The Cities and Towns of Yorkshire – Part 1

The last UK census in 2011 showed that Yorkshire had a population of 5.3 million people. Leeds was the third largest city in the United Kingdom with a population of 720,000 people and was followed by Sheffield in 5thand Bradford in 6th. For many years the centre of urban life in the county was York and for a time during the Roman Period, it even held joint status as the capital of the country. During the civil war in 1664 York was besieged and the city was damaged.

After the removal of the garrison in 1668 York lost its pre-eminence position as the trading centre of the county, as Leeds and Hull had better locations on the River Ouse. York continued to grow during the industrial revolution but not at the same rate as other cities in the county. The locating of the York and North Midland Railway in the city in 1839 helped to build the city’s reputation as an engineering centre, and in time its economy was further boosted by the confectionary industry and tourism.

York City centre

Today it is still seen as the County Town of Yorkshire in a historical sense. Much of the city is in a conservation area and York is admired for its beauty. It now has a population of 197,000 people making it the 5th largest city in the county behind Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford and Hull. Leeds is the administrative centre for Yorkshire and the Humber region. There are 8 MPs that represent the city and it is now seen as the major city in Yorkshire.

The settlement first grew on the current site as it was a crossing point on the river Aire. In the 13th century the cloth industry came to Leeds and the creation of small wool industries meant that Leeds grew in size to around 4000 by 1600. With the city specializing in the making of the “Yorkshire Broadcloths” the river gave it good access to the sea for exports, plus the rich agricultural land in the areas meant that a large growth in population could be fed. This resulted in more business being attracted into the town and by 1771 the population had risen to 16,300.

Leeds busy city centre

The Industrial Revolution brought the large cotton mills into the city with new machinery making mass production possible. The reputation of the city as a cloth centre grew with more and more mills being drawn into the city, and by 1841 the population had reached 88,000.

During this Victorian period the city grew with many fine buildings being built, especially in its shopping arcades. In a city with a flourishing cloth trade it was only natural that the finest cloths would be sold in the local area. From this base Leeds grew as a major centre for local government with large numbers being employed in the City Council, the University and the Health Authority. Today Leeds is a modern multi-cultural city and is the third largest city in the United Kingdom. Leeds is very much a modern, high tech city. People are attracted in to the city to shop and enjoy sporting and social events. It has a thriving cultural seen, and is seen as being at the centre of the music and arts in Yorkshire.