To The Water

Art, history and stories from our collections

To The Water

Through paintings, photographs and museum objects our new exhibition at Beverley Art Gallery explores our experiences of waterways and the sea.

The artworks show how water has provided inspiration for artists in our collections and the variety of approaches used to capture watery views.

Photographs from East Riding Museums and East Riding Archives celebrate the pleasures to be found in days at the beach and walks along riverbanks, reminders of how important water is to our leisure and wellbeing.

Some of the photographs are captioned East Riding Photos, you can purchase these and hundreds more at

Please note We have included a large number of images for your viewing pleasure. Please allow your browser to finish loading the page to enjoy the galleries. The online exhibitions are best viewed on a laptop or computer.

Setting Sail

Experiencing the thrill of a pleasure boat ride has been central to seaside daytrips since the early days of coastal resorts.

Bridlington was the hub for pleasure boat rides in our area. The diesel-powered Boys' Own and paddle steamer Frenchman were two of the boats which plied their trade in the bustling harbour. The Yorkshire Belle is perhaps the most well-known of the pleasure boats and is still sailing today.

Nautical thrills could also be found on a smaller scale: most seaside resorts and large municipal parks offered boat hire or a place to sail model boats.

Boat Ride at Bridlington
This photograph was taken by Bridlington company Snaps whose team of roving cameramen took photographs of seaside visitors 'on spec' to sell through a shop on Princes Street.
East Riding Museums 2011.25.1
Bridlington North Pier around 1925
In this photograph the sailing boat Boys' Own can be seen in the foreground and paddle steamer Frenchman in the distance. The Frenchman's bell is on display in the exhibition.
East Riding Museums 1996.617.101
Hornsea Mere, early 1900s
Hornsea Mere is part of the Wassand Hall estate and has been popular for daytrips since it opened to the public in 1885. The Mere is the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire and is a remnant of a huge wetland which once covered the area.
East Riding Archives PO-1-65-19 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Bridlington Spa and boating lake, late 1920s
Bridlington's 1928 town guide praised the refurbished lake:'The Boating Lake has been extended, and now covers the site of what was once the open-air dance floor. This lake is the delight of young folk during the season, and affords excellent facilities for water carnivals, model yacht races and fun in the small paddle boats recently introduced'
East Riding Museums 1996.618.4
Bridlington boating lake, 1964
In this photograph of the boating lake the earlier paddle boats have been replaced by motor boats. The photograph was taken by East Yorkshire Borough Council for tourism publicity purposes.
East Riding Museums 2000.275

Having a Paddle

Even if the weather is inclement or the water cold and murky, children love a paddle.

In the early 1900s a number of significant floods hit towns in the East Riding. Flooding ruined homes and businesses but provided fun for local children (and their pets!), as seen in these photographs.

In Beverley, families flocked in the summer months to swim and paddle near a bridge over Barmston Drain. Those fun-filled days at Brickie Bridge are recorded in two wonderful snapshots which were shared with Beverley Guildhall's digitisation project.

Paddling at Bridlington
We have no date for this photograph but we think it could be from the 1950s or 60s. A wooden spade like those in the photograph is on display in the exhibition.
East Riding Museums 2000.273
Swimming at Brick Bridge, Beverley
Brick or 'Brickie' Bridge over Barmston Drain on Swinemoor was a popular spot for paddling and swimming. This photographs dates from the 1940s or 50s and is from the Beverley Guildhall Community Photo Archive. The archive contains nearly 4000 images contributed by the local community. Pop into Beverley Guildhall to view the archive - staff are on hand to give you any help you need.
Beverley Guildhall Community Photo Archive
Swimming at Brick Bridge, Beverley
Brick or 'Brickie' Bridge over Barmston Drain on Swinemoor was a popular spot for paddling and swimming. This photograph dates from the 1940s or 50s and is from the Beverley Guildhall Community Photo Archive. The archive contains nearly 4000 images contributed by the local community. Pop into Beverley Guildhall to view the archive - staff are on hand to give you any help you need.
Beverley Guildhall Community Photo Archive
Paddling in Crescent Street in Cottingham, 1912
The downpour which flooded Beverley on 24th July 1912 also caused chaos in Cottingham. This photograph was most likely taken on that day. ' George Street bathing was in progress whilst dogs and chickens were floundering in all directions'. - Hull Daily Mail
East Riding Archives DDML-1-3
Winkle picking at Spurn, 1900
Spurn Point lighthouse sets the scene in this beautifully composed photograph of a winkle picking competition. Could the boys at the back be twins or brothers?
East Riding Archives PO-1-132-3 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Paddling in Toll Gavel, 1912
On the afternoon of Wednesday 24th July 1912 torrential rain caused the East Riding to become, in the words of the Hull Daily Mail, 'Holland in England'. In Beverley, rainwater poured off the high ground of Westwood into the town centre.
East Riding Museums 1997.732

