Yorkshire’s top 10 historical sites as county prepares for Tour de France 2014
The 101st Tour de France kicks off in Yorkshire this weekend. The first stage of the Grand Départ runs from Leeds to Harrogate on Saturday, with a second stage from York to Sheffield on Sunday. The three-week race will see 22 teams cover a total distance of 3,664 kilometres. The first Tour de France took place on 1 July 1903, when 60 pioneers set out on their bicycles from Montgeron in Paris. As competitors and spectators flock to Yorkshire for the start of the 2014 race, we round up 10 of the best historical sites in the county…
Set on a headland overlooking the popular seaside town, Whitby Abbey is one of England’s most important archaeological sites. The first monastery there, founded in the 7th century, was the setting for the Synod of Whitby in 664 – a turning point in the history of the church in England. [The Synod of Whitby was a meeting held by the Christian Church of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria to decide whether to follow Celtic or Roman usages. King Oswiu decided in favour of Rome.]
The headland is now dominated by the remains of the 13th-century church of the Benedictine abbey, founded after the Norman Conquest. Reportedly, Bram Stoker found some of his inspiration for Dracula after staying in a house on the West Cliff in 1890. The abbey was named in 2011 as the most romantic ruin in the country.
Over the course of its 2,500-year history, Scarborough Castle was occupied by the Romans, became a Viking settlement, and was twice besieged during the English Civil War. Having started life as an Iron Age fort, the castle was later developed by Henry II and his successors: in 1159 the king began to rebuild the castle, and planted a new town beneath its walls.
Over the next decade a huge sum of about £650 was spent on the castle – a large proportion of this went towards the building of the great tower, which is still visible.
More like this
One of the world's most outstanding cathedrals, York Minster features stained glass dating back 800 years, and boasts unrivalled views of the city from the top of its central tower. The cathedral’s roots lie in the Roman occupation of York, and the building was officially completed in 1472.
It was visited by Richard III in 1483 for the investiture of his son as Prince of Wales, and has on several occasions been damaged by fire. It is today the largest medieval gothic cathedral north of the Alps.
The history of the Kilnsey Estate, which is set in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, dates back to the 1100s. For 400 years it was run by monks from Fountains Abbey in Ripon, until Henry VIII took their lands in 1536 during the Dissolution. For the next 350 years the estate was owned by the Tennant family, before the arrival of the current owners, the Roberts, in 1911. Today, visitors can enjoy fishing, walking, pony trekking and cycling.
Clifford's Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle, which was built by William the Conqueror. It was established between about 1245 and 1272 to update the defences of the castle.
Between 1825 and 1935 it was incorporated into, and partly concealed by, the walls of York prison, but since their demolition Clifford's Tower has once again become visible. Today it offers stunning views over the historic city of York.
Situated in the middle of the North York Moors National Park, Rosedale Abbey is the name given to the ruins of a Cistercian priory, inhabited by nuns from 1158 to 1535. The priory building was dismantled during the mining boom of the 1850s, which sparked a huge population increase and transformed Rosedale into a lively industrial town. Today, visitors to the valley of Rosedale can enjoy walking, golfing, and archery.
Brodsworth Hall & Gardens
Almost everything inside this Victorian country house has been left exactly as it was when it was still a family home. Built in the Italianate style of the 1860s by Charles Thellusson, Brodsworth Hall was occupied by the Thellusson family for more than 120 years.
During the Second World War the hall and many of its estate buildings were taken over by soldiers. Today visitors can explore the well preserved ‘grand rooms’ on the ground floor, as well as Charles Thellusson's woodworking room, which now features a baby's Second World War 'cradle gas mask' and a 'passenger pigeon' – a rare stuffed specimen of an American bird that had been hunted to extinction by 1914.
An 18th-century country house south of Wakefield set in more than 300 acres of parkland, Nostell Priory has been the home of the Winn family for more than three centuries. The name Nostell Priory refers to an Augustinian priory founded on the site in the early 12th century, which was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The Palladian mansion, now cared for by the National Trust, boasts the largest fully documented collection of Chippendale furniture in the world.
Situated in the East Riding of Yorkshire is the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle built in about 1086 by Drogo de la Beauvriére, who had fought alongside William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
A defended town known as Skipsea Brough was built on the top of the ridge to protect the motte and bailey, which would have been vulnerable to attack from the higher ground. Use of the castle declined from about 1200, and it was ordered to be destroyed in 1221.
English Heritage notes that “today, it is difficult to understand why a castle was built in this apparently remote area. Evidently the route crossing the marsh must have been more important in the Middle Ages.”
Rievaulx was one of the first Cistercian abbeys to be founded in England. Although almost all of its buildings date to the 12th and early 13th centuries, they were remodelled again from the later 14th century to suit changing patterns of religious life, according to English Heritage.
Rievaulx Abbey was suppressed in January 1538 and sold to the earl of Rutland, who stripped and demolished many of the buildings but kept the abbey’s mills functioning, and developed an iron industry that continued into the mid-17th century. The abbey ruins were later incorporated into the parkland of Duncombe Park.
The ruins are today considered to be among the most atmospheric in England.
If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to the print edition of BBC History Magazine? Alternatively, subscribe to the digital edition via the History Extra app.