Why Beverley’s common land is among our finest

Beverley might be best known for its splendid Medieval minster, but what you might not know is that the town has one of the best areas of common land in the country.

PIC: Bruce Rollinson
PIC: Bruce Rollinson

The Westwood was given to the townspeople by the Lord of the Manor way back in 1380, and today locals still hold rights to graze cattle and sheep, an activity controlled by a committee known as the pasture masters - which we will come onto a little later.

Beverley has four pastures, East and South East of the town, aligning the river Hull are the pastures of Figham and Swinemoor.

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To the East and South East of the town are the Westwood and Hurn in the form of one large pasture.

Chalk taken from the pasture was used for the foundation of Beverley’s streets and for making lime.

Regular income came from leasing out lime kilns on the Westwood until 1812.

Clay was used for brick making by local builders - it’s interesting to note that the North Bar in Beverley is built with Beverley made bricks.

The signs of this industry are still to be seen in the many hollows and pits that give the pasture its character.

Visitors to the Westwood will notice that there is a Golf Course and Race Course on the pasture; it is understood that the golf course is quite challenging and popular with visitors.

The race meetings are attracting increasing interest and the course hosts several events and festivals throughout the year.

The wellbeing of these pastures is overseen by the pasture masters, a group of men elected from the Freemen of Beverley each March.

Although the Pasture Act of 1836 clarified the right of the Pasture Masters to administer and enforce their bylaws, it did not state who ‘owned’ the land.

In 1978, the courts decided that the pastures were owned by the then borough council; it is now ‘owned’ by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

So next time you’re in Beverley it’s well worth paying a visit to the Westwood.

Technical details: Nikon D4, 200mm lens with an exposure of 1/640th second @ f7, ISO 250.