Monday, 17 August 2009


Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in Great Britain. Because of its great size, functions were increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media, the military and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as Yorkshire and the Humber and West Yorkshire.

Yorkshire and Humber Districts Map

Ceremonial county County/ unitary Districts South Yorkshire *

1. Sheffield, 2. Rotherham, 3. Barnsley, 4. Doncaster West Yorkshire * 5. Wakefield, 6. Kirklees, 7. Calderdale, 8. Bradford, 9. Leeds North Yorkshire(part only) 10. North Yorkshire † a.) Selby, b.) Harrogate, c.) Craven, d.) Richmondshire, e.) Hambleton, f.) Ryedale, g.) Scarborough
11. York U.A. East Riding of Yorkshire 12. East Riding of Yorkshire U.A. 13. Kingston upon Hull U.A. Lincolnshire(part only) 14. North Lincolnshire U.A. 15. North East Lincolnshire U.A.

West Yorkshire Map showing location of major towns

Within the borders of the historic county of Yorkshire are areas which are widely considered to be among the greenest in England, due to both the vast stretches of unspoiled countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors and the open aspect of some of the major cities.

Sign Marking Yorkshire Dales

North Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire has sometimes been nicknamed God's Own County.

The emblem of Yorkshire is the white rose of the English royal House of York, and the most commonly used flag representative of Yorkshire is the White Rose on a dark blue background, which after years of use, was finally recognised by the Flag Institute on 29 July 2008. Yorkshire Day, held on 1 August, is a celebration of the general culture of Yorkshire, ranging from its history to its own language.

Yorkshire Flag

Celtic tribes
Early inhabitants of Yorkshire were Celts, who formed two separate tribes, the Brigantes and the Parisii. The Brigantes controlled territory which would later become all of the North Riding of Yorkshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. The tribe controlled most of Northern England and more territory than any other Celtic tribe in England. That they had the Yorkshire area as their heartland is evident in that Isurium Brigantum (now known as Aldborough) was the capital town of their civitas under Roman rule. Six of the nine Brigantian poleis described by Claudius Ptolemaeus in the Geographia fall within the historic county. The Parisii who controlled the area that would become the East Riding of Yorkshire, may have been related to the Parisii of Lutetia Parisiorum, Gaul (known today as Paris, France). Their capital was at Petuaria close to the Humber estuary. The Roman conquest of Britain began in 43 AD, however the Brigantes remained in control of their kingdom as a client state of Rome for an extended period, reigned over by the Brigantian monarchs Cartimandua and her husband Venutius. Initially, this situation suited both the Romans and the Brigantes who were known as the most militant tribe in Britain.

Roman Yorkshire

Statue of Constantine I outside York Minster.

Queen Cartimandua left her husband for Vellocatus, setting off a chain of events which would change the ownership of the Yorkshire area. Cartimandua, due to her good relationship with the Romans was able to keep control of the kingdom, however her former husband staged rebellions against her and her Roman allies. At the second attempt Venutius took back the kingdom, but the Romans under general Petillius Cerialis conquered the Brigantes in 71 AD. Under Roman rule, the high profile of the area continued; the fortified city of Eboracum (now known as York) was named as capital of Britannia Inferior and joint-capital of all Roman Britain. For the two years before the death of Emperor Septimus Severus, the entire Roman Empire was run from Eboracum by him.
A second Emperor Constantius Chlorus died in Yorkshire during a visit in 306 AD, this saw his son Constantine the Great proclaimed Emperor in the city; he would become renowned due to his contributions to Christianity. In the early 400s, the Roman rule ceased with the withdrawal of the last active Roman troops, by this stage the Empire was in heavy decline.

Second Celtic period and Angles
After the Romans left, small Celtic kingdoms arose in Yorkshire; the Kingdom of Ebrauc around York and more notably the Kingdom of Elmet in West Yorkshire. Elmet remained independent from the Northumbrian Angles until some time in the early 7th Century, when King Edwin of Northumbria expelled its last king, Certic, and annexed the region. At its greatest extent, Northumbria stretched from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and from Edinburgh down to Hallamshire in South Yorkshire.

