The official profile of the Yorkshire region.
- Area: (1971 records) 3,918,656 acres; 15,858 km2
- Population 5.5 million (approx)
- Origin: Kingdom of Jorvik
- Chapman code: YKS
- Subdivisions: Ridings (North, West and East) and Wapentaks
- Regional symbol: The White Rose
- Symbolic animal: The Swaledale ram
- Symbolic bird: The raven
- Symbolic tree: The rowan
- Celebration day: Yorkshire Day (1 August)
- The patron saint of Yorkshire (and the North Riding): Saint Hild
- The patron saint of the East Riding: Saint John of Beverley
- The patron saint of the West Riding: Saint Robert of Knaresborough
Yorkshire (/ˈjɔːkʃə/; abbreviated Yorks), formally known as the County of York, is an historic county of Northern England, the largest in the United Kingdom, and a modern cultural region. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have traditionally been undertaken by its subdivisions, which the UK government has subjected to periodic reform. However, despite many changes to the administrative and political landscape, the historic North, West and East Ridings are widely recognised within the region as the authentic sub-divisions of the Yorkshire geographical territory.
Within the borders of the Yorkshire region, are vast and enormously diverse stretches of unspoilt countryside. There are two national parks within the region – the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors – as well as several areas of noted interest and natural beauty, such as Nidderdale, the Yorkshire Wolds and the South Pennines. For this reason, Yorkshire is often nicknamed “God’s Own Country”.
The emblem of Yorkshire is the White Rose, formerly associated with the English royal House of York, but now an entirely independent symbol of the region. The white rose is usually set upon a blue background when flown as a flag, the shade of which has been defined by the Flag Institute, but which there is much personal and commercial interpretation regarding.
Yorkshire Day, held annually on 1 August, is a celebration of the general culture of Yorkshire, ranging from its history to its own dialect. It was first celebrated in 1975, by the Yorkshire Ridings Society as “a protest movement against the local government re-organisation of 1974”. Amongst the celebrations there is a civic gathering of lord mayors, mayors, and other civic heads from across the county, convened by the Yorkshire Society, which has been held in numerous towns and city’s since 1998.
For the purposes of UK local and national government, Yorkshire has been administratively divided into North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the modern East Riding (geographically different to the historical East Riding) which broadly cover most of the Yorkshire Cultural Region. However, only the three traditional Ridings cover the full extent of this region, including such historically integral towns and districts as Sedbergh, Saddleworth, Yarm, Barnoldswick and Yorkshire’s highest hill, Mickle Fell. Such is the extent of Yorkshire’s geographical territories, that not only does it contain a significant coastline facing the North sea, but at its westernmost extent it is also only 7 miles from the Irish Sea.
- 1 Toponymy
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Economy
- 5 Transport
- 6 Culture
- 7 Politics and identity
- 8 Genetic identity
Yorkshire or the County of York was so named as it was the shire (administrative area or county) of the city of York, or York’s Shire. “York” is derived from the Viking name for the city, Jórvík. “Shire” is from Old English, scir, meaning care or official charge. The “shire” suffix is locally pronounced /-ʃə/ “shuh”.
The earliest inhabitants of Yorkshire in post-neolithic times were of Celtic origin. Although modern academia is questioning the very concept of a “Celtic people”, it is clear that the term describes a group of people united to at least some extent by an early diaspora culture, and that these were extremely influential in both the western and eastern halves of Yorkshire. The Brigantes tribe controlled territory in the western half of the region, controlling most of Northern England and more territory than any other neighbouring Celtic tribe. That they had the Yorkshire region 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 region. The Parisi, the tribe that dominated the more easterly parts of Yorkshire, may have been related to the Parisii of Lutetia Parisiorum in Gaul (known today as Paris, France). Their capital was at Petuaria, close to the Humber Estuary. Although the Roman conquest of Britain began in 43 AD, 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. This situation seemed initially favourable to the Romans, probably due to the Brigantes’ reputation for aggressive militarism and the difficult highland territory that they occupied.
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 secure control of the kingdom; however her former husband staged rebellions against her and her Roman allies. At the second attempt, Venutius seized the kingdom, but the Romans, under general Petillius Cerialis, conquered the Brigantes in 71 AD.
