York is a historic walled city at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England, and is the traditional county town of Yorkshire to which it gives its name. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events in England throughout much of its two millennia of existence. The city offers a wealth of historic attractions, of which York Minster is the most prominent, and a variety of cultural and sporting activities making it a popular tourist destination for millions.
The city was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD. It became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jorvik. In the Middle Ages, York grew as a major wool trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained.
In the 19th century, York became a hub of the railway network and a confectionery manufacturing centre. In recent decades, the economy of York has moved from being dominated by its confectionery and railway-related industries to one that provides services. The University of York and health services have become major employers, whilst tourism has become an important element of the local economy.
From 1996, the term City of York describes a unitary authority area which includes rural areas beyond the old city boundaries. In 2011 the urban area had a population of 153,717, while in 2010 the entire unitary authority had an estimated population of 202,400.
From 1997 to 2010 the central part of the district was covered by the City of York constituency, while the remainder was split between the constituencies of Ryedale, Selby, and Vale of York. These constituencies were represented by Hugh Bayley, John Greenway, John Grogan, and Anne McIntosh respectively.
Following their review in 2003 of parliamentary representation in North Yorkshire, the Boundary Commission for England recommended the creation of two new seats for the City of York, in time for the general election in 2010. These are York Central, which covers the inner urban area, and is entirely surrounded by the York Outer constituency.
York is the traditional county town of Yorkshire, yet it did not form part of any of its three historic ridings, or divisions. York is an ancient borough, and was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 to form a municipal borough. It gained the status of a county borough in 1889, under the Local Government Act 1888, and existed so until 1974, when, under the Local Government Act 1972, it became a non-metropolitan district in the county of North Yorkshire.
As a result of 1990s UK local government reform, York regained unitary status and saw a substantial alteration in its borders, taking in parts of Selby and Harrogate districts, and about half the population of the Ryedale district. The new boundary was imposed after central government rejected the former city council's own proposal.
York Council operates on a leader and Cabinet style of governance. Councillors are appointed to the cabinet by the full council of 47 members. Cabinet members make decisions on their portfolio areas individually.
York's Right Honourable Lord Mayor for 2014–15 is Councillor Ian Gillies. The Sheriff is Councillor John Kenny. Both appointments are made each May for a period of one year. Although York's Sheriff office is the oldest in England it is now a purely ceremonial post. The Lord Mayor carries out civic and ceremonial duties in addition to chairing full meetings of the council.
The York Youth Council consists of several young people who negotiate with the councillors to get better facilities for York's young people.
Origin of the name
The word York (from Old Norse Jórvík 9th century AD) derives from the Latinised name for the city, variously rendered as Eboracum, Eburacum or Eburaci. The first mention of York by this name is dated to circa 95–104 AD as an address on a wooden stylus tablet from the Roman fortress of Vindolanda in Northumberland.
The toponymy of Eboracum is uncertain because the language of the pre-Roman indigenous population was never recorded. They are thought to have spoken a Celtic language related to modern Welsh. It is thought that Eboracum is derived from the Brythonic word Eborakon, a combination of eburos "yew-tree" (cf. Old Irish ibar "yew-tree", Welsh efwr "alder buckthorn", Breton evor "alder buckthorn") and suffix *-āko(n) "place" (cf. Welsh -og) meaning either "place of the yew trees" (cf. efrog in Welsh, eabhrac in Irish Gaelic and eabhraig in Scottish Gaelic, by which names the city is known in those languages); or less probably, Eburos, 'property', which is a personal Celtic name mentioned in different documents as Eβουρος, Eburus and Eburius, and which, combined with the same suffix *-āko(n), could denote a property.
The name Eboracum became the Anglian Eoforwic in the 7th century: a compound of Eofor-, from the old name, and -wic a village probably by conflation of the element Ebor- with a Germanic root *eburaz (boar); by the 7th century the Old English for 'boar' had become eofor. When the Danish army conquered the city in 866, its name became Jórvík.
Jórvík gradually reduced to York in the centuries following the Norman Conquest, moving from the Middle English Yerk in the 14th century through Yourke in the 16th century to Yarke in the 17th century. The form York was first recorded in the 13th century. Many company and place names, such as the Ebor race meeting, refer to the Roman name. The Archbishop of York uses Ebor as his surname in his signature.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesolithic people settled in the region of York between 8000 and 7000 BC, although it is not known whether their settlements were permanent or temporary. By the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, the area was occupied by a tribe known to the Romans as the Brigantes. The Brigantian tribal area initially became a Roman client state, but, later its leaders became more hostile and the Roman Ninth Legion was sent north of the Humber into Brigantian territory.
The city was founded in AD 71, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes and constructed a wooden military fortress on flat ground above the River Ouse close to its confluence with the River Foss. The fortress, which was later rebuilt in stone, covered an area of and was inhabited by 6,000 soldiers. The site of the Roman fortress lies under the foundations of York Minster, and excavations in the undercroft have revealed some of the original walls.
