Trail: Beverley - Festival of Words

As part of Beverley’s celebration of poetry, literature, and the spoken word, take a tour around some of the town’s sites of literary interest with East Riding Archives.
(Always be careful of your surroundings when using this app)

The Champney Bequest

Our archive image shows the opening of Beverley Public Library here on 8th August 1906. It was funded by local philanthropist John Edward Champney, whose passion for art and culture led to the bequest of his private book collection (now preserved in the Archives) and several artworks (held at the Art Gallery) in 1929.

Following the addition of the Art Gallery in 1910, and the Reference Library in 1928, the latest development was the opening of the Treasure House on 1st January 2007, just over 100 years since the opening of Beverley Library.

Mother of Frankenstein’s Author

It is now believed that the building behind the lady in our archive image was home to author Mary Wollstonecraft until she was 15 years of age. Wollstonecraft was a writer and pioneer feminist whose best known work, A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman, was published in 1792.

However, she is perhaps most famous for being the mother of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.  Born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797, Shelley sadly never knew her mother as Mary Wollstonecraft died just 11 days after giving birth.

A False Location

In front of you is Wednesday Market. For many years it was thought that this was the location of Mary Wollstonecraft’s childhood home (close to ‘The Queen’s Head’ pub), but this has now been revised by Beverley Civic Society and No.2 Highgate identified as the actual location.

Visit the next point to find out more!

South Riding

In the image, and in front of you, is County Hall. Now home to East Riding of Yorkshire Council , the building formed the inspiration for the fictitious ‘South Riding County Hall, Flinton Bridge’ in Winifred Holtby’s novel South Riding, published posthumously in 1936.  Holtby (born 23rd June 1898) had sadly died of Brights disease on 29th September 1935, months after her 37th

Her mother had served here as the first alderwoman at East Riding County Council, hence the inspiration.

Kemp Fits The Bill

The building at the end of the street, behind the two gentlemen in our archive image, is Kemp’s Corner, site of John Kemp’s printers, where he published the Beverley Express and numerous handbill advertisements in the mid-19th Century, several of which survive in East Riding Archives.

At this time, there was an explosion in demand for books, pamphlets and newspapers across the social classes, and advertising proliferated.

The Assembly Rooms

Mary Braddon was a well-known novelist, born in London (1837) and died in Richmond, Surrey (1915), but the beginning of her literary career is associated with Beverley. It was here that she had her first poems published by the Beverley Recorder in May 1857, under the pseudonym Mary Setton.  This led to a suggestion from local printer, Charles Empson that she write a novel, resulting in the serial ‘Three Times Dead’ . She went on to write such popular works as ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ and ‘Dead Men’s Shoes’ .

The building to the right of the church tower in our archive image is the old Assembly Rooms.  Mary Braddon acted on stage here a few days before publication of her first poem on 23rd May 1857.

The White Rabbit

(Our trail begins outside the Beverley Arms Hotel on North Bar Within, opposite St.Mary’s Church. Use ‘View on map’ from the trail’s homepage to reach point ‘1’ and the start of the trail).

On the stone archway inside St Mary’s Church is a carving of a rabbit.  It has long been suggested that this was the inspiration for the ‘white rabbit’ in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’.

Why?  Well, Carroll’s mother, Francis Lutwidge had lived in the area since a child and the author had a number of other strong family connections here, making it highly likely that he visited the church many times.

What do you think?