Bridlington guides old town walk UK East Yorkshire



Old Town Walk



Gwendoline Hirst © 1988

BRIDLINGTON or Burlington as it used to be called, derives its name from an Angle named Bretel who settled in the Old Town and called it Bretelston. The town is situated in the Eastern part of the Dickering Wapentake, now known less romantically as the Borough of East Yorkshire. The county was divided into Wapentakes in 1166 in the Danelaw, and Dickering most probably derives from the Old English words “dica-hring” meaning dyke circle, one of which was at Paddock Hill, Thwing, where a court meeting place was thought to have been.

The town used to be in two separate sections which were not joined together as they are now. The old market town, a mile inland, built around the Priory and now called the Old Town, and Bridlington Quay, the harbour at the mouth of the Gypsey Race, a meandering stream which winds its way through the villages, and which supplied water and water power to many areas.

The cliffs of boulder clay and sand erode very quickly. It has been estimated that south of the harbour the cliffs receded 230 yards between 1805 and 1885, but north of the harbour they only receded 30 yards between 1771 and 1852 as the cliffs here become chalk towards Sewerby. The 20th century sea walls have prevented further erosion, but along the coast houses and roads are still disappearing into the sea, as you will see if you walk along some of the beaches to the north and south.




42 to 50 High Street

67 Hight Street

















We start our walk of the Old Town, which was made a Conservation area in 1969, at the crossroads of St. John’s Street and Scarborough Road. St. John’s Street was called St. John’s Gate after St. John of Bridlington, Prior of Bridlington in 1362 who was made a saint in 1401. St. John, previously known as John de Tweng, was born in Thwing, a village 9 miles west of Bridlington.

Walk up Bayle Gate towards the BAYLE. [1] The statue on the left is a bust of John Sawdon, whose family owned the butcher’s shop at 32 High Street, and who was mayor of Bridlington from 1905 until 1908. There were houses lining this narrow street leading to the Priory until the early 1900’s. The Bull and Sun hotel, right, which is the only public house in England of that name, was originally on the corner of North Back Lane. There was a haberdashery shop on the present site, with workrooms and staff accommodation upstairs. The National School was started in Baylegate in 1818. There was probably a building on the Bayle site before 1150 when the main part of the Priory was built. The gatehouse was a two storey stone building with two spiral staircases and four garderobes or primitive toilets on the outside walls. This was altered and added to after a licence to crenellate or fortify was granted in 1388. There were now four storeys with a court room on the top floor and arrow slits for defence.

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The Bayle entrance

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537 this was virtually the only building left intact, apart from the church, as nearly all the rest of the Priory was pulled down. The Prior held a court every three weeks in a purpose built court room in the Bayle, but this was taken over by the bailiff in 1537. When the manor was sold by Sir George Ramsey in 1630 it was bought for 4200 by thirteen prominent townsmen. They became known as the Lords Foeffees who governed the town and administered the Manor on behalf of the inhabitants under a deed of 1636, together with twelve assistants. They still administer some manorial property in the town. The left side of the ground floor of the Bayle became a prison or Kidcote in 1446 and this was used until 1840. There are straps on the ceiling to prevent prisoners escaping by taking up the floorboards and food was pushed through a grille in the door. Jane King was imprisoned here in the 1600s for prostitution and stealing and may even have had a child during one of her stays here. People who had committed serious crimes were sent to York for punishment. William Hustler, who was a woollen draper, founded a Grammar School for boys in the Bayle in 1636 which continued until 1826 when it moved to North Back Lane. Boys attended on six days and were taught Maths, History, Latin and Bible studies. The building is now a museum and the meeting place of the Lords Feoffees.

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The Bayle exit

On the right, past the Bayle, is Applegarth Lane which was part of the Priory orchard. On walking down this lane you pass, right, the site of a Baptist Church. All that remains are the gravestones in the churchyard. Further down the lane is a tiny CHAPLE [2] hidden behind iron railings. Built in 1699 by Robert Prudom, who lived in Bayle Gate, this was the first Baptist chapel in Bridlington. His gravestone still stands in the grounds, dated 1708. People living in the houses backing onto the churchyard still dig up bones from time to time.