The fortified city of Eboracum (now known as York) was named as capital of Britannia Inferior and joint-capital of all Roman Britain. The emperor Septimius Severus ruled the Roman Empire from Eboracum for the two years before his death.
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 later win fame for his contributions to Christianity. Early in the 5th century, Roman rule ceased with the withdrawal of the last active Roman legions. At this stage, the Western Empire was in intermittent decline.
Second Celtic period and Angles
After the Roman legions departed, small Celtic kingdoms arose in and around Yorkshire, including the Kingdom of Ebrauc around York and the Kingdom of Elmet in the heart of the West Riding. Elmet remained independent from the Northumbria Angles until some time in the early 7th century when King Edwin of Northumbria expelled its last king, Certic, and annexed the region. The Anglish kingdom of Northumbria later assumed a position of overwhelming dominance amongst the English states, stretching from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and from modern Scotland to the southernmost tip of the West Riding.
Kingdom of Jórvík
An army of Danish Vikings, the Great Heathen Army as it became known by those it conquered, invaded Northumbrian territory in 866 AD. The Danes conquered and assumed the stronghold now known as York, and named it Jórvík, making it the capital city of a new Danish kingdom. The area which this kingdom covered included most of Southern Northumbria, roughly equivalent to the borders of Yorkshire, but extending further West. These same Vikings went on to conquer an even larger area of England that afterwards became known as the Danelaw; a region in subservience to Danish kings, existing north of a line roughly drawn from the Mersey estuary to that of the Thames. But, whereas the greater part of the Danelaw was still predominantly 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 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.
Founded by the Dane Halfdan Ragnarsson and ruled for the great part by Danish kings, populated by the families and subsequent descendants of Danish Vikings, the leadership of the kingdom nonetheless passed into Norwegian hands during its twilight years. Eric Bloodaxe, a former king of Norway who was the last independent Viking ruler of Jórvík, is a particularly noted figure in history, and his bloodthirsty approach towards leadership may have been at least partly responsible for the region’s Danish inhabitants so readily accepting English sovereignty in the years that followed.
After around 100 years of a volatile existence, the Kingdom of Jorvik finally came to an end. The Kingdom of Wessex was now in the ascendant and established its dominance over both the English kingdoms and the North, placing Yorkshire once again within Northumbria. However, the Wessex Kings of England appeared to be respectful of Norse custom and culture in Yorkshire, and left law-making in the hands of local aristocracies. In consequence, Yorkshire occupied a position as a semi-autonomous region for many generations after its political assimilation into England.
The Norman Conquest and beyond
In 1066 AD, Harold Hardrada the King of Norway, attempted a military takeover in the north of England, having won the Battle of Fulford. King Harold Godwinson of England marched North to intercept him and the two armies met at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Hardrada was killed, and his army defeated. However, it was a short lived victory as news reached the king’s ears that William of Normandy had landed on the south coast to contest the English throne. Harald was forced to return to the south with immediate effect, allowing his army neither rest nor respite. 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 the help of Sweyn II of Denmark. Interestingly, native ties with Denmark were still apparently strong enough to secure this particular accord where Norwegian rulers, including Erik and Hardrada, had struggled to raise popular support. Sweyn and his Yorkshire supporters tried to reassert control over the region, but the Normans prevented them from doing so. What followed was the Harrying of the North, ordered by William himself. 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. 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 of the North dying from hunger.
Despite the Harrying, Yorkshire continued to be a hotbed of civil resistance in later centuries and a particular troublesome challenger to English central authorities. During the Peasant’s revolt of 1381, for instance, Yorkshire provided the north’s chief source of support for the movement, which itself was strongly fuelled by the writings of a Yorkshire scholar, the great John Wycliffe, and his objections to the power and wealth of the clergy. The Yorkshire rebellion of 1489 occurred during the reign of Henry VII, in response to London’s demands that the regions help fund the defence of Brittany. This was strongly resisted in Yorkshire where it was believed that such military ventures were of no concern or benefit to the people of the region. Rebellion broke out in the April of that year, and a series of skirmishes ensued which led to the fall of Brittany and a new found awareness in London’s political circles of the “lawless” nature of Yorkshire.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII of England had a profound and permanent effect on the Yorkshire landscape. Thousands of acres of monastic property were divided and sold to form the estates of the gentry and industrial entrepreneurs that would eventually shape the industrial revolution there. In the meantime, the regional unpopularity of the Tudor royals resonated in the Yorkshire based Pilgrimage of Grace and Rising of the North. Although this uprising has widely been considered a failure, modern historians have been keen to point out the significant successes achieved therein, such as the introduction of the Statute of Wills.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I Yorkshire saw a steady rise in population. New industries created employment and wealth, and improved farming methods and imports of corn stopped food shortages. The steady rise in population created pressure to enclose common land for agriculture and the farming communities turned increasingly to cottage industries to make a living.
