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Market Town of Pickering

Pickering Village Yorkshire - A market town close to Whitby



Pickering, positioned as it is on what would have been the shores of the glacial lake at the end of the last Ice Age, the settlement was in an ideal place to flourish from the multiple natural resources of the moorlands to the north, the wetlands to the south, the running water in the beck and the forests all around. It had wood, stone, wildfowl, game, fish, fresh water and fertile easily worked soils. The east west route from the coast inland ran along the foothills of the North York Moors past the site at a place where the beck could be forded.      

There is evidence of Celtic and Roman era habitation in the areas surrounding Pickering but very little remains in the town itself. Legendary sources suggest a very early date for the establishment of a town here and it has been assumed that traces of earlier settlements have been erased by subsequent development.

In 1598 the streets of Pickering were named as:

  • East Gate

  • Hall Garth

  • Hungate

  • Birdgate

  • Borrowgate (the present Burgate)

  • and West Gate.

Many of the older small houses of the town were built at this time, some of stone with thatched roofs. The stocks, the shambles and the market cross stood in the centre of the town in the Market Place. The castle fell into disrepair yet the town flourished. In the English Civil War, Parliamentary soldiers were quartered in the town and did damage to the church and castle and Pickering was the subject of a minor skirmish but it was not the scene of a pitched battle.

The Whitby and Pickering Railway was opened in May 1836. At first the carriages and wagons were horse drawn but steam locomotives were used from 1847. The Forge Valley Line ran from 1882 to 1950, connecting Pickering to the Whitby-Scarborough line in an attempt to encourage residents to visit the coast. The local Health Board (the forerunner of the Urban District Council) was formed in 1863. A Gas and Water Company provided gaslight to light the town and piped drinking water. The shop fronts became closed in and glass windows were used to display goods for sale.

At the 1901 census, Pickering had 3491 people and by 1911 this had risen to 3674 people who were living in 784 households. There were in excess of 60 shops. In the early 20th century the growth of non-conformist religious sects, particularly Methodism, generated a political spirit of Liberalism and Pickering built a great Liberal tradition. In 1922 an old mill was converted to the Memorial Hall in memory of the Pickering men killed in the First World War. This hall, now much modernised, serves as a community centre for the town. The Castle Cinema was built in 1937 in Burgate. Electricity had arrived a few years earlier.

The years from 1920 to 1950 saw a decline in Pickering`s role as an agricultural market town and the population fell slightly from a peak of 4,193 in 1951 to 4,186 in 1961. The closure of the railway in 1965 under the Beeching axe was a blow to the area. The economy of the town saw a turn around in the following decades with the greater mobility of the working population and a rise in tourism due to increasing car ownership. Tourism has been a major occupation in the town since the reopening of the North York Moors Railway as a restored steam railway and the filming of the television series "Heartbeat" on the moors. In 1991 the population was 6269.

The tourist venues of Pickering Castle, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Beck Isle Museum have made Pickering popular with visitors in recent years. Nearby places include Malton, Norton, Whitby and Scarborough.

Pickering Castle  Pickering Castle  The town of Pickering probably existed in the Anglo Saxon period of British history. According to the Domesday Book there was enough arable land to need 27 ploughs, meadows and extensive woodlands. The present town may have grown up to service the Norman castle. After 1066 when William I became the king of England the town and its neighbourhood was in the personal possession of the king. A castle and the church were built at this time and the medieval kings occasionally used to visit the area. In 1267 the manor, castle and forest of Pickering were given by Henry III to his youngest son, Edmund, First Earl of Lancaster. In times of trouble this estate was first confiscated by the King and then returned. Eventually, it passed to Henry, Duke of Lancaster who later became King Henry IV of England. It has belonged to the monarch ever since.

Pickering Village Yorkshire  The Market town Pickering  In the 1650s George Fox the founder of Society of Friends, or Quakers, visited the town to preach on at least two occasions. Pickering continued to prosper as a market town and agricultural centre. It had watermills and several inns and was a centre for coaching travel, Mail coach traffic and trade. At this time the beck served as an open sewer and it remained so until the early part of the 20th century. The townspeople tended towards the adoption of Non-conformist religious sects and were visited by John Wesley on several occasions, the first being in 1764 and the last in 1790. The Quakers held meetings in a cottage in the town long before they built their present Meeting House in Castlegate in 1793. In 1789 the first Congregational Church was built in Hungate and for several years following 1793 a private residence was licensed for Divine Worship by Protestant Dissenters. The Pickering Methodist Circuit was formed in 1812.