The background behind Yorkshire Day and its celebrations
Updated: Jul 30
The 1st August – sees Yorkshire Day celebrated nationwide. But how long has it been going on and what is the background behind the annual celebration of “God’s own county” and all things Yorkshire.
Whilst Yorkshire Day was founded in 1975, since 1985 The Yorkshire Society has taken on the responsibility of organising a grand civic gathering to celebrate the day. Mayors, Lord Mayors and civic dignitaries meet in full costume and regalia at the centre piece of the formal event and this civic celebration is held in a different Yorkshire town or city each year.
Last year’s celebrations in Whitby were the grandest yet with thousands of people turning out to witness the parade and a fairground put up near the Abbey.
This year’s event was meant to take place in Rotherham, but has sadly been postponed due to Corona virus, but a virtual civic celebration is still planned.
Yorkshire Day is far more than the gathering of civic leaders and its associated pomp. It is now celebrated across the county and by Yorkshire men and women nationally and globally with flags, fun events and local gatherings.
Its origin in 1975 was more of a protest movement. In 1974 government reforms came into place where Yorkshire’s traditional three “Ridings” were abolished and parts of the historic county of Yorkshire were transferred to Humberside and Lancashire. Some people did not take this re-organisation lightly and as proud Yorkshire folk finding that they no longer officially lived in Yorkshire, they were not exactly happy.
The Yorkshire Riding Society based in Beverley at the time decided to hold a celebration in protest that the town was now to be part of Humberside and not Yorkshire. The date was chosen because it was the date of the Battle of Minden which was already celebrated by the Light Infantry (successors of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry regiment) as well as other infantry regiments. At the celebrations the Yorkshire Light Infantry were permitted to wear a White Rose of Yorkshire in their head dress. The symbol of Yorkshire white rose is the main element of the Yorkshire flag.
Coincidently, the date of 1st August also ties in with the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire on 1st August in 1834, something which Yorkshire MP William Wilberforce was significantly involved in.
Yorkshire day has now become well established in the Yorkshire calendar. It is a great opportunity to promote the county and is seen as sending a defiant message to politicians in London and the importance of the regional economy.
But more than this, it has a huge cultural importance and is a way for Yorkshire folk to show their pride in where they live. It cements the local identity and highlights everything that is great about Yorkshire from its stunning scenery, vibrant cities, local traditions, heritage and fabulous food & drink offering.
As well as all this it helps put Yorkshire on the map globally and promote tourism as well as investment to what still is England’s largest historic county.
The Declaration of Integrity
The historic county of Yorkshire was always seen as being made up of the three Ridings of East Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire as well as the City of York. On Yorkshire Day one of the traditions which does always take place each year is in York and is known as the Declaration of Integrity.
The declaration consist of the following words…
"I, [Name], being a resident of the [West/North/East] Riding of Yorkshire [or City of York] declare:
That Yorkshire is three Ridings and the City of York, with these Boundaries of [Current Year minus 875] years' standing; That the address of all places in these Ridings is Yorkshire; That all persons born therein or resident therein and loyal to the Ridings are Yorkshiremen and women; That any person or corporate body which deliberately ignores or denies the aforementioned shall forfeit all claim to Yorkshire status.
These declarations made this Yorkshire Day [Year]. God Save the Queen!
These are read four times at three of York’s Bars – the medieval gateways to the City and once within the City walls – on the basis that each Riding traditionally ran up to the City wall so the declaration can be seen to be said in each Riding!
So when you see on the news on Saturday 1st August pictures of people celebrating and drive past the blue Yorkshire flags with the white rose hanging from buildings – you’ll understand that whilst a relatively new tradition compared with Yorkshire's rich history, it still has huge importance. I think the Yorkshire Day celebrations will only continue to grow.