Flag of Yorkshire
Flag of Yorkshire
Yorkshire in England
Yorkshire within England, showing ancient extent
1831 area 3,669,510 acres (14,850 km2)[1]
1901 area 3,883,979 acres (15,718 km2)[1]
1991 area 2,941,247 acres (11,903 km2)[1]
HQ York
Chapman code YKS
Origin Kingdom of Jórvík
Created In antiquity
Succeeded by Various
1831 population
- 1831 density
1901 population
- 1901 density
1991 population
- 1991 density
Type Ridings
Ridings of Yorkshire
Units 1 North2 West3 East

Yorkshire (play /ˈjɔːkʃə/) is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom.[2] Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region.[3][4] The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military,[5] and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration, such as Yorkshire and the Humber and West Yorkshire.

Within the borders of the historic county of Yorkshire are areas which are widely considered to be among the greenest in England, due to the vast stretches of unspoiled countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors and to the open aspect of some of the major cities.[6][7] Yorkshire has sometimes been nicknamed God's Own County.[4][8] 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,[9] which after years of use, was recognised by the Flag Institute on 29 July 2008.[10] Yorkshire Day, held on 1 August, is a celebration of the general culture of Yorkshire, ranging from its history to its own dialect.[11]



The county of Yorkshire was so named as it is the Shire (administrative area or county) of the City of York (pronounced locally /ˈjɔːk/ ( listen)) or York's Shire. "York" comes from the Viking name for the city, Jórvík. "Shire" is from Old English, scir, and appears to be allied to shear as it is a division of the land. The "shire" suffix is locally pronounced /-ʃə/ "shuh", or occasionally /-ʃiə/, a homophone of "sheer".[12]


Celtic tribes

Early inhabitants of Yorkshire were Celts, who formed two separate tribes, the Brigantes and the Parisii. The Brigantes controlled territory which later became 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.[13] 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.[14][15] 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).[16] 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.[17]

Roman Yorkshire

Statue of Constantine I outside York Minster.

Queen Cartimandua left her husband Venutius for his armour bearer, Vellocatus, setting off a chain of events which changed control 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.[18] At the second attempt, Venutius seized the kingdom, but the Romans, under general Petillius Cerialis, conquered the Brigantes in 71 AD.[19]

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.[20] During the two years before the death of Emperor Septimus Severus, the Roman Empire was run from Eboracum by him.[21]

Another Emperor, Constantius Chlorus, died in Yorkshire during a visit in 306 AD. This saw his son Constantine the Great proclaimed Emperor in the city, who would become renowned due to his contributions to Christianity.[22] In the early 5th century, the Roman rule ceased with the withdrawal of the last active Roman troops. By this stage, the Empire was in heavy decline.[21]

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.[23][24] 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.[25]

Kingdom of Jórvík

Coin from Eric Bloodaxe's reign

An army of Danish Vikings, the Great Heathen Army[26] as its enemies often referred to it, invaded Northumbrian territory in 866 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.[27]

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 network of the Viking nations, and established commercial ties with the British Isles, North-West Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.[28]

Founded by the Dane Halfdan Ragnarsson in 875,[29] ruled for the great part by Danish kings, and populated by the families and subsequent descendants of Danish Vikings, the leadership of the kingdom nonetheless passed into Norwegian hands during its twilight years.[29] Eric Bloodaxe, an ex-king of Norway who was the last independent Viking king of Jórvík, is a particularly noted figure in history,[30] 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.[31]

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, attempted a takeover in the north, having won the Battle of Fulford. The King of England marched North where 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, which led to the Norman conquest of England.

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.[32] What followed was the Harrying of the North ordered by William. From York to Durham, crops, domestic animals, and farming tools were scorched. Many villages between the towns were burnt and local Northerners were indiscriminately murdered.[33] During the winter that followed, families starved to death and thousands of peasants died of cold and hunger. Orderic Vitalis put the estimation at "more than 100,000" people from the North died from hunger.[34]

In the centuries following, many abbeys and priories were built in Yorkshire. Norman landowners were keen to increase their revenues and established new towns such as Barnsley, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Scarborough, Sheffield, and others. Of towns founded before the conquest, only Bridlington, Pocklington, and York continued at a prominent level.[35] The population of Yorkshire boomed until hit by the Great Famine in the years between 1315 and 1322.[35]

In the early 12th century, people of Yorkshire had to contend 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.[36]

The Black Death reached Yorkshire by 1349, killing around a third of the population.[35]

Wars of the Roses

Yorkist king Richard III grew up at Middleham.[37]

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.[38] 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.[39] 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.[a][40] This rivalry between the royal houses of York and Lancaster has passed into popular culture as a rivalry between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, particularly manifested in sport - for example the Roses Match played in County Cricket, or the Roses Tournament between the Universities of York and Lancaster.

