History of Yorkshire

See also article on Yorkshire

Yorkshire is a traditional county of England, centred on the county town of York, and was traditionally split into three Ridings. The region was colonised over the first millennium by Romans, Angles and Vikings. The name Yorkshire first appeared in writing in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1065. Following the Norman Invasion, Yorkshire was subject to the "Harrying of the North" which caused great hardship. The area proved to be notable for uprisings and rebellions through to the Tudor period. During the industrial revolution, the West Riding became the second most important manufacturing area in the United Kingdom, while the predominant industry of the East and North Ridings remained fishing and agriculture. In modern times, the Yorkshire economy has suffered from a decline in manufacturing output which has affected the traditional coal, steel, wool and shipping industries.

The Brigantes, Parisii and Carvetii

Prior to the Roman invasion of Britannia, the area now covered by Yorkshire was mostly in the territory of the Brigantes, a British Celtic tribe which lived between Tyne and Humber. A tribe of the Brigantes, the Parisii, inhabited what would become the East Riding. The Carvetii formed what is now called Cumbria, but was at the time of the Domesday Book, still part of Yorkshire. Life was based around agriculture, wheat and barley being the staple foods. The Brigantes lived in small villages rather than towns, and raised cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

Fortifications were constructed in Brigantia and notable forts can still be descerned on Ingleborough and at Wincobank, amongst other places. Stanwick seems to have been the tribal capital of the Brigantes up until the Roman conquest.

The Romans, Deirans and Northumbrians

Initially, Roman advances stopped at the River Don, the southern boundary of the territory. Queen Cartimandua, the last ruler of the Brigantes, depended on Roman support to withstand the forces of her estranged husband, Venutius. The territory remained independent until AD 69, when the Ninth Legion under Quintus Petillius Cerialis moved in to quell civil war between Cartimandua and Venutius, bringing to an end British rule in England. York was founded in AD 71 as Eboracum, the Roman capital of Northern Britain. In the early 3rd century York was granted the honorary rank of a Roman colony.

Around this time York became the Roman capital of northern Britain, Britannia Inferior, following the province being split. When Britannia was further divided in 296, York remained the administrative centre of Britannia Secunda. Constantine the Great was crowned Roman Emperor here in 306 and it would be he who would institute Roman Christendom. With the break up of Roman Britain, York became the capital of the British kingdom of Ebrauc. At the end of Roman rule in the 5th century, Northern Britain may have come under the rule of Romano-British Coel Hen, the last of the Roman-style Duces Brittanniarum (Dukes of the Britons).

However, this kingdom rapidly broke up into smaller kingdoms. Most of what is now Yorkshire fell under the rule of the kingdom of Ebruac but Yorkshire also includes territory from the kingdoms of Dunoting and Elmet, which formed at around this time. Cravenshire's formation was also from this time. The emigration of Britons to Brittany left Britain open to settlement by the Anglo-Saxons in the Great Conspiracy. These people are now represented by the Principality of Wales, but provided basis for Celtic Christianity in the area.

In the late 5th century and early 6th century Angles colonised the North Sea and Humber coastal areas, particularly around Holderness. This was followed by the subjugation of the whole of east Yorkshire and the British kingdom of Ebruac in about 560. The name the Angles gave to the territory was Dewyr, or Deira, with its capital at Eoforwic, modern day York. Early rulers of Deira extended the territory north to the River Wear and about 600, Aethelfrith was able to unite Deira with the northern kingdom of Bernicia, forming the kingdom of Northumbria. Edwin of Northumbria completed the conquest of the area to be known as Yorkshire by his conquest of the kingdom of Elmet, including Hallamshire and Loidis, in 617.

He converted to Christianity, along with his nobles and many of his subjects, in 627. The defeat of Edwin at the Battle of Hatfield Chase by Penda of Mercia in 633 was followed by continuing struggles between Mercia and Northumbria for supremacy over Deira.

The Anglo-Saxons, Normans and Angevins

After Offa of Mercia, the Kingdom of England began to shift into the classic Anglo-Saxon image of a Mercia and Wessex-based country. Yngling King Ragnar Lodbrok led a Danish Leidang into Northumbria during the mid-9th century, but was captured and executed in a snake pit at the Anglian court. A civil war between the nobles of Bernicia and Deira precipitated the fall of Anglian independence throughout Northumbria because the Danes came on a mission of vengeance, but also part of the greater Scandinavian imperialist movement. In 865 his eldest son Ivar the Boneless led younger sons in control of the army into landing at East Anglia, where they slew King Edmund the Martyr.

