Introduction The Driffield area was very attractive to early settlers throughout the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age. These peoples established themselves on the open lands of the chalk Yorkshire Wolds wherever water was available in the bottom of wide valleys and where springs occurred. Significant patterns of burial mounds, earthworks and trackways are testament to these early settlers. The Romans only had a passing impact on the area in the form of a few villas and roads. By the sixth century Anglian people had settled the Driffield area and Christianity was being established. “Driffield may also have been a royal seat, for Aldfrith of Northumbria is said to have died there in 705” (Allison). The church at Little Driffield is believed to date from the late seventh century. Analysis of settlement names indicates that both Anglian and Danes established themselves throughout this area of East Yorkshire. The Domesday Book indicates that by 1086 Driffield was the centre of a large working agricultural estate. The mediaeval period saw the consolidation and growth of villages based around their agricultural fields but climatic downturn and the predations of the Black Death from 1349 had a devastating effect on some villages that was to lead to economic change. Only in the mid eighteenth century would there be a revival of population growth. In the years following the Black Death much land was converted into sheep pasture and by the early eighteenth century the Driffield area was already farming sheep commercially. In 1742 Driffield was described as a large town and also in that year the fields were enclosed. This early Wolds enclosure led to the development and establishment of an extensive corn trade and market town that eclipsed the corn trade of Bridlington and nearby market villages. The opening of the canal in 1770 enabled this early growth to be accelerated increasing the range of products brought into the town, enabling the agricultural trade to expand its horizons and establishing a substantial number of agricultural processing industries and associated metal working factories throughout the town. By the late eighteenth century Driffield was well on its way to becoming the ‘Capital of the Wolds’. The link between the farms and villages and the market town of Driffield was established by a network of carriers during the nineteenth century who with horse and cart brought the products of the rural area into Driffield to be sold and bought a range of manufactures ranging from flour and tea to nails and ploughs to take back to the villages and farms. This network of carriers continued to grow and so the momentum of trade increased. By 1872 there were 145 carrier services linking country and town, every day of the week except Sundays but notably on Thursday, market day. The arrival of the railway in 1846 expanded everyone’s horizons even further. Products from all over the UK could be brought to every town and village. In turn, all
the products of the countryside could be sent to the largest industrial towns and cities. Meanwhile, Driffield developed a large number of shops and wholesalers, a wide range of professional services and had already attracted some of the landed gentry. By and during the Victorian period Driffield was the ‘Capital of the Wolds’ and it maintained this position as a central service centre for a large rural area until the mid twentieth century. With the advent of improved transport since the 1960s and the increasing numbers of people needed to support services some of the higher order goods such as furniture retailers, specialist shops and industrial activities such as fertiliser manufacture have become concentrated in larger towns and the cities. Today, Driffield’s commercial advantage is that it can provide a range of everyday goods and services and a few middle order goods for a town population of c.12000 and another c.10000 in the surrounding rural area with relatively good access to these services. As in other market towns there are charity shops and supermarkets but many of Driffield’s shops and professional services are privately owned businesses providing personal attention. Commercial activities have gradually left the town centre and been re established on the local industrial estate built on part of the old wartime R.A.F. Driffield airfield. The town hosts the largest one day agricultural show in the north every July, has a hugely popular Farmer’s Market on the first Saturday of each month at the Showfield and provides a well attended street market every Thursday. Although Driffield may be situated away from the main lines of communication it more than makes up for this with access to the East and North Yorkshire coast, the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and is surrounded by the un-remarked beauty of the Yorkshire Wolds so that the town and its surroundings remain a place of relative calm and tranquillity. T H E T O W N T R A I L. Allow approximately 2 hours to stroll along this route and observe the features discussed. Toilets are available on Cross Hill and on North Street. Start at CROSS HILL whose old name was Pinfold Hill. Cross Hill has been the site for many activities in Driffield over the years whether it was Victorian fairs on Show Day, parading the local militia, the site of an early attempt to establish a cattle market, the pillory, one end of the town’s Martinmas hirings, or as today’s car park and annual fair. The first Driffield workhouse was built in 1742 on the south side of Cross Hill but under the Poor Law Reform Act of 1834 Driffield became head of a Union of 42 parishes so a new larger workhouse was needed (see later). The Victoria Iron Foundry was built on the site of the first workhouse and some buildings still remain. The Church of England Infants School, originally The Church of England National School for all ages was designed by Cuthbert Broderick and built in 1854 with the addition of an Infants section in 1866 and the new hall linking the two main buildings in 2000. Much of the original remains with the school house built on the north end. The coat of arms on one of the chimneys belongs to Viscount Downe whose family donated the land for the school. The nearby library was built in 1939 with a suitable extension in 1993.
