Description of Yorkshire from Pigots 1834 Gazetteer.




Description of Yorkshire from Pigots 1834 Gazetteer.

The county of York is a maritime one, the most populous, and by far the largest of all the English counties ; in length it is upwards of ninety miles from east to west, eighty from north to south ; and its area comprises 5,961 square miles, and 3,815,040 statute acres. It is bounded on the north by the counties of Durham and Westmoreland, on the east by the German Ocean, on the west by part of Westmoreland and Lancashire, and on the south by Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. From its great extent, Yorkshire has been arranged into three divisions, respectively denominated the ' North Riding,' the ' West Riding,' and the ' East Riding.'

Name and Ancient History

The name of the County is derived from that of its City (York), which, according to Camden, was named by the Britons Caer Effroc ; by the Saxons, Evorwic ; by Nennius, Carr Ebrauc, which, the latter historian asserts, originated from its first founder, King Ebraucus ; Camden, however, more discriminatingly suggests that the word Eboracum implies the situation of the town on the river Ure, now the Ouse, and that, by gradual corruption, Eborac or Euorwic became Yorc, or ' York.' Yorkshire was included by the Romans, in their divisions of the island, in the province of MAXIMA CAESARIENSIS. After the departure of the Romans, Yorkshire formed part of the Saxon ' Northumberland,' (a denominative title which the latter intruders founded upon the local Northumbria of the former, signifying the territory north of the river Humber, or Umber), and continued so until the extinction of the Heptarchy, when all the states were united under Egbert. After the Conquest, this county was divided among some of the great Norman Barons, who were sworn to prevent the incursions of the Scots. Yorkshire exhibited a prominent character during the destructive contentions between the Houses of York and Lancaster, and however singular it may now appear, a great proportion of the population frequently signalized themselves under the banner of the ' Red Rose.' In the reign of Edward 4th, the county was involved in a formidable rebellion, originating in the intrigues of the nobility, which was not suppressed until a considerable time had elapsed, and some thousands of lives been lost. In the reign of Henry 8th the peace of the county was again disturbed by insurrection, fomented by the clergy, which hastened the dissolution of monasteries and other religious houses : by this measure, many families who rented small farms under the convents were reduced to utter ruin. These commotions were not hushed to peaceful silence even during the short succeeding reign of Edward 6th, nor until the enactment of the poor laws, under Queen Elizabeth. With the early history of the county, that of the City of York is intimately connected and involved: it appears to have been founded, or at least aggrandized, by Agricola, about the year 80, after his final subjugation of the Brigantes ; he established in it the head quarters of the Roman legions under his command, and succeeding generals continued this distinction ; it even became the temporary residence of Severus and several succeeding Roman Emperors. In modern days the great object of attraction, to the stranger, in this city is its justly celebrated cathedral, -- the largest, as it is the most superb Gothic edifice in the kingdom. To the historian and the antiquary, Yorkshire, from its recorded events, and its numerous ancient relics of monasteries, abbeys, churches, &c. cannot fail to afford an almost endless source of information and delight ; and perhaps in no part of England can there be found so many objects to gratify curiosity, please the imagination, or awaken national recollections. To the mineralogist a wide field displays itself, replete with subjects for attention not to be found elsewhere.

Soil, Climate, and Agricultural Produce

The soil of the North Riding is a brownish clay and loam, and the hills along the coast abound with alum shale. The district of Cleveland, on the west side of the eastern moors, has a very fertile clay, and fine red sandy soil ; the Vale of York, both in soil and fertility, is very variable ; Swaledale, on each side of the river Swale, is extremely fertile. The eastern moorlands is a wild and extensive tract of mountain, occupying a space of land about twenty miles in length and fourteen in breadth ; the surface of some of the higher hills is entirely covered with large free-stones, and extensive morasses and peat-bogs, highly dangerous to pass. The western moorlands are a part of that long range of mountains extending north from Stafford into Scotland. Of about 1,311,000 acres of land embraced by this Riding, about 443,000 are cultivated, --- the remainder being open fields and moors, woods and roads. Along the coast next to the German Ocean the land is very hilly. The soil of the West Riding varies from a deep strong clay, or loam, to the worst peat earth : the face of this portion of the county is also very irregular ; the north and west parts are hilly and mountainous, but intersected with numerous vales ; the rest of the district is flat. The contents of this Riding are about 1,568,000 square statute acres, --- having about 700,000 acres pasturage, and 350,000 arable. This division of the county is noted for the extent of its manufactures, for which it is every way admirably adapted, as well from the abundance of the raw materials, coals, &c., as from the means of conveying its produce and manufactures, by canals, &c. to all parts of the kingdom. In the East Riding, the shore for fifteen miles round Flamborough is high ; and behind that lies the sheep district of the Yorkshire Wolds, containing upwards of 300,000 acres ; the soil is a light loam, having a mixture of gravel. The country extending between the Wolds and the Ouse and Humber, to Hull, has a good fertile soil ; and towards the Spurn Head, along the side of the Humber, it is flat, with a strong soil : the produce of corn in this district is more than adequate to its consumption. The produce and exports of this Riding are vast quantities of wool, grain, bacon, butter and cattle ; of the latter, with horses, great numbers are bought at the York and Howden fairs by the London dealers. The horses of this part have long been noted for their excellence ; the prevailing species are those adapted to the coach and saddle. The horned cattle of this Riding, and indeed of the county generally, are not surpassed in number or quality by those of any other division of England : there are also many descriptions of sheep bred, most of which are famous both for their size and goodness ; great quantities of the Scotch breed are fed in the low part of the country. The contents of this Riding are about 819,200 square statute acres ; having about 350,000 in pasturage, and 150,000 in arable. --- The climate of Yorkshire is, on the whole, considered salubrious, although as variable as that of any other county in the kingdom. In the North Riding, along the coast next the German Ocean, which is very hilly, it is bleak and cold ; at the same time the air is pure and bracing : upon the moors, also, as may be expected from their height, the cold is severely felt. The climate in the West Riding is in general moderate and pleasant, except in the eastern part, where it is reckoned unhealthy, from its low situation and its damps and fog. In the East Riding, that part adjoining the sea, extending from the Humber to the North Riding, the air is very bleak, and the spring very backward ; from the Spurn Head to Bridlington, nearly forty miles, the shore is low, and the effect of the cold winds is not so much experienced.

