What is Yorkshire? Are we a county, a region, an historic county, a collection of ceremonial counties or a nation in waiting? I think we are all of the above, except maybe the nation – but stranger things have happened. Yorkshire is definitely a shared identity and a state of mind. Yorkshire can mean many different things and it gets a bit confusing.
So is Yorkshire a county?
Yes. But historically it was always divided into the three Ridings, which formed the basis of the establishment of the first county councils in 1889. A West Riding stretching from Sedbergh, the west of the dales and what we would call the Leeds and Sheffield city regions. A North Riding including Middlesbrough, Northallerton and Scarborough and an East Riding including Hull, Beverley and Bridlington, with York at the centre. So Yorkshire has always been governed separately, albeit on different boundaries then today.
So that’s Yorkshire covered by the three Ridings. There is then:
The four ceremonial Yorkshire counties:
- Do not include places that were in the historic ridings – such as Barnoldswick, a bit of the Forest of Bowland, Saddleworth, Sedbergh and Mickleton and Romaldkirk
- Include bits of Yorkshire not in the historic ridings: South of Meersbrook in Sheffield, half of Todmorden and Walsden – though these were in boroughs within the West Riding at some time after 1889
The Yorkshire and Humber region:
- As above but it doesn’t include Middlesbrough, Thornaby, Yarm, Redcar and Guisborough areas
- It includes North and North East Lincolshire – Scunthorpe and Grimsby
The south bank of the Tees around Middlesbrough, clearly has strong links with the north and Stockton and Billingham. The Teesside identify, expressed through the accent, Middlesbrough FC and parmos is a strong one. The area clearly has stronger links to the cities of Newcastle and Sunderland, then Leeds and Sheffield. Whilst the boundaries of Sheffield brought places like Woodseats and Totley into the city (and therefore county), could there be a case of a Yorkshire region expanding into places like Dronfield and further afield like Chesterfield which have strong links to Sheffield? The Yorkshire Party’s petition on the Government website gives a good idea as to where support for a Yorkshire parliament is.
The Yorkshire Devolution Movement website is keen for any devolution in Yorkshire to respect the boundaries formed by the historic ridings. In other parts of Britain, the Wessex Regionalists are also of the view that “The ancient county boundaries would be inviolable”. As Ian Martin writes for the Hannah Mitchell foundation: “Each border is a record from a point in time when that border suited the most powerful people at that moment. Over time, that border then became something to which people felt an attachment. Each individual has a right to determine their own identity and not be told they should feel something and that ‘something’ means only certain boundaries are legitimate.”
My own view is that any devolution boundaries need to be based on areas with a strong cultural identity, but that may mean different things to different people. It should not, as current devolution in England is, be imposed on people. Devolution also needs to come with a written constitution to protect it, so any evolution in boundaries is done with the consent of the people who identify with the area.
So Yorkshire is a place, it is a state of mind and it is a county, collection of counties and region. YORKSHIRE, YORKSHIRE, YORKSHIRE.