Walk from Cross Hill along Mill Street to Market Place which for many years has been the commercial centre of Driffield. It was here that Wesley preached in 1772 and today the Millennium town clock keeps time. Throughout the nineteenth century the main hostelries were located around Market Place. The Bell Hotel was originally the Blue Bell and the present façade dates from the mid nineteenth century. It was from the Bell Hotel/Corn Exchange that results of the General Elections were announced as Driffield was then head of the Buckrose constituency, with some victory speeches made from the balcony of the Bell overlooking Market Place. The yard at the back of the hotel was the area where corn merchants conducted their business. Even when the Corn Exchange was built in 1841 the merchants preferred the yard. The Corn Exchange gave its name to Exchange Street (1874), in 1936 becoming the Town Hall and during 1986 incorporated into the Bell Hotel. The Cross Keys of 1859 is now called the Original Keys. Honor’s Temperance Hotel was the building now occupied by Alliance & Leicester; the Black Swan has been replaced by the discordant Yorkshire Bank (1966). The Nat West Bank is Queen Anne style of 1927 and replaced Elgey’s, a large grocery shop. Look carefully at the display window of Cranswicks, the old glass still retains “Established 1823” which refers to the original wines and spirits merchants which occupied the property. Today the open market takes place every Thursday between the traffic lights and George Street. From Market Place walk north along Middle Street North. Almost immediately on your right is one of the few remaining commercial buildings of quality in Driffield – Lances – originally a wholesale grocer built 1865 – 1866. The village carriers would arrive throughout the morning at their central hostelry to stable their horses and park their carts, then proceed with all their orders to Lance’s to be made up and ready for collection later in the day. These orders would be carried back to their villages for distribution to local customers. Lance’s closed as a wholesale grocers and has had a number of transformations internally, now functioning as a restaurant and bar . A little further on, on the left is the Methodist Church of 1880, the third Methodist church in the town, each one increasing in size. The glass façade is more modern and there are plans for further changes. At one time the space in front of the chapel which is now a car park was occupied by Fawcett’s shop and print works (see later). After Cranwell Road the unsightly 1980s Viking Centre gives way to some fine town houses on the right hand side; No. 25 Burnside is mid nineteenth century and No. 22 is late eighteenth – early nineteenth century. Opposite is the Red Lion with a 1860s façade which vied with the Bell Hotel to be the most important inn in the eighteenth century. ALL SAINTS’ CHURCH All Saints’ Church is essentially late twelfth century in origin (1170 – 1200) and there was probably a Norman church built early twelfth century. All Saints does have a few pieces of Anglo Saxon or later moulding in the tower ringing chamber. Evidence in the form of a charter (1100 – 1108) supports the contention that the present church dates from 1100, the king gave the church to York and in 1107 he issued an order to the priests of Driffield to deliver the tithes of the present harvest .Ross (1898) suggests All Saints tower was built on the burnt foundations of an Anglo Saxon
church as charred remains were found during the Victorian restoration. There were alterations during the fourteenth century when the south aisle was widened and again in the fifteenth century when the north aisle was rebuilt. Up to 1363 Great and Little Driffield were separate cures, but then united. The fifteenth century also saw the present tower built, 110 feet high. It may have been built between 1436 and 1450, but why such a large tower for such a small village? Probably it was like the famous ‘wool towers’ of East Anglia where wealthy landed gentry who had made their money from sheep invested their wealth to the greater glory of God. At All Saints church there was extensive restoration carried out by Gilbert Scott Junior between 1878 and 1880. The north aisle was extended, the whole church re roofed and re pewed, the south porch built and the organ gallery removed and the organ relocated. The eight pinnacles on top of the tower were added in 1880. There are six bells in the tower; two dated 1593, another 1685 and three new bells added in 1880. The ancient font which had been cast aside was renovated and replaced in 1880 in its original location in the nave. A new clock had been installed in 1834. There was a thanksgiving service on the 1st November 1880 (All Saints’ Day) which was a public holiday and the Archbishop of York preached for the