Wool and the Industrial Revolution
In the 16th and 17th centuries, towns centred around the wool industry such as Halifax, Batley and Dewsbury began to grow at a striking rate, with the likes of Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds following swiftly behind. Benefiting from the wealth emerging in the region, ports such as Hull began to boom also, as then did the coal producing districts in the south of the West Riding. Canals and turnpike roads were introduced to accommodate this growth in the late 18th century. Throughout the period immediately prior to the cotton boom, which relocated the hub of the industrial revolution in neighbouring Lancashire, Yorkshire’s industry was the envy of the world. Buildings such as Salt’s Mill in Saltaire, and the Piece Hall in Halifax, bear testament to the incredible wealth and influence in world commerce that the region commanded.
The boundaries of Yorkshire are very clearly described by natural features. The northern boundary of Yorkshire is the River Tees, the eastern boundary the North Sea coast, the southern boundary is created by the Humber Estuary and tributaries, whilst the western boundary meanders along the western slopes of the Pennine Hills. It is bordered by several historic counties in the form of County Durham, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and Westmorland. In Yorkshire there is an unusual and notably close relationship between its geography and its socio-cultural evolution.
Yorkshire is drained by several great 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. These include the Swale, Ure, Nidd, Wharfe, Aire, Calder, Don and Derwent. Other important rivers, but which do not form part of the great system feeding into the Ouse, include the River Tees, the River Hull, and the Ribble.
Ridings and Wapentaks
At a very distant point in Yorkshire’s history, probably during the century of the Kingdom of York’s peak influence, the region was divided into three Ridings. The term ‘Riding’ is of Viking origin and derives from Threthingr meaning a third part, used to divide Yorkshire into eastern, northern and western sub-divisions. The East and North Ridings of Yorkshire are separated by the River Derwent, and the West and North Ridings are in turn separated by the Ouse and the Ure/Nidd watershed. The Ridings were themselves broken down into further sub-divisions named Wapentaks, seemingly based upon the number of people who were fit to take arms in a given area. The greater general size of the Pennine and other highland wapentaks, as opposed to the smaller units in the East Riding and the central plains, relates to the difference in population size between the fertile heartlands of the region and the then relative wilderness of other parts. This in turn probably also explains the vast size of the West and North Ridings compared to the relatively small territory covered by the East.
The Great Ridings Debate
Although there has never been a formal dissolution of the Ridings system in Yorkshire, officially acknowledged by both Whitehall and the monarchy, the overwhelming usage of the administrative counties since their introduction in 1974 has entirely eclipsed their traditional counterparts, creating a source of fierce contention within Yorkshire. Some parts of the region, especially those which have been excluded from the modern “Yorkshire” administrative units, have attempted to address this issue themselves by establishing local signage, referencing their own respective connections to the Ridings. Similarly, Yorkshire Day was established to assert the lasting cultural importance of the Ridings to the region.
Some events, such as the “Tour of Yorkshire”, use a map combining North, West and South Yorkshire and the modern East Riding to represent Yorkshire as a whole unit. However, there is no single county of this name in the modern administrative system, an established point of order in the debate that has been upheld by such well regarded institutions as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. By default, this excludes Yorkshire from the English county system, and has consequently invited much discussion upon the nature of an entity which has such a strong socio-cultural footprint but no political representation; hence the increasingly used reference to Yorkshire as a “cultural region”. Within this definition, the Ridings are widely recognised as the legitimate sub-divisions of the region, and especially so by the local populace.