Kingdom of Jórvík

Coin from Eric Bloodaxe's reign

The army of Danish Vikings, the Great Heathen Army as its enemies often referred to it, invaded Northumbrian territory in 886 AD. The Danes conquered and assumed what is now modern day York and renamed it Jórvík, making it the capital city of a new Danish kingdom under the same name. The area which this kingdom covered included most of Southern Northumbria, roughly equivalent to the borders of Yorkshire extending further West.
The Danes went on to conquer an even larger area of England which afterwards became known as the Danelaw; but whereas most of the Danelaw was still English land, albeit in submission to Viking overlords, it was in the Kingdom of Jórvík that the only truly Viking territory on mainland Britain was ever established. The Kingdom prospered, taking advantage of the vast trading empire of the Viking nations, and established commercial ties with the British Isles, North-West Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Founded by the Dane Halfdan Ragnarsson, ruled for the great part by Danish kings, and populated by the families and subsequent ancestors of Danish Vikings, the kingdom nonetheless passed into Norwegian hands during its twilight years. Eric Bloodaxe, a Norwegian who was the last independent Viking king of Jórvík, is a particularly noted figure in history, and his bloodthirsty approach towards leadership may have been at least partly responsible for convincing the Danish inhabitants of the region to accept English sovereignty so readily in the years that followed.
After around 100 years of its volatile existence, the Kingdom of Jorvik finally came to an end. The Kingdom of Wessex was now in its ascendant and established its dominance over the North in general, placing Yorkshire again within Northumbria, which retained a certain amount of autonomy as an almost-independent earldom rather than a separate kingdom. The Wessex Kings of England were reputed to have respected the Norse customs in Yorkshire and left law-making in the hands of the local aristocracy.

Norman conquest

York Minster, Western elevation

In the weeks immediately leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, Harold II of England was distracted by events in Yorkshire. His brother Tostig and Harold Hardrada King of Norway were attempting a take over bid in the North and had already won the Battle of Fulford. The King of England marched North and the two armies met at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Tostig and Hardrada were both killed and their army was defeated decisively. However, Harold Godwinson was forced immediately to march his army back down to the South where William the Conqueror was landing. The King was defeated at Hastings and this led to the Norman conquest of England.

12th century Cistercian abbey (Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Park).

The people of the North rebelled against the Normans in September 1069 AD, enlisting Sweyn II of Denmark; they tried to take back York but the Normans burnt it before they could. What followed was the Harrying of the North ordered by William, from York to Durham all crops, domestic animals and farming tools were scorched. Many villages between the towns were burnt and many local Northerners were indiscriminately murdered. During the winter that followed, whole families starved to death, thousands of peasants died of cold and hunger; Orderic Vitalis put the estimation at "more than 100,000" people from the North dead from hunger.
In the centuries following, many abbeys and priories were built in Yorkshire. The Norman landowners were keen to increase their revenues and established new towns such as Barnsley, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Scarborough, Sheffield and others. Of the towns founded before the conquest only Bridlington, Pocklington and York carried on at a prominent level. The population of Yorkshire was booming, until it like the rest of Britain was hit by the Great Famine in the years between 1315 and 1322. In the early 1300s the people of Yorkshire also had to contest with the Battle of the Standard at Northallerton with the Scots, representing the Kingdom of England led by Archbishop Thurstan of York soldiers from Yorkshire defeated the more numerous Scots. The Black Death reached Yorkshire by 1349, killing around a third of the entire population.

Wars of the Roses

Yorkist king Richard III grew up at Middleham.

When King Richard II was overthrown in 1399, antagonism between the House of York and the House of Lancaster, both branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, began to emerge. Eventually the two houses fought for the throne of England in a series of civil wars, commonly known as the Wars of the Roses. Some of the battles took place in Yorkshire, such as those at Wakefield and Towton, the latter of which is known as the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Richard III was the last Yorkist king. Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster, defeated and killed Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He then became King Henry VII and married Elizabeth of York daughter of Yorkist Edward IV, ending the wars. The two roses of white and red, emblems of the Houses of York and Lancaster respectively, were combined to form the Tudor Rose of England.

Saints, Civil War and textile industry

The industrial revolution led to the building of slums in industrial Yorkshire such as these in Wetherby.

Bradford Wool Exchange

The wool textile industry which had previously been a cottage industry centred on the old market towns moved to the West Riding where budding entrepreneurs were building mills that took advantage of water power gained by harnessing the rivers and streams flowing from the Pennines. The developing textile industry in general helped Wakefield and Halifax grow.

St. Margaret's Stained Glass Window

When Henry VIII started the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 a popular uprising known as Pilgrimage of Grace started in Yorkshire as a protest. Due to the Protestant Reformation of this period England became a Protestant country, however some of the Catholic contingent in Yorkshire continued to practice their religion and those caught were executed during the reign of Elizabeth I. One such person was a York woman named Margaret Clitherow who was later canonised.