Walking by Water

Fresh breezes, sturdy paths underfoot and the soothing properties of water all add to the appeal of waterside walks.

In our area, the lakes at Hull's municipal parks and the mill stream at Welton were popular strolling locations. The banks of the River Humber at Hessle were well-used for bracing riverside walks, even when the area was still active with industry.

The cliff top walk at Bridlington is one of the most loved walks in our area. The Cliff Top Cafe offered a welcome break for tea and ice-cream on the route to Sewerby Hall.

Walking in Bridlington, 1904
This tinted postcard shows women holding onto their hats on a breezy South Promenade walk. Note the camera and tripod held by the man on the left and the What The Butler Saw machine.
East Riding Archives PO-1-20-113 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Cliff Top Cafe at Sewerby, 1928 - 1929
This popular café was situated near the beach steps next to the Sewerby Hall estate. The café owner bought more land in the 1930s with the idea of opening a greyhound track: this never happened due to the location's unstable geography!
East Riding Museums 2003.1.25
Humber Bank at Hessle, 1913
These two ladies are walking west on Cliff Road next to the Humber. They are pictured roughly where the Humber Rescue station is today. The structure on the right is a shipping beacon.
East Riding Archives PO-1-63-12 (Available on East Riding Photos)
River Hull at Hull Bridge
In this beautiful photograph two girls watch a Humber Keel sail slowly by. These compact boats were perfect for carrying cargo on canals and rivers. We have no date for this photograph but it was taken at the hamlet of Hull Bridge to the west of Tickton.
East Riding Museums 1997.731
Sewerby Cliffs, 1903 - 1905
This tinted postcard shows the key Edwardian fashions of full skirts, white blouses and wide-brimmed hats. The women are carrying shooting sticks, a combination of folding chair and walking stick.
East Riding Museums 2003.1.28
Low Springs at Welton, 1905
The picturesque mill stream, springs, mill pond and wooded plantations have long made the area around Welton popular for walking. Welton is derived from the old English wella meaning spring.
East Riding Archives PO-1-148-8 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Lake at West Park, Hull, 1908
The park's entrance is on Anlaby Road which was once lined with grand houses and formed the main route to Hull, predating Hessle Road. A feature of the park was the half-timbered Carnegie Free Library which is today a local heritage centre.
East Riding Archives 2017/03/PO-2-85 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Pond on Beverley Westwood
This postcard is postmarked Beverley July 1922. It shows the clubhouse of Beverley Golf Club on the site of Union Mill. The area near the clubhouse still gets boggy today but an English Heritage archaeological survey discovered there was once a substantial pond in the area, most likely the one in this photograph.
East Riding Museums 2007.30.70

A Change of Scene

In the days when holidays were limited to a week each year and travelling overseas unheard of, a trip to the seaside or municipal park was a special event.

Whether it was watching beach entertainers, taking a ride on a charabanc or simply feeding the ducks, a day out by water was a welcome treat.

Daytrippers thronged in their thousands to watch regattas and aquatic competitions at Hornsea, Goole and Beverley Beck. At Bridlington, the swimming feats of "Professor" Albert Gautier always delighted the crowds.