re opening of the church. Brown says that the Reverend Horace Newton and Scott: “Faced with a building on the verge of ruin, these two men achieved a wonderful result whose benefits we still enjoy today.” The church room was built and connected to the church in 1895. The Reverend Horace Newton turned his attention to St. Mary’s (previously St Peter) in Little Driffield and aided by the architect Temple Moore restored the church in 1888 – 1890 “into an elegant Gothic edifice, with a roof of high pitch”. All Saints churchyard has been altered considerably since the nineteenth century. In those days the pathway to the church was bounded on either side by a high wall beyond which was the cemetery with some large tombstones. The tower was restored in 1936 -1937 and again in 1963 – 1964 due to the poor its condition but it was not until 1997 that the church bells rang again. In 1967 -1971 an organ gallery was built under the tower with a rebuilt and enlarged organ. Pevsner (1972) refers to the church as “a swaggering piece”. Continue north along Middle Street North passing the 1838 workhouse (now Dring’s Garage) on the left with the overseers house No. 62 in front. By 1866 this building was too small and a new workhouse was built along Bridlington Road in 1867 – 1868. A bit further on note the plaque above a gated entrance indicating the site of one of Driffield’s North End saw mill yards. When this burnt down in 1937 it also set fire to a public house on the opposite side of North Street. The present Bay Horse was built in 1937. The residences on this corner were built in 1991 and called Sawyers Court. NORTH END Turn right along North Street and right into North End Park which is referred to as Hall Garth on some maps. This area was probably the site of an Anglo Saxon palace belonging to King Aldfrith of Northumbria who is said to have died here in 705 A.D.and/or a mediaeval moated manor house within the bailey of a motte and bailey castle but remains largely unexcavated. The main hummock in the park is possibly the site of the palace. It is suggested the palace was a rectangular enclosure 100 feet by 60 feet with a courtyard and gateways extending a further 60 feet to the east, surrounded by a moat 8 to 10 feet deep. (An information board contains further details within the park).
Walk further along North Street passing the Memorial Gardens and the end of Eastgate North noting the elevated private house Stone Lodge. This was a Victorian Ragged/Mission school for the “benefit of children of bad parents” built in 1866. The wall to your left surrounds an extensive mock Elizabethan property called Highfield. This was originally the site of a five sailed windmill until damaged in 1860. A house called Millfield was built here in 1864 but succumbed to fire in 1872. A new property was built which was also damaged by fire in 1893 being altered and extended in 1898 and by then known as Highfield. The architect was probably Temple Moore who restored Little Driffield Church 1888 – 1890. Stop at the pound/pinfold. Originally the pinfold (for keeping stray animals) was on Cross Hill but was moved here (1973) and beautified; it helps to maintain the historical interest of this area. Also view the hill immediately adjacent. This is Moot Hill, also called Castle Hill which once had a mediaeval motte castle surrounded by a ditch probably built to quell the local population after rebellions in 1068 and 1071. From this area walk back 50 metres and go along Eastgate North but first pass through the Memorial Gardens. The adjacent stream along with wells was the local water supply until the advent of piped water in 1884. The slightly elevated ridge used by Eastgate and Scarborough Road (which runs parallel to the left/north) provided a dry point site for some of the early settlement of Driffield. Just beyond the junction of Eastgate North and Gibson Street on your right are the buildings of a maltings and granary. These buildings were a few of the many involved in the processing of agricultural products for the surrounding farms. It ceased manufacturing many years ago and has had a number of functions since then. In summer of 2009 the boarded up buildings were sold. What has happened to this site? Turn right along Laundry Lane to Park Close at the stream. Here, there was a sluice gate for a watermill which later became a brewery and then as the name implies this was the site of Driffield Laundry and public baths from 1909 – 1910. Its large chimney added to the semi-industrial atmosphere that once pervaded this market town. The bungalows of Park Close now occupy the site. Only a three storey house called ‘Laundry House’ house now remains. Follow the course of the stream to Bridge Street noting the adjacent water pump and diagonally right the Free Methodist chapel of 1863. It was this stream that flooded