Battle of Marston Moor in 1644
During the English Civil War, which started in 1642 between king and parliament, Yorkshire had divided loyalties; Hull famously shut the gates of the city on the king when he came to enter the city a few months before fighting began, while the North Riding of Yorkshire in particular was strongly royalist. York was the base for Royalists, and from there they captured Leeds and Wakefield only to have them recaptured a few months later. The royalists won the Battle of Adwalton Moor meaning they controlled Yorkshire (with the exception of Hull). From their base in Hull the Roundheads (parliamentarians) fought back, re-taking Yorkshire town by town, until they won the Battle of Marston Moor and with it control of all of the North of England.

Bradford and Leeds Canal

In the 16th and 17th centuries Leeds and other wool industry centred towns continued to grow, along with Huddersfield, Hull and Sheffield, while coal mining first came into prominence in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Canals and turnpike roads were introduced in the late 1700s.

Leeds to Liverpool Canal at the Saltaire

In the following century the spa towns of Harrogate and Scarborough also flourished, due to people believing mineral water had curing properties.

Modern Yorkshire

Lister's Mill, Manningham, Bradford.

Titus Salt's mill in Saltaire, Bradford is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The 19th century saw Yorkshire's continued growth, with the population growing and the Industrial Revolution continuing with prominent industries in coal, textile and steel (especially in Sheffield). However, despite the booming industry, living conditions declined in the industrial towns due to overcrowding, this saw bouts of cholera in both 1832 and 1848. Fortunately for the county, advances were made by the end of the century with the introduction of modern sewers and water supplies. Several Yorkshire railway networks were introduced as railways spread across the country to reach remote areas. County councils were created for the three ridings in 1889, but their area of control did not include the large towns, which became county boroughs, and included an increasing large part of the population.
During the Second World War, Yorkshire became an important base for RAF Bomber Command and brought the county into the cutting edge of the war. In the 1970s there were major reforms of local government throughout the United Kingdom. Some of the changes were unpopular, and controversially Yorkshire and its ridings lost status in 1974 as part of the Local Government Act 1972. The East Riding was resurrected with reduced boundaries in 1996 with the abolition of Humberside. With slightly different borders, the government office entity which currently contains most of the area of Yorkshire is the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England. This region includes a northern slice of Lincolnshire, but omits Saddleworth (now in Greater Manchester); the Forest of Bowland (Lancashire); Sedbergh and Dent (Cumbria); Upper Teesdale (County Durham) as well as Middlesbrough, and Redcar and Cleveland.

Physical and geological
Historically, the northern boundary of Yorkshire was the River Tees, the eastern boundary was the North Sea coast and the southern boundary was the Humber Estuary and River Don and River Sheaf. The western boundary meandered along the western slopes of the Pennine Hills to again meet the River Tees.

River Tees

Humber Bridge

River Don at Hillsborough

River Sheaf at Highfield

Satellite picture of the Pennines

It is bordered by several other historic counties in the form of County Durham,

Durham Cathedral and County Court

Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Westmorland.


In Yorkshire there is a very close relationship between the major topographical areas and the geological period in which they were formed. The Pennine chain of Hills in the west is of Carboniferous origin. The central vale is Permo-Triassic. The North York Moors in the north-east of the county are Jurassic in age while the Yorkshire Wolds to the south east are Cretaceous chalk uplands.

Natural areas

Nidderdale, Yorkshire Dales

The countryside of Yorkshire has acquired the common nickname of God's Own County.
In recent times, North Yorkshire has displaced Kent to take the title Garden of England according to The Guardian. Yorkshire includes the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, and part of the Peak District National Park. Nidderdale and the Howardian Hills are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Spurn Point, Flamborough Head and the coastal North York Moors are designated Heritage Coast areas, and are noted for their scenic views with rugged cliffs such as the jet cliffs at Whitby, the limestone cliffs at Filey and the chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head. Moor House - Upper Teesdale, most of which is part of the former North Riding of Yorkshire, is one of England's largest national nature reserves.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds runs nature reserves such as the one at Bempton Cliffs with coastal wildlife such as the Northern Gannet, Atlantic Puffin and Razorbill. Spurn Point is a narrow, 3 miles (4.8 km) long sand spit. It is a National Nature Reserve owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is noted for its cyclical nature whereby the spit is destroyed and re-created approximately once every 250 years. There are seaside resorts in Yorkshire with sand beaches; Scarborough is Britain's oldest seaside resort dating back to the spa town-era in the 17th century, while Whitby has been voted as the United Kingdom's best beach, with a "postcard-perfect harbour".