Manufactures, and Mines and Minerals

As a manufacturing district, Yorkshire must be acknowledged to be the second in the kingdom. The manufacture of woollen cloths of every description has been brought to such a degree of perfection, as to be considered equal, and in many respects superior, to those made in other places. The iron works, which contribute materially to the opulence of the county, are very extensive, and furnish employment to multitudes of mechanics, miners, &c. Sheffield is the ancient seat of the cutlery manufacture. Every kind of article in cutlery at the present day is furnished by this town ; besides joiners' tools of all denominations, plated works, Britannia metal goods, &c. The principal towns in the county in the woollen trade are Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Wakefield and Huddersfield, with the wide district of Saddleworth : these places may be said to have almost monopolized the entire woollen manufacture of the kingdom : and been the means of sinking into comparitive insignificance many towns in Wiltshire, Somersetshire and Devonshire, which not many years ago prospered entirely by this business. At Barnsley the manufacture of linens is extensive ; Dewsbury is famous for its blankets and flushings, as Rotherham is for its glass and iron works ; while Hull, Whitby, Goole and Scarborough, are celebrated commercial seaports, and have extensive yards for ship building, &c. -- the latter place being also noted for its medicinal waters. There are some towns in the county which partake with Lancashire in the cotton manufacture; others where carpets are made; and the city of York possesses a trade in glove making, and the manufacture of horn, ivory and tortoise-shell combs. The principal mineral productions consist of copper, pyrites, copper combined with iron and sulphur, lead ores in great variety and abundance, ores of zinc, &c. The North and East Ridings abound with various sorts of stone for building, slate and lime-stone; and many parts of the county also possess very material advantages, and high importance, from the numerous coal mines, which yield abundance of fuel for the various manufactories.