Yorkshire has a mixed economy, and accounts for about 8% of UK GDP. Tourism is one of the regions’ healthiest areas of economic growth, currently valued in excess of £8 billion.
The City of Leeds is a leading centre of trade and commerce, and is also England’s second largest financial centre after London. Sheffield once benefited from heavy industries, such as coal mining and the steel industry, but since the decline of such industries has attracted tertiary and administrative businesses as well as reinventing itself as a centre for specialist engineering. Bradford, Halifax, Keighley, Dewsbury, Batley and Huddersfield were all centres of wool milling, and although many such areas have since suffered a decline in their economies, several towns (Halifax and Saltaire, for example) have had significant success in reinventing their economic and commercial focus.
The North Riding has an established tourist industry, supported by the presence of two national parks (the Yorkshire Dales National Park and North Yorkshire Moors National Park) in addition to the popular tourist towns of York, Bridlington, Whitby and Scarborough. Kingston upon Hull is Yorkshire’s largest port, with a large manufacturing base. Its fishing industry, however, like many northern ports, has greatly declined in recent years. Harrogate is a well regarded European conference and exhibition destination, also supporting the Great Yorkshire Show.
Coal mining was extremely active in the south of the region 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. Today, as a consequence of aggressive government policy, during the 1980s especially, only one coal pit in the region remains.
The most prominent road in Yorkshire, historically called the Great North Road, is the A1. This trunk road passes through the centre of the region and is the prime route from London to Edinburgh. 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. The M1 carries traffic from London and the south of England to Yorkshire. In 1999 about 8 miles was added to make it swing east of Leeds and connect to the A1. 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.
Before the advent of rail transport, the 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. Mainland Europe (the Netherlands and Belgium) can be reached from Hull via regular ferry services from P&O Ferries. 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. South Yorkshire is served by the Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, based in Finningley.
The culture of the people of Yorkshire is an accumulated product of a number of different civilisations who have influenced its history, including the Celts (Brigantes and Parisii), Romans, Angles, Bretons, Huguenots and Normans amongst others. Although the demographic impact of the industrial revolution is now believed to have been greatly exaggerated, drawing in far greater numbers of local rural populations than from elsewhere, it is still acknowledged as a great influence upon the culture of modern Yorkshire – with migrants from the Celtic regions having a recognised impact. In the ancient world, the early Dane is believed to have been a chief driver in the strength of identity now commonly associated with people from the region, the continued and devoted usage of Danish geographical sub-regions and districts in the modern Yorkshire Cultural Region, pointing to something of an “identity genesis”. The people of the Ridings are famously proud of their region and local culture and it has often been suggested that they identify more strongly with Yorkshire than they do with England.
Yorkshire people have their own Yorkshire dialects and accents, with roots in Old English and Old Norse. Though distinct accents remain, many of these have become somewhat homogenised in recent years, with a central-western Yorkshire accent becoming prevalent – even in the East Riding where there were once significant differences.
There are three distinct dialects in Yorkshire, largely corresponding to the geographical territories of the three Ridings. Although few people now speak entirely in dialect (also known as Broad Yorkshire, or Tyke) most Yorkshire people use at least some dialect in day to day speech. When used fluently, the dialect is unintelligible to people from outside the region and hard to understand for many people within. Because of the divergence between itself and modern English from Old English, in addition to the heavier influence of Old Norse upon it, Yorkshire dialect has occasionally been championed as a language rather than a dialect. Local colloquialisms (distinct from dialect) are also in common use, much as they are in any other part of the UK.
Throughout Yorkshire many castles were built during the Norman-Breton period, particularly after the Harrying of the North. Later medieval castles were built to defend against threats from other sources. 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. 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 ten English stately homes.
There are numerous other Grade I listed buildings within Yorkshire, including public buildings such as Leeds Town Hall, Sheffield Town Hall, the Yorkshire Museum, and the Piece Hall in Halifax. 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, including Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Gisborough Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, St Mary’s Abbey and Whitby Abbey. 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
Although the first Professor of English Literature at Leeds University, F.W. Moorman, claimed the first extant work of English literature, Beowulf, was written in Yorkshire, this view does not have common acceptance today. However, 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-19th century, 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. 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, Stan Barstow, Dame Margaret Drabble, A S Byatt, 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, wrote about his experiences of some 50 years as a veterinarian in Thirsk, North Yorkshire.