Water sports at Beverley Beck, 1900
This photograph most likely relates to an event run by the Beverley Mariner Society on 2nd August 1900. Events included a race of vessels 'propelled by scrubbing brushes' and a greasy pole competition.
East Riding Archives P0-1-14-161 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Water sports at Beverley Beck, 1900
This photograph most likely relates to an event run by the Beverley Mariner Society on 2nd August 1900. Events included a race of vessels 'propelled by scrubbing brushes' and a greasy pole competition.
East Riding Archives P0-1-14-162 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Charabanc outing, 1912
This group of tourists were most likely travelling between Bempton railway station and the cliffs. The big attraction was watching men climbing with ropes to collect seabird eggs, or 'climming' as it was known locally. Collecting wild bird eggs was made illegal in 1954.
East Riding Museums 1996.58
East Park, early 1900s
Hull's East Park was opened on Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in June 1887. The original plan was to surround it with large housing, as done at Pearson Park. The park was instead extended resulting in the 120 acres which visitors can enjoy today.
East Riding Archives PO-2-15 (Available on East Riding Photos)
Goole Regatta, 1908
Crowds line Victoria Pier for Goole Regatta which was held each year in August. A 1905 regatta programme and a medal for a pairs oared race are on display in the exhibition.
East Riding Museums P176
Albert Gautier at Bridlington, 1920s
When he wasn't running the local swimming baths or teaching boys to swim, 'Professor' Albert Gautier delighted the crowds with his antics. These included diving with his hands and feet shackled and escaping from a sack thrown in the water.
East Riding Museums 2000.273
Barnsley and Thornwick Bay, 1959
Bridlington and the surrounding coastline have long been popular with visitors from West Yorkshire. This photographs shows two young daytrippers from Barnsley setting off on a BSA motorcycle to Thornwick Bay.
East Riding Museums 1996.906
Ellison's Entertainers at Withernsea, early 1900s
This photograph could be from 1912 when Ellison's ran a beach theatre at Withernsea for the summer season. Despite large turnouts, there are no reports of the company returning. Perhaps the 'miserably short' season caused by awful weather, as reported in the Hull Daily Mail, put them off!
East Riding Archives PO-1-159-29 (Available on East Riding Photos)

Favourite Places

Water features strongly in the favourite painting locations of artists in our collection.

Hull artist James Neal is known for his studies of the city's docks and drainage channels. Neal was also inspired by East Riding waterways, including the canals at Pocklington, Leven and Driffield.

Beverley artist Fred Elwell enjoyed painting lakes and rivers on continental holidays with his wife Mary but also found inspiration in waterways closer to home. Scarborough, where the couple honeymooned, was a favourite subject as was the River Hull where Fred sailed in his houseboat Calathumpian.

In Bridlington, local barrister Bernard Hale spent many hours at the waterfront, capturing its hustle and bustle in his watercolours and sketchbook. The pencil annotations on some of his studies provide a fascinating record of activity at the water's edge.

Bridlington Beach - Bernard Hale - Watercolour, around 1860
Bernard Hale (1812/13-1875) was a barrister and talented amateur artist who sketched and painted life in his home town of Bridlington. We purchased 47 of his sketches in 1997 using a bequest. Four of his watercolours and his tiny sketchbook are on display in the exhibition.
East Riding Museums 2015.23
Menaggio from Lenno, Lake Como - Frederick William Elwell - Oil on canvas, undated
The Italian lakes were popular holiday spots for Fred and his wife Mary in the inter-war years. Other favourite locations were the Swiss Alps, Corsica and Austrian lakes.
East Riding Museums 1997.162
River Hull - Frederick William Elwell - Oil on board, undated
Fred Elwell loved to spend time near the River Hull either painting or sailing. The setting for this landscape is most likely the upper reaches of the river between Aike and Wilfholme.
East Riding Museums 2015.23
Scarborough from the Spa - Frederick William Elwell - Oil on board, undated
Scarborough was much loved by Fred and Mary Elwell: the couple honeymooned there in 1914 and both produced many paintings of the town. This one is probably from a later series from the 1930s.
East Riding Museums 1997.44
Prince's Dock, Hull - James Neal - Oil on board, undated
Neal was best known for his depictions of the streets, roofs, drains and rivers of Hull. He arrived in the city in 1958, three years after the poet Philip Larkin. The sketch Philip Larkin and Me is on the reverse of this painting.
East Riding Museums 2020.6.19
River Head, Driffield - James Neal - Oil on board, undated
Although much of the industry has disappeared and the area is quieter, the location Neal painted in the 1960s is recognisable today. The green-doored building is Mortimer's Warehouse.
East Riding Museums 2020.6.20
The Canal at Leven - James Neal - Oil on board, 1974
Much of Neal's art was inspired by Hull's rich network of waterways and canals. His work is typical for mixing English post-impressionism with the intensity and pronounced contours of German expressionism.
East Riding Museums 2020.6.1
The Canal at Pocklington - James Neal - Gouache and watercolour, 1965
This painting is one of a number bequeathed by art collector Malcolm Shields (1928 - 2020). Shields was a well-known Hull businessman who sponsored and encouraged contemporary artists and writers.
East Riding Museums 2020.6.17