Saints, Civil War and textile industry

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.[41]

The English Reformation began under Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 led to a popular uprising known as Pilgrimage of Grace, started in Yorkshire as a protest. Some Catholics 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.[42]

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.[43][44] 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 Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") 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.[45]

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.[46] Canals and turnpike roads were introduced in the late 18th century. In the following century the spa towns of Harrogate and Scarborough also flourished, due to people believing mineral water had curing properties.[47]

Yorkshire today

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.[48] 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.[49] 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.[50]

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.[51] In the 1970s there were major reforms of local government throughout the United Kingdom. Some of the changes were unpopular,[52] and controversially Yorkshire and its ridings lost status in 1974[53] as part of the Local Government Act 1972.[54] 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.[53] 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.[52]


Physical and geological

Main articles: Geology of Yorkshire and list of places in Yorkshire
Geology of Yorkshire

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.[55] It is bordered by several other historic counties in the form of County Durham, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Westmorland.[56] In Yorkshire there is a very close relationship between the major topographical areas and the geological period in which they were formed.[55] 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.[55]

Yorkshire is drained by several rivers. In western and central Yorkshire the many rivers empty their waters into the River Ouse which reaches the North Sea via the Humber Estuary.[57] The most northerly of the rivers in the Ouse system is the River Swale, which drains Swaledale before passing through Richmond and meandering across the Vale of Mowbray. Next, draining Wensleydale, is the River Ure, which joins the Swale east of Boroughbridge. The River Nidd rises on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and flows along Nidderdale before reaching the Vale of York.[57]

The main rivers of Yorkshire

The Ouse is the name given to the river after its confluence with the Ure at Ouse Gill Beck. The River Wharfe, which drains Wharfedale, joins the Ouse upstream of Cawood.[57] The Rivers Aire and Calder are more southerly contributors to the River Ouse and the most southerly Yorkshire tributary is the River Don, which flows northwards to join the main river at Goole. In the far north of the county the River Tees flows eastwards through Teesdale and empties its waters into the North Sea downstream of Middlesbrough. The smaller River Esk flows from west to east at the northern foot of the North York Moors to reach the sea at Whitby.[57] The River Derwent rises on the North York Moors, flows south then westwards through the Vale of Pickering then turns south again to drain the eastern part of the Vale of York. It empties into the River Ouse at Barmby on the Marsh.[57] To the east of the Yorkshire Wolds the River Hull flows southwards to join the Humber Estuary at Kingston upon Hull. The western Pennines are served by the River Ribble which drains westwards into the Irish Sea close to Lytham St Annes.[57]

Natural areas

The countryside of Yorkshire has acquired the common nickname of God's Own County.[4][8] In recent times, North Yorkshire has displaced Kent to take the title Garden of England according to The Guardian.[58] 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.[59] Spurn Point, Flamborough Head and the coastal North York Moors are designated Heritage Coast areas,[60] and are noted for their scenic views with rugged cliffs[61] such as the jet cliffs at Whitby,[61] the limestone cliffs at Filey and the chalk cliffs at Flamborough Head.[62][63] 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.[64]

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.[65] 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.[66] 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,[67] while Whitby has been voted as the United Kingdom's best beach, with a "postcard-perfect harbour".[68]

Historically, Yorkshire was divided into three ridings and the Ainsty of York. The term 'riding' is of Viking origin and derives from Threthingr meaning a third part. The three ridings in Yorkshire were named the East Riding, West Riding and North Riding.[69] The East and North Ridings of Yorkshire were separated by the River Derwent and the West and North Ridings were separated by the Ouse and the Ure/Nidd watershed. In 1974 the three ridings of Yorkshire were abolished and York which had been independent of the three ridings, was incorporated into the new county called North Yorkshire. It later became part of York Unitary Authority.[70]


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

Yorkshire largely has a mixed economy. City of Leeds is Yorkshire's largest city (see List of English districts by population) and is 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 tertiary and administrative businesses including a growing retail trade, particularly with the development of Meadowhall. However, whilst Sheffield's heavy industry has declined the region has reinvented itself as a world renowned centre for specialist engineering. A cluster of hi-tech facilities including The Welding Institute, the Boeing partnered Advanced Materials Research Centre[71] have all helped to raise the regions profile and to bring significant investment into Yorkshire. 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.

