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Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets


Yorkshire lies in north-eastern England on the North Sea. In 1974 the county was broken up into North, South and West Yorkshire together with Humberside, which was formed with part of Lincolnshire, and Cleveland, which was formed with part of Durham. All five counties have since been broken up into smaller authorities.

Towns include the historic city of York, the former centre of the cloth industry at Leeds, the former steel producing town of Sheffield and the former world centre for wool at Bradford.

England's largest county was once divided into North, East and West Ridings together with the City of York.

Actors/Actresses and Directors

The film actor Charles Laughton was born in Scarborough in 1899. On moving to Hollywood he achieved fame early, winning an Academy Award for the 1933 film The Private Life of Henry VIII. He went on to star in such classics as the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty and Kubrick's Spartacus in 1960. His 1955 directorial debut, The Night of the Hunter, was also a critical success. In 1950 he became a U.S. citizen.

Charles Laughton

The stage and film actor James Mason was born in Huddersfield in 1909. He made his film debut in 1935 and over the next decade became a star in Britain before he moved to Hollywood in 1947. He made over 100 films among them A Star is Born in 1954, Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest in 1959, Stanley Kubrick's Lolita in 1962 and The Verdict with Paul Newman in 1982. He died in 1984 at his home in Switzerland.

James Mason

Anglo-Saxons and Danes
Formed part of the kingdom of Northumbria which itself had been formed from the smaller kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira. Deira reached from the Humber in the south to the river Tees in the north. North of the Tees reaching as far as the Firth of Forth lay the kingdom of Bernicia of which Bamburgh was the capital.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The Forest of Bowland AONB was designated in 1963. The area is part of the Pennine mountain range and is divided between the counties of Lancashire in the west and Yorkshire in the east. Isolated upland fells and heather-covered moorland make up most of the area.

Situated in the north of the county, the Howardian Hills reach from the edge of the North York Moors National Park and run south-east down to Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent. The gently rolling wooded hills were designated an AONB in 1987.

The Nidderdale AONB was designated in 1992. Lying on the eastern slopes of the Pennines and reaching towards the Vale of York, the area includes landscapes ranging from the remote and wild upland moors, to secluded wooded river valleys and farmland.

Artists and Architects
The furniture designer Thomas Chippendale was born in Otley in 1718.

The sculptor Henry Moore was born at Castleford in 1898.

Henry Moore

Explorers and Adventurers

The sailor Martin Frobisher was born in the village of Altofts near Wakefield around 1535. He set out on the first of three attempts to find the Northwest Passage round Canada in 1576, the first Englishman to do so since John Cabot and his son had failed to find the elusive route to Asia. Frobisher reached as far as Labrador and named the area he found Frobisher Bay. Later in life he would sail with Francis Drake and also fight against the Spanish Armada.

Martin Frobisher
Spanish Armada

Captain James Cook was born at Marton in 1728. In 1779 he was killed by natives on a beach in Hawaii while on his third world voyage.

Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook
Captain Cook Society
Birthplace museum, Marton

The aviator Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. She was born in Hull (then in Yorkshire) in 1903.

Amy Johnson

Famous People

Robin Hood is said to be buried at Kirklees Abbey at Mirfield.

Robin Hood

Guy Fawkes, a conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, was born at York in 1570. He was arrested in a cellar under Westminster Palace during the night of November 4-5th 1605 where he had concealed 36 barrels of gunpowder with the aim of blowing up the next day's royal opening of Parliament and killing the Catholic James I. The following January, Fawkes was executed with his fellow conspirators in front of the building they had planned to destroy, Today, Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated each November 5th with fireworks and the burning of a "Guy" on top of huge fires.

Gunpowder Plot Conspirators
Gunpowder Plot

A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.
(6th November 1605)

The highwayman Dick Turpin was hung at York in 1739. He is buried in the city.

The reformer William Wilberforce was born in Hull (then in Yorkshire) in 1759. He campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade.

