LibDem Councillor Chris Abbott says it’s Yorkshire Day today and time we recognised our real counties still exist
Yorkshire Day was created in 1975. It is celebrated annually on 1 August, which is the anniversary of the Battle of Minden in 1759 when Yorkshire soldiers laid white roses alongside their fallen comrades.
Events are taking place all over Yorkshire and in a number of special places we read the Yorkshire Declaration of Integrity, this year at 1133am precisely. The time 1133am represents 1133 years since the earliest known written reference to the Ridings of York in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles of the year 876AD.
In York the readings have taken place every year since 1975 around the three Bars of York (that’s gates to southerners) to represent the three Ridings and once inside the walls to represent the City of York. It is read in the four languages used in Yorkshire since 876. Latin, Old Norse, Old English and Modern English.
This year it will take place with people carrying the newly standardised Yorkshire flag (pictured) that was registered with the Flag Institute UK on Friday. The flag has been around for donkey's years but it had not been registered.
Though many people are unaware of it, it is a fact that the Ridings of Yorkshire were not actually abolished by local government changes.
The County Councils were but not the geographic counties that they were placed upon as part of the 1888 Local Government Act.
The Parliamentary Acts of 1973 and 1992 had no effect on them either. Governments, legal experts and many other reputable bodies all agree. This is not an accident. Parliament has repeatedly decided over the last two centuries to separate local government and the traditional counties.
For example, the 1972 Act abolished the North Riding County Council but it did not abolish the North Riding of Yorkshire. But the 1992 Act abolished both Cleveland County Council and the County of Cleveland. This allowed John Major to make the following statement in 1992: “This re-organisation of Local Government is an opportunity for people to reclaim the Ridings of Yorkshire.” It was the same for the likes of Humberside and Avon.
The counties developed in different ways in different parts of Britain. The Ridings of Yorkshire are amongst the earliest. The first recorded reference to the Ridings appears in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles of 876, nine years after the Viking conquest of the area. But some parts of the boundaries can be traced to 735 and may go back to Roman times. Riding is probably derived from a Norse word meaning a third part. It may come from an Old English origin meaning a thirding. Actually, Yorkshire has four parts since the ancient City of York (within the walls) is in no Riding.
There is much confusion about the status of Counties. This never need happen if you accept the truth that the Ridings and all of England's 39 counties still exist because they were never abolished. It would not happen if people understood the statements made by Government every time Local Government re-organisation has taken place:
“These changes are for Local Government purposes only for all other purposes Yorkshire is still Yorkshire.”
Re-organising local government from time to time is necessary but it does not have to destroy our heritage and identity.
The answer is to accept that our traditional counties remain for all cultural, ceremonial, sporting and postal purposes. They should be sign posted and shown on maps alongside the ever-changing local government areas. Unitary Councils and the 1974 plastic counties (those that still exist) are not real counties and should not be called counties. They are administrative areas.
This way we get a stable geography, easily identified by clear natural boundaries and forever afterwards if the bureaucrats at Whitehall decide that we need to alter LG boundaries nobody feels they have lost their identity.