While the Roman colonia and fortress were located on high ground, by AD 400 the town was victim to periodic flooding from the Rivers Ouse and Foss and was abandoned. York declined in the post-Roman era, and was taken and settled by the Angles in the 5th century.
Reclamation of the flooded parts of the town was initiated in the 7th century under King Edwin of Northumbria, and York became his chief city. The first minster church was built in York for the baptism of Edwin in 627. Edwin ordered the small wooden church be rebuilt in stone but was killed in 633 and the task of completing the stone minster fell to his successor Oswald. In the following century Alcuin of York came to the cathedral school of York. He had a long career as a teacher and scholar, first at the school at York now known as St Peter's School, founded in 627 AD, and later as Charlemagne's leading advisor on ecclesiastical and educational affairs.
In 866, Northumbria was in the midst of internecine struggles when the Vikings raided and captured York. Under Viking rule the city became a major river port, part of the extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe. The last ruler of an independent Jórvík, Eric Bloodaxe, was driven from the city in AD 954 by King Edred in his successful attempt to complete the unification of England.
In 1068, two years after the Norman Conquest of England, the people of York rebelled. Initially the rebellion was successful but upon the arrival of William the Conqueror the rebellion was put down. William at once built two wooden fortresses on mottes, which are visible, on either side of the river Ouse. York was ravaged by his army in the harrying of the North.
The first stone minster church was badly damaged by fire in the uprising and the Normans built a minster on a new site. Around the year 1080 Archbishop Thomas started building the cathedral that in time became the current Minster. In the 12th century York started to prosper. In 1190, York Castle was the site of an infamous massacre of its Jewish inhabitants, in which at least 150 Jews died (although some authorities put the figure as high as 500).
The 16th to 18th centuries
The city underwent a period of economic decline during Tudor times. Under Henry VIII, the Dissolution of the Monasteries saw the end of the York's many monastic houses, including several orders of friars, the hospitals of St Nicholas and of St Leonard, the largest such institution in the north of England. This led to the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising of northern Catholics in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire opposed to religious reform. Henry VIII restored his authority by establishing the Council of the North in York in the dissolved St Mary's Abbey. The city became a trading and service centre during this period.
Guy Fawkes, who was born and educated in York, was a member of a group of Roman Catholic restorationists that planned the Gunpowder Plot. Its aim was to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I, the entire Protestant, and even most of the Catholic aristocracy and nobility were inside.
In 1644, during the Civil War, the Parliamentarians besieged York, and many medieval houses outside the city walls were lost. The barbican at Walmgate Bar was undermined and explosives laid, but, the plot was discovered. On the arrival of Prince Rupert, with an army of 15,000 men, the siege was lifted. The Parliamentarians retreated some from York with Rupert in pursuit, before turning on his army and soundly defeating it at the Battle of Marston Moor. Of Rupert's 15,000 troops, no fewer than 4,000 were killed and 1,500 captured. The siege was renewed but the city could not hold out for long, and on 15 July surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and the removal of the garrison from York in 1688, the city was dominated by the gentry and merchants, although the clergy were still important. Competition from Leeds and Hull, together with silting of the River Ouse, resulted in York losing its pre-eminent position as a trading centre but the city's role as the social and cultural centre for wealthy northerners was on the rise. York's many elegant townhouses, such as the Lord Mayor's Mansion House and Fairfax House date from this period, as do the Assembly Rooms, the Theatre Royal, and the racecourse.
The railway promoter George Hudson was responsible for bringing the railway to York in 1839. Although Hudson's career as a railway entrepreneur ended in disgrace and bankruptcy, his promotion of his own railway company, the York and North Midland Railway and of York over Leeds, helped establish York as a major railway centre by the late 19th century.
The introduction of the railways established engineering in the city. At the turn of the 20th century, the railway accommodated the headquarters and works of the North Eastern Railway, which employed more than 5,500 people. The railway was instrumental in the expansion of Rowntree's Cocoa Works. It was founded in 1862 by Henry Isaac Rowntree, who was joined in 1869 by his brother the philanthropist Joseph. Another chocolate manufacturer, Terry's of York was a major employer. By 1900 the railways and confectionery had become the city's two major industries.
With the emergence of tourism, the historic core of York became one of the city's major assets, and in 1968 it was designated a conservation area. The existing tourist attractions were supplemented by the establishment of the National Railway Museum in York in 1975 and the Jorvik Viking Centre in 1984. The opening of the University of York in 1963 added to the prosperity of the city.
York was voted European Tourism City of the Year by European Cities Marketing in June 2007 beating 130 other European cities to gain first place, surpassing Gothenburg in Sweden (second) and Valencia in Spain (third). York was also voted safest place to visit in the 2010 conde nast readers traveller awards.