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Visit to Bridlington
Tuesday, July 21st 2009

by Gillian Granger, November 2009

It’s a long way from Kilnsea to Bridlington, but Jan didn’t get lost. We soon found our way to the Priory Church. Years ago I saw this beautiful church from the train but never thought I’d have the chance to visit it. The church’s most striking feature is the four tall pinnacles on the tower. Even from far away it looks magical. Inside it is glorious, and a lady guide gave us a talk. She explained about Bridlington’s own saint, John, who is shown on a superb stained glass window. John was born in 1320 in a small village nine miles from Bridlington. After an education at Oxford he became a monk at Bridlington Priory. Here he was chosen as Canon in 1346 and later elected Prior. He served for 17 years, doing many good deeds and performing miracles. He died in 1379, and was awarded sainthood in 1401.

The Priory Church
The Priory Church, showing the northern side of the church, which is 13th century in date.

Tragedy struck the priory in 1537, when Henry VIII’s minions arrived, and destroyed the monastery. Taking its wealth for the King, St. John’s tomb and shrine were burnt in the Old Town’s market place. Henry VIII had a lot to answer for. Also in the church is a plaque to the memory of Frederick Barnes Lawrence, one of the pioneers of bird protection. He was one of the first people to realise that sea birds should be appreciated, and not slaughtered.

The gatehouse to the priory
The gatehouse to the priory, known as the Bayle, is the only monastic building to survive.

Outside the church we saw a tall monument built in memory of those who died in the Great Gale. This tragedy happened in 1871, when hundreds of ships were sheltering in Bridlington Bay. They were safe until a SE gale sprang up and caused great damage and loss of life. Even after all these years we felt the sadness of so many brave people drowned.

Next we visited the Bayle Gate, much of which dates from the late 12th century. Later it was the gatehouse to the Priory. The Bayle had also been used as a prison and a school, and is now a museum. Four times a year the Lords Feoffees meet in the Bayle Gate. These Lords were created in 1636 and still have a lot of authority, a fact which seems to cause some resentment.

A closer view of the Bayle
A closer view of the Bayle. The stone work dates from the 14th century, and the brick work is 17th century.

The Queen who left her gloves in Bridlington in 1643 must have been Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. She landed in Bridlington Bay with ships full of arms for the King. But Parliament’s ships followed her and shelled her vessels. The Queen and her ladies took refuge in a ditch, where “the balls were whistling about me”. But the Queen was lucky and escaped to York.

The Lords Feoffes, a charitable body created in 1636
The Lords Feoffes, a charitable body created in 1636, still has quite a lot of power in Bridlington.

Our day ended with a walk in the Old Town, so different from the ‘trippers’ Bridlington. Many of us had never been to the Old Town before. The High Street is fascinating, with such a variety of buildings. The Lords Feoffees have their offices here, in the Manor House. Some of the oldest houses have medieval stones in the walls, others have false windows, the result of the window tax. The shops were temptingly attractive. But we couldn’t linger, and at 4 o’clock we went to our own transport to start the long journey back, after a most enjoyable and interesting day.

A delightful little 18th-century house in High Street
A delightful little 18th-century house in High Street.