Poets include Ted Hughes, W. H. Auden, William Empson, Simon Armitage and Andrew Marvell. Three well known sculptors emerged in the 20th century from Yorkshire, the contemporaries Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and Leeds-raised eco artist Andy Goldsworthy. Celebrated painters from the region include William Etty, Doug Binder, David Hockney and Ashley Jackson.
Yorkshire has a long tradition in the field of sports, with participation in cricket, football, rugby league and horse racing being the most established sporting ventures. Cricket is widely considered the “national sport”, with Yorkshire County Cricket Club claiming a total of 32 championship titles, 14 more than any other contender, and making Yorkshire by far the the most decorated of any county cricket club. Some of the most highly regarded figures in the game were born in the county, amongst them Geoffrey Boycott, Brian Close, George Hirst, Len Hutton, Stanley Jackson, Ray Illingworth, Wilfred Rhodes, Joe Root, Herbert Sutcliffe, Fred Trueman, Darren Gough and Hedley Verity.
England’s oldest horse race, which began in 1519, is run each year at Kiplingcotes near Market Weighton. Continuing this tradition in the field of horse racing, there are currently nine established racecourses in the county.
Yorkshire is officially recognised as the birthplace of club football. Sheffield FC, founded in 1857, has been certified as the oldest association football club in the world. The world’s first inter-club match and local derby was competed in the region, at the world’s oldest ground, Sandygate Road. The Laws of the Game, used worldwide, were drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley from Hull. Despite this early contribution to the game, only four Yorkshire clubs have ever been champions in the established top league: Sheffield Wednesday (4), Leeds United (3), Huddersfield Town (3) and Sheffield United (1). However, six Yorkshire clubs have won the FA Cup: Sheffield United (4), Sheffield Wednesday (3), Bradford City (1), Barnsley (1), Huddersfield Town (1), Leeds United (1).
On the 17th July, 2017, the Yorkshire International Football Team came into existence, putting together a Yorkshire side to play in non-FIFA affiliated football under the banner of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, after achieving membership of the organisation on 6th January, 2018. In its first game against Ellan Vannin (the Isle of Man’s ConIFA side), played at the Hemsworth MWFC ground, Yorkshire held the opposition to a 1-1 draw. In that game, Jordan Coduri made history by scoring Yorkshire’s first ever international goal. The next two games played by Yorkshire produced far more favourable results, respectively beating the Chagos Islands 6-0 and Barawa 2-7.
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. The top league is currently the Super League, and the sport’s most important knock-out tournament is the Challenge Cup, which amongst die-hard fans of the sport has long been seen as superior to the league championship. The Yorkshire clubs with the most number of Challenge Cup wins are: Leeds (13), Huddersfield (6), Bradford (5), Halifax (5), Hull (5) and Wakefield (5). The Yorkshire clubs with the most league championship wins are: Leeds (11), Huddersfield (7), Bradford (6), Hull (6), Hull KR (5), and Halifax (5). In total, six Yorkshiremen have been inducted into the Rugby Football League Hall of Fame.
A number of athletes from or associated with Yorkshire took part in the 2012 Summer Olympics as members of Team GB. It is an often quoted fact that if Yorkshire had taken part as a separate nation it would have finished 12th in the Olympic rankings. Notable Yorkshire athletes at the time included heptathlon contender Jessica Ennis-Hill, brothers Jonathan and Alastair Brownlee in the triathlon, and olympic boxer Nicola Adams.
In 2014 the region hosted the Grande Depart of the Tour de France. Spectator crowds over the two days were estimated to be in the region of 2.5 million people. The inaugural Tour de Yorkshire was held from 1–3 May 2015 – with start and finishes in Bridlington, Leeds, Scarborough, Selby, Wakefield and York – and has become a popular annual fixture ever since.
The traditional cuisine of Yorkshire, in common with the North of England in general, is known for using rich tasting ingredients, especially regarding sweet dishes, which were affordable for the majority of people. There are several dishes which originated in Yorkshire or are heavily associated with it. 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, but in the Yorkshire region is traditionally served as a starter dish, filled with onion gravy. It is also sometimes eaten as a dessert with cream and jam, and referred to colloquially as “Thunner ‘n Leetnin”, potentially allowing the Yorkshire pudding to make an appearance in every course.
