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Yorkshire Day

The first day of August is Lammas. Originally Lammas was a pagan festival which celebrated the first harvest of the year. As with so many similar practices, it was adopted and adapted by the Christian Church as an early form of what we now would call a harvest festival. The bread, or loaf, made from the first ripened corn was consecrated at a mass — hence loaf mass, Lammas.

1st August is also Yorkshire Day but it cannot claim the same antiquity, having been founded in 1975 by the Yorkshire Ridings Society to remind everyone of Yorkshire’s historic boundaries which of course still exist and which should not be confused with the administrative areas of North, South, West and East Yorkshire which have been set up since 1974.

The county of Yorkshire, whose original county town is York, has long been divided into three Ridings. The county town, or administrative centre, of the West Riding historically was Wakefield, of the North Riding Northallerton and Beverley was the county town of the East Riding. It was almost certainly the Danes, following their settlement of eastern England in the ninth century who made, or formalised, the division. Riding is from the Viking word ‘thrid’ or ‘third’.

Each Riding sent representatives to an early ‘parliament’ or assembly at York. Within each Riding were wapentakes, smaller divisions, which took the place of the Anglo-Saxon hundreds. For example, Headingley and Leeds were in the Skyrack wapentake. The assembled freemen met to discuss matters under a large oak tree, the Shire Oak, in Headingley. Today on the A660 in Headingley, close to the cricket ground and next to the war memorial, are two public houses opposite each other, the Original Oak and the Skyrack. This is the place where over a thousand years ago the freemen met. The tree itself survived into the twentieth century though is no more. Our past is all around us.

So don’t confuse Yorkshire in the real and traditional sense with the modem administrative areas. They are not the same. Middlesbrough, Hull, Sedbergh and Barnoldswick are all still part of Yorkshire despite the messing around with administrative boundaries and the confusion caused by post codes. And next 1st August, as well as thanking God for the harvest, wear a white rose.


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