BEVERLEY, a market town and municipal borough in the Holderness parliamentary division of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, 8 m. N.N.W. of Hull by a branch of the North-Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 13,183. It lies in a level country east of the line of slight elevations known as the Wolds, near the river Hull, and has communication by canal with Hull. The church of St John the Evangelist, commonly called Beverley Minster, is a magnificent building, exceeding in size and splendour some of the English cathedrals. A monastery was founded here by John of Beverley (c. 640-721), a native of the East Riding, who was bishop successively of Hexham and of York, and was canonized in 1037. A college of secular canons followed in the 10th century, the provostship of which subsequently became an office of high dignity, and was held by Thomas Becket, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. Of the existing building, the easternmost bay of the nave, the transepts with east and west aisles, the choir with aisles and short transepts, and the Lady chapel, are Early English, a superb example of the finest development of that style. The remainder of the nave is Decorated, excepting the westernmost bay which is Perpendicular, as is the ornate west front with its graceful flanking towers. The north porch is also a beautiful example of this style. The most noteworthy details within the church are the exquisite Early English staircase which led to the chapter house (no longer remaining), and the Percy tomb, a remarkable example of Decorated work, commemorating Eleanor, wife of Henry Percy (d. 1328). The church of St Mary is a cruciform building with central tower, almost entirely of Decorated and Perpendicular work. Though overshadowed by the presence of the minster, it is yet a very fine example of its styles, its most noteworthy features being the tower and the west front. Beverley was walled, and one gate of the 15th century remains; there are also some picturesque old houses. The industries are tanning, iron-founding, brewing and the manufacture of chemicals; and there is a large agricultural trade. Beverley is the seat of a suffragan bishop in the diocese of York. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors, and has an area of 2404 acres, including a large extent of common pasture land.
Beverley (Beverlac) is said to be on the site of a British settlement. Evidently a church had existed there before 704, since in that year it was restored by St John of Beverley, who also founded a monastery there and was himself buried in the church. In the devastation of the north of England which followed the Conquest, Beverley is said to have escaped by a miracle attributed to St John; the Norman leader, while about to enter and pillage the church, fell from his horse dead, and the king, thinking this a sign that the town was under the protection of heaven, exempted it from pillage. From the time of St John of Beverley until the dissolution of the monasteries, the manor and town of Beverley belonged to the archbishopric of York, and is said to have been held under a charter of liberties supposed to have been granted by King Æthelstan in 925. This charter, besides other privileges, is said to have granted sanctuary in Beverley, and the “leuga” over which this privilege extended was afterwards shown to include the whole town. Confirmations of Æthelstan’s charter were granted by Edward the Confessor and other succeeding kings. In the reign of Henry I., Thurstan, archbishop of York, gave the burgesses their first charter, which is one of the earliest granted to any town in England. In it he granted them the same privileges as the citizens of York, among these being a gild merchant and freedom from toll throughout the whole of Yorkshire, with right to take it at all the markets and fairs in their town except at the three principal fairs, the toll of which belonged to the archbishop. In 1200 King John granted the town a new charter, for which the burgesses had to pay 500 marks. Other charters generally confirming the first were granted to the town by most of the early kings. The incorporation charter granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1573 was confirmed by Charles I. in 1629 and Charles II. in 1663, and renewed by James II. on his accession. Parliamentary representation by two members began in the reign of Edward I., but lapsed, until the corporation charter of 1573, from which date it continued until the Reform Act of 1867. In 1554-1555 Queen Mary granted the three fairs on the feasts of St John the Confessor, the Translation of St John and the Nativity of St John the Baptist, together with the weekly markets on Wednesday and Saturday, which had been held by the archbishops of York by traditional grant of Edward the Confessor to the burgesses of the town. Cloth-weaving was one of the chief industries of Beverley; it is mentioned and appears to have been important as early as 1315.
See Victoria County History—Yorkshire; G. Poulson, Beverlac; Antiquities and History of Beverley and of the Provostry, &c., of St John’s (2 vols., 1829); G. Oliver, D. D., History and Antiquities of Beverley, &c. (1829).