Danes headed north and took York in 866, eventually conquering the whole of Northumbria and Kingdom of Strathclyde with every Irish Scandinavian submitting to Ivar as he became "King of all Scandinavians in the British Isles". Colonists changed the Old English name from Eoforwic, to Jorvik. It was under the House of Munsö that ridings and wapentakes of Yorkshire and the Five Burghs were established. The ridings were arranged to meet at Jorvik, which was the administrative and commercial centre of the region. After the Danish subjugation of the region, in 875 Guthrum apportioned lands to his followers; however most of the English population were allowed to retain their lands under the lordship of their Scandinavian conquerors.

The Swedish Munsö dynasty became Kings of Dublin, but was focused on Baltic Sea economy and quarrels with the native Danish Jelling dynasty (which originated in the Danelaw with Guthrum). The Norse-Gaels, Ostmen or Gallgaidhill became Kings of Jorvik after long contests over controlling the Isle of Man, which prompted the Battle of Brunanburh. In 954 King Eric I of Norway of the Fairhair dynasty was slain at Stainmore by Anglo-Saxons and Edred of England began overlordship. Jorvik was the direct predecessor to the shire of York and received further royal aids after the invasion of England, from the Munsö descendents Sweyn II of Denmark down to Canute IV of Denmark's martyrdom. Saint Olave's Church in York is a testament to the Norwegian influence in the area.

King Harald III of Norway's and Tostig Godwinson's mutual demise at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, preceded Norman Conquest of 1066. The Harrying of the North resulted in a massive deportation of Anglo-Scandinavians to what is now Westmorland, Cumberland and Northumberland. Widespread discontent created a class of Border Reivers who contributed to many centuries of violence, but named such places as Kirkcudbright, Wigtown and Roxburgh. The Breton Honour of Richmondshire(country passage between county palatines County Durham and Lancashire) was created to maintain order among the Anglo-Norse. County Durham, Lancashire and Cheshire were created to defend Northern England from Scottish and Irish attacks.

Division of England into shires, used for the raising of taxes, was established by the Anglo-Saxons on a basis of Celtic clan lands and refined into the county system of the Normans and Plantagenet Angevins. The Battle of the Standard was fought by Scoto-Normans to retain their dominance against the French of Blois and later of Anjou. Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey, along with other religious institutions flourished under the Angevins. The Third Crusade was promoted by the many monasteries of the area and the Jews were massacred at York Castle, with many young Englishmen going out into the wide world of Christendom.

The Plantagenets, Lancastrians and Yorkists

On the Anglo-Scottish borders, there was much violence and participation in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Some of this may be related to Robin Hood of Barnsdale, who is first recorded as being active during the reign of a King Edward on the English Throne. John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster had senior influence over many people in the North of England and consequently, Englishmen fought under his command in the Hundred Years' War. The last vestiges of feudal order remain to-date in the Duchy of Lancaster, founded by the House of Lancaster. Its former counterpart was the Duchy of York, which itself formerly was an office filled by an Earl of York. The Wars of the Roses and Percy-Neville feud caused much of the fighting to take place in Yorkshire, where their estates were interlocked and woven together.

King Richard III of England in the House of York held early office in the Council of the North, at Middleham Castle where Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales was born.

The Tudors, Stuarts and Hanoverians

When the Earl of Richmond became King of England, his dynasty began to systematically destroy or remove local resistance to their rule by confiscating their religious rights and economic livelihood. Unpopularity of the Welsh royals resonated in the Pilgrimage of Grace and Rising of the North. Both Yorkshire and Richmondshire have had significant connections with Scotland and France through personal connections of their feudal and titular Peers(usually held by royal dynasties); this may have been connected to the Auld Alliance. One must consider the historically Norse origins of Yorkshire's population, the local ties of Balliol, Bruce and Stewart monarchs of Scotland, including Scottish royal fiefdom of Northumbria at several times.

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley was one of the first outsiders to remark upon life in the Border country. At Union of the Crowns, a large minority of locals were granted lands within the Plantation of Ulster. Newfoundland and Labrador and Maryland colonies were refounded and founded by an Anglo-Irish Baron Baltimore. Most locals were Cavaliers in the English Civil War and some fled to American colonies during the usurping Commonwealth of England or The Protectorate. King James II of England was owner of colonial New York as the Duke of York, as well as governor of the Hudson's Bay Company and Royal African Company.