Other foods associated strongly associated with the region include Yorkshire curd tart (a curd and pastry recipe using rosewater), Parkin (a sweet ginger cake including oatmeal and treacle) and Wensleydale cheese (a mild crumbly cheese often eaten as an accompaniment to sweet foods). The beverage ginger beer is reputed to have it origins in Yorkshire and liquorice sweets were first created by George Dunhill from Pontefract. 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. Halifax had a similar reputation, but specifically regarding the production of toffee. Another traditional Yorkshire food is the pikelet, similar to crumpets but much thinner and less porous. The Rhubarb Triangle is a location within Yorkshire which once supplied 90% of the world’s rhubarb. Yorkshire forced rhubarb now has Protected Designation of Origin status.
In recent years curries have become popular in the county largely due to the migration and successful integration of South 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”.
Beer and Brewing
Yorkshire has a number of nationally well-known breweries including Black Sheep, Copper Dragon, John Smith’s, Sam Smith’s, Theakstons and Timothy Taylor’s, although there is a vast number of less well-known breweries operating in the region, which has long been renowned for the quality of its brewing industry. 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. Most current Yorkshire breweries date from the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th century. The beer style most associated with the region is known as Yorkshire bitter.
Yorkshire has a strong heritage of folk music and folk dance (the latter particularly exemplified by the unique and ancient Long Sword dance). Yorkshire folk song has often been 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 mid 19th century. Famous folk performers from the county include the Watersons from Hull, who began recording Yorkshire versions of folk songs from 1965; Heather Wood (born 1945) of the Young Tradition; the short-lived electric folk group Mr Fox (1970–72), The Deighton Family; Julie Matthews; Kathryn Roberts; and Kate Rusby. Yorkshire has a flourishing folk music culture, with over forty folk clubs and thirty annual folk music festivals.
In the field of classical music, Yorkshire has produced some major and minor 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. Likewise, the region is home to many of the world’s best brass bands, often having their origins in the mills and mines of industrial era. These included such as Black Dyke Mills, Brighouse & Rastrick, Carlton Main Frickley, Hammonds Saltaire, Grimethorpe Colliery and Yorkshire Imperial.
During the 1970s David Bowie, his own father from Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, hired three musicians from Hull: Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey. Together they recorded Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, an album considered one of the greatest and most influential of all time. Yorkshire had a very strong post-punk scene which went on to achieve widespread acclaim and success, including The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, Vardis, Gang of Four, ABC, The Human League, New Model Army, Soft Cell, The Wedding Present and The Mission. Pulp from Sheffield, and their focus on working-class northern life, catapulted them to success in the 1990s, preceding Yorkshire’s hugely successful post-punk and indie music scene that commanded the world stage in the early 21st century, and included the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs and the Arctic Monkeys.
The Yorkshire “National” Anthem
For many years, the well known folk song “Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at” has played the part of an unofficial Yorkshire anthem. Adopting the tune of the once popular hymn “Cranbrook”, the song was reported to have been created by a group of Halifax church-goers on a Sunday outing to Ilkley Moor. Darkly humorous, and dealing flippantly with themes such as death, illicit sexual affairs and even cannibalism, the song is a perfectly well preserved piece of mid 19th century Yorkshire dialect.
“Wheear wor ta bahn when ah saw thee?
An Ilkla Moor baht ‘at…”
These are the original opening lines of the song, although an alternative first line of “Wheear asta bin sin ah saw thee” has since become the more commonly used version. Although a popular tune in Yorkshire, its use as a national anthem has split opinion: primarily due to its content which some claim to be inappropriate. In March, 2018, a poll was held by the Yorkshire International Football Association to choose a regional anthem which could be played at future football fixtures, with a number of choices to vote for, including “Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at”. Unexpectedly, however, the clear winner was a song named “Land o’ the fearless”, consisting of a single verse and sung to the tune of the hymn “Abide with me”. Although there have been different versions produced, the following is a faithful transcription of the original submission.
“Land o’ the fearless, fowk o’ fell an’ dale,
Garden o’ Freya, rose aboon prevail,
Framed bi the Pennines, Humber, Tees an’ Sea
Land o’ the fearless we all bide wi’ thee.”