the town on May 20th 1910 carrying a flash flood from the Wolds into and through Driffield flooding to a depth of seven feet above the pavements. There are some well kept properties along Bridge Street, note the roof pantiles, window surrounds, lintels and coloured glass still in place. Turn left on to Bridge Street and have a look at Bridge House, No 17. This is one of Driffield’s oldest surviving houses from the mid eighteenth century but much of the façade is c.1900. Bridge Street was one of Driffield’s narrow lanes which run at right angles to the three parallel main streets but here the lane was widened in the late eighteenth century and originally tree lined. Turn right into Eastgate North again passing early to mid nineteenth century terraces with a variety of designs including Lora Cottages on your right; a typical Driffield terrace of 1842, over time the plaque has lost its inscription. Keep walking and on your right adjacent to and behind No. 34 is the site of a brass and iron foundry
making agricultural implements. No. 34 probably being the iron masters house. Opposite, Washington Street (named after a local landowner), built in the 1840s was a street of terraces that was redeveloped in 1978. Adjacent is the first Driffield Police Station (1843), largely unaltered. Next to the iron works is the semi derelict site of Driffield gasworks (1835). Eastgate forms a cross roads with Exchange Street and New Road; on the opposite corner is the Spread Eagle public house c.1810. CATTLE MARKET Continue briefly along Eastgate to view the site of the former cattle market which had a sudden demise during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak. It has remained derelict since then whilst a variety of plans have been discussed. Following a few false starts the cattle market was on this site in 1833 and established in 1843 rapidly becoming the best market in the East Riding. Opposite, now occupied by Grahams was Matthews Mill where large quantities of ammonia, phosphate and nitro phosphate were extensively manufactured into artificial manure (fertiliser). It was also a seed crushing mill making corn feeding cakes from locally grown produce. Retrace your steps and turning right walk up New Road (new in 1799) to the traffic lights passing the front of Easterfield House c.1820. (Along Bridlington Road on the left is the entrance to another large Regency villa, Sunnycroft of 1826.The Avenue started in the 1880s and opposite is the 1960s fire station. Then further along, an elevated group of houses called The Terrace from c.1875, school buildings that first occupied this large site in 1955 of which the latest addition is the over-dominant grey 2008 Leisure Centre, Ten Gables of 1872 originally built as a Cottage Hospital, the cemetery of 1864 – 1865, the modern East Riding General Hospital and housing called The Ridings on the site of the former 1868 workhouse, demolished 1992-3 and finally Kirby House.) Along Wansford Road the Junior School was opened in 1874 with new buildings from 2003 and alongside is the Police Station and ex Magistrates Court of 1896 with unusual red sandstone window surrounds. All these buildings remain substantially unaltered externally and are valuable assets to the architectural landscape of Driffield. Walk along Wansford Road to the railway line. Houses are mostly 1920s, 1930s with some modern infill but between Dunns Lane and the railway there are some older Victorian terraces on the south side. Just before the level crossing on your right is Fawcett gardens. This was the site of Benjamin Fawcett’s East Lodge and print works 1850 after moving from his shop in front of the Methodist Chapel. Books of great beauty were designed, engraved, printed and bound on the premises. Fawcett had a partnership with the Reverend F. O. Morris, author and naturalist. The engravings for a range of books including ‘A History of British Birds’ and ‘History of the Fishes of the British Islands’ were all hand coloured in these premises by local girls copying the colour from a prototype by Fawcett’s wife. Fawcett received letters of commendation from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he received medals from organisations impressed by his work and for the quality of his colour printing. Fawcett also worked with Francis Lydon to produce ‘The Country Seats of Britain and Ireland’ which was a triumph of colour printing. Unfortunately the works closed due to financial difficulties but today some of these books command very high prices. East
