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Five surprising Yorkshire customs you’ve probably never heard of

By Helen Pentith  //  Wed 21st January 2015
Yorkshire customs

The historic county of Yorkshire is certainly a proud one, and it retains a strong identity to this day. The beautiful countryside surrounding Escrick Park and its timber holiday lodges is just one corner of Yorkshire. For visitors to the area, there’s plenty more to explore: from the rugged coastline of east Yorkshire to the bustling towns and cities of west Yorkshire. Given the proud and eventful history of the region, it’s little surprise that Yorkshire customs have survived and flourished particularly well over the centuries. Take a look at some of the strangest traditions that continue to take place in Yorkshire to this day…

Burning Bartle

The Burning of Bartle is an odd ceremony that occurs in the Yorkshire Dales village of West Witton each year. On the Saturday closest to the 24th of August (St. Bartholomew’s Day) an effigy is paraded around the village (from 9pm sharp). The procession stops in several places, where age-old and gruesome verses are eerily chanted by the townspeople. When the end of the trail is reached, the effigy is burned. It’s unclear why and when this mysterious tradition originated….

Ripon Hornblower

Here’s a tradition that dates all the way back to the Viking period. Every single night at nine o’clock, the Ripon hornblower ‘sets the watch’. It all started when Alfred the Great visited the city in 886, granting it a Royal Charter – and a horn. Alfred’s charter horn is kept safe within Ripon to this day. In the 9th century, the Viking threat was ever present. A ‘wakeman’ was appointed to watch the city overnight. The horn was sounded at the four corners of the market square in the evening to tell the populace they could sleep soundly, because the watch had been set. The tradition continued for centuries. In the 17th century, King James granted the city another Royal Charter, and removed the role of wakeman – in recent years, the power of the wakeman had grown so that he was one of the most powerful men in the city. The king appointed a mayor of the city, and the new hornblower carried out the setting of the watch on his behalf. Every evening, the hornblower must show the mayor he has done his duty by sounding the horn in his presence. This tradition is still a daily ritual today.

Holmfirth duck race

This tradition is much younger – only thirty years old – but it’s become just as much of a spectacle as the Ripon hornblower. On the first Saturday in July, hundreds of yellow plastic ducks are thrown into the river and race downstream. It costs £1 to buy a duck, with the winner claiming £3,000. All proceeds go to charity.

Saddleworth rushcart

Saddleworth is no longer officially a part of Yorkshire, having been transferred to the Greater Manchester area in the mid ‘70s, but the area retains its Yorkshire roots. It is most famous for its rushcart, a tradition that is thought to date back to the 18th century but died out in the early 20th century. A group of morris dancers revived the ritual in the ‘70s, and the event now garners huge crowds. A mountain of reeds are attached to a cart (which is thought to weigh over two tons when loaded), which is then escorted down to the church by dozens of morrismen. The reeds are spread over the church floor in a gesture that harks back to centuries gone by.

Yorkshire pudding boat racing

This event has only taken place a couple of times, so it can’t really be classed as a custom or a tradition – but