Film and TV Production
Among 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 operas Emmerdale and Downton Abbey. Last of the Summer Wine in particular is noted for holding the record of longest-running comedy series in the world, from 1973 until 2010. Other notable television series set in Yorkshire include All Creatures Great and Small, The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Rising Damp, Fat Friends and The Royal. Yorkshire has long been an area associated with quality film making including the likes of Kes, This Sporting Life, Room at the Top, The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Mischief Night, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, and Calendar Girls. In recognition of its place at the heart of the Yorkshire film industry, Bradford was named the first Unesco City of Film in 2009.
Politics and Identity
A number of claims have been made for the distinctiveness of Yorkshire, as a geographical, cultural and political entity, often spring-boarding a demand for increased political autonomy. In the early twentieth century, some academics claimed that Yorkshire was effectively an island, cut off from the rest of England by rivers, fens, moors and mountains and developing its own distinct identity in consequence. During the premiership of William Pitt the Younger, the hypothetical idea of Yorkshire becoming independent was raised in the British parliament in relation to the question whether Ireland should become part of the United Kingdom. The relationship between Yorkshire and Scottish devolution was also made in 1975 by Richard Wainwright, MP for Colne Valley, who claimed in a speech in the House of Commons:
“When…people go to Yorkshire and find that we have no time for dressing up [and] waving flags…they should not assume that we do not have the same feelings underneath the skin. Independence in Yorkshire expresses itself in a markedly increasing determination to establish self-reliance.”
In more recent years, in 1998, the Campaign for Yorkshire was established to push for the creation of a Yorkshire regional assembly, sometimes dubbed the Yorkshire Parliament. In its defining statement, the Campaign for Yorkshire made reference to the historical notions that Yorkshire had a distinct identity:
“Yorkshire…has distinctive characteristics which make it an ideal test bed for further reform. It has a strong popular identity. The region follows closely the historic boundaries of the three Ridings, and there is no serious debate about boundaries…All this makes it realistic to regard Yorkshire and the Humber as the standard bearer for representative regional government.”
In 2014, two former members of the Campaign for Yorkshire, Stewart Arnold and Richard Carter, founded a centrist political party, now named the Yorkshire Party, campaigning for the creation of a Yorkshire Assembly based upon the Scottish model. In the general elections of 2017, the Yorkshire Party became the sixth most voted-for party in England, and in the local elections of 2018, were positioned between 2nd and 4th place in sixteen separate constituencies.
Also in 2014, Dr Pete Woodcock from the university of Huddersfield, conducted a survey aiming to explore attitudes towards identity amongst Yorkshire people. The results showed that an overwhelming 55% of people asked considered themselves either purely Yorkshire, or more Yorkshire than English, with the majority of the remainder claiming an equal identity between the two. Only a negligible minority considered themselves more English than Yorkshire.
Modern haplotype signature research on the Y-Chromosone has uncovered some interesting information about the genetic make up of the people of Yorkshire. Although its inhabitants, as elsewhere in the UK, are a complex genetic mix of many peoples, it is only in Yorkshire that the Germanic element (itself a combination of different Scandinavian and German origin types) outweighs the other elements. The media interpreted this research as reflecting a high Anglo-Saxon genetic origin amongst Yorkshire people. However, Cristian Capelli, the lead researcher in this project, has himself said otherwise. Having found that it was near impossible to ascribe a particular haplotype signature to either the Dane or the Angle, due to the proximity in which they lived to each other prior to settling in the British Isles, Capelli drew his conclusions on the matter from significant historical record.
“The sites with the highest degree of German/Danish output are historically in regions where the Danes are known to have had a significant presence…Consideration of Danish Viking input is important because their activities on the British eastern coast are well documented…It is interesting to note that the areas in southern England were, historically, mostly occupied by the Anglo-Saxons, while the activities of the Danish Vikings were mainly in eastern England. The results seem to suggest that in England the Danes had a greater demographic impact than the Anglo-Saxons.”
A further point of interest from Capelli’s research, is that although the Danish genetic contribution is high the contribution of the early Norwegian is relatively low, especially when compared to parts of the north-west, which also would appear to corroborate historical account.