Strange Tales – The Town’s More Unusual History


The road from the North Bar to Westwood gate was formerly called Cockstulpit Lane or Ducking Stool Lane, from the Ducking Stool, which stood at the North Bar Dyke, at the and of that lane. The Ducking Stool was used here, at the Bar Dyke (the parish horse pond), to punish ” too free dames,” “saucy scolding queans,” suspected witches, and others, since before the Conquest, and was not abolished until about the middle of the eighteenth century. So the Bar Dyke was, for many centuries, a pool of terror to the termagant and shrew.

The Handbook to Beverley (1903)

For those of us who grew up in Beverley during the 1960s, the town held many mysteries and inspired endless adventures. It was especially so for those who enjoyed a good ration of curiosity and imagination. From playing in what were then the ruins of the Old Friary to ghost-hunting up Seven Corners Lane, searching for the specter of the Grey Nurse. Personally, one of the most memorable experiences was gaining access to the Priest’s Room in St Mary’s Church. Back then it resembled more a forgotten storeroom than the more polished museum we know today. Among decommissioned chunks of architectural masonry and other retired church artifacts were a set of ancient stocks and several scold’s bridles. It felt like the only thing that was missing were the words of Edgar Allan Poe!

Gallows Lane and Tiger Lane also held a fascination for the young mind. Which tree along the former thoroughfare had served the bloody purpose, or had there been a properly constructed gibet? It was certainly an eerie place to venture along after dark, especially in the winter months when the winds forced the boughs to creak. As for Tiger Lane with its old tales of witches and ducking stools, nothing as such remained to kindle the imagination. The Bar Dyke that had provided the source of water had long since been covered over and the land taken into private ownership. But that didn’t stop us searching.