Coal mining was prolific in the south of the country during the 19th century and for most of the 20th century, particularly around Barnsley and Wakefield. As late as the 1970s, the number of miners working in the area was still in six figures.[72]However, the bulk of the industry was placed under threat on 6 March 1984 when the Conservative governed National Coal Board announced the closure of 20 pits nationwide (some of them in South Yorkshire) in a move which would result in the loss of some 20,000 jobs, a significant percentage of these being in the region as well. Three days later, miners in South Yorkshire went on strike and within a short time most of the rest of the country's miners had followed suit. Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield was picketed by striking miners on 29 May that year, with the subsequent clashes between miners and police resulting in 69 injuries and 81 arrests.[73]On 15 June, a striking miner was killed in a clash at Kellingley Colliery near Pontefract. Several other coal pits in the area were also scene of violent clashes before the strike finally ended on 3 March 1985 after virtually a whole year.[74]By March 2004, a mere three coalpits remained open in the area.[75]Three years later, the only remaining coal pit in the region was Maltby Colliery near Rotherham.[76]

Many large British companies are based in Yorkshire or were founded there. These include; Morrisons (Bradford), Asda (Leeds), Comet, (Hull), Jet2.com (Leeds), Ronseal (Sheffield), Optare (Leeds), Wharfedale (Leeds), Plaxton (Scarborough), Little Chef (Sheffield), Halifax Bank (Halifax), Yorkshire Bank Leeds, Yorkshire Building Society Bradford, GHD (Leeds), Marks and Spencer (Leeds), Burtons (Leeds), Jaeger Ilkley, Magnet Kitchens (Keighley), McCains (Scarborough), First Direct (Leeds), Tetleys (Leeds), Timothy Taylors (Keighley), Bradford and Bingley (Bingley) and Skipton Building Society (Skipton).


The A1(M) and M62 junction at Ferrybridge, West Yorkshire

The most prominent road in Yorkshire, historically called the Great North Road, is known as the A1.[77] This trunk road passes through the centre of the county and is the prime route from London to Edinburgh.[78] Another important road is the more easterly A19 road which starts in Doncaster and ends just north of Newcastle-upon-Tyne at Seaton Burn. The M62 motorway crosses the county from east to west from Hull towards Greater Manchester and Merseyside.[79] The M1 carries traffic from London and the south of England to Yorkshire. In 1999 about 8 miles (13 km) was added to make it swing east of Leeds and connect to the A1.[80] The East Coast Main Line rail link between Scotland and London runs roughly parallel with the A1 through Yorkshire and the Trans Pennine rail link runs east to west from Hull to Liverpool via Leeds.[81]

Before the advent of rail transport, seaports of Hull and Whitby played an important role in transporting goods. Historically canals were used, including the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which is the longest canal in England. Nowadays mainland Europe (the Netherlands and Belgium) can be reached from Hull via regular ferry services from P&O Ferries.[82] Yorkshire also has air transport services from Leeds Bradford International Airport. This airport has experienced significant and rapid growth in both terminal size and passenger facilities since 1996, when improvements began, until the present day.[83] South Yorkshire is served by the Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, based in Finningley.[84] Sheffield City Airport opened in 1997 after years of Sheffield having no airport, due to a council decision in the 1960s not to develop one because of the city's good rail links with London and the development of airports in other nearby areas. The newly opened airport never managed to compete with larger airports such as Leeds Bradford International Airport and East Midlands Airport and attracted only a few scheduled flights, while the runway was too short to support low cost carriers. The opening of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, effectively made the airport redundant and it officially closed in April 2008.