Rivers, Canals, and Mineral Springs

The principal rivers of Yorkshire are the Ouse, the Don, the Calder, the Wharfe, the Aire, the Nidd, and the Ribble; these may be said to belong to the West Riding: the others have connexion for the most part with the North and East Ridings, and are the Hull, the Tees, the Derwent, the Swale, the Ure, the Foss and the Eske. Besides those already named, there are the Cover, the Greta, the Wisk, the Leven, the Rical, the Dove, the Seven and the Costa, with a multitude of other insignificant streams, which merely serve the purpose of turning a few mills. The Ouse (which takes this name at York, being before its arrival there called the Ure,) rises near the borders of Westmoreland, and, after collecting many tributary streams in the North Riding, flows on to the Humber. The Don rises near Barnsley, and passing by Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Thorne, loses itself in the Aire at Snaith. The Calder has its source in Lancashire, and, running eastward, passes Wakefield, five miles below which town it falls into the Aire. The Wharfe springs from the foot of the Craven Hills, and, after a course of more than fifty miles across the Riding, discharges itself into the Ouse. The Aire is a large river, issuing out of the mountain Penigent, in this county; it visits Leeds, Pontefract and Snaith, and joins the Don near to the last named town. The Nidd rises in Madesdale Forest, near the source of the Aire; and, passing Ripley and Knaresborough, becomes tributary to the Ouse a few miles above York. The Hull descends from the eastern edge of the Wolds, and falls into the Humber at Hull, contributing to form the port. The Tees rises between the counties of Westmoreland and Durham; through its whole course it divides the latter county from the North Riding, and is navigable for vessels of thirty tons from the ocean to Yarm. The Derwent has its source in the eastern moorlands within about four miles of the sea, and passes the town of Malton, to which it is navigable from the Humber. The Swale rises in the district called Swaledale, on the borders of Westmoreland, and, flowing east by Richmond, adds to the waters of the Ure, below Aldborough. The Ure rises near the borders of Westmoreland, and collecting, during its course through the beautiful vale of Wensley, numerous tributary streams, loses its name in that of the Ouse, near York (as before mentioned), and which in its turn is lost in that of the Humber. The Foss is an inconsiderable river, which originates near the western end of the Howardian Hills, and unites with the Ouse at York. The Eske descends from the northern district of the eastern moorlands, and falls into the north sea at Whitby, after forming the inner harbour of that port. The canals which intersect this county are numerous, and of the first importance to its manufactures and commerce: by their means communications are formed between the Irish Sea and the German Ocean, as well as with its great and navigable rivers. The canals of the West Riding are the ' Leeds and Liverpool,' 130 miles in length; the ' Barnsley Canal,' which joins the river Calder below Wakefield; the ' Dearne and Dove,' commencing at the cut of the Don Navigation, between Swinton and Mexbrough, and communicating with the Barnsley canal; the ' Stainforth and Keadby,' which joins the river Trent, and is about fifteen miles in length; and the ' Huddersfield Canal,' which unites with the Ashton and Oldham canal, on the south side of Ashton, in length nearly twenty miles. The canals of the North and East Ridings are, the ' Foss Navigation,' thirteen miles in length; the ' Market Weighton Canal,' and a canal from Great Duffield to Hull, about seven miles in length. From Goole a canal passes westward to the river Aire (at Ferrybridge), and thus completes the water communication between that rising port and the manufacturing districts of the West Riding, as also with the counties of Lancaster, Chester and Stafford. A rail road was commenced in September 1833, from Whitby to Pickering, which, when completed, will effect a better communication between the port of Whitby and the interior. Another railway between Selby and Leeds is also in progress, which, it is expected, will be completed about the end of the year 1834; other roads, upon this principle, in various parts of the county are contemplated, amongst which is one between the two manufacturing towns of Leeds and Manchester, and application has been made to parliament for its sanction to the measure. There are several mineral springs in different parts of Yorkshire, the most celebrated of which are at the fashionable towns of Scarborough and Harrogate. The waters of the former are chalybeate and saline; and are a compound of vitriol, iron, alum, nitre and salt. The springs of Harrogate comprise several of sulphureous and chalybeate properties; they are numerously visited, and are highly esteemed by the faculty for curing scorbutic, cutaneous and chronic disorders.

Civil and Ecclesiastical Divisions and Representation

Yorkshire is in the province and diocese of York, with the exception of the deaneries of Boroughbridge and Catterick, a few parishes bordering on Lancashire, and that part called ' Richmondshire.' It is included in the Northern Circuit, and divided (as has been before stated) into three Ridings. The East Riding is apportioned into five Wapentakes, including ' Howdenshire,' the Liberty of St. Peter at York, and the Ainsty of the City of York; York City, and the 'Town and County of the Town of Kingston upon Hull:' the whole riding containing 237 parishes. The North Riding is divided into ten Wapentakes, comprising 183 parishes. The West Riding is distributed into nine Wapentakes, in which are included the Liberties of Ripon and Leeds, and the Borough and Soke of Doncaster; the entire Riding containing 193 parishes. The whole county contains 613 parishes, one city and county town (York), and sixty other market towns. By the Reform Bill the boroughs of Aldborough, Boroughbridge and Hedon are disfranchised, and Northallerton and Thirsk loses one member each. Under the same act the following towns have obtained the right of representation, namely, Bradford, Halifax, Leeds and Sheffield ; these return two members each ; and Huddersfield, Wakefield and Whitby one each ; the Ridings now send two members each, making six county (or Riding) members, instead of four, as heretofore. The whole shire, by these alterations, returns thirty seven representatives to parliament, instead of thirty two, as before the passing of the bill. Under the provisions of the new Boundary Act, the election of members for the East Riding is held at Beverley, and the polling takes place, besides, at Hull, Driffield, Pocklington, Bridlington, Howden, Hedon and Settrington ; the North Riding elects at York, and polls, besides, at Malton, Scarborough, Whitby, Stokesley, Guisborough, Romaldkirk, Richmond, Askrigg, Thirsk, Northallerton and Kirkby Moor Side; the West Riding elects at Wakefield, and polls also at Sheffield, Doncaster, Snaith, Huddersfield, Halifax, Bradford, Barnsley, Leeds, Keighley, Settle, Knaresborough, Skipton, Pately Bridge and Dent.


By the census for 1831 this county contained 677,601 males, and 693,695 females -- total 1,371,296, being an increase, since the returns made in the year 1821, of 198,109 inhabitants ; and from the census of 1801 to that of 1831, the augmentation amounted to 512,404 persons. According to the last returns (1831) the population of the respective Ridings was as follows:-- East Riding, 168,646 ; North Riding, 190,873 ; West Riding, 976,415 ; and the City and Ainsty, 35,362, (total as above 1,371,296.)

Pigots Gazetteer and Directory
Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2001