Lodge was demolished in 1975 with the new properties being erected at the turn of the century. (An information board can be read 50 metres into Fawcett gardens). Immediately after the level crossing turn right on to Anderson Street. A huge mill once occupied this corner site with a substantial chimney. Built in 1862 and enlarged in 1870 this was The Driffield and East Riding Pure Linseed Cake Company which crushed linseed and cotton seed to produce cattle cake. This was Driffield’s largest employer but the mill was destroyed in a fire in 1887. The mill was rebuilt in 1888 but in 1947 the premises were taken over and it became a sugar mill until 1970. Subsequently it was occupied by a number of businesses but they all moved out at the turn of the century, since when it became increasingly derelict. A fire in 2006 led to some demolition at the south end and the chimney at the north end but the extant remains still have some architectural merit if they were saved and restored. RIVER HEAD AND THE CANAL Walking along Anderson Street to River Head where the canal terminates it is obvious that some of the buildings are of considerable age. Grove Cottage on the corner of Beechwood Lane was late eighteenth century with alterations c.1870. Further along n the right, almost at the canal, Langley House No. 7 was once a public house. Opposite can be seen the Cobblestones group which is late eighteenth century. The land around Doriffield had been the subject of very early enclosure in 1742 and the agricultural momentum that developed accelerated the growth and development of Driffield. Long before the canal was built Driffield had become the centre for the sale of corn eclipsing and taking over the Bridlington corn trade and superseding the declining importance and market of nearby Kilham. The canal (opened 1770) enabled an additional range of goods to be traded up the navigation from imports landed at Hull docks that could be manufactured in newly established agricultural industries in Driffield thereby developing the industrial atmosphere of an agricultural market town. When the canal opened this area became the chief commercial quarter of the town albeit physically detached from the built area of the town and remained important until the mid twentieth century. Here there were flour and bone mills, granaries, warehouses, malt houses, breweries and coal yards. Other industries recorded as being active in the town included woollen making, carpet making, paper making, textiles and linen making. At Canal Head and along Riverside note the size of the canal basin, cranes for unloading keel boats and a range of warehouses with some older residential properties. Some eighteenth century warehouses on the south side of the canal have been sympathetically converted into flats and others on the north side. Mortimer’s warehouse recalls the grain company that has existed for many years as well as the famous Yorkshire archaeologist J. R. Mortimer b.1825 who lived, worked and created a purpose built archaeological museum in Driffield (now the Masonic Hall on Lockwood Street). This working warehouse can give a glimpse of the activity that once took place here. The canal was run as an amenity for the town rather than for profit, administered by Commissioners, consequently the railway company could not buy it up in order to stave off competition, so the canal survived as a working canal until the 1940s. No. 1 River Head next to River Head Drive may well be older than the canal.
THE RAILWAY Continue to the railway station, now a skeletal structure degenerated from the former overall train shed designed by G.T. Andrews (1846).The railway reached Driffield in 1846 and opened up the first quick and relatively cheap connections to other places, hitherto beyond the reach of ordinary folk. The railway was the universal carrier and could deliver goods to Driffield from the rest of the country and take away the products of the Driffield area to an ever expanding market. Whereas the canal carried bulky heavy goods slowly it was the railway that speeded up the movement of all goods and gave people a chance to travel rapidly relatively cheaply for the first time. Other lines opened to Malton (1853) and Market Weighton and Selby (1890) giving direct access to York, Leeds and Doncaster but all these lines closed; to Malton in 1952 and Market Weighton in (1965). However it did mean that Driffield was a significant junction town for over a hundred years. Turn left over the level crossing on to Beverley Road. Note the large Victorian mansions along Beverley Road built by 1890 for the wealthier tradesmen, merchants and professional people of the town. On the left now known pretentiously as Swiss Cottage an old railway goods depot has been converted to residences. Over Skerne Road level crossing view the former maltings of 1874 which was converted into apartments in 2004 conserving the exterior appearance of the building. Opposite the end of Skerne Road is No. 29, White House, which was once the home of the local MP, Sir Luke White. Continue along Beverley Road to the junction with St. John’s Road. Here there is a further group of early Victorian