A Brief History of Tudor & Stuart Yorkshire

We last left off our epic serialised history of the county of Yorkshire in 1489, when the Yorkshire Rebellion of Sir John Egremont was put down by the new Tudor king Henry VII. For many years after that, nothing much of major historical significance occurred in the county. The next set of key events occurred between 1536 and 1540.

The Start

This year marked the end of Henry VIII’s campaign to reduce the influence of the Catholic Church in England, known as the Dissolution of the Monasteries. From Roche Abbey in the South of the county to Guisborough Priory in the far North, over 130 religious institutions were closed, driven underground or broken up in the lands of Yorkshire.

Henry VIII’s reforms had proved extremely unpopular among the people of Yorkshire, and in this year a cadre of local lords attempted a rebellion. They wished to depose Henry’s successor, Elizabeth I, from the throne and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. Led by Thomas Percy, the 7th Earl of Northumberland, and Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmoreland, the rebellion at one point commanded at least 12,000 soldiers. However, they were soundly unsuccessful in attempting to take York from Elizabeth’s forces. By 1572 the rebellion had lost all momentum, and Elizabeth had Percy beheaded in York that same year.

Road to Civil War and the Consequences

The population of Yorkshire had expanded greatly during the 40 years preceding and Elizabeth became a more popular queen. Under her reign, the growth of industry saw the cities of Leeds and Sheffield increase in size. Also, a contributing factor was the improvement of farming technology which reduced the need for farm-workers and led more people to seek employment in urban centres. By 1600 Sheffield was a centre for cutlery and tableware production in England.

This year was most famous for the failed Gunpowder Plot, an event which still resonates culturally around the world today. The notorious Guy Fawkes was born in York and had many links to the local area – although a Royal inquisition the plot did not receive any physical support from the Yorkshire people.

At the height of the English Civil War, the Parliamentarian army besieged York for nearly a full year. When the siege broke, aided by a Royalist army commanded by Prince Rupert of the Rhine (a cousin of Charles I), there followed a tumultuous battle at Marston Moor, near Long Marston in North Yorkshire. The result was a resounding defeat for the Royalists, losing their hold on the largely Royalist population of the North.

In 1652, after the end of the Civil War, the victorious Oliver Cromwell destroyed many castles in the Yorkshire area including at Pontefract. Local reports suggest that the regional populace was generally in favour of the destruction, as it would help prevent further re-occurrence of fighting in their locality. Many Yorkshire Protestants and Royalists fled to America during this time, to escape the Puritanical laws of the Restoration or simply reprisals for supporting the wrong side during the war.