Bridgewater Place, a symbol of Leeds' growing financial importance.

Yorkshire largely has a mixed economy. Leeds is Yorkshire's largest city and the main centre of trade and commerce. Leeds is one of the UK's largest financial centres. Leeds' traditional industries have been mixed between the service based industries as well as textile manufacturing and Coal mining to the south and east of the city. Sheffield traditionally has had heavy industrial manufacturing, such as Coal mining and the Steel industry, since the decline of such industries, Sheffield has attracted a tertiary and administrative businesses including a growing retail trade, particularly with the development of Meadowhall. Bradford, Halifax, Keighley and Huddersfield are traditional centres of Wool milling. These have since declined, and in areas such as Bradford, Dewsbury and Keighley have suffered a decline in their local economy. North Yorkshire has an established tourist industry with two national parks (Yorkshire Dales National Park, North Yorkshire Moors National Park, [Harrogate]], York and Scarborough and such an industry is growing in Leeds. Kingston upon Hull is Yorkshire's largest port and has a large manufacturing base, its fishing industry has however declined somewhat in recent years. The North still has an agricultural backdrop, although this is much more diversified than once was the case, with tourism to help support local businesses.
Many large British companies are based in Yorkshire such as Asda (Leeds), Morrisons (Bradford), Comet, (Hull), Halifax Bank (Halifax), Yorkshire Bank (Leeds), (Leeds), Tetley's Bitter (Leeds), Optare (Leeds), Wharfedale (Leeds), Plaxton (Scarborough),McCains (Scarborough), John Smith's (Tadcaster) and formerly Yorkshire Television (Leeds).

Castle Howard

Throughout Yorkshire many castles were built during the Norman-Breton period, particularly after the Harrying of the North. These included Bowes Castle, Pickering Castle, Richmond Castle, Skipton Castle, York Castle and others. Later medieval castles at Helmsley, Middleham and Scarborough were built as a means of defence against the invading Scots. Middleham is notable because Richard III of England spent his childhood there. The remains of these castles, some being English Heritage sites, are popular tourist destinations. There are several stately homes in Yorkshire which carry the name "castle" in their title, even though they are more akin to a palace. The most notable examples are Allerton Castle and Castle Howard, both linked to the Howard family. Castle Howard and the Earl of Harewood's residence, Harewood House, are included amongst the Treasure Houses of England, a group of nine English stately homes.

Whitby Abbey

Leeds Town Hall
There are numerous other Grade I listed buildings within the historic county including public buildings such as Leeds Town Hall, Sheffield Town Hall, the Yorkshire Museum and Guildhall at York. Large estates with significant buildings were constructed at Brodsworth Hall, Temple Newsam and Wentworth Castle. In addition to this there are properties which are conserved and managed by the National Trust, such as Nunnington Hall, the Rievaulx Terrace & Temples and Studley Royal Park. Religious architecture includes extant cathedrals as well as the ruins of monasteries and abbeys. Many of these prominent buildings suffered from the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII; these includes Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Gisborough Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, St Mary's Abbey and Whitby Abbey among others. Notable religious buildings of historic origin still in use include York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, Beverley Minster, Bradford Cathedral and Ripon Cathedral.

Literature and art

The Brontë sisters

When Yorkshire formed the southern part of the kingdom of Northumbria there were several notable poets, scholars and ecclesiastics, including Alcuin, Cædmon and Wilfrid. The most esteemed literary family from the county are the three Brontë sisters, with part of the county around Haworth being nicknamed Brontë Country in their honour. Their novels, written in the mid-1800s, caused a sensation when they were first published, yet were subsequently accepted into the canon of great English literature. Among the most celebrated novels written by the sisters are Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights was almost a source used to depict life in Yorkshire, illustrating the type of people that reside there in its characters, and emphasizing the use of the stormy Yorkshire moors. Nowadays, the parsonage which was their former home is now a museum in their honour. Bram Stoker authored Dracula while living in Whitby and it includes several elements of local folklore including the beaching of the Russian ship Dmitri, which became the basis of Demeter in the book.
The novelist tradition in Yorkshire continued into the 20th century, with authors such as J. B. Priestley, Alan Bennett and Barbara Taylor Bradford being prominent examples. Taylor Bradford is noted for A Woman of Substance which was one of the top-ten best selling novels in history. Another well known author was children's writer Arthur Ransome who penned the Swallows and Amazons series. James Herriot, the best selling author of over 60 million copies of books about his experiences of some 50 years as a veterinarian in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, the town which he refers to as Darrowby in his books (although born in Sunderland), has been admired for his easy reading style and interesting characters. Poets include Ted Hughes, W. H. Auden, William Empson and Andrew Marvell. Two well known sculptors emerged in the 20th century; contemporaries Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Some of their works are available for public viewing at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There are several art galleries in Yorkshire featuring extensive collections, such as Ferens Art Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, Millennium Galleries and York Art Gallery. Some of the better known local painters are William Etty and David Hockney; many works by the latter are housed at Salts Mill 1853 Gallery in Saltaire.


