BEVERLEY SHIPYARD (1953) film no: 1444

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Made by Debenham & Co., this film features much of the Georgian architecture of Beverley as well as its shipbuilding industry.  In addition to a tour of the architectural features of the market town, the film includes a ship launch at the shipyards of Cook, Welton and Gemmell Ltd.

Title:  ‘Beverley!  An old world town – of Georgian Character’   ‘The North Bar!!  Built in 1409 and the only reminder of the days when the defence of the town relied on its five gates and a moat.’

The film begins with a woman riding through the gate on a bicycle.  There is also a man with a walking stick who makes his way by the Georgian Houses next to the Gate.

Intertitle:  ‘Quaint streets and Georgian Houses with curious handrails’ 

Some of the Georgian houses are shown in close up, including J W Backhouse Florist.  Cyclists come down a street, and a large house is seen on St Mary’s Close.

Intertitle:  ‘The Beverley Arms hotel: A survivor of the coaching days’ 

A man tends some plants on the balcony above the Hotel’s main door.

Intertitle:  ‘The Market Cross: commemorative ancient feats of arms erected in 1714’ 

At the Market Cross, there is a shield and coats of arms on the top which is shown up close.

Intertitle:  ‘St Mary’s Church: the parish Church’ 

The outside of the church is shown as pedestrians and cyclists pass by.

Intertitle:  ‘The Hall: formerly residence of Admiral Walker, now the Municipal Offices’ 

The front of the Hall is covered in foliage.   St Mary’s Church can be seen in the background of a busy shopping street.  More narrow side streets can be seen, Ladygate, including Dog and Duck Lane, again with St Mary’s Church in the background.  This is followed by footage of some of the older shops of Beverley.

Intertitle:  ‘The Minster’ 

Looking from the east, the Minster is seen in the distance.  Some of the external decoration is shown close up.

Intertitle:  ‘Cook, Welton and Gemmell Ltd.: who are renowned for their specialisation in design and construction of trawlers and other small vessels’ shipbuilders’ 

In the shipyard, workmen continue to build a half completed ship.  They are working on a dry dock.  Next onto the River Hull, and another ship in the background.  Some workmen raise a metal frame on a crane, and nearby dignitaries stand on the launch platform.

Intertitle:  ‘All ready for her dip in the morning mist of Monday 12th October 1953’ 

The ‘George Irvin’ waits to be launched by a woman holding a bottle, whilst below, two workmen knock out the retaining timber allowing the ship to slide into the river.  The woman throws the bottle, christening the ship, and eventually the ship moves off.  It nearly keels over as it hits the water.

Intertitle:  ‘Three cheers for the ‘George Irvin’’ 

The crowd raise their hats while standing on the launch platform, and workmen hold the ship in place with ropes.  The offices of Cook, Welton and Gemmell are shown.

Intertitle:  ‘The reception following the launch of ‘George Irvin’‘ 

People stand around with drinks talking at the reception.  Someone proposes a toast.  A board gives the dimensions of the ‘George Irvin’, with a length of 173 ft. and a weight of 525 tons, stating that it was built to the order of the East Fisheries Ltd., Cape Town.

The End

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This film is one of very many made by local Beverley based filmmakers Debenham’s. The company, originating in York with Ernest Symmons before moving to Beverley, were responsible for a sizeable collection of local films held with the YFA. The most extensive list of their films produced thus far can be found in Peter Robinson’s book, and for more on Debenham’s and Ernest Symmons see the Context for King George And Queen Visit Hull (1942). Unfortunately no other information came with the film, but it is probably safe to assume that it was commissioned by Cook, Welton and Gemmell Ltd, given the central focus this business has in the film.
This firm was established by William James Cook, Charles Keen Welton and William Gemmell in 1883 on the Humber Bank at Hull. This was moved to a new yard at Grovehill, Beverley in 1901–1902, taking over from Cochrane, Hamilton and Cooper. They dredged the River Hull, allowing larger ships to be built. Pamela Hopkins notes that they built trawlers and other small ships, launching 15 new vessels in 1954, including minesweepers, four trawlers and a tug, when they had a workforce of 650. Their manager, Harold Sheardown – who might be seen in the film – was also the vice-chairman of Kingston Steam Trawler company in Hull which bought many ships from the yard. As the ships being built in the yard got bigger two tugs were required to tow them to Hull for fitting – Mike Taylor’s book has a photo of two of the barges, owned by Peter Foster (References).  The ‘George Irvin’ would have been one of many trawlers built in the shipyards, and there are online records for a list of Escort ships built during the Second World War.  
Cook, Welton & Gemmell built their last ship in 1962 and went into voluntary liquidation in 1963, being taken over by C D Holmes in March 1963, and then in July 1973 by the Drypool Group. The company name was changed to Beverley Shipbuilding and Engineering Co Ltd.  This was in turn taken over by Whitby Shipyard Ltd on 1 July 1976. Unfortunately most of the archives for the firm were lost in 1975 when it was closed. 
But rather than focusing solely on the shipyards, the film presents a view of many of the historic architectural features of Beverley. It starts with the North Bar – not to be confused with the 700 year old Beverley Gate in Hull. This latter would have been part of the old city walls, making a closed area in a similar way to York. Although Beverley had four gates in the 15th century, these would not have been part of e defence of the town, more a way of collecting tolls and controlling entry and exit – important in times of plague. King Charles 1st stopped off here on his way to York when he was barred form Hull in the lead up to the civil war in April 1642. The present North Bar, the only surviving Bar, built in 1409, is the earliest surviving brick gateway of its type in the country. The florists J W Backhouse were situated near the North bar within. They are recorded in Bulmer's Directory of 1892.
The Market Cross shows the four shields of the arms of Queen Anne, Beverley Borough and the Warton and Hotham families to who gave money to help build it.  The Hotham connection also reveals an association with the civil war.  It was Sir John Hotham, at the time MP for Beverley, who had refused admission to Charles I. Reinstated as the Governor of Hull by Parliament, Hotham in fact changed sides during the siege back over to the Royalist side. Having the distinction of being branded a traitor by both sides, he and his sons lost their heads in the Tower of London.
The Georgian buildings that the film shows off gives a sense of the prestige that Beverley enjoyed in the 18th century, and which has continued to this day. But for a proper feel for the historic Beverley maybe the best place to visit is the White Horse Inn, aka Nellies. This is in fact a much older coaching inn than the Beverley Arms, and has retained much of its past with its gas lighting and stone floors. 
(With thanks to Robin Diaper, Hull Maritime Museum)

Mave and Ben Chapman, East Riding Yesterday: a Glimpse of the past, Smith Settle, Otley, 2002.
Pamela Hopkins, The History of Beverley, East Yorkshire: From Earliest Times to the Year, Blackthorn Press, Pickering, 2003,
John Markhams (editor), Philip Brown’s Beverley: A guide to its history, Humberside libraries and Arts, Hull, 1989.
Peter H Robinson, The Home of Beautiful Pictures - the Story of the Playhouse Cinema, Beverley, Hutton Press, 1984.
Mike Taylor, Shipping on the Humber: the North Bank, Tempus Publishing, Stroud, 2003
Thompson, Michael; Dave Newton, Richard Robinson, Tony Lofthouse, Cook, Welton & Gemmell: shipbuilders of Hull and Beverley, Hutton Press Ltd., 1999.

1 Comment

The East Yorkshire Bus Company which covered the Beverley area had some of its buses specially adapted with a top to fit through the Beverley Bar. The Bar is the main gateway from the town through to York and some routes to the coast.

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Wed, 2010-06-09 10:51

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