A Splash of Colour

The vivid colours of continental waters have provided inspiration for artists in our collection.

The Greek temple at Taormina in Sicily, popular with the aristocracy on their Grand Tours, is the perfect subject for William Logsdail to use a palette of blues and complementary ochres.

William Lionel Wyllie's painting of the Mediterranean Sea is all about ultramarine. The water, sky and Greek island of Ithaca almost merge, with just the bobbing fishing boats providing detail and contrast.

But continental Europe wasn't the only place to provide inspiration from colour. From the late 1800s, helped by the coming of the railways, British artists were attracted to Cornwall with its bright light and blue seas. One artist in our collection, Samuel John Lamorna Birch, was so inspired by the county that he adopted the name of a Cornish cove!

The Greek Theatre at Taormina, Sicily - William Logsdail - Oil on canvas, 1890 - 1900
Logsdail was well known for outdoor landscape painting. This piece was created during a lengthy stay in Italy and shows the artist's love for the vibrant, sunlit colours of the Mediterranean.
East Riding Museums 1997.87
Menton and the Tete du Chien from the Frontier - William Logsdail - Oil on canvas, 1891
The Mediterranean town of Menton sits on the France Italy border. It was declared French in 1860 and became a popular tourist destination due to its grand houses and gardens.
East Riding Museums 1997.77
Ithaca - William Lionel Wyllie - Watercolour, before 1907
Wyllie painted mainly landscapes and coastal views in oils and watercolours. The Greek island of Ithaca attracted the artist thanks to its energetic blues and greens. Wyllie enjoyed travelling and produced many works inspired by the Mediterranean coasts.
East Riding Museum 1997.194
Carn Barges - Samuel John Lamorna Birch - Oil on canvas, 1918
Birch was a self-taught artist who established himself with a series of paintings of Lamorna Cove in Cornwall. This post-impressionist work celebrates Cornish summers with lively brushstrokes and vibrant colours, typical of Birch's style.
East Riding Museums 1997.86
Springtime in Cornwall - Arthur Hughes - Oil on canvas, before 1900
An associate of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hughes was a painter and an illustrator. His work is noted for the magical glowing colouring and delicate draughtsmanship. His painting of Cornwall is full of crisp spring sunshine.
East Riding Museums 1997.75

Painting for a Living

One artist in our collection literally went to the water for his art.

Reuben Chappell (1870 - 1940) is the best-known and most prolific of the Pierhead Painters, a term used to describe artists who painted ships for a living.

Chappell worked from a studio on Jackson Street in Goole and took commissions at the docks from shipbuilders, masters and owners. In his lifetime he is thought to have painted around 12,000 works!

In 1904 Chappell moved with his wife and children to Par in Cornwall. Unlike the artists who moved south-west for the light, Chappell was attracted by the air: the move away from smoky Goole was an attempt to improve his bronchitis.