William Wilberforce, slavery abolisher, was the MP for Yorkshire in 1784–1812.

From 1290, Yorkshire was represented by two Members of Parliament of the House of Commons of the Parliament of England. After the union with Scotland two members represented the county in the Parliament of Great Britain from 1707 to 1800 and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1832. In 1832 the county benefited from the disfranchisement of Grampound by taking an additional two members. Yorkshire was represented at this time as one single, large, county constituency. Like other counties, there were also some county boroughs within Yorkshire, the oldest was the City of York which had existed since the ancient De Montfort's Parliament of 1265. After the Reform Act 1832, Yorkshire's political representation in parliament was drawn from its subdivisions, with Members of Parliament representing each of the three historic Ridings of Yorkshire; East Riding, North Riding and West Riding constituencies.

Map of Ridings
1 North • 2 West • 3 East

For the 1865 general elections and onwards, the West Riding was further divided into Northern, Eastern and Southern parliamentary constituencies, though these only lasted until the major Redistribution of Seats Act 1885. This act saw more localisation of government in the United Kingdom, with the introduction of 26 new parliamentary constituencies within Yorkshire, while the Local Government Act 1888 introduced some reforms for the county boroughs, of which there were 8 in Yorkshire by the end of the 19th century.
With the Representation of the People Act 1918 there was some reshuffling on a local level for the 1918 general election, revised again during the 1950s. The most controversial reorganisation of local government in Yorkshire was the Local Government Act 1972, put into practice in 1974. Under the act, the Ridings lost their lieutenancies, shrievalties, administrative counties. County boroughs and their councils were abolished, to be replaced by metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties with vastly changed borders. Although some government officials and Prince Charles have asserted such reform is not meant to alter the ancient boundaries or cultural loyalties, there are pressure groups such as the Yorkshire Ridings Society who want greater recognition for the historic boundaries. In 1996 the East Riding of Yorkshire was reformed as a unitary authority area and a ceremonial county. The Yorkshire and the Humber region of government office covers most, but not all of the historic county.Yorkshire and the Humber is a constituency for European elections, returning six MEPs to the European Parliament.

Monarchy and peerage
When the territory of Yorkshire began to take shape as a result of the invasion of the Danish vikings, they instituted a monarchy based at the settlement of Jórvík , York. The reign of the Viking kings came to an end with the last king Eric Bloodaxe dying in battle in 954 after the invasion and conquest by the Kingdom of England from the south. Jórvík was the last of the independent kingdoms to be taken to form part of the Kingdom of England and thus the local monarchal title became defunct.
The White Rose of York remains as the prime symbol of Yorkshire identity. Though the monarchal title became defunct, it was succeeded by the creation of the Earl of York title of nobility by king of England Edgar the Peaceful in 960.(The earldom covered the general area of Yorkshire and is sometimes referred to as the Earl of Yorkshire) The title passed through the hands of various nobles, decided upon by the current king of England. The last man to hold the title was William le Gros, however the earldom was abolished by Henry II as a result of a troubled period known as The Anarchy.
The peerage was recreated by Edward III in 1385, this time in the form of the prestigious title of Duke of York which he gave to his son Edmund of Langley. Edmund founded the House of York; later the title would be merged with that of the King of England. Much of the modern day symbolism of Yorkshire , such as the White Rose of York, is derived from the Yorkists, giving the house a special affinity within the culture of Yorkshire. Especially celebrated is the Yorkist king Richard III who spent much of his life at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Since that time the title has passed through the hands of many, being merged with the crown and then recreated several times. The title of Duke of York remains prestigious and is given to the second son of the British monarch.

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