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Local News

Why there are eight different Yorkshire’s and what it means for our county


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No ‘county’ has an identity as strong as Yorkshire.

If that’s the case why have I put ‘county’ in quotes?

Because – thanks to Yorkshire’s complex history and government tinkering over the centuries – there isn’t a single Yorkshire.

Read more about Yorkshire’s fascinating and varied history here.

And there hasn’t been a single ‘Yorkshire’ since Victorian times.

Does it matter? Well, in any other county in England probably not.

But Yorkshire is different. It’s roughly half the size of Wales making it the biggest county in the UK by far which partly explains why it has such a strong identity.

We have our own notions of what ‘Yorkshire’ is but there isn’t a single one, at least not anymore.

To understand why it’s important to understand Yorkshire’s history.

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Yorkshire Mk1

Yorkshire came into being in the 10th century when Anglo-Saxon king Æthelstan divided his kingdom into counties so each would have the same laws.

Yorkshire Mk2

Nobody really cared about formal boundaries until 1085 when King William I ordered a survey of England for the Domesday Book which was published the following year. Boundaries were formalised along rivers and the tops of hills.

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In 1440, Hull effectively left Yorkshire – it was granted a royal charter for self-governance – leaving a gaping hole in the East Riding called ‘Hullshire’.

Hull didn’t officially rejoin God’s Own Country until 1889 and the city’s on-off relationship with the White Rose would only get more complicated.

Hull: it's Yorkshire, but not Yorkshire. Who knows?
Hull: it’s Yorkshire, but not Yorkshire. Who knows?

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In 1889, in an attempt to make governance less complex, Prime Minister Lord Salisbury created 39 administrative counties.

Boundaries broadly followed historic boundaries although they were some changes.

For example, border town Todmorden, hitherto part of both Lancashire and Yorkshire, became entirely White Rose as the boundary shifted from the rivers to the watershed.

To confuse matters further the historic county of Yorkshire continued to exist.

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In 1974, following the Local Government Act of 1972, the county of Yorkshire, as was known, was abolished.

Three new Yorkshires were created: North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.

Northernmost bits of the old North Riding were swallowed by County Durham and the new county of Cleveland.

Bits of the old West Riding were ceded to Lancashire and the new counties of Cumbria and South Yorkshire.

Most of the East Riding was swallowed by the new county of Humberside.

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Great Ayton has always been in Yorkshire but annoyingly it was postally in Cleveland
Great Ayton has always been in Yorkshire but annoyingly it was postally in Cleveland

If that wasn’t complicated enough the old General Post Office devised its own postal counties to aid the sorting of mail and avoiding mail being misdirected to towns with the same name in different counties.

Ever wondered why Todmorden has an OL (Oldham) postcode? Or why the North Yorkshire towns of Great Ayton and Stokesley and bits of the North York Moors have TS (Teesside) postcodes?

Now you know.

Thankfully, postal counties were abolished in 1996.

Yorkshire Mk7

In 1996, Humberside and Cleveland were abolished, although their police and fire services still exist and operate within the same area.

Ceremonial counties of North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire were created. The first three have no administrative functions.

Yorkshire Mk7½

Leck Fell, Lancashire, but since 2016, also part of the Yorkshire Dales
Leck Fell, Lancashire, but since 2016, also part of the Yorkshire Dales

In 2016, the Yorkshire Dales National Park grew to incorporate parts of Lancashire and Cumbria. This was to safeguard areas of natural beauty between the Dales with the Lake District.

So how many ‘Yorkshires’ are there today?

Well, there are four ceremonial counties and four administrative counties.

So that’s eight by our count; 8.5 if you count the bits of Lancashire and Cumbria in the Dales.

And there are probably more.

Thanks to Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones, aka MapMen.

To get the latest email updates from Yorkshire Live, click here.

Written by: Rother Radio News

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