Most locals were closet Recusant, Tory or Jacobite in orientation, not happy being used against their Gaelic neighbours. National government only began to be friendly to their tenants with a Council of the North and appointment of a Secretary of State for the Northern Department, but these were abolished upon Southerners detecting its link with independent Northern(Norse-Gael) influence on national affairs, especially in connection to the American War of Independence. Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond was Governor General of British North America, after his father had pioneered the peace settlement with the Americans and pressed for a "Union of Hearts" with the Irish. Irish Catholics dispossessed of their lands and experiencing discrimination at home, found a warm welcome from Yorkshiremen in the cities of the West Riding. Although Yorkshire was traditionally almost ultraconservative by English standards, most of the people became liberal in dissent from the heirs to Sophia of Hanover because of their stance on the Americans and Irish.

The Grand Old Duke of York was a memorable addition to Yorkshire from the House of Hanover and religious restrictions upheld by that dynasty finally brought the people firmly within the Church of England for their time. Georgian era Yorkshire channeled much of its former national prestige into the Industrial Revolution after the Scottish Enlightenment. William Wilberforce was a prominent abolitionist in the African slave trade, who helped Methodism grow in Northern England. The English Regency in Yorkshire ended with the Reform Acts, which stimulated the urban boom still growing as of 2006. The office of Prince-Bishop of Durham interlaced in Allertonshire, but has not been of any importance since this time.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, The House of Windsor and Mountbatten-Windsor

The Victorian era in Yorkshire was much like the Gilded Age in America, with rising extremes of poverty and wealth. While the British Empire was at its highest peak, Yorkshire tended to be isolated from the world stage. An earlier full emancipation of Jews brought many of them into a few Yorkshire cities, especially around Leeds and they contributed their sense of intellectual achievement to Yorkshire. The Edwardian period in Yorkshire brought the Labour Party (UK) into focus, as it tried to mobilise further reform in regard to a cosmopolitan society. Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell commanded the Northern Territorial Army at Richmond Castle until 1910.

With the Commonwealth of Nations, Yorkshire cities have experienced significant immigration from African and Asian peoples. After redistricting the borders and government of Yorkshire in 1974, Yorkshire and the Humber was created and neither solution to the problems of urban development have been popular within Yorkshire itself. There are campaigns to return the Riding system to Yorkshire, while even some would argue for Wapentakes instead of the new districts. Yorkshire has also recalled its Viking heritage, although with regular Scandinavian business, this has never totally been removed from society. The British National Party has some of its strongest support in the West Riding.

The perpetrators of the 7 July 2005 London bombings were all at one time from Yorkshire: Mohammad Sidique Khan was from Dewsbury, Hasib Hussain and Shehzad Tanweer were from Leeds and Germaine Lindsay was from Huddersfield. John Sentamu is currently Archbishop of York, the first non-European to hold that position. Prince Andrew, Duke of York from the House of Mountbatten-Windsor is presently one of the most active royals in the realm of international business affairs. Sarah, Duchess of York is somewhat popular with media outlets, although often poked fun of by them. Charles Gordon-Lennox, 10th Duke of Richmond, has been on the World Council of Churches and his son Charles Gordon-Lennox, Earl of March and Kinrara, holds several racing activities at Goodwood House as an enthusiastic participant.

Historical subdivisions of Yorkshire

Ridings of Yorkshire

Yorkshire is historically divided into West, North and East Ridings (from Old Norse þriðing, "third part", a legacy of the area's ninth century Scandinavian settlers). The Ridings were divided further into wapentakes. In about 1823 these were:

North Riding

East Riding

  • Buckrose
  • Dickering
  • Harthill - Bainton beacon, Holme beacon, Hunsley beacon and Wilton beacon
  • Holderness South Middle and North
  • Howdenshire
  • Ouse and Derwent

West Riding

Apart from these there were the Ainsty wapentake, the City of York (not part of any riding), and Hullshire (geographically in the East Riding though not part of it).

Local government

The Ridings were used as the basis of administrative counties upon the introduction of local government, in 1888, although many boroughs within the area were made county boroughs in their own right.

In 1974 the local government system was reformed, with the area being split between:

South and West Yorkshire are termed metropolitan counties, as they cover mostly built-up areas. Additionally, small portions were ceded to the control of Cumbria, Lancashire, County Durham and Greater Manchester.

In 1986 the county councils of West and South Yorkshire were abolished, and in 1996 Cleveland and Humberside were broken up into districts, which became independent administrative counties (unitary authority areas) in their own right, as did an expanded City of York. For ceremonial purposes the districts previously covered by Cleveland now fall in the ceremonial counties of North Yorkshire and County Durham, and the districts previously covered by Humberside now fall in the ceremonial counties of East Riding of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Much of Yorkshire is now represented by the region of Yorkshire and the Humber.

Further reading

  • A history of Yorkshire, 'County of the Broad Acres' by David Hey, Carnegie Publishing, 2005 ISBN 1-85936-122-6

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