North Yorkshire – Leyburn, Middleham, Yorkshire Day and Richard III

Richard III Middleham castle

“Now is the winter of our discontent 
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.”

William Shakespeare – Richard III, Act 1 Scene 1

The following morning we drove once more to Leyburn and this time the chocolate factory workshop was open so we spent a full morning there while the children made chocolate pizza and Kim and Sally ate chocolate cake.

Next we drove to the town centre which was horribly busy once more and once we had secured a much prized parking place I gave in to the demands of the others and we visited the shops.  Actually, I rather liked the shops in Leyburn  and the reason for that was that there were none that I recognised.

Usually in England every town has the same shops, there is practically no individuality in the town centres.  Every shop that I can expect to find in my home town can be found anywhere else.

Leyburn postcard

These are not shops that interest me a great deal in Grimsby so it was completely unlikely that they would do so elsewhere.  To make it worse, in a typical English town there is an over-supply of banks, building societies and pay-day loan money lenders and the trouble with financial service providers is that they simply cannot make their window displays interesting and except for a different logo all they can display is a list of lending and savings rates most of which are the same anyway.

This, I am happy to report was not the case in Leyburn where there were an abundance of traditional shops owned and run by local traders and I rather enjoyed an hour or so looking around.

In one shop we were invited to choose a white rose from a basket because today, as it turned out, was ’Yorkshire Day’. 

Yorkshire Day is 1 August to promote and celebrate the historic English county of Yorkshire.  It all began in 1975 started by the Yorkshire Ridings Society, initially in Beverley, as a protest movement against the Local Government re-organisation of 1974 which effectively dismantled the historic old County.

The White Rose County of Yorkshire is the largest in England and for administrative convenience was once divided into Ridings, North, West and East, but no obvious fourth and I wondered why?  Well it turns out that there is a simple explanation because the word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The invading Danes called representatives from each Thridding to a Thing, or Parliament and established the Ridings System.  I rather like the idea that Parliament is called a Thing! I have heard it called worse.  To this day, Yorkshire consists of three Ridings, along with the City of York, and that’s why there is no fourth, or South, Riding.

After some shopping for essential supplies (beer, wine and cracker biscuits for the over-supply of Wensleydale cheese) we left Leyburn and carried on to nearby Middleham.

Middleham Postcard

Middleham describes itself as a township, smaller than a town but bigger than a village and it is a very fine place. Less frantic than other towns in Wesleydale but blessed with history and a magnificent castle, almost as big as the town itself. We parked the car and found a pub for lunch called ‘Richard III’.

Richard III was the last Plantagenet and House of York King of England, the last King of England killed in combat, at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and succeeded by the victorious Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster.  Before he became King in 1482 he lived for a while in the castle here in Middleham.

Thanks to William Shakespeare poor old Richard is mostly remembered as a bad man and an evil King who got what he deserved at the battle of Bosworth but history is now beginning to revise this judgement following the discovery of his bones in an unlikely burial place under a public car park in my home town of Leicester.

Richard III

Yorkshire demanded that he should be immediately returned to York for a final decent burial but discoverers held firm and he now lies in the Cathedral of his adopted County of Leicester.

Leicester has laid claim to Richard III. Some people claim that this is significant.  Leicester City are a football team in England who have never really done anything spectacular.  In 2014 they were playing badly and looked likely to be relegated from the Premier League but after the bones of Richard were found they suddenly began to play like champions and in the following year won the English Premier League.  The reversal of fortune has been attributed by some to Richard III and though it is unlikely it is such a good story that I really want to believe it.

Although Leicester is a large city in the UK there are only three places in U.S.A. named after it, in Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont.  As far as I can see there is no Leicester in Canada or in Australia.   Perhaps it is too difficult to pronounce correctly?

After lunch we walked to the castle.  Between us there were mixed opinions about paying the entrance fee but with my new castle enthusiast pal, William, eager to climb the battlements everyone finally gave in and we went inside.

It was once a massive castle, one of the biggest in Northern England built on a site previously garrisoned by both the Romans and the Normans and deep within the labyrinth or towers and walls is a statue of Richard III and for those who say he was evil he looked arm less enough to me!

Middleham Castle

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24 responses to “North Yorkshire – Leyburn, Middleham, Yorkshire Day and Richard III

  1. I always forget Yorkshire Day. I rely on a good Tyke friend to remind me. I was furious about the abolition of the ridings. A bloody disgrace, historically, apart from anything else. Sheer political shenanigans. I would write home from university and address the envelope WEST RIDING.

    Are those postcards from the 1960s? They look like a bygone era. Ah nostalgia, an evil thing.

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  2. It never ceases to fascinate, the story of Richard III, does it?
    That’s one of the things I liked about Skipton, too, Andrew- proper shops! 🙂

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    • I especially like the true story that the amateur archaeologists just pointed to a spot in a car park and said “I think he is buried just about here” and hey presto he was!
      In Leicester we are all very fond of Richard, Yorkists were never going to get him back! Apparently it has done wonders for tourism in the city and it is nice that his reign and his character are being positively reassessed.

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  3. I agree with you about shops, and that was what I liked about Ireland. On holiday in Cornwall though, so many of the shops are the same.

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  4. “Liked the shops” Could we get that in bold writing and kept in a place of safety for future reference. 🙂 Chocolate pizza sounds right up my alley. How delicious an outing is that?

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  5. Enjoyed the whole blog, Andrew, but two things stuck in my mind: Chocolate pizza, and the bones of Richard influencing the soccer team. I like that thought as well. 🙂 And please tell me, what all goes into making a chocolate pizza? –Curt

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    • Chocolate pizza is a gimmick. A slab of chocolate and then some candies and sprinkles to decorate it – £8 each but they did taste good.
      The story of Richard III is a really good one. An amateur archaeologist was convinced through her research that she knew where he was buried. She pointed to a spot in a car park in Leicester, the diggers moved in and hey presto there he was.
      As far as I can see the only association between Richard III and Leicester is that he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth a few miles away but the city and the county have adopted him as a sort of local hero. No way in the world were they going to allow his bones to be returned to York.
      I am certain that his discovery and subsequent historical reassessment had something to do with the success of the football team! I have followed them for 50 years and have never seen anything like it. I just wish that my dad had seen it too – maybe he did and was celebrating in his urn!

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      • Your dad “urned” his right to enjoy the success. Sports, it seems to me, are based on both skill and attitude. Thinking you can win is half the battle. I would imagine it also effects how hard you practice.
        As for Richard, Peggy read a mystery based on the story, “Who Buries the Dead,” by C.S. Harris.
        Chocolate pizza sounds like something our grandkids would definitely go for.🙂 –Curt

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  6. I hear you on the shops! I am so tired of the same cluster of shops every few miles or so here in the States. It’s the same way with restaurants. I hate whoever invented franchises!

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  7. I remember reading about the discovery of Richard III’s bones under the car park – I particularly found the scientists’ investigation of his cause of death fascinating.

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