The culture of the people of Yorkshire is an accumulated product of various different civilisations who have directly controlled its history, including; the Celts (Brigantes and Parisii), Romans, Angles, Norse Vikings and Normans amongst others.[85] The western part of the historic North Riding had an additional infusion of Breton culture due to the Honour of Richmond being occupied by Alain Le Roux, grandson of Geoffrey I, Duke of Brittany.[86] The people of Yorkshire are immensely proud of their county and local culture and it is sometimes suggested they identify more strongly with their county than they do with their country.[87] Yorkshire people have their own Yorkshire dialects and accents and are, or rather were, known as Tykes. Though distinct accents remain, dialects are no longer in everyday use. Some have incorrectly argued the dialect was a fully fledged language in its own right.[88] The county has also produced a unique set of Yorkshire colloquialisms, which are in use in the county. Among Yorkshire's unique traditions is the Long Sword dance, a traditional dance not found elsewhere in England. The most famous traditional song of Yorkshire is On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at ("On Ilkley Moor without a hat"), it is considered the unofficial anthem of the county.[89]


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.[90] Later medieval castles at Helmsley, Middleham and Scarborough were built as a means of defence against the invading Scots.[91] Middleham is notable because Richard III of England spent his childhood there.[91] The remains of these castles, some being English Heritage sites, are popular tourist destinations.[91] There are several stately homes in Yorkshire which carry the name "castle" in their title, even though they are more akin to a palace.[92] The most notable examples are Allerton Castle and Castle Howard,[93] both linked to the Howard family.[94] 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.[95]

There are numerous other Grade I listed buildings within the historic county including public buildings such as Leeds Town Hall, Sheffield Town Hall, Ormesby 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.[96] 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 include Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Gisborough Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, St Mary's Abbey and Whitby Abbey among others.[97] Notable religious buildings of historic origin still in use include York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe,[97] Beverley Minster, Bradford Cathedral and Ripon Cathedral.[97]

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.[98] 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.[99] Their novels, written in the mid-19th century, caused a sensation when they were first published, yet were subsequently accepted into the canon of great English literature.[100] 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.[99] Wuthering Heights was almost a source used to depict life in Yorkshire, illustrating the type of people that reside there in its characters, and emphasising the use of the stormy Yorkshire moors. Nowadays, the parsonage which was their former home is now a museum in their honour.[101] Bram Stoker authored Dracula while living in Whitby[102] 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.[103]

The novelist tradition in Yorkshire continued into the 20th century, with authors such as J. B. Priestley, Alan Bennett, A S Byatt, and Barbara Taylor Bradford being prominent examples.[104][105] Taylor Bradford is noted for A Woman of Substance which was one of the top-ten best selling novels in history.[106] Another well known author was children's writer Arthur Ransome who penned the Swallows and Amazons series.[105] 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[107] (although born in Sunderland), has been admired for his easy reading style and interesting characters.[108] Poets include Ted Hughes, W. H. Auden, William Empson and Andrew Marvell.[105][109][110] 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.[111] There are several art galleries in Yorkshire featuring extensive collections, such as Ferens Art Gallery, Leeds Art Gallery, Millennium Galleries and York Art Gallery.[112][113][114] Some of the better known local painters are William Etty and David Hockney;[115] many works by the latter are housed at Salts Mill 1853 Gallery in Saltaire.[116]


Badge of the world's oldest football club; Sheffield FC.

Yorkshire has a long tradition in the field of sports, with participation in football, rugby league, cricket and horse racing being the most established sporting ventures.[117][118][119][120] Yorkshire County Cricket Club represents the historic county in the domestic first class cricket County Championship; with a total of 30 championship titles, 12 more than any other county, Yorkshire is the most decorated county cricket club.[119] Some of the most highly regarded figures in the game were born in the county[121] amongst them Geoff Boycott, Len Hutton and Herbert Sutcliffe.[121] England's oldest horse race, which began in 1519, is run each year at Kiplingcotes near Market Weighton.[120] Continuing this tradition in the field of horse racing, there are currently nine established racecourses in the county.[122] Britain's oldest organised fox hunt is the Bilsdale, originally founded in 1668.[123][124] Yorkshire is officially recognised by FIFA as the birth-place of club football,[125][126] as Sheffield FC founded in 1857 are certified as the oldest association football club in the world.[127] The world's first inter-club match and local derby was competed in the county, at the world's oldest ground Sandygate Road.[128] The Laws of the Game which are now used worldwide were drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley from Hull.[129]

The most successful football clubs founded in Yorkshire are Barnsley, Bradford City, Doncaster Rovers, York City, Huddersfield Town, Hull City, Leeds United, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday,[130] four of which have been the league champions with Huddersfield being the first club to win three consecutive league titles.[131] Middlesbrough F.C. recently came to prominence by reaching the 2006 UEFA Cup Final[132] and winning the 2004 League Cup.[133] Noted players from Yorkshire who have had an impact on the game include World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks[134] and two time European Footballer of the Year award winner Kevin Keegan,[135] as well as prominent managers Herbert Chapman, Brian Clough, Bill Nicholson, George Raynor and Don Revie.[136]