properties. No.15 is pre 1847 but most of the others are c.1860. Walk north along St John’s Road. On the left is Rose Garth of c.1820 and on both sides of the road substantial detached villas of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The modern bungalows on the corner of Lockwood Street replaced the former brick built St. John’s Church of 1898, demolished 1969. Ahead along St. John’s Road can be seen further late Victorian and Edwardian villas, inter war housing and some modernisation. Turn right into Lockwood Street. When the land here was sold in 1873 the properties built had to be of a superior quality. Although the street opened to traffic in 1876 properties were only built slowly and only for the wealthier inhabitants of the town. Notable is Ivy Lodge on the right with a tower followed by the Masonic Hall. This was originally J. & R. Mortimer’s geological and archaeological museum built for all the finds they accumulated for over fifty years. J. R. Mortimer was born in 1825 (his brother was R. Mortimer born 1829) and he became a corn factor initially in his native Fimber before moving to Driffield. He became a collector of antiquities and paid farm workers to look out for geological specimens and flint tools in the fields, these specimens became known colloquially as ‘Mortimers’. He was much influenced by the treasures he saw at the 1851 Exhibition at the Crystal Palace. He became the most prolific of Wolds barrow diggers. His investigations were advanced for the time and all his collection had good provenance. His writings published in 1905 are still a valuable source of information. On Mortimer’s death the collection went to Hull but was partially destroyed during the blitz on Hull. In 1918 the museum became the Masonic Hall. Some properties along Lockwood Street such as numbers 7 to 10 were not built until 1905.
TOWN CENTRE Turn left on to Middle Street South and walk into the town centre This main shopping street contains a mix of Victorian buildings, a few buildings from the 1920s and 1930s and quite a number of modern replacements since the 1980s. It is better to look at the upper stories in order to appreciate the age of the buildings. Along here is a variety of roof lines, window designs, a range of lintels within the two then three storey high Victorian buildings. Note the number of arched entrances for horse drawn wagons and carriages that lead into a variety of interesting yards. Along Middle Street South on the right the Market Building was built in 1886 with decorative drainpipes and box window. Pass the end of Brook Street (originally called Bandmaker Lane), King Street (Chapel Lane) and Queen Street (Doctor Lane). Between King and Queen Street note one of the newest buildings, dated 2009 and sporting a clock, being one of the better modern architectural styles. Opposite is the unmistakable inter war architecture of an ex Woolworth’s shop. On the corner of Queen Street the gable has the date 1982. Turn left into George Street opened up in 1806 and after 50 metres on your left look at the old Primitive Methodist chapel of 1874 – 1875 which had an imposing façade until demolished. It is now a carpet shop. The present frontage hides the majority of the chapel at the rear. Return to the main shopping street, turn left on to Market Place. Two public houses, opposite each other, The Tiger (early nineteenth century) and The Buck mark the beginning of Market Place. Barclays Bank No. 61 1860-1 built as a bank with a stone fronted (painted) Italianate style is a substantial three storied building. Further along the former Falcon Inn which dates back to 1830 straddles a carriage entrance. One of the oldest buildings is next to the Falcon; a mid eighteenth century brick and pantile construction with a particular brick pattern on the gable end (known as tumbled gable). No. 51 is another Cuthbert Broderick building of 1856 -7 built for the East Riding Bank, again Italianate and now a retail shop. At the traffic lights adjacent to the Original Keys return to Cross Hill along Market Walk ( marked --- on the map). CONCLUSION An understanding of the historical geography of an urban landscape enables one to appreciate how a town has developed through time and where the elements of that town are located in relation to each other and why. Driffield is essentially a market town of the Victorian period, quite a few buildings of historical and some architectural interest have been swept away in the rush for economic change and modernisation. However, in what is still a busy market town, pockets of interest remain and the town is still able to display its heritage to both resident and visitor. Further details can be found in Mike Wynn’s book: ‘The Growth and Development of Driffield and the Surrounding Landscape’ which is available locally or direct from the author.