God’s Own County is being celebrated in the heart of Westminster today, as the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, raised the flag of his home county, Yorkshire, outside his department’s headquarters.
Just a few short weeks after the remarkable success of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart, the people of Yorkshire are once again toasting their great county. The flag was hoisted to mark Yorkshire Day, which falls on 1 August, the day slavery was abolished across the British Empire following the tireless campaign of William Wilberforce, one of the county’s famous sons.
Be it whippets and flat caps, straight-talking locals, or breathtaking scenery, the White Rose county has many famous stereotypes.
But here are some little-known facts about Yorkshire:
it is the home of democracy: the first secret ballot was held in Pontefract to elect a Member of Parliament in 1872
it is the birthplace of aviation: Sir George Cayley is the founder of aerodynamics - the aviation pioneer orchestrated the first-ever controlled flight which was made by a glider across Brompton Dale in North Yorkshire in 1853
it was once the heart of the Roman Empire: The city of York was established by the Romans and became a huge military base. Constantine the Great was crowned Roman Emperor in the city in 306
it was the first quintessential British seaside town: in 1626, Elizabeth Farrow discovered a spring at the bottom of a cliff on the south beach in Scarborough and declared that it had health-giving properties; people flocked and the first seaside resort was born
big is beautiful: the biggest of Britain’s ceremonial counties also lays claim to the largest vale, medieval cathedral, abbey ruins and parish church in the country - as well as the world’s biggest fish and chip shop, the original Harry Ramsden’s, and Britain’s tallest-ever living man, William Bradley, who went by the alias of the Yorkshire Giant and measured up at 7 feet 9 inches
England’s traditional counties date back over a thousand years of history, but many of them have been sidelined in recent years, including the municipal restructuring by Edward Heath’s government in 1965 and 1972. By contrast, this government is championing local communities continuing to cherish and celebrate such traditional ties and community spirit.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
As a proud Yorkshireman it gives me great joy to fly the flag of God’s Own County in the heart of government today to mark Yorkshire Day. The recent Tour de France showed the world how proud Yorkshiremen are of their beautiful county. It has long been a cherished and important part of Britain’s great history.
We are stronger as a society when we celebrate the ties that bind us together. I want to send a strong signal – we should fly our flags with pride. Whatever one’s class, colour or creed, let’s have pride in Britain’s local and national identities.
This is part of a series of steps to champion England’s national identities. Earlier this year, the department launched a new initiative to support the ‘tapestry’ of traditional English counties being displayed on street and road signs. The government also published a new online interactive map of England’s county boundaries.
Planning rules have been changed to allow councils to put up boundary signs marking traditional English counties – including the likes of Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex. The government has proposed changes to highways regulations to allow traditional county names to appear on boundary road signs.