With Yorkshire day on the 1st August, we are celebrating what makes Yorkshire and its people so special.
Some people think only of flat caps and whippets when they think of Yorkshire, but us good old Yorkshire folk know different. The people of Yorkshire are renowned for being friendly and welcoming and in fact, the Yorkshire accent was voted top in a study on accents and perception of intelligence. Yes, we were perceived as being more intelligent than people speaking with Received Pronunciation!
The Yorkshire accent was also revealed to imply wisdom, honesty, thoughtfulness and trustworthiness. We are proud to be from Yorkshire, and rightly so!
So why is Yorkshire so wonderful?
Yorkshire has a rich history. The region has been occupied by Romans, Angles and Vikings during the first millennium AD, before heading in to the Middle Ages and on to the industrial revolution and eventually modern day. Each settler to the area has left its imprint and made the county what it is today – many Yorkshire dialect words stem from the Old Norse language!
This rich history has provided Yorkshire with a vast heritage and a strong identity. From Roman settlements, castles and abbeys to magnificent stately homes, Yorkshire has a lot of historically important sites, all set in beautiful landscapes.
York is a vibrant city and a real melting pot of Roman, Viking and medieval history. You can visit the Jorvik centre to take a trip around Viking York, and then wander over to the Shambles to enjoy a little retail therapy in the Medieval street.
York’s city walls can still be walked along and the two ‘bars’ or wall gatehouses tell a story of the history of the city. The York Minster, consecrated in 1472 is a magnificent building and contains the greatest concentration of medieval stained glass in England.
Yorkshire can boast some of the best castles and abbeys in England. There is Bolton Castle – completed in 1399, Skipton Castle – one of the most complete and well-preserved medieval fortresses in England and Middleham Castle – the childhood home of Richard III to name just a few. Selby Abbey was the first abbey to be built in Yorkshire, in 1069 and is where Henry I was born. Bolton Abbey is set upon the banks of the River Wharfe, and Rievaulx Abbey is one of the most impressive abbeys in Britain set in stunning moorland.
Regency mansions and Jacobean palaces tell a story from a different time in Yorkshire. Many of these incredible examples of architecture have been lived in by the same families for hundreds of years, and are filled with great works of art and antiques, all set in acres of landscaped gardens from the likes of Capability Brown. Just a few of the houses that put Yorkshire firmly on the map include Harewood House near Leeds with its rich collection of Chippendale furniture and over 100 acres of gardens, Temple Newsam – a Jacobean mansion set in 1500 acres of parkland, and Newby Hall in Ripon which has one of the finest Adam interiors in Britain, along with a contemporary sculpture park.
Yorkshire was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and the use of coal and iron from Yorkshire gave rise to important industries. These industries gave Yorkshire men the reputation they have today of being hard working, ‘grafters’.
Many a Yorkshire man has made his living from coal mining. This was dangerous and backbreaking work but whole communities in Yorkshire earned their crust down the mines, with several generations of families working down the same ‘pit’. The coal that they mined was vital fuel for the railways, factories and people’s homes and the Yorkshire coalfields provided one of the major sources of power behind the global industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Sheffield is world famous for its steel production, with Bessemer steel replacing structural iron from the 1860’s. Harry Brearly from Brown Firth Steelworks developed stainless steel and this was one of the most important inventions to come out of Sheffield. The Don Valley became one of the principal steel making centres in the UK and by 1919 Hadfields were the largest employer in Sheffield with 15,000 workers.
Another important Yorkshire industry was textiles. Many of the mills survive today as arts centres. Probably the most well- known is Salts Mill in Saltaire near Bradford. This was a vast worsted woollen mill owned by Sir Titus Salt. He built a model village around the mill for his workers which included homes, bathhouses, a hospital and churches. It is believed he wanted to create an environment where his workforce could live healthy and virtuous lives, away from the pollution of the centre of Bradford.
The Yorkshire Coast has been a thriving visitor destination for centuries. With rolling hills, moors and golden beaches, the coast offers stunning scenery, entertainment and relaxation.
Scarborough is known as Britain’s first seaside resort, welcoming visitors for over 360 years! The beaches at Scarborough have won awards for being not only beautiful but clean and safe. This is a very popular destination with families, as the sea front is full of attractions, and has a vibrant town centre. There is also Scarborough Castle stood on the rocky headland which offers incredible views over the surrounding landscape.
Whitby has a completely different feel to Scarborough. Dominated by the cliff-top ruins of the 13th century Whitby Abbey, this is a traditional town with old cobbled streets and a sandy beach. Whitby is divided into the more modern part and the old town by the River Esk. The old town is a shopper’s paradise. Independent shops selling local crafts, maritime memorabilia and the famous Whitby Jet jewellery make for relaxed and interesting browsing.
Robin Hood’s Bay is another beautiful destination in Yorkshire. This is Yorkshire’s coastline at its most elemental with brooding cliffs, miles of breath-taking scenery and tumbling fishing cottages that spill right down to the sea. Robin Hood’s Bay was allegedly the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire Coast in the 18th century, and it is easy to see why with its natural isolation and marshy moorland.