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce

Anti-slavery movement

Historic Events

Major Battles
In 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold II defeated a Viking army led by two of the three claimants to his recently acquired crown. Both the King of Norway and Tostig, Harold's banished brother, were killed during the battle. After the victory Harold headed south to meet the third claimant: William, Duke of Normandy; who would defeat him at the Battle of Hastings in Sussex.

In 1460 the Battle of Wakefield took place near Sandal Castle. It was part of the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles for the throne from 1455-85 between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The Lancastrians under the Duke of Somerset defeated the Yorkists, killing their leader Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland. The death of York and his son was not the end of the Yorkist cause as two other sons - Edward IV and Richard III - would eventually ascend the throne.

In 1461 the Battle of Towton was a further battle in the Wars of the Roses and with nearly 30,000 casualties, England's bloodiest. The Lancastrians under the Duke of Somerset were defeated by the Yorkists under Edward, Duke of York who afterwards was crowned Edward IV.

Edward IV

In 1644 the Battle of Marston Moor was a major battle in the English Civil Wars, which took place from 1642-51 between supporters of the monarchy and supporters of Parliament. The Parliamentarians with their allies the Scots defeated the Royalists taking control of the north of England.

Landings and Departures
The exiled Henry Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur in 1399 before deposing his cousin Richard II to become Henry IV, the first monarch of the House of Lancaster.

Henry IV

Rebellions and Plots
In 1536 Robert Aske lead a rebellion which became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. A large rebel army occupied York and then marched on Doncaster. Protesting Henry VIII's plans for the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Reformation they only dispersed after receiving promises of concessions. These never materialised, instead Aske and other leaders were captured and executed in York the following year.

Important Events
The first Benedictine monasteries to be set up in the north of England were founded around 670 in Ripon and Hexham. The Benedictines - who would become the largest monastic order in the country - based their order on the Benedictine Rule, formulated by St Benedict of Nursia at the monastery he had founded in 529 at Monte Cassino in Italy. Towards the end of the Middle Ages the order had established 245 houses in England, Scotland and Wales.

Ripon Cathedral

Inventors and Scientists
The inventor John Harrison was born in Foulby in 1693. In 1759 he invented the marine chronometer, a clock accurate enough to keep time even after months at sea. The clock, called H4, would revolutionise shipping as it enabled longitude to be measured for the first time.

The chemist Joseph Priestley was born in Leeds in 1733. As a clergyman he began studying chemistry in the 1760s an interest which would make him a pioneer in the field and one of the discoverers of oxygen. His scientific views often clashed with his religious role and his writings led to many seeing him as an atheist, triggering controversy on several occasions. After a mob attacked his house he decided to move to London and then in 1794 emigrated to the USA, where he died in 1804.

Joseph Priestley

Every man, when he comes to be sensible of his natural rights, and to feel his own importance, will consider himself as fully equal to any other person whatever.
An Essay on the First Principles of Government (1768)

The physician John Snow was born in York in 1813. He experienced the cholera outbreaks which increasingly affected the country from the 1830s and on moving to London began to investigate the disease there.

His research led him to a conclusion which went against the general acceptance that the disease was airborne and caused by foul air. After one outbreak, Snow marked on a map the individual cholera cases in the area and was able to trace their source of drinking water to a specific pump in Soho. The well was found to have been contaminated by raw sewage and once the pump was closed the cases of cholera dropped dramatically. He could therefore prove that the disease was waterborne and caused by polluted water.

This discovery would bring far-reaching changes in public health and the water and sewage systems of the big cities, especially in London where the then heavily polluted River Thames had been used as a source for drinking water.

Cholera epidemics and London's 'Great Stink'


House of Normandy
House of Normandy
William the Conqueror's youngest son Henry I was born at Selby in 1068. The only one of the four Norman monarchs to be born in England, he succeeded his elder brother William II in 1100.

On Henry's death in France in 1135 the succession became unclear, for William, his only legitimate son and heir, had drowned in the
White Ship which sank in the English Channel in 1120. Henry had only one other legitimate child, a daughter, Matilda. But England was not yet ready for a female monarch and so it was Henry's nephew Stephen who became king, a succession which would lead to civil war.

