With a wealth of independent shops and a rich architectural history, Lucy Oates takes a stroll through the streets of Howden.
Located just off the M62 in East Yorkshire, Howden is a place that many people from West and South Yorkshire seem to skirt around on their way to and from the East Coast. If you can spare the time to stop off there, you’ll find that this attractive market town is well worth a visit in its own right.
The imposing Minster, one of the finest in East Yorkshire, is located at the very heart of the town and dominates the skyline for miles around. The town’s first church is thought to have been built in Saxon times but, after King William the Conqueror granted Howden to the Bishop of Durham in 1080, it was rebuilt in the Early English style. Today, English Heritage manages the elaborately decorated ruins of the 14th century chancel and chapter house in the grounds, but the cathedral-like Minster is still operational as a place of worship for the local community.
A stroll around the surrounding cobbled streets and alleyways is like stepping back in time and gives you a great sense of the town’s rich history. In medieval times, Howden was a market town of major significance. It hosted one of the largest trading fairs in the north of England, it was an important centre of learning and a place of pilgrimage and, at times, hosted the royal court.
Just a stone’s throw from the Minster is The Ashes playing fields, which was gifted to the people of Howden by local businessman Charles Briggs in 1927. It’s managed by a registered charity called The Ashes Playing Fields Trust, which is made up of 15 volunteers, including three representatives of Howden Town Council.
The Ashes is home to Howden Bowls Club, the Pink Ladies rounders team and Howden Show, a popular agricultural show with more than 130 years of history behind it. This year’s show takes place on Sunday 3 July.
The Ashes has been used for recreational purposes since the 1920s and, in the past, has also hosted local cricket and football teams. It’s free for the public to use and available to hire for private functions. Recent developments include the restoration of the area once known as the Rose Garden to create Diamond Jubilee Walk and the £70,000 refurbishment of the children’s play area in 2015, which is now known as the Daphne D’Ark Playpark. Offering great views of the Minster, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a picnic on a summer afternoon.
Unlike so many market towns, which have experienced a steep decline, Howden’s bustling market place is lined with a wealth of independent shops, eateries and businesses. There’s also a small market every Friday. It’s continuing growth and success is largely due to the efforts of forward-thinking local traders, who have joined forces to form the Howden Traders’ Association. For the past couple of years, they have been working with Howden Town Council to promote the town, and its amenities and attractions.
Their ‘Your Howden’ campaign has attracted financial backing from East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s High Street Fund, which was created to help to revitalise the area’s high streets and town centres. A grant from the fund has been used to develop an informative Your Howden leaflet; branded, reusable, canvas shopping bags’ and Your Howden website.
Hugh Roberts, Chairman of Howden Town Council, said: “We’re so lucky to have such a diverse mix of independent shops, cafés, pubs and other local businesses here in Howden. You really don’t need to head out of town because you can get everything you need right here on your doorstep.
“The Howden Traders’ Association is an extremely proactive group, which has been working hard to champion the town.”
Also located in the Market Place, the Shire Hall is a popular venue for community events, arts and entertainment.
Howden Marsh, a local nature reserve made up of a series of ponds, flood meadow and reed beds, is a short walk from the town centre.
Your Howden: yourhowden.co.uk
The Shire Hall: howden-shirehall.com
Howden Minster: english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/howden-minster/
The Ashes Playing Field: howdenashes.com