The History of Bridlington Old Town
Bollington is a very old name for Bridlington Long ago when the old Priory was being built or repaired, some workmen (possibly from out of town, but probably not) were contemplating how to shift a long roof beam sideways through the west door, its length being greater than the doors width! “Should we saw it in half, take bits off the ends or enlarge the door,” they said to each other. Fortunately, one of them glanced up at the Priory tower and saw a nesting jackdaw pulling a straw lengthways through a thin hole in the masonry. “Lets see if the beam will go in the same way,” they all agreed; needless to say their effort met with success and the beam went through the door as easily as the Jackdaws straw! Ever after that, Bridlington folk were called “Bolliton”, “Bollington” and later “Burlington Jackdaws” We welcome everyone to Bridlington’s historic Old Town... and if in the course of your life you ever need to fit long roof beams through narrow doorways please think of our clever Jackdaw.
The present town of Bridlington was once two separate towns that have now grown together. The original Bridlington was about a mile from the sea, and this part is now referred to as the Old Town. Bridlington Quay was the name of the port area. Trade in corn was once substantial, and the site of the 1826 Corn Exchange building can still be found in the old Market Place. There were windmills and water mills for corn grinding, and in 1837 a steam mill was erected at the Quay. This trade in corn led to malt and beer production in the 19th century, but this declined. Nowadays, there is still some fishing carried out from the harbour at Bridlington, and the surrounding villages still produce corn, some of which is malted locally. During the 20th century, tourism developed into the principal trade of the town, as workers from the industrial towns of Yorkshire began to seek holidays at the seaside. Much of this trade continues now though it has declined in parallel with the decline in industry.
William Hustler founded the town's Grammar School around 1637. It was refounded in its current location by Thomas Harland in 1899. It is now Bridlington School Sports College, one of two large schools in the town, the other being Headlands School and Community Science College.
The harbour was originally a wooden structure, which gradually gave way to stonework. Several acts of parliament have been obtained through the centuries to improve it. New and longer North and South piers were constructed in the 1840's. Only recently, urgent repairs have had to be carried out to prevent wave damage to the North pier. The harbour is nearly dry at low tide, but still offers some shelter in bad weather. It is used by fishing boats, pleasure boats that visit the seabird colonies on nearby cliffs, and by the yacht club. Bridlington Bay itself is a comparatively safe place in high winds, and for centuries ships have sought its shelter.
David Hinde the Bellman of The Bridlington Old Town Association together with local historian David Mooney uncovering research on Bridlington’s past Town Criers say that “It is so important for the people of Bridlington to learn of the rich heritage of their Town Criers. Particularly for the young in this modern world of mobile phones and internet to understand the importance of face to face communications and the role the Town Crier played over the centuries in civic pride and public pronouncements. They both recommend visiting the Bayle Museum to view Bridlington’s History.
It is likely that Bridlington had a Town Crier from at least the establishment of the weekly markets and fairs, granted by King John in 1200. However, the earliest record of a Town Crier in the Feoffees Manorial Records is in 1681 “Two pence for the Market Bellman”
As with most early records many were destroyed during the English Civil War.
The first named Crier in the Feoffees records is ROBERT SMITH (1746 – 1819) who held the office of Bridlington Town Crier from 1799 to his death in 1819. He was succeeded by GEORGE RICHARD FLETCHER (1748 – 1827) who became Crier in April 1819.
Known affectionately as ‘Dickie Fletcher’ he was a small man who walked with a funny gait and spoke broad Yorkshire. He gave all his cries in rhyme “fun on norff sands a pair of key. I have em ear in me too ands. If thees be thy keys? tha kan ave em back if we agrees !!! Think on an daint forget !!!
He was almost as famous for his marriage at the age of seventy five to the widow of a former bellman, a woman some twelve years his senior. Not only was the ceremony particularly well attended but the Lords Feoffees provided the happy couple with a carriage and horses and wedding dinner.
Dickie Fletcher died in his seventy ninth year carrying out his job. On 22nd September 1827 he called with a message at Mr Gray’s lodging house, tripped and fell down the steps to a downstairs kitchen and broke his neck.
Perhaps though the most intriguing find has been the discovery of a watercolour by artist John Dempsey of ‘Dickie Fletcher’ displayed at The Tasmanian Art Gallery and pictured here on the right.
Antony Waite who retired in 1901 was the last Bellman/Town Crier to be appointed by the Lords Feoffees and a Museum figure dressed in his attire, features in the Bayle Museum, along with his Bell.
David Hinde was the Town Crier of Bridlington from February 2012 to March 2016 when he took on the role of Bellman of The Bridlington Old Town Association. He is one of the finest Town Criers in England and plays an active role in Festivals and in welcoming visitors to The Old Town special events. He carries out commercial town crier services nationwide, promoted through his website www.hireatowncriercelebrity.com. He is a member of the Ancient and Honourable Guild of Town Criers and Equity.
David took part in the Priory 900 celebrations and the Royal visit of HRH Prince Charles & HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in July 2013 ,making a proclamation and being introduced to HRH Prince Charles and in August 2013 he broke the world record for the “Loudest Recorded Town Crier” recording a Cry in Sewerby Park at 114.8 decibels (source Cirrus Research) beating a 22 year record previously held by the Gloucester Town Crier Alan Myatt..
In November 2014 he headed the grand St. Georges Day parade as Walmington on Sea Town Crier in the Dads Army movie filmed on the Old Town High Street and flanked by many Hollywood Stars. He appeared in the International Trailer & TV Advertising. He was credited in the movie as Town Crier and has an International Database Listing as an Actor.
As previously stated, Town Criers have a rich heritage in Bridlington Old Town and play an important part in its History.
TV, Film & Literature
The world’s paparazzi flocked to Bridlington in late 2014 to spot the stars of one of the biggest UK movies in years – the big-screen version of the much-loved Dad’s Army, which was mainly filmed in the Bridlington Old Town High Street and Market Place and the Flamborough Heritage Coast. Tom Courtenay (born in nearby Hull), Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Catherine Zeta Jones and Toby Jones are amongst the glittering cast of the movie, due for release on 5th February 2016.
TV dramas The Brides in the Bath and The Royal also featured Bridlington, and the BBC’s flagship rural magazine programme, Countryfile, has visited on more than one occasion, as has the long-running Coast.