Henry I

House of Plantagenet
House of Plantagenet
Edward III married Philippa of Hainault in 1328 at York Minster.

Edward III
Philippa of Hainault

In 1400 Richard II was murdered at Pontefract Castle. He had become king in 1377 but had been deposed by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke who forced him to abdicate in his favour in 1399 succeeding him as Henry IV. The last Plantagenet king of England was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Richard II
Richard II
Monarchs buried at Westminster Abbey

National Parks

In 1951 the Peak District became Britain's first National Park.

The North York Moors was designated a National Park in 1952.

In 1954 the Yorkshire Dales were designated a National Park.

Nobel Prize Winners

The physical chemist George Porter was born in Stainforth in 1920. In 1967 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Ronald G.W. Norrish and the German Manfred Eigen for their development of the flash photolysis technique.

George Porter

The chemist Geoffrey Wilkinson was born in Springside a village near Todmorden in 1921. In 1973 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with the German Ernst Fischer. He went to the same school in Todmorden as John Cockcroft who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951.

Geoffrey Wilkinson

The biochemist John E. Walker was born in Halifax in 1941. In 1997 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with the Dane Jens C. Skou and the American Paul Boyer.

John E. Walker

The physicist Owen Richardson was born in Dewsbury in 1879. In 1928 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his pioneering work in thermionics.

The physicist Edward V. Appleton was born as Edward Victor Appleton in Bradford in 1892. In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on studying the ionosphere, a layer of which is named after him.

Edward V. Appleton

The physicist John Cockcroft was born in Todmorden in 1897. In 1951 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with the Irishman E.T.S. Walton for their study of alpha particles. He had been to the same school in Todmorden as Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson who would win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1973.

John Cockcroft

The physicist Nevill F. Mott was born in Leeds in 1905. In 1977 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with the Americans Philip W. Anderson and John H. Van Vleck.

Nevill F. Mott

Physiology or Medicine
The US scientist Oliver Smithies was born in the county in Halifax in 1925. In 2007 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with the Italian-born American Mario R. Capecchi and the British Martin J. Evans for developing the technology of gene targeting.

The physiologist Robert G. Edwards was born in Batley in 1925. In 2010 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on in-vitro fertilization which lead to the first "test-tube" baby being born in 1978.

Places of Interest

Middleham Castle

Pontefract Castle

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Fountain's Abbey

Mount Grace Priory has the most complete remains of a Carthusian priory in England. Founded in 1398 it was one of only nine charterhouses to be set up by the Carthusian monastic order in England.

Rievaulx Abbey

Ripon Cathedral

Selby Abbey

York Minster

Historic Buildings
Haworth parsonage, the Bronte sisters' home

Captain Cook's birthplace, Marton

Stately Homes and Palaces

Harewood House

The University of Leeds received its Royal Charter in 1904 developing out of the Leeds School of Medicine (founded 1831) and the Yorkshire College of Science (founded 1874). It was one of the six civic universities founded in the country's new industrial centres which also included Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol. This new generation of "redbrick" universities (to be followed by more throughout the 20th century) were the first to be founded in England after those at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London.

The University of Sheffield received its Royal Charter in 1905 developing out of the Sheffield School of Medicine (founded 1828), Firth College (established 1879) and the Sheffield Technical School (established 1884). It was one of the six civic universities founded in the country's new industrial centres which also included Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol. This new generation of "redbrick" universities (to be followed by more throughout the 20th century) were the first to be founded in England after those at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London.

Prime Ministers

Prime Ministers
Prime Minister in 1765-66 and again in 1782, Charles Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham was born in the county in 1730, possibly at Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham, the family's ancestral seat where he grew up. He was buried at York Minster in 1782.

Marquess of Rockingham

Born in Morley in 1852, Herbert Henry Asquith became Prime Minister from 1908-16. His Liberal administration introduced old-age pensions for the first time but in 1916, two years into World War One, he was replaced by David Lloyd George.