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The Baptist chapel

Bear left at the bottom of the lane then turn right, and a few yards along on the left, in the playing fields of East Riding College, formerly St. George’s school, are two mounds. These are the remains of the ARCHERY BUTTS, [3] used in the days when men and boys had to practise archery every Sunday in case they were conscripted to fight.

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The archery butts and East Riding College

Also in the grounds were the fish ponds used by the Priors. St. George’s school had an anti aircraft gun on the roof during the war, and was bombed when the enemy thought that the building was a munitions factory. Now turn round and walk back. Cross the road into Church Walk and go past the allotments, which would have been covered with Priory buildings, and left towards the PRIORY CHURCH. [4]

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The Priory church and Green

All that is left of the original church is the nave which is now the Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The imposing towers, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, were not completed until 1875. The Priory founded by Walter de Gant in 1113, was visited by Henry V in 1421 and many other pilgrims to see the shrine of St. John of Bridlington. The last prior was William Wood, who took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, accused of treason and executed in 1537. After this the Priory and Manor of Bridlington was forfeit to the crown and much of it was demolished and taken away to build surrounding houses.

A Knitting School founded by William Bower was held on Kirkgate from 1671 to 1872, where children were given an education in return for knitting useful articles for sale. In the 1800’s the girls paid 1d (.4p) per week for instruction in reading.

Church Green, in front of the Priory, was used for sheep fairs and other village activities. An infants school, now demolished, was opened there in 1857. The rectory was built on the corner in 1971.

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The Priory Church and allotments

A short detour to the top of North Back Lane will take you to the NATIONAL SCHOOL, [5] built in 1826 for both boys and girls, now used as a warehouse.

From the Priory go across the road to Pinfold Street noting HIGH GREEN [6] on the right, on which sheep fairs were held from 1838, with cattle and horse fairs from 1853. The Charter Fair was also held annually from 1879 to 1973, when it was moved to Hilderthorpe Road. At the top of the street there was once a pinfold for stray animals. Farmsteads and barns surrounded the green, overlooking the Priory pond, now filled in. The Great Barn, used for storage by the Priors, was at the top end.

At the top of the street turn left into Marton Road. On the right are BURLINGTON SCHOOLS, [7] built in 1910. On the left are some of the remaining buildings of the WORKHOUSE, [8] built in 1847 to house the poor and destitute. The Adult Training Centre, was built here in 1981. Mill Lane, on the right, reminds us that there was once a windmill here where people brought their corn to be ground.

Cross Scarborough Road and walk past Stepney Grove. SHEPNEY MEWS, [9] on the corner, is a restored building, formerly a farmhouse and slaughterhouse, on the edge of Stepney Park, which was in the grounds of Stepney House. This large house on the corner of Scarborough Road facing the market place, was demolished when the main road was built in the 1930’s. The remains of the garden can be seen on the other side of the road.

Turn left into Market Place and you see the K6 telephone box designed in 1935 by Sir Gilbert Scott and saved by the Civic Society in 1988. Until 1910 people brought their produce in from the villages to be sold in the markets.

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K6 telephone box

The MARKET BELL [10] was fixed on the pillory next to the stocks; these have been rebuilt to show where wrongdoers were shackled and pelted with rotten food and mud. The site of the CORN EXCHANGE [11] built in 1824 is opposite. A new building was erected in 1971, with the name engraved in stone on the frontage.

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Recobbling the Market Place — Before

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Recobbling the Market Place — During

Small cottages were scattered around the market place until larger houses were built in the 1800’s. Unfortunately by 1970 many of the old buildings were demolished but some remnants remain. Rebuilt on the original site, the Nag’s Head was one of many inns where the farmers met and had a drink after the market. Notice a house named the King’s Head as you walk along.

Turn right into Westgate. Along here was a development of large houses built by wealthy families in the 1600’s. On the left, 6 - 7 WESTGATE [12] is the former home of the Hebblethwaite family. They were large land owners in the 1600’s and the initials WH are on the rainwater heads.

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6-7 Westgate

The building is in rich dark red brick and has eight mullioned bay windows with coved cornices, and acanthus leaf decoration above the bedroom windows. There is a pediment over the original doorway, which is now a window, and the oak door has been used in one of the entrances. In the portion used by the bank the first floor has been removed, and a lovely plaster ceiling can be seen. The lower walls have original bolection - moulded oak panelling and, on the left, there is an oak chimney piece with carved leaf surround.

