Everyone has heard of Beverley Minster and Beverley Racecourse, but ask about Beverley Beck and chances are you will get a blank look, even from locals. It is very much Beverley’s forgotten history.
The Beck was a tidal tributary of the River Hull and has been used since the C12/13th to carry goods between Beverley to the River Humber and North Sea. Beverley’s prosperity in the C14th was based on the export of wool. Other industries grew up along the beck including tanning and leather working, brick and tile making, pottery and corn milling, with all goods being taken out by barge.
By the early C18th, the Beck had been canalised and an aqueduct built to carry it across the newly constructed Beverley and Barmston Drain. Grovehill Lock not only controlled access to the Beck but also controlled water levels in the Beck. Tolls charged on goods transported helped finance maintenance work including dredging.
The western end nearest Beverley was surrounded by wharves and industrial buildings. The remains of mooring rings can still be seen along the quayside providing a trip hazard for the unwary.
The source of the beck now runs through a culvert and the present brock built head of the Beck was reconstructed in 1984. Over looking it is a statue of a porter carrying carrying a bag of corn
The eastern end around the lock was home to two shipbuilders responsible for building and repair of the local keel barges . The remains of one of the docks can still be seen behind the lock keepers cottage.
Increasing amounts of traffic in the C19th led to the installation of a steam pump in 1898 next to the lock keepers cottage which drew water from the River Hull and pumped it up into the Beck. Now automatic sensors detect low water levels and trigger pumps.
Although the Railway arrived in 1848, Beverley Beck was still the main means of transport until the start of the C20th, although this gradually began to decline as it became a less efficient means of transport. Keels were originally hauled by men but it wasn’t until the C20th that powered keels arrived. Grovehill Lock was rebuilt in the mid C20th for the larger barges and continued to be used until the 1970s.
MV Syntan is typical of the barges used on Beverley Beck in the mid C20th and her broad flat bottomed keel is very similar to that of the medieval barges. She was built at Paull Shipyard on the River Humber and was used to carry coal and hides for Richard Hodgson’s Tannery based alongside the Beck.
The tanning industry collapsed in the 1970s. The warehouses were left derelict and the barges sold off. in 2000 she was discovered at Doncaster Power station, vandalised and half sunk. The “Beverley Barge Preservation Society”:http://www.syntanbarge.org.uk/ was formed to rescue and restore her. She is now moored at Crane Wharf on the south side of Beckside, where she is open to visitors on Summer Sundays is used as a meeting venue
The diesel engine can be seen a at the front of the barge. The back was the living quarters, a very compact space with box bed and small stove. This was originally reached by a ladder from the deck, although there is now a door giving access from the cargo area. The bulk of the barge was used for cargo and is now a display area.
The Society have also bought two more vessels, Sun and Mermaid which are used to run trips. Sun is a British Waterways powered Mud Hopper. Mermaid was originally a lifeboat tender to the Trinity House vessel Mermaid. She was used to take crew members to lighthouses, buoys and other navigational equipment.
Both these boats can be hired for short trips along the Beck and out onto the River Hull.The boats are open most Sunday afternoons or on Heritage Open days.
Crane Wharf is on the south side of Beverley Beck near the Beck Head. Access is off the B1230. The post code is HU17 0GG.
This is a lovely spot, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Beverley. I’m glad I found it!