Herbert Henry Asquith

Harold Wilson, twice Prime Minister in 1964-70 and 1974-76, was born as James Harold Wilson in 1916 at Cowlersley in Huddersfield.

Harold Wilson

This party is a moral crusade, or it is nothing.
(Speech at the Labour Party Conference, 1962)

Royal Consorts and Heirs

House of York
Richard III's only son Edward, Prince of Wales was born at Middleham Castle in 1473. He died there in 1484 and when his father was killed at the Battle of Bosworth the following year the short reign of the Yorkists came to an end. Edward is buried at Sheriff Hutton in the county.

World Heritage Sites

The Studley Royal Water Garden and Fountain's Abbey near Ripon were designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1986.

In 2001 the 19th century industrial village of Saltaire near Shipley was also designated a World Heritage Site.

Writers and Poets

The poet Laurence Eusden was baptized in 1688 at the village of Spofforth where his father was rector. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1718, succeeding Nicholas Rowe. He held the post until hs death in 1730 when he was succeeded by Colley Cibber.

Poets laureate

The three Bronte sisters Anne, Charlotte and Emily, were all born at Thornton in 1816, 1818 and 1820. The family moved to the village of Haworth in 1820 when their father became clergyman there. Emily who wrote Wuthering Heights died at Haworth parsonage in 1848. Charlotte who wrote Jane Eyre died there in 1855. They are both buried in the village. Their sister Anne died whilst visiting Scarborough in 1849, where she had once worked as a governess. She is buried in the town.

Bronte Sisters
Emily Bronte
Poetry Archive: Emily Bronte

The poet Alfred Austin was born in Leeds in 1835. In 1896 he followed Alfred Tennyson as Poet Laureate and was succeeded on his death in 1913 by Robert Bridges.

Alfred Austin
Poets laureate

J.B. Priestley was born as John Boynton Priestley in Bradford in 1894. He was buried at Hubbersholme in 1984.

J.B. Priestley
J.B. Priestley Society

The poet W.H. Auden was born as Wystan Hugh Auden in York in 1907. He became friends with Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis whilst studying at Oxford where he also met Christopher Isherwood, with whom he emigrated to the USA in 1939. Both writers became U.S. citizens in 1946.

These writers would reflect and chronicle the political and social upheavals and divisions of the decade leading up to the outbreak of World War II. In 1957 Auden had purchased a summer home in the Austrian village of Kirchstetten, close to Vienna. In 1973 - en route to England - he died in a hotel in the historical centre of the capital. He is buried in Kirchstetten, where his former house can still be visited.

W.H. Auden
Auden Society

The sky is darkening like a stain;
Something is going to fall like rain,
And it won't be flowers.

The Witnesses (1935)

I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.
As I Walked Out One Evening (1940)

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

September 1, 1939 (1940)

Sob, heavy world,
Sob as you spin
Mantled in mist, remote from the happy.

The Age of Anxiety (1947)

The poet Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd in 1930. In 1984 he became Poet Laureate on the death of Sir John Betjeman until his own death in 1998.

Ted Hughes
 With Sylvia Plath
Poets laureate

J.L. Carr, the author of A Month in the Country, was born as James Lloyd Carr in the village of Carlton Miniott in 1912.

J.L. Carr

That rose, Sara van Fleet ... I still have it. Pressed in a book. My Bannister-Fletcher, as a matter of fact. Someday, after a sale, a stranger will find it there and wonder why.
A Month in the Country (1980)

If I'd stayed there, would I always have been happy? No, I suppose not. People move away, grow older, die, and the bright belief that there will be another marvellous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never; we must snatch at happiness as it flies.

A Month in the Country (1980)

The American-born poet Sylvia Plath was buried at Heptonstall in 1963.

 Sylvia Plath
 With Ted Hughes

The poet Simon Armitage was born in Marsden in 1963. In 2009 he succeeded Carol Ann Duufy as poet laureate, a position he will hold for 10 years.

Simon Armitage

Poets laureate
Simon Armitage website

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