Could you be able to visit the beach in Tadcaster, 50 miles from the sea?

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 November 2015

The viaduct and weir

The viaduct and weir

Joan Russell Photography

It’s not all about the beer in this famous brewery town, as David Marsh finds out. Photographs by Joan Russell

John Smith's BreweryJohn Smith's Brewery

Think Tadcaster and you are likely to think beer thanks to the town’s famous breweries whose fine ales are sold in pubs across the land. But given its land-locked location about 50 miles from the sea, beach will far less readily spring to mind and yet Tadcaster boasts one. A sandy area on the River Wharfe has traditionally been used as a recreation space. Now it could be in for a new lease of life as a key feature of a new park proposed for the river’s western bank.

The scheme – currently at the planning stage - is being promoted up by the town’s Community Engagement Forum (CEF) and, along with improving access to the beach area, includes a play area, a trim trail with outdoor gym equipment, new footpaths, seating, picnic benches and information boards and signs. If planning approval is granted, it will create a linear park alongside the river in the town centre.

David Gluck, of the Tadcaster and Rural Community Interest Company, set up in 2014 by the CEF to help drive forward community and business projects, said: ‘Surprisingly for a town of its size, Tadcaster does not have a public park. There are children’s playgrounds but no major park. The idea is to create a great asset for the town, something that benefits residents and visitors and encourages people to spend more time in the town centre.’

Certainly it is a town centre worth spending some time in. Its pubs, restaurants, cafes and independent shops all combine to create a welcoming and bustling atmosphere. There has been a market in Tadcaster since 1270 and these days the market takes place on Thursday in Tadcaster Social Club car park.

St Mary's ChurchSt Mary's Church

An eye-catching site is the 11-arch railway viaduct built in the 1840s for a passenger line that never materialised, following a decision by the York and North Midland Railway to abandon the scheme. From the 1880s until the 1950s there was a siding across the viaduct used to supply a mill. The siding closed in 1959 and 21 years later Tadcaster Town Council acquired the Grade II listed structure from British Rail.

Another landmark in the town is The Ark which was built in the later 15th century. It is said that two carved heads on the front of the building are Noah and his wife. Over the years it has been used as a meeting place, post office, inn, butcher’s shop private house and museum. It is also claimed it was a meeting place for the Pilgrim Fathers before their voyage to America. Today it is the offices of the town council.

St Mary’s Church was first built in 1150 and destroyed by the Scots in 1318. It was rebuilt but suffered from frequent flooding so it was dismantled stone by stone and re-erected in the 1870s. Money for the work was raised by public subscription.

The story of the town is told in a new revised edition of Tadcaster Through Time by Paul Chrystal and Mark Sunderland. The updated version of the book, published by Amberley, features 90 archive images alongside full-colour modern photographs, with each page featuring a snapshot of the town through the ages.

Meanwhile volunteers have been digging up the past in Tadcaster and unearthing some of the secrets of this historic North Yorkshire town. Funded with the help of a Heritage Lottery grant and led by Tadcaster Historical Society, the dig took place in an area where a Norman motte and bailey castle once guarded the river crossing, where the Roundheads are thought to have had gun emplacements during the Civic War and where stone cottages once stood for over 100 years until the 1960s.

Scores of volunteers took part in the dig, which was overseen by professional archaeologists. The varied and fascinating finds, from coins and pottery to a clay pipe bowl commemorating the first international bare knuckle boxing match in 1860, provide a new insight to the town the Romans knew as Calcaria – the Latin word for lime. Limestone quarried in the area was used for York Minster and also for cannon balls for Edward III.

John Firth, of the historical society, said: ‘We found 99 pieces of Roman pottery, over 60 from the medieval period and a Neolithis flint among other things. This dig and others have told us where the centre of the Roman town was and that the medieval centre moved away from that area.

‘We knew that some Victorian cottages stood on the site but our excavations suggest there could have been homes on the site long before that.’ w

Details of the dig, the artefacts discovered and what they reveal will be the focus of an exhibition to be held in the town on Saturday, November 7th


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