Walk along to YE OLDE STAR INN, [13] an old timbered building, parts of which were built in the 1600’s. There is a horse mounting block in the yard.

Then to THE AVENUE [14] lately used as a hospital, converted into dwellings in 1989. The house was built in 1714 as a home for the Prickett family. The date can be seen on the original lead rainwater heads. The brick front with three storeys and five bay windows was altered in the early 1800’s, when a classical porch was added. Note the moulded brickwork over the windows. The stable block was built in 1820. The name comes from the avenue of trees leading from the park entrance to the front door.

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The Avenue

Walk back along Westgate and into High Street. Many of the houses were built in the 1500’s but were altered to bow fronted shops in the early 1800’s by the Bridlington architect John Matson, known for building Flamborough lighthouse without the aid of scaffolding. The High street was used towards the end of 2014 for the Walmington-on-Sea location of a new “Dad’s Army” film.

William Kent, the architect and designer, was born William Cant, probably at number 74 in the Old Town of Burlington in 1685, now Bridlington. His father was a joiner running a successful business and in 1693 he built a larger house for his family at number 45, using his skills as a joiner to fit out the interior. The house now has a new frontage as a bow fronted shop. When their mother died in 1697, after only four years in the new house, William and his sister Esther were left to be brought up by their father. William probably went to school in the Bayle where he was found to be good at drawing but not at reading and writing. On leaving school he was apprenticed to a sign painter and began painting coaches as well as landscapes. His talent was noticed and in 1710 he found a patron who sent him to Italy to study painting. To supplement his income he bought and sold paintings to the nobility on the Grand Tour of Europe and became friendly with Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester and Lord Burlington. By this time he had changed his surname to Kent. In 1719 he came back to London with Lord Burlington, living in his house whilst designing and making furniture. He then began a career in architecture, designing such houses as Holkham Hall in the Palladium style which he had seen in Rome, as well as the interior furnishings and fittings. Once again he changed course and began to paint landscapes and design a more informal type of garden for the large houses being built at this time, and even had Capability Brown as his assistant. He never married and was known for his liking of good food and drink as well as telling rather vulgar stories. William died in 1748 aged sixty three and was buried in Chiswick.

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74 High Street and 45 High Street

The CHEMIST'S SHOP [15] at number 64a, still with the original interior fittings, was opened in 1813 by Mr. and Mrs. Gatenby. She was well known for her remedies, and they had moved from further along the street to be next door to the doctor. The interior was purpose built with labelled drawers and shelves lined with balloon topped jars, and central heating coming through carved grills under the counters. Even the original scale balance is still in use. The cellars are lined with stone presumably from the Priory, as are others in the street.

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The chemist

Number 64, known as the MANOR HOUSE [16] has stone blocks, probably from the Priory, in the lower walls. Almost opposite at number 67 [17] is a bow windowed shop with brass rails to hold the glass. Number 53 was once the Post Office, opened in 1897.

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The Manor House

The oldest houses are numbers 42 to 50, [18] with medieval stone in the lower walls, probably from the Priory. The fronts were remodelled, but the original houses could have been timber fronted and jettied. Many houses have steeply pitched roofs common in the 1600’s. The shoe shop was once the offices of the Bridlington Free Press.

Number 43, THE TOFT [19] built in 1673 still has some original features inside. It was refronted in 1850 when the attics were made into a top storey.

Several of the bow windows which were removed from the buildings are now in the Castle Museum in York, and a visit to the museum would give you a flavour of the atmosphere of the time. William Sawdon’s butcher’s shop was situated at number 32.

The DOMINICAN CONVENT [20] at number 22 is the largest house in the street with nine bay windows, and may date from the early 1700’s. The Tuscan doorway was added in 1825 and the house became a school in 1930. From 1960 it became the Convent for the Sisters of Mercy until it closed in 2014 to become a private house.

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The Convent

There were once twelve clockmakers in the area and CRAVEN HOUSE number 16, [21] is said to be named after one of them. The house is late 1600’s, was remodelled in 1806 and later restored. The fourth owner was the late Francis Johnson, architect.

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Craven House

At the end of High Street you are back where you started, and you may wish to linger a while before you explore some more of the sights of Bridlington with our walk round the Quay. GMH

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