There are many other popular seaside towns and hidden gems along Yorkshire’s coastline. Come rain or shine, the coast makes for a fantastic day out.
The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales National Park was established in 1954 and covers an area of 680 square miles. With outstanding scenery, a rich cultural heritage and a range of wildlife habitats the National Park is indeed a special place. The south of the park is one of Britain’s best examples of classic limestone scenery with extensive cave systems and crags. The park also boasts spectacular waterfalls such as Aysgarth Falls, and Hardraw Force with its 90ft single drop.
This is one of the most important areas in the UK for its diverse wildlife heritage. From wading birds to sheep, the park is home to many nationally scarce or rare species of wildlife and is home to plants and animals that have specially adapted to the conditions here.
The Yorkshire Dales has supported many generations of livestock farmers despite its harsh, challenging conditions. The network of drystone walls, traditional stone-built field barns and herb rich meadows mean that the area is acknowledged as of international importance. The communities who have lived here for centuries remain closely knit and their way of life is shaped by the physical environment and remoteness.
The National Park is an area popular with tourists as somewhere to enjoy walks and investigate the unique landscape. This has been the case for hundreds of years – a tour guide was said to have charged tourists one shilling to visit Weathercote Cave near Ingleton in 1781!
There are 1458km of footpaths and 625km of bridleways to explore in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as well as 100,000 hectares of open access land.
Yorkshire folk like a good meal and we can certainly show the rest of the country a thing or two about ‘proper’ food!
A roast beef dinner wouldn’t be the same without our world famous Yorkshire Pudding. Nobody knows the real origins of the most successful thing to come out of Yorkshire, as far as I know, we have not found any cave paintings or Roman remains of a pudding pan as yet!
The first recorded recipe for Yorkshire Puddings appeared in 1737 in the book The Whole Duty of a Woman, listed as a Dripping Pudding. It was a straight forward recipe stating “make a good batter as for pancakes, put in a hot toss-pan over the fire with a bit of butter to fry the bottom a little then put the pan and butter under a shoulder of mutton, instead of a dripping pan, keeping frequently shaking it by the handle and it will be light and savoury, and fit to take up when your mutton is enough; then turn it in a dish and serve it hot.” The 18th century equivalent of Delia Smith made it the nation’s favourite dish in 1747. Hannah Glasse spread the word of the Yorkshire pudding in her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain saying “It is an exceeding good pudding, the gravy of the meat eats well with it.” Mrs Beeton published a recipe in 1866 that was declared to be rubbish – mainly as she didn’t stress the need for a very hot oven. Yorkshire folk blamed this on her southern roots!
The main purpose of the Yorkshire Pudding originally, was to fill people up before a main meal, with parents telling their kids “them that eat most pudding gets most meat”.
Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese is another firm favourite of the region and was first made by Cistercian monks in the 12th century.
The recipe was perfected over time and was made by local farmer’s wives then, in 1897 the first creamery was opened in the area and production began on a large scale. Many cheese producers across the country have tried to replicate the creamy, crumbly taste and texture, and sell Wensleydale cheese. However, Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese has now been given Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. This means that to be classified as a Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese it must be produced within a certain geographical area. The producers of this Yorkshire cheese believe the unique flavour and quality is down to the fact that they use milk from local cows who have fed from the natural herbs, grasses and wild flowers that only the Dales can offer. The cheese has a slight honey taste and works extremely well with fruit.
Yorkshire also has the Rhubarb Triangle, a 9 square mile triangle between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. As a native of Siberia, rhubarb thrives in the wet, cold winters of Yorkshire and in 2010 Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb was awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. In the early 20th century to 1939, the triangle was much larger covering an area of about 30 square miles at its peak as the industry expanded. At one time, West Yorkshire produced 90% of the world’s winter forced rhubarb. Wakefield holds an annual Rhubarb Festival every February to celebrate the continuing industry, with a farmer’s market, cookery demonstrations and tours of the forcing sheds. Rhubarb is a versatile fruit and can be used for everything from jams and compotes to pies and crumbles.
Other favourites from Yorkshire include Yorkshire Dales ice-cream, parkin, Yorkshire tea loaf and ginger beer. Don’t forget of course if you head to the coast the obligatory fish and chips are probably the best in the world too!
Let’s face it, we could rattle on forever and fill a book or two about our fabulous county of Yorkshire. However, the very recent Grand Départ of the Tour de France was watched by millions of people globally, and they got a small glimpse of the landscape, welcoming people and spirit of the region that we are lucky enough to call our own.
Yorkshire Day is celebrated on 1st August when the county comes together to celebrate everything Yorkshire and indulge in large quantities of Yorkshire pride. For the 5 million of us lucky enough to live in Yorkshire though, it is Yorkshire Day every day!
Our Yorkshire feature continues over the next few pages, with "There's Nowt Like A Yorkshire Day Out" and "Yorkshire Born And Bred" including some past and present actors/actresses. Comments from our readers, including the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor David Congreve on what they like about Yorkshire. We have also included a delicious recipe for a Yorkshire Tea loaf.