Leeds nostalgia: Prepare for the rise of the ridings

The East Riding flag (left) West Riding flag (centre) and the North Riding flag.

The East Riding flag (left) West Riding flag (centre) and the North Riding flag.

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ASK most folk what the Yorkshire ridings are and they will likely tell you they are a relic of a bygone era, or that they were abolished in the 1974 re-organisation of local government... but they may be about to make a comeback.

Andy Strangeway, 48, from York, has made it his personal crusade to educate people about the continuing existence of the West, North and East Riding.

He has launched flags for each riding and come up with a voting system on his website: www.andystrangeway.wordpress.com/yorkshire-ridings-days, wherein he asks people to choose a specific day for West Riding Day.

The self-employed decorator came to Leeds last week to launch his campaign and he is using some of the West riding’s most famous historical figures to publicise his campaign.

Speaking to Times Past, Andy said: “This is about our cultural heritage. To me it seems absolutely ridiculous we do not project who and what we are. A lot of people are under the impression the ridings of Yorkshire do not exist - they do, it is just that in 1974, they ceased to have any administrative functions. But you could no more get rid of the ridings than you could tear down York Minster, they are an inherent part of Yorkshire, our history and our culture.

“These administrative areas are determined by politicians in London to suit their own needs, so, for example, to split people into different groups to better suit voting patterns in elections and so on but such creations are short-lived. Just as there was a re-organisation of local government in 1974, there was another in 1996 which got rid of the old county councils, except for North Yorkshire.

“The problem is that in the intervening years various and numerous organisations, such as universities, hospitals, the police and so on, have taken their names from these now defunct administrative areas, which adds to the confusion.

“Then there is further confusion added by organisations like the BBC, which constantly refer to east, west, north and south Yorkshire and even Welcome to Yorkshire, which does not cover some parts of Yorkshire - Middlesbrough, for example, is part of North Yorkshire.”

Andy is encouraging people to visit his website and vote for a special ‘West Riding of Yorkshire Day’ and he’s selected some of the county’s most prominent historical figures to mark each of the days.

The list includes March 13, the birthday of scientist/philosopher and one of the founding fathers of America Joseph Priestley, March 24, the birthday of John Harrison, born near Wakefield, who discovered how to measure longitude, March 29, the anniversary of the Battle of Towton (1461) during the Wars of the Roses, often described as “probably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil”, and June 8 and September 20, the birthdays of Leeds engineer John Smeaton and Bradford mill owner and social reformer Titus Salt.

Andy added: “I like to use a quote from Sir Bernard Ingham, who said ‘Yorkshire folk are richly endowed with that gritty determination, that wilful refusal to give up and that sheer bloody-mindedness that eventually prevails.’ This is all about us reclaiming our heritage and a cultural identity which has been taken from us.

The ridings themselves date back to 876 but have not been used on official maps since the 1970s.

On St George’s Day, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles appeared to back a return to traditional boundaries when he said: “The tapestry of England’s counties binds our nation together. This government has binned the arbitrary Government Office euro-regions, and we are championing England’s traditional local identities which continue to run deep, we acknowledge the continuing role of our traditional counties.”

Leeds nostalgia: Model motor racing club in a field of its own in April 1994