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Review: Barton upon Humber

City/Town/Region/Island

United Kingdom

Off the tourist beat but well worth a visit

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2149 reviews

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  • 2014
  • Family including children under 16

13 people found this review helpful

On the banks of the Humber, most people ignore the town as they zoom over the Humber Bridge. This is a pity as it is an attractive town with a long history.

The towers of Barton’s two churches can be seen from the A15. St Peter’s is the oldest, dating from the 10thC and has one of the best preserved Anglo-Saxon towers in England. Now no longer is use, it is in the care of English Heritage and only open in the summer months. After it closed, excavations revealed a major Anglo-Saxon cemetery with nearly 3000 burials.

The old vicarage is a splendid white Georgian building below the church. Its main claim to fame is that Chad Varah, the founder of the Samaritans was born here in 1911.

To the east of the church there are glimpses over the wall of brick built Tyrwhitt Hall which is 15thC and the oldest building in Barton.

Below the church is a triangular open piece of ground with grass and trees, known as the Beck. This used to be a pond but the springs feeding it have dried up. There is a lovely view of St Mary’s Church from here. This started as a chapel of ease for St Peter’s Church. Barton was very wealthy in the Middle ages and St Mary’s was extended several times. It is now the parish church and is worth visiting for its Norman arcade and lovely wooden screen in the chancel.

The Humber has always been a major route for passenger and goods traffic and Barton was a major port with Barton Haven provided safe anchorage for ships. There was a ferry to Hull from the 15thC until 1851. As boats got bigger, the ferry terminal moved to a specially built pier at New Holland.

Barton was a flourishing market town in the 18th and 19thC and this is reflected in the grandeur of many of its buildings. It is worth walking round Barton and Barton Civic Society produce a number of leaflets on walks around the town. They can be downloaded here.

There are many splendid Georgian Houses around The Beck, Whitecross Street and Priestgate. Baysgarth House was built in 1751 for the Wright-Taylor family who were a branch of the Nelthorpe Family, important landowners in this part of Lincolnshire. The house is surrounded by parkland with mature trees. It is now a museum. As well as period rooms and shops it also hosts temporary exhibitions. It is a long time since our last visit, so we really must make an effort to go back.

Victorian buildings are found around High Street and Queen’s Street. The Corn Exchange in the Market Place, Assembly Rooms (originally the Temperance hall) and old Police Station and Magistrates Court date from this time. Providence House on Holydykewas built for Thomas Tombleson, one of Barton’s largest landowners. Still standing in its own grounds off the road, it is now used by the local council.

Perhaps the most significant Victorian Building is the Wilderspin National School dating from 1844. When the school closed in 1978 it was restored as a museum. It is a typical Victoria brick built school with outside toilets. It was built with an infant, girls and boys school rooms classroom. The first superintendent was Samuel Wilderspin who had very enlightened (revolutionary in fact) ideas about educating infants. This is a fascinating place to visit geared at all ages.

Barton became an important industrial centre from the 18th – 20thC. Clay from along the Humber banks was used for brick and tile making. By 1900 there were 15 yards along the banks of the Humber. Now William Blyth is the only working working tile yard left. As well as making hand made tiles it has been opened as the Old Tile Works as a craft centre with a restaurant. Plans to visit however are on hold as it is shut after very bad flooding in December 2013. The remains of the flooded clay pits can be seen all along the river banks. These are now returning to nature with reeds, wild flowers and abundant wild life. Many are nature reserves. Far Ings Nature Reserve is one of the few places in Britain the bittern can be seen and heard. It has a Visitor Centre and several walks and bird hides. Other areas are used by the Sailing and Water Ski Clubs.

Ropemaking was an important industry in Barton. It started as a cottage industry until John Hall built a Rope Walk here in 1801. Ropes were made for the whaling and fishing fleet in Hull. Trade grew and by the 20thC ropes were being exported all over the world. The ropery closed about 25 years ago and is now a craft centre with a fascinating display on its history.

Water’s Edge Country Park and Visitor Centre is by the mouth of Barton Haven and is built on the site of a fertiliser factory. When the factory closed down this was one of the most polluted industrial sites in Britain. After a multi-million pound clean up it is now transformed into a nature reserve with ponds, reed beds, marshland, woodland and wild flower meadows.

There is an derelict windmill by the Haven. The old mill on Market Lane in the centre of Barton used to grind chalk from nearby chalk pits and barley. No longer used, it has been restored as part of the Old Mill Public House.

Industry has virtually gone. Falcon Cycles used to be made in Barton. Kimberly-Clarke had a nappy factory here which closed down in 2013, although there are plans to manufacture kitchens and fitted bedrooms here. The Cement works at nearby South Ferriby survives, despite being badly damaged in the December 2013 floods.

Now Barton upon Humber is a dormitory town with locals travelling across the Humber Bridge or to Scunthorpe for work. It still retains a strong community spirit. There are clubs and activities for everyone and the Civic Society hosts regular talks. There are ghost walks in the winter months (details from Tourist Information.) In the summer is the popular Barton Bike Night.

It is definitely worth the short detour before continuing on your way across the bridge.

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