Ethel - Reuben Chappell - Oil on canvas
In this painting of the sloop Ethel Reuben Chappell captures the rich browns of Humber waters. Some of Chappell's backgrounds were purely illustrative but this work appears to show the village of Whitton near Trent Falls. Ethel was stranded at St Andrews Dock in 1912 whilst carrying timber from Hull to Sheffield. The boat was lost but the crew rescued.
East Riding Museums G132
George Kilner - Reuben Chappell - Oil on canvas, 1890s
The George Kilner was built by William Caisley at Howdendyke in 1891. The ship was named after Rotherham businessman George Kilner and was most likely used to transport his company's products. 'Kilner Jars' are still familiar today.
East Riding Museums G117
Parthenope of Hull - Reuben Chappell - Watercolour and gouache
This work is undated but is before 1904 when Chappell moved from Goole to Cornwall. The brigantine in the distance is believed to be the Kinnaird of Liverpool which was also painted by Chappell.
East Riding Museums G788
Trevellas of St Agnes - Reuben Chappell - Watercolour
This is the only work by Chappell in our collection painted after his move from Goole to Par, Cornwall in 1904. The Trevellas was a three-masted topsail schooner built on the beach at St.Agnes around 1876. She was registered at Fowey and sailed in the codfish trade to Newfoundland. Trevellas was lost with all her crew in the Irish Sea in 1930.
East Riding Museums G132

Alive by the Water

Waterways are often hives of human activity, providing inspiration for artists to capture a fleeting moment in time.

The illustrative style of Evelyn Saner's Picnic on the Sands is reminiscent of 1930s advertising, with every aspect of a day at the beach document and included.

From the late 1800s onwards the lives of coastal communities became popular subjects for painters, in part due to the influence of artist colonies, such as those at Staithes and Newlyn. In Mending Nets Pre-Raphaelite artist Agnes Bouvier approaches the subject in a consciously decorative style. Lionel Percy Smythe's Shrimpers takes a more realistic approach in an attempt to capture the harsh physical labour of fishing.

Princes Parade, Bridlington - Unknown artist - Watercolour, around 1900
This painting is by an unidentified artist but one who certainly had talent in using highlights of white to great effect. When preparing for this exhibition we discovered an 1875 photograph of the parade had been used as a backing board.
East Riding Museums 1993.42
Shrimpers, - Lionel Percy Smythe - Watercolour, undated
Smythe was born in 1839 and spent much of his life in France. He painted genre and maritime scenes and was associated with the Idyllic School. This group of British artists specialised in rural landscapes, combining elements of socially minded realism and idealism. Shrimpers shows the artist's interest in the reality of this demanding job and his mastery of the challenging medium of watercolour.
East Riding Museums 1997.181
Mending Nets - Agnes Rose Bouvier - Watercolour, 1872
Bouvier was known for her watercolours of rustic scenes with children, inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She was a prolific artist and exhibited often, including after her marriage to the architect Samuel Nicholl in 1874.
East Riding Museums 1997.204
Bathers on a Mediterranean Beach - William Russell Flint - Watercolour, 1913
Russell Flint was a painter, illustrator and lithographer who worked for the Illustrated London News. This piece is from his travels around fashionable locations in Italy, Sicily and Scotland.
East Riding Museums 1997.190
Picnic on the Sands - Evelyn Monica Saner - Oil on canvas, 1938
Evelyn Saner, known as Judy, was an only child who lived at Westwood Lodge in Beverley. She studied at Hull College of Arts and Crafts and then the Royal Academy before enlisting with the Women's Royal Naval Service in World War Two. Evelyn obtained the rank of Second Officer and died in Dehli in 1946 in an air accident. This impressive painting was donated to Beverley Art Gallery by her family after her death.
East Riding Museums 1997.93
Swimming in Beverley Beck - Frederick William Ewell - Oil on board, 1901
The title of this painting could have been changed over time. The location appears to be Beverley and Skidby drain on Figham common. Elwell studied in Paris in the late 1890s and this work is influenced by his experience of French Impressionism.
Kindly on loan from David Hobson
Oh merry goes the time when the heart is young - Charles William Norton - Watercolour, 1934
Charles Norton was a butcher's son who grew up in Toll Gavel, Beverley. He was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) and settled in Surrey. The 1939 census describes him as a retired art master. Although he had moved away, Beverley was clearly close to Norton's heart: this painting has Toll Gavel written under the signature.
East Riding Museums 1997.198