The Rugby Football League and with it the sport of rugby league was founded in 1895 at the George Hotel, Huddersfield, after a North-South schism within the Rugby Football Union.[137] The top league is the engage Super League and the most decorated Yorkshire clubs are Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC, Bradford Bulls, Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos.[138] In total six Yorkshiremen have been inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame amongst them is Roger Millward, Jonty Parkin and Harold Wagstaff.[139] In the area of boxing "Prince" Naseem Hamed from Sheffield achieved title success and widespread fame,[140] in what the BBC describes as "one of British boxing's most illustrious careers".[140] Yorkshire also has an array of racecourses, in North Yorkshire, there is Catterick, Redcar, Ripon, Thirsk and York in the East Riding of Yorkshire there is Beverley, in West Yorkshire there is Pontefract and Wetherby, while in South Yorkshire there is Doncaster.

The sport of Knurr and Spell was unique to the region, being one of the most popular sports in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries, prior to a decline in the 20th century to virtual obscurity.[141][142][143]


Yorkshire puddings, served as part of a traditional Sunday roast.

The traditional cuisine of Yorkshire, in common with the North of England in general, is known for using rich tasting ingredients, especially with regard to sweet dishes, which were affordable for the majority of people.[144] There are several dishes which originated in Yorkshire or are heavily associated with it.[144] Yorkshire pudding, a savoury batter dish, is by far the best known of Yorkshire foods, and is eaten throughout England. It is commonly served with roast beef and vegetables to form part of the Sunday roast.[144]

Other foods associated with the county include: Yorkshire curd tart, a curd tart recipe with rosewater;[145][146] Parkin, a sweet ginger cake which is different from standard ginger cakes in that it includes oatmeal and treacle;[147] and Wensleydale cheese, a cheese associated with Wensleydale and often eaten as an accompaniment to sweet foods.[148] The beverage ginger beer, flavoured with ginger, came from Yorkshire and has existed since the mid 18th century.[citation needed] Liquorice sweet was first created by George Dunhill from Pontefract, who in the 1760s thought to mix the liquorice plant with sugar.[149] Yorkshire and in particular the city of York played a prominent role in the confectionery industry, with chocolate factories owned by companies such as Rowntree's, Terry's and Thorntons inventing many of Britain's most popular sweets.[150][151] Another traditional Yorkshire food is pikelets which are similar to crumpets but much thinner.[152] The Rhubarb Triangle is a location within Yorkshire which supplies most of the rhubarb to locals.

In recent years curries have become popular in the county largely due to the immigration and successful integration of Asian families. There are many famous curry empires with their origins in Yorkshire including the 850-seater Aakash restaurant in Cleckheaton which has been described as "the world's largest curry house".[153]

Beer and brewing

Yorkshire has a number of breweries including Black Sheep, Copper Dragon, Cropton Brewery, John Smith's, Sam Smith's, Tetley's, Kelham Island Brewery, Theakstons and Timothy Taylor.[154] The beer style most associated with the county is bitter.[155] As elsewhere in the North of England, when served through a handpump, a sparkler is used giving a tighter, more solid head.[156]

Brewing has taken place on a large scale since at least the 12th century, for example at the now derelict Fountains Abbey which at its height produced 60 barrels of strong ale every ten days.[157] Most current Yorkshire breweries date from the Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early 19th century.[154]

Music and film

Kate Rusby on stage 2005

Yorkshire has a rich heritage of folk music and folk dance including particularly Long Sword dance.[158] Yorkshire folk song was chiefly distinguished by the use of dialect, particularly in the West Riding and exemplified by the song 'On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at', probably written in the later 19th century and using a Kent folk tune (almost certainly borrowed via a Methodist hymnal), but often seen as an unofficial Yorkshire anthem.[159] The most famous folk performers from the county are the Watersons from Hull, who began recording Yorkshire versions of folk songs from 1965.[160] Other Yorkshire folk musicians include Heather Wood (born 1945) of the Young Tradition, the short-lived electric folk group Mr Fox (1970–2), The Deighton Family, Julie Matthews, Kathryn Roberts, and Kate Rusby.[160] Yorkshire has a flourishing folk music culture, with over forty folk clubs and thirty annual folk music festivals.[161] In 2007 the Yorkshire Garland Group was formed to make Yorkshire folk songs accessible online and in schools.[162]

In the field of classical music, Yorkshire has produced some major composers, including Frederick Delius, George Dyson, Edward Bairstow, William Baines, Kenneth Leighton, Eric Fenby, Haydn Wood, Arthur Wood, Arnold Cooke, Gavin Bryars, and in the area of TV, film and radio music, John Barry and Wally Stott.

