I was at the check-out at Morrison’s in Yeadon with the various provisions my wife had asked me to get. I was doing quite well, having managed to free the device which immobilises trolleys and having found the bakewell tarts despite the fact that they had been moved again to confuse me. On an impulse – I know, men are hopeless – I’d bought two bottles of burgundy. To my astonishment the young man on the check-out called his supervisor over and asked him whether it was alright to sell me the wine. He was told he could. When I got my speech back I asked the guy whether he really wondered if I was under 18. “No”, he said, “but I am”.
Sir Ken Morrison.
Morrison’s is the largest listed company with its headquarters in Yorkshire. Ken Morrison retired earlier this year after leading the company since 1956. I can’t imagine that he ever described himself as its chief executive officer, the American term increasingly used here because it sounds important, but he guided the family firm from its first supermarket to becoming the fourth largest supermarket retailer. He was always admired in the City, despite, or perhaps because of, his blunt Yorkshire ways, and he has made an absolute fortune. But far more importantly to my mind, everyone I have ever met who has worked for him regards him with respect and affection. You can’t have a better tribute. We wish him a long and happy retirement.
As we know, Yorkshire Day has now been celebrated on 1st August since the 1970s when the integrity of Yorkshire proper was first threatened by the confusion caused by the creation of new administrative areas. This year, for the first time, Lancashire Day was observed. The real Lancashire stretches from the Mersey in the south to the Lake District in the north and is very different from the truncated administrative county. Lancashire’s emblem is of course the red rose. Its best known landmark is probably Blackpool Tower. Lancashire Day – make a note for next year – is 27th November. Why 27th November? It was chosen because it was the date in 1295 when for the first time elected representatives were sent from Lancashire to Westminster to attend the Model Parliament of Edward I. We salute this celebration of the traditional county – whilst not forgetting, of course, that the best thing to come out of Lancashire is the M62.
Scene at Fewston.
The Sunday Telegraph listed Britain’s best town halls. These lists are always subjective but interesting nonetheless. It was good to see Leeds and Halifax there. Of Leeds Town Hall, completed in 1858, it said, “The epitome of northern civic bombast, its grandeur helps sustain the city’s sense of its own importance”. And as for Halifax’s rather fine town hall opened in 1862, “Charles Barry’s building is classical, but so nicely ornamental that it recalls his better-known gothic Houses of Parliament”. I remember first going to the town hall in Halifax when I was still at school as part of a course on citizenship when we learned a great deal about, inter alia, central and local government. I don’t suppose they have such course nowadays. Instead they learn about global warming and sexually transmitted diseases and human rights and Islam.
Halifax Town Hall from Princess Street.
A friend went to Nellie’s by Gaslight in Beverley. It is, surprise, lit only by gaslight and serves Sam Smith’s at £1.74. Incidentally the splendid Corn Exchange in Leeds is now a restaurant. How are the mighty fallen. A review I read praised its “black spaghetti and roast baby squid”. Er, thanks but no.
The only entertaining aspect of the whole Shannon Matthews case was that on the BBC Panorama programme her mother’s dreadful use of English and Yorkshire accent were subtitled for the benefit of those in the Home Counties.
Tucked away in December’s Yorkshire Ridings Magazine next to an illustrated article about women’s underwear (“we’ve given our best-selling t-shirt bra a twist this season” – sounds most uncomfortable to me), was a fascinating – well, to me – article about Yorkshire’s wapentakes. These were, indeed are, the territorial and administrative areas between the Ridings and the parishes. Their parallel is the hundreds of the south and west of England. The hundreds were Anglo-Saxon; the wapentakes were the Vikings’ division of land.
There were about 12 wapentakes in each of the three Ridings. They were named after the cross or tree or geographical feature where the meetings took place. Among them are Skyrack, between the Wharfe and the Aire, and Claro in the West Riding, Howdenshire and Holderness in the East and Langbaurg and Allertonshire in the North. The “wapentake” was the ceremonial clash of weapons which preceded the meeting of the great and the good. The equivalent of a bell ringing or a factory hooter sounding.
The Skyrack, Headingley.
I went to Holy Trinity, Hull’s parish church. It is over 700 years old though is the third church on the site. It has various claims to fame: it is England’s largest parish church (larger than many cathedrals), it is the oldest brick building in this country still used for its original purpose and it has the largest parish church organ. The beautiful marble font dates from 1380; William Wilberforce was baptised there. Much of the medieval stained glass was destroyed during a Zeppelin raid in 1916. We are lucky the church survives. In Leeds the Victorians pulled down the medieval parish church in order to build a new one.
Until recently I had never been in Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane in Leeds, having passed it many times. At present the area around it is being redeveloped and it stands proudly alone for the very short-term. Completed in 1727 it is in the Christopher Wren style of so many of London’s churches built after the Great Fire. It was designed by William Halfpenny, the site cost £175 and the building £4500. The four times diminishing square tower had to be rebuilt after a great storm in 1837. Inside the church are giant Corinthian columns supporting a tunnel vault and the church is still used for services, for gigs and as a refuge for the homeless.
You won’t be able to see the magnificent Great East Window of York Minster for at least ten years. The panels have been removed and taken away for meticulous and much-needed restoration. It has been described as the Sistine Chapel of stained glass and fortunately was not lost during the Reformation or the Wars. A print of the window has been hung on the scaffolding which is not much of a substitute but perhaps is better than nothing. The window itself was created between 1405 and 1408 by John Thornton. It cost £58. About the price of lunch today.
Usually bookshops, like churches and bars, are among my favourite places. But in the run-up to Christmas I find them a bit depressing. They are piled high with ghosted autobiographies of minor celebrities and humorous books about body parts and High School Musical annuals. These are what sell. Does anyone ever buy a twelve year old Huckleberry Finn or Swallows and Amazons nowadays?
A Yorkshire Miscellany by Tom Holman is excellent (£10). I could have written it myself. But I didn’t. He did. And did so very well.
Recently a correspondent asked how to obtain a Yorkshire flag. The answer is that the Yorkshire Ridings Society sells them. Go to www.yorkshireridings.org
A Yorkshire Miscellany.
Leeds brewery is set to close. The home of Tetley’s bitter. Carlsberg blames falling consumption and the need to maximise efficiency, code for profits. There has been a brewery next to the Aire since 1822. All over the area grown men could be heard sobbing until they realised it would dilute their beer which pulled them up sharply. Sic transit gloria mundi. As they say in Holbeck.
Another year gone almost. Hey ho. God rest you merry, gentlemen. And, of course, ladies.
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