09 Aug | 10:50 AM

How Yorkshire came to be

How Yorkshire came to be

Yorkshire is a rich tapestry of history and heritage that has been woven and shaped into the county it is today by embracing cultures and pastimes of all who have called this land home.

Centred around the ancient city of York, the region was first occupied in around 8,000 BC with the name Yorkshire being derived from the old Brythonic ‘Efor’; which translates as ‘the place of the yew-trees’. The first time the name Yorkshire appeared was in 1065.

After invading Britain in 43AD, the Roman Empire made its way to Yorkshire and it is around 71AD that the recorded history of the area begins coinciding with the building of a fort at Danum (Doncaster).

Originally coming to a halt at the River Don, the Romans then moved further north which is where they founded what would become the Roman military capital of Northern Britain, Eboracum or what we now know as York.

As the Roman Empire began to face military threats in other parts of Europe, the Romans pulled out of Britain, however traces of their influence and advanced technology for the time remain today with many modern main roads in the county including the A1, A59, A166 and A1079 all following old Roman road systems.

After the sudden departure of the Romans, northern Britain had many different rulers until 793 when the Viking era began with an attack in Lindisfarne. From this moment on a bloodthirsty Viking offensive began and in 866 the Danes had taken York and renamed it Jorvik.

It was widely regarded that Jorvik was an important trading hub throughout Viking reign in the region but it was only in 1972 that this was proven to be true after a small excavation. Then, between 1976 and 1981, archaeologists were able to dig their way through 2000 years of history, finding 40,000 archaeological contexts and these remarkable discoveries can be seen first-hand at JORVIK Viking Centre in York.

It is at Stamford Bridge that the Vikings met a bitter end. King Harold of England was preparing the south of the country for an anticipated invasion by William of Normandy, however upon hearing that his other rival to the throne Harold Hardrada was camped outside York he marched his armies day and night and sprung a surprise attack. Hardrada, renowned for being warlike decided to fight rather than retreat and in doing so lost his life.

King Harold of England celebrated a great victory at Stamford Bridge, but it is widely thought that the toll that it took on his army may have contributed to his ultimate demise at the famous Battle of Hastings less than three weeks later against William the Conqueror. 

The inhabitants of Yorkshire during the middle ages suffered a torrid time with the population dwindling on numerous occasions thanks to starvation, war with the Scots (a war that saw Robert the Bruce burn Northallerton) and in 1349 the county was devastated by the Black Death, which reduced the population by a third.

The period that followed, is one of the most famous not just in local history, but national too – the period of the Tudors and with it, the War of the Roses.

The War of the Roses were a series of conflicts between two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet, the houses of Lancaster and York, and the bloody battles that ensued wracked England between 1455 and 1487.

Although the war defining Battle of Bosworth Field was fought elsewhere, there were many important battles fought on Yorkshire’s soil. There are many landmarks from this war that act as living history today including Mickelgate Bar, Spofforth Castle and the Duke of York Monument that can be found in Wakefield and is the spot where Richard Plantagenet died.

Recovery has been the name of the game for Yorkshire folk for centuries and one of the reasons why their grit and strong-will is famed across the UK. In the 16th Century, the area was in another period of recovery and went on to hit a boom period as Yorkshire flourished with the wool industry concentrating on the west riding, Halifax was prospering thanks to its cloth trade (see the Piece Hall for extra history around this!) and Sheffield, the Steel City, was becoming renowned for its cutlery.

Civil War did its best to divide the county but once again, this time in the 18th and 19th Centuries, industry was thriving with wool, textile, steel and coal all seeing great periods of growth.  

Unemployment and war followed but Yorkshire is a county that has overseen adversity throughout every period of its existence and always comes out of the other side and thrives.

Modern day Yorkshire is home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and magnificent attractions, with many of the towns and cities having developed into multi-cultural communities.

In 1974, the political map changed and four local government areas make up the county, North, East South and West. All of these areas play their part in making Yorkshire a county on the up, with a bright and prosperous future ahead.

4 months ago
Written by Danny Roberts

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