Beyond The Stereotypes – Four Pastimes That Are Loved In Yorkshire
If, as the author of this piece is, you were born in God’s Own County you’ll be well aware of the stereotypes that await Yorkshire folk when they venture anywhere south of Sheffield. People not fortunate enough to have been born in this great county tend to conceal their envy by portraying us as flat cap wearing, whippet walking scrooges.
Well, quite simply, that is not the case. Yorkshire is one of the most vibrant, diverse and stimulating counties in the United Kingdom. Beyond the stereotypes, there are many other activities and pastimes that are deeply embedded in the Yorkshire psyche.
Read on to find out what makes us folk ‘ere tick.
Yorkshire Fact: William Wilberforce – resident of Hull – led the campaign to abolish slavery in the British Empire.
It’s far less apparent now, but in the not too distant past sport in the UK was very much divided by class lines. Indeed, a class struggle between rich southerners who saw rugby as a pastime rather than a career is what forced a conglomerate of northerners to birth Rugby League in the George Hotel, Huddersfield.
Playing for free was easy for Old Etonians with a wealthy family, but not so for working-class northerners who had a family to support. In cricket there were similar issues, but rather than forming a splinter sport, working-class Yorkshire folk decided to beat their upper-class opponents at their own game.
Yorkshire won a record-breaking 33rd County Championship in 2015 as they retained the title won the previous year
The battle became known as the ‘players vs the gentlemen’, with Yorkshire being the main protagonists for the players. They often say that people from Yorkshire are stubborn and headstrong, and in the cricketing landscape, they most certainly were.
With the bit between their teeth, the working-class players of Yorkshire went on to become the most successful county team in the history of domestic cricket. In the past 50 years, the national team has relied so heavily on players from the White Rose county that the saying ‘a strong Yorkshire is a Strong England’ has become widely used all over the country.
Yorkshire Fact: The county welcomed over 300 million tourists last year.
When the government passed the gambling act of 1961 which legalised bingo it was brilliant news for the people of Yorkshire. For decades prior, the game had attracted huge crowds of people in its role as a charity fundraising game.
It’s legalisation as a gambling activity saw the game reach ever-growing crowds of people, with national membership peaking at 14 million just a few years later. Whilst bingo was popular throughout the country, it was in Yorkshire where it really struck a chord with the public.
The Seaside towns of Scarborough and Filey were thriving hubs of bingo-loving holidaymakers during the summer months for decades. Unfortunately, at the turn of the Millennium, the game suffered a downturn in fortunes, largely thanks to the rise of the internet.
Players are more likely to get their bingo fix now by logging onto aggregate sites such as BingoPort than visiting a hall in person. Despite that decline in fortunes, Yorkshire is still home to the highest number of physical bingo halls in the UK.
Yorkshire Fact: Scarborough was Britain’s first seaside holiday resort after being established as one in 1626.
Despite only having one representative in the top tier of English football, the top 7 clubs in the county average a combined weekly crowd of over 200,000 fans. When you factor in the demise of many of Yorkshire’s top teams, that is an incredibly impressive total.
Leeds United are perhaps the most well-known team in the county and was indeed the last team from Yorkshire to win England’s top tier, in its final season as the First Division, before it became known as the Premier League.
It’s not all about the here and now in football when it comes to Yorkshire, teams in the county have a long history to be proud of in the game. Huddersfield Town – recently of the Premier League – were the first team in English history to win the top division three times in a row when Herbert Chapman’s team terrified opponents far and wide.
Leeds United were the last team from Yorkshire to win a top division title back in 1992
Both Sheffield clubs, Hull, Barnsley and Middlesborough all have histories to be proud of also – five English league titles have at one time called the Steel City home.
Yorkshire’s relative demise in recent years may speak to a wider issue of northern stagnation, but on the whole, it hasn’t dampened the spirits of the fans who turn up in their numbers every week to cheer on their teams.
Yorkshire Fact: Sheffield FC are the oldest club in world football and as such the city is seen as the home of football by both FIFA and UEFA.
‘Strong in’t arm and thick in’t ‘ead’ is just one of the many stereotypes of Yorkshire that depicts the people from here as simple folk with a leaning toward manual labour. It’s fair to say that people from outside of Yorkshire view us hardworking, simple folk with little to no education.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth – some of the best literary, musical and acting minds in the world, let alone the country, have come from Yorkshire. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were all written by the Brontë sisters, residents of West Yorkshire.
Multiple Olivier award-winning actor Sir Patrick Stewart was born and raised in Huddersfield – sorry, Mirfield (it’s still in Huddersfield by the way). J.B. Priestley, Alan Bennett, Reece Dinsdale, W.H. Auden, Andrew Marvell and many more were/are proud Yorkshire folk.
Rather than thinking of people from Yorkshire as hard-working coal miners, think of them as creators, people who have changed the world with great literary achievements, sporting moments of sheer brilliance and bloody-minded political movements that have changed the country for the better.
Oh, and people that do love a bit of bingo on a Saturday evening!