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• The largest county in the land — so large it had to be divided by the Danes for administrative purposes into its ancient divisions called Ridings, or 'thridings' (third parts). Between them the North, East and West Ridings account for roughly an eighth of England's land area and a tenth of its population, in general terms, the North Riding, stretching in a ribbon across the county from the Pennines to the North Sea, can be said to be predominantly pastoral; the West Riding, running from the Pennines southeast, is industrial; and the East Riding, running between them to the Humber Estuary, is given over primarily to arable farming.

• The shape of this county, in the north- east of England, is like a ragged square, pulled down a little in its lower left hand corner. Within the boundaries of the three Ridings is amazing scenic variation.

• The Pennine mountains, grey-white limestone peaks reaching upwards of 2,000 feet, provide the county's western boundary, in the south can be found millstone grit deposits, fringed with the large coal measures which make up some of Britain's largest coal fields, while in the northeast, the North York Moors composed of the considerable Cleveland Hills provide a bastion against the growing encroachment of the North Sea.

• The large central plain, called the Vale of York, in the middle of Yorkshire comprises rich alluvial soil suitable for all kinds of farming.


Origin of name: York comes originally from the Latinised Celtic Eboracum, meaning the estate of Eburos; to this was added the wic (dwelling) termination by the Angles, producing Eoforwic. This was rendered as Jorvik by the Danes to become York. Name first recorded: 1050 as Eoferwicucir. County Motto:

Audi Consilium ("Heed Council").


YORK The Jorvik Viking Centre takes you on slow- moving carts back through time - smells and all. St Williams College is HQ of the York Brass Rubbings Society and a fine half-timbered building you can visit by horse and cart too! it was Charles I's Royal Mint and printing press. A unique city.

Other Towns

NORTH RIDING: CAPITAL - NORTHALLERTON An old posting town with many staging inns to prove it. The long curving main street broadens into a busy market place with many Georgian buildings in evidence.

HAWES The largest livestock market in the north takes place in this small town. Home to Wensleydale cheese introduced by Cistercian monks but taken over by farmers after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A cheese-making factory was set up in 1897 which you can visit. The Wensleydale Creamery Museum gives another sort of flavour of rural life in the early 1900s.

HELMSLEY The heart of the moors and one of Yorkshire's fairest market towns on the banks of the Rye. West of the market square lies the gaunt 13th- century ruin of Helmsley Castle and two miles away stands the fabulous 12th-century Rievaulx (pronounced Reevo)Abbey.

MIDDLESBROUGH iron ore was discovered here in 1850 in the Cleveland Hills and this dying village was transformed. Steel-making followed in 1875, then engineering and by the 1970s the largest petro-chemical industry in Europe. Housing estates, shopping centres and factory chimneys predominate.

PICKERING The story goes that a woad-painted warrior lost his ring here and found it in a stomach of a pike, hence 'pick-a-ring'. That's a nice touch. An important staging post between York and Whitby in the 1700s, the White Swan was a resting place before the bone-shaking journey across the moors. Red pantile roofs advertise Smiddy Hill once the old cattle market place. Fantastic 18th-century murals grace the walls of St Peter and St Paul's Church.

SCARBOROUGH "Are you going to Scarborough Fair?" serenaded Simon and Garfunkel, and in medieval times traders came here for the 45-day fair. Mineral waters were discovered in 1620 followed closely by the first seaside resort. Oliver's Mount provides a super view over this 'great fischar toune' as one 7th-century angler put it.

WHITBY Herring still comes in to this port to be sold fresh in markets across moors and dales. 200 years ago it was whale blubber that reeked all over the town.

• Bowes •Guisborough • Marske • Yarm

EAST RIDING: CAPITAL – BEVERLEY The sign above the Push inn shows the market place at around 1800 and really little has changed except for traffic. The Corn Exchange is now the Picture House - the oldest cinema in use in England. St Mary's Church and Beverley Minster are ecclesiastical gems with the world's largest collection of carvings of medieval musical instruments.

KINGSTON-UPON-HULL (otherwise known as Hull) Was badly hit during bombing raids in World War II and has been re-built as a modern and Great Yorkshire City as its slogan trumpets, it developed after the war as one of the country's largest ports (running for seven miles down the north side of the Humber) and with the largest fishing operation in the land. The dock and old town have been tastefully redeveloped and there is a fascinating Town Docks Museum highlighting Hull's dockland heritage.

