing through the town! Nevertheless, the railway was officially opened on 2nd October 1846 and there was a general holiday in Beverley.
The railways had a big impact on the area. Coaches suffered badly but the railways encouraged people to travel more, visiting the seaside, the theatre, fairs and exhibitions. From 1847, mail went by rail from Beverley in all directions. It arrived from London and from Hull each morning and the carriers went out to deliver the mail to the villages, returning with their mail from the villages in the afternoon. Railway workers had many accidents, animals were able to easily stray onto the line and, where railway lines passed over streets, accidents were common.
In 1895 the first motor cars appeared on Britain’s roads. Complaints were made to the Chief Constable of the East Riding about speeding cars throwing up dust and frightening horses. In 1903, 28 motor cars and 19 motor cycles were reported to be registered in the East Riding. In 1905 there were 5 motor manufacturers in the East Riding, including Robert F. Cherry & Sons in Queensgate, Beverley. However, at this time, for ordinary people, the bicycle was still much more common.