Yorkshire is often called the home of the brass band and the county boasts some of the most famous and successful bands in the world such as Black Dyke, Brighouse & Rastrick, Yorkshire Imperial, Yorkshire Building Society, and Carlton Main Frickley.[citation needed] Historically the bands evolved around the mines, mills and steel works in the county but the demise of these industries has meant that the bands are now professional ensembles in their own right.[citation needed] Although brass is still considered by many in the UK to be a niche form of music, its popularity has increased overseas and UK bands often perform in Europe, Australia, the far east and the USA.[citation needed]

Arctic Monkeys performing on Orange stage at Roskilde Festival in 2007

During the 1970s David Bowie, himself of a father from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire,[163] hired three musicians from Hull in the form of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey; together they recorded Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, an album that went on to become widely considered as one of the greatest and most influential of all time.[164] In the following decade, Def Leppard, from Sheffield achieved worldwide fame, particularly in America. Their 1983 album, Pyromania (album) and 1987 album, Hysteria (Def Leppard album) became one of the most successful albums of all time. Yorkshire had a very strong post-punk scene which went on to achieve wide spread acclaim and success, including; The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, Vardis, Gang of Four, ABC, The Human League, New Model Army, Soft Cell, Chumbawamba, The Wedding Present and The Mission.[165] Pulp from Sheffield had a massive hit in the form of Common People during 1995, the song focuses on working-class northern life.[166] The 21st century saw popularity of indie rock and post-punk revival bands from the area with the Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs and the Arctic Monkeys, the latter of whom hold the record for the fastest-selling debut album in British music history with Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.[167] Also, the indie rock band One Night Only come from the village Helmsley.

The three most prominent British television shows filmed in (and based on) Yorkshire are the sitcom Last of the Summer Wine, the drama series Heartbeat, and the soap opera Emmerdale, the latter two of which are produced by Yorkshire Television. Last of the Summer Wine in particular is noted for holding the record of longest-running comedy series in the world, from 1973 until today.[168] Other notable television series set in Yorkshire include The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Rising Damp, Fat Friends and The Royal. Several noted films are set in Yorkshire, including Kes, This Sporting Life, Room at the Top, Brassed Off, Mischief Night, Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Calendar Girls. A comedy film set in Sheffield named The Full Monty, won an Academy Award and was voted the second best British film of all-time by ANI.[169] The county is also referenced in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life during a segment on birth where a title card read, "The Miracle of Birth, Part II—The Third World". The scene opens into a mill town street, subtitled "Yorkshire".[170] Monty Python also performed the Four Yorkshiremen sketch live, which first featured on At Last the 1948 Show.[171]



William Wilberforce, leading abolitionist, 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.[172] Yorkshire was represented at this time as one single, large, county constituency.[172] 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.[172]

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.[173] 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.[174]

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.[175] The most controversial reorganisation of local government in Yorkshire was the Local Government Act 1972,[176] 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.[54] Although some government officials[177] and Prince Charles[178] 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.[179] 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

The White Rose of York remains as the prime symbol of Yorkshire identity

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.[180] 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.[181]

Though the monarchal title became defunct, it was succeeded by the creation of the Earl of York title of nobility[182] 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)[182] 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.[183]

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,[184] 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.[37][185] 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.[186]

Notable people

See also


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a Though the Wars of the Roses were fought between royal houses bearing the names of York and Lancaster, the wars took place over a wide area of England. They were a dynastic clash between cadet branches of the House of Plantagenet.The most prominent family in Yorkshire, below the monarchy, the Nevilles of Sheriff Hutton and Middleham fought for the Yorkists, as did the Scropes of Bolton, the Latimers of Danby and Snape, as well as the Mowbrays of Thirsk and Burton in Lonsdale. Yet some fought for the Lancastrians such as the Percies, the Cliffords of Skipton, Ros of Helmsley, Greystock of Henderskelfe, Stafford of Holderness and Talbot of Sheffield.

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Coordinates: 54°00′N 1°30′W / 54°N 1.5°W / 54; -1.5

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