• Bridlington • Filey • Hedon • Pocklington

WEST RIDING: CAPITAL - WAKEFIELD important weaving and dying centre as far back as the 13th century and grain market. The city centre has its Bull Ring with modern shops and the cathedral has the tallest spire in Yorkshire at 247 feet.

HARROGATE Home of the tea room - the first was opened in 1919 by Frederick Belmont and known affectionately as 'Betty's'. Novelist Agatha Christie was discovered here staying incognito (having disappeared for 10 days). A Hollywood film Agatha with Dustin Hoffman was filmed on location here.

HUDDERSFIELD Boasts the envy of many sporting clubs with its magnificent new MacAlpine Stadium. LEEDS Once proud textile centre but still a bustling shopping centre with many grand Victorian buildings. From a market stall here one Michael Marks went on to conquer the high streets of the land with M&S.

PONTEFRACT The liqourice for the famous Pontefract cakes - '/2-a-crown-sized pastilles - is no longer grown here, but local firms still produce the tasty treat with the emblem on top.

SHEFFIELD The best indoor swimming pool facilities in the country at Pond's Forge, and the city hosted the World Student Games in a blare of publicity, it is also the home of peerless, stainless British cutlery!

SKIPTON Marvellous medieval castle. Barges can be hired here to travel the canal. Close by are the five- rise locks at Malham and the rare double arch bridge at East Marton - not to be bypassed! Barnoldswick • Barnsley • Dewsbury • Earby • Goole • Rotherham • Saddleworth • Sedbergh

• Selby • Todmorden (partly in Lancashire)


• January 6: The traditional Haxey Hood Game, which has been played for around 700 years, is held in Haxey, near Doncaster.

• Mid-February: The Great St Valentine's Fair, Leeds.

• May: The World Dock Pudding Championships take place at Hebden Bridge at Mytholmroyd Community Centre. The local delicacy is precooked and brought to the competition in a jar or dish. it is made of dock leaves, nettles, oatmeal, onions, butter and seasoning. The dock pudding is then heated through along with bacon and eggs to form part of a traditional Yorkshire breakfast. The dock leaves used are Potygonum Bistorto and not the common cow dock.

• April: Competitors set off the Royal Oak public house in Ossett on a Coal Carrying Championship.

• April: Harrogate Spring Flower Show. The autumn flower show in September is also worth a visit at the great Yorkshire Showground; plus a competition to find the world's heaviest onion.

• Late April: Three Peaks Race, Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

• Mid-May: The old custom of the Planting of the Penny Hedge takes place in Whitby.

• Mid-June: Harewood Classic Car Show, Harewood House, near Leeds.

• June: Beverley international Folk Festival.

• Late June/Early July: Bradford Festival, one of Britain's largest street and community festivals.

• July: Great Yorkshire Show, Harrogate.

• Mid-July: Harrogate Cricket Festival, annual festival featuring a county championship match and the Cost Cutter Cup knock-out competition.

• Late-July: Ryedale Show, full agricultural show at Welburn Park, Kirkbymoorside, near York.

• Early August: Old Gooseberry Show: held at St Heddas School, Egton Bridge has been going for 150 years and was created to find, surprisingly enough, the heaviest gooseberry, some as large as tennis balls!

• August 1: Yorkshire Day.

• Late-September: Scarborough Angling Festival, shore and boating competitions at the North Sea coast resort.

• Mid October: Autumn Steam Gala on the North York Moors Railway, Pickering station.


The principal rivers - the Ouse and its tributaries the Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Derwent and Don — flow east into the Humber.

Highest point

Mickle Fell at 2,591 feet. Thornton, near Bradford. Haworth, the pretty town in the


• Legendary literary figures of 19th-century England, the Bronte sisters - Anne, Charlotte and Emily - were born at Worth valley where the parsonage home of the sisters is located, is portrayed in the film version of Emily's classic Wuthering Heights.

• Emmerdale, the long-running television series about life in a small Yorkshire town, is shot on location in Esholt and the nearby town of Otley.

• The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett's story about an arrogant orphan girl who is sent to a Yorkshire mansion, was filmed partly at Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, and Allerton Park, outside Knaresborough. The film stars Maggie Smith. Location shooting for the long- running TV series Last of the Summer Wine was done in Holmfirth.

• Artist David Hockney was raised in Bradford, and there is the 1853 Gallery housing the world's largest collection of his work at Saltaire.

• Playwright Alan Bennett was born in Leeds and is one of its most famous sons.

• Alan Ayckbourn, has resided in Scarborough for the past 20 years and has premiered 47 of his own plays at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

• Film and stage actor Tom Courtenay was born in Hull as was Amy Johnson, CBE, the British aviator.

• Mother Shipton was a seer extraordinaire. Her cave at Knaresborough is really spooky.

• Popular chat show host Russell Harty lived up until he died at Giggleswick.

• Captain Cook sailed from Whitby to discover the east coast of Australia. His statue and m are housed in the town.

• Cook may not have discovered Australia if it had not been for the invention of the chronometer by another Yorkshireman, John Harrison.

• Actor Charles Laughton, of many classic black-and- white films from the 1930s-50s including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was born in Scarborough, the son of an hotelier.

• Dracula author Bram Stoker was so inspired by the dramatic setting of the clifftop graveyard at Whitby while on holiday there, that he used it for one of the scenes in his classic horror story.

• Probably Yorkshire's most extraordinary celebrity wedding ever was when Headingly hero Fred Trueman's son married Hollywood heroine Raquel Welch's daughter at Bolton Priory.

local government

• EAST RIDING: is governed by two unitary councils of Kingston upon Hull and East Riding for the main part with a two-tier system operational in the far north where a swathe of the East Riding stretching from Filey to Norton is two-tier by North Yorkshire County Council, with Filey and Hunmanby coming under Scarborough and the rest under Ryedale Council. In 1996 a new ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire was created which omitted File/, Norton and other historic East Riding towns but included the West Riding's Goole!

• NORTH RIDING: Has two-tier local government for most of its vast lands with North Yorkshire County Council and the five districts of Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and lastly Teesdale which along with Durham County Council provides local government for the Lune and Stainmore Forests areas of the North Riding. The three unitary authorities of Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton on Tees (shared with County Durham) provide services for the heavily populated northeast corner of the North Riding.

• WEST RIDING: Primarily administered by the nine large Metropolitan Boroughs of Bradford, Barnsley, Calderdale, Doncaster, Kirklees. Leeds, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield. But the northern part of the West Riding is two-tier with North Yorkshire County Council and Craven, Harrogate and part of Richmondshire operating in unison. Sedbergh in the far northwest is administered by Cumbria County and South Lakeland Councils. A large block of Yorkshire called the Forest of Bowland, Earby and Barnoldswick is governed by Lancashire County Council plus the Ribble Valley District Council for the former and Pendle District Council the latter. Saddleworth in the far west of the West Riding is under the unitary Oldham (Lancashire). Metropolitan Borough. Goole is governed by the burghers of the East Riding unitary council.


IF YOU'RE LOOKING for one county that's a Britain-in- miniature, this is it.. Think of high fells and rolling moors, mountain torrents and soothing estuaries, wooded dales and spreading plains, criss-crossed with ancient stone walls and drovers' roads - and this is just the hors d'oeuvres of this vast place. The ridings are so very different: East is flat and reminds me more of Lincolnshire; the North has some breathtaking scenery along with some of the West but which on the whole is a reflection of Red Rose Lancashire on the other side of the Pennines.


It goes without saying that Britain's largest county contains within its borders a rich diversity of character. The frequently hard way of life in both town and countryside has given birth to folk of determined (anddogged) character, but Yorkshire 'grit' has served both the county and the country well.. In literature, it has produced writers of the standing of the Brontes, Anne, Charlotte and Emily, JB Priestley and Alan Bennett. Yorkshiremen - and women - have excelled at sport, particularly at cricket. The hallowed turf of the Headingley cricket ground in Leeds echoes with the footsteps of world famous tykes such as Wilfred Rhodes, Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton and, more recently, Geoffrey Boycott and 'Fiery Fred' Trueman. Winners of the Derby and Grand National have been trained at Malton and Middleham and throughout the year you can enjoy horse racing at Redcar, Thirsk, Catterick, Pontefract, Ripon, York. Beverley, Doncaster and Northallerton.

There is a link, of course, between sport and food. In season, the grouse and trout which appear on restaurant menus invariably would have been caught locally. There are also foods which are exclusively Yorkshire in origin. Yorkshire pudding, light as a feather, was supposedly an invention to pad out the Sunday roast when times were hard and portions more meagre. But the county can also offer tasty York ham, Wensleydale cheese, which is made from the milk of cows reared in the dales, and don't forget curd tarts from leftovers of the creamy cheese, and Fat Rascals which are huge scones with lots of fruit and spice and Pontefract cakes made from liquorice.

Yorkshire confectionery is also valued. In the medieval city of York, Rowntrees turns out Yorkie bars and other 'naughty but nice' goodies, while Halifax boasts, as well as the world's largest building society, the largest toffee factory - Mackintosh's - the sweet, heavy aroma competing for supremacy in the city centre with the traffic fumes. A century ago the air pollution in Halifax was so bad that smogs descended upon the town for weeks on end. In an attempt to prevent pollution, an eccentric dyer called John Wainhouse conceived a plan to build a chimney on a hill 1,000 feet above his dye works. To conceal its purpose the tower was designed in an italianate style. It never served its purpose, but it still stands today, beside the A646, as arguably the most absurd folly in the West Riding. This is also a county rich in folklore and superstition. In the cathedral city of Ripon, the deafening blast of an ox's horn can still be heard each evening at OPM - a throwback to the days when the town wakeman used to guarantee the safety of citizens after dark by sounding a nightly curfew. But the glittering prize in Yorkshire's treasure chest is undoubtedly York itself, a walled, medieval city which can trace its history back for more than 2,000 years.

Although in its minster York possesses the largest medieval church in western Europe, many of its buildings are on a smaller scale. The city centre is a dream for those interested in architecture and history and the beauty of it is that it can easily be explored on foot. Take a stroll down the street known as the Shambles and you really do transport yourself back to medieval times. The buildings on either side of the street, which in the Middle Ages would have been butcher's shops but are now cafes, craft shops and the like, are built so close together that they almost touch at the top. A mile and a half from the centre of York is one of Britain's most stylish country house hotels. Middlethorpe Hall is a Grade II listed house built by a Yorkshire industrialist in 1699. It overlooks York racecourse and is sumptuously, if a little formally, furnished - and has a restaurant to satisfy discerning diners.

Yorkshire's largest house, though, is Castle Howard, six miles west of Malton, not so much a stately home, more a palace. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle chose Sir John Vanburgh, who was later responsible for Blenheim Palace, to design the building, to replace Henderskeife Castle which was burned down in 1693.. It took 37 years from 1700 to complete the house and grounds, and the result is a masterpiece which has truly withstood the passing of time. As well as being a treasure house of art (paintings by Rubens, Tintoretto, Canaletto, Reynolds and others), Castle Howard has in its costume gallery the largest private collection of garments from the 18th century to the present day and is a regular television location 'star'. No other town or city in the county can hold a candle to York - but that's not to say there isn't plenty of interest elsewhere. The great towns of Yorkshire's industrial heartland are rediscovering their past. Bradford, the once- great wool town, has rebuilt itself with an enthusiasm which the Victorians would have admired. Smoke control and stone scrubbing have given a facelift to the Gothic- styled City Hall. Next to it is a new park with a rose garden and the city also boasts the splendid National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, which traces the history of the movies from the first blurred snaps to Britain's biggest cinema screen - IMAX. But some things never change: St Blaise, the patron saint of wool- combers, still overlooks the Market Square from the tower of the Wool Exchange, even if it is now an office block. But the smaller towns offer greater allure for the visitor - places like Harrogate and Richmond, Settle and Skipton. Unlike that of any other Yorkshire venue, Harrogate s history is as a resort. The town's mineral springs were discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, but Harrogate didn't really achieve great fame until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when thousands thronged to take the waters. In 1926 the Royal Pump Room served 1,500 glasses of sulphurous water in one morning and althoughthe demand for spa cures may now be dwindling, the town still thrives on its tourism and conference business. Richmond is another attractive town, crowned by its castle, sitting high on a cliff, surrounded on three sides by the fast-flowing waters of the River Swale. In Elizabethan times, it was the centre of the home-knitting industry, exporting gloves, caps and stockings to Holland (its said that the first were sent as a gift to Queen Elizabeth I) - but today it gains greater fame as the northern gateway to the Dales. This is James Herriot country - much of the filming of the popular TV series All Creatures Great and Small about the life of a Yorkshire vet took place around Reeth, a village about ten miles away. Richmond makes a good base for exploring not just the Dales, but much of northern Yorkshire - the most strikingly beautiful part of the county.

Fine Pennine mountains, among them Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent, make a superb backdrop to the landscape. Swaledale, steep and rocky, and Wensleydale are both extremely lovely As the North Riding stretches east, it rises into the heather-covered slopes of the North York Moors. In winter, it is a land of pure air, rocky streams, hidden waterfalls and roads which are often impassable after heavy falls of snow. But in summer it presents an altogether softer face to the world, the sun beating down on lonely miles of road, the air heavy with the sweetness of warm grass and the breeze carrying a myriad of different scents from the valleys below. Here can be found lesser- known - and therefore lesser-crowded - dales like Farndale (ablaze with daffodils in early spring), Bilsdale and Rosedale. Over on the coast are picture-book fishing villages such as Staithes and Robin Hood's Bay, and Page 177 of 180 celebrated resorts like Whitby and Scarborough, where around 1660 a Dr Whittle came up with the-then novel idea of sea bathing, thereby allowing the town to steal a march on its rivals and guaranteeing it a place in the history of tourism for all time.


Yorkshire is shrouded in the mists of prehistory. The first major development started more than 4,000 years ago when Bronze Age farmers began settling in a region which had previously only supported wandering bands of Stone Age hunter-gatherers. They cleared the land for their animals and crops and put their cremated dead in urns, burying them in circular barrows such as the one at Danby Rigg, west of Whitby. Later the British tribes rebelled against the Roman occupation, so the Romans were obliged to send legions to quell the discontent, setting up camps in places like Aldborough (Isurium), Bowes (La Vatrse) Doncaster (Danum) and York (Eboracum). After the Romans, armies of Angles and Saxons, marauding tribes from the other side of the North Sea, invaded. But they did not rule for long, pushed out by the Vikings, who settled and made the country their own.

But the greatest step forward in Yorkshire's development came with the arrival of the Norman barons, who built 22 castles in the county before 1216. Some of these have been destroyed, some have decayed, but an impressive handful at Scarborough, Skipton, Conisbrough, Richmond and Pontefract remain. The Normans also built cathedrals, such as York and Beverley, churches, abbeys and monasteries. Before Henry VIII s Dissolution programme, there were more monasteries in Yorkshire than in any other county in England and two, Fountains and Rievaulx, survive as a reminder of their great beauty and impressive size.Several great battles in the Wars of the Roses (1455-85) were fought in Yorkshire - including the bloodiest at Towton near Tadcaster in 1461 - not for territorial purposes, but for the requirements of their feudal allegiance. It was very different, though, in the Civil War, when the towns of the West Riding, and Hull in the East Riding, were for Parliament, while the rich central belt fought for Charles I. The whole county is littered with places which have played a prominent part in the nations history. Richard II was incarcerated in Knaresborough Castle on his way to his death at Pontefract in 1400, while Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned for six months in Bolton Castle near Skipton in 1568.

Yorkshire's proud industrial record is second to none. The proximity of sheep and streams for washing wool gave rise to the woollen industry, with cloth made by hand in the workers' homes for many centuries and was being exported possibly as early as AD796. Edward HI helped fine tune the wool trade in the 14th century by inviting over Flemish weavers, who taught Yorkshire folk how to spin more (and finer) yarn. The Valleys of the Aire and the Calder were nucleus for this blossoming business that turned little villages into the towns of Leeds, Halifax, Bradford and Wakefield to name a few. The West Riding was at the heart of this trade but other parts of Yorkshire also contributed their share. Helmsley, for example, in the heart of the moors is one of Yorkshire's most attractive market towns lying on the banks of the River Rye, and at the height of its prosperity as a weaving centre its loom operators had a reputation for prodigious thirst, breaking into song and wearing leather breeches. Settle was famous for its sheep fairs with tanning and the sale of raw and spun wool also important as well as its railway line to Carlisle.

The Industrial Revolution transformed the wool trade from hand-power to steam and the West Riding's looms were in their heyday continually weaving cloth on 30,000 looms and exporting £150 million's worth of cloth per annum. Around the same time the people of Sheffield were making steel in their homes by smelting iron ore by charcoal as long ago as the 14th century. This is confirmed by the Miller in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (written in about 1387), who carried "a Sheffield thwytel in his hose". In 1801 only a handful of people lived on the spot where that great conurbation of Middlesbrough now lies. Thanks to the discovery of iron ore nearby and its exploitation Middlesbrough make millions of tons of steel and exported it - the girders on Sydney Harbour's famous bridge came from here.

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Russell Grant's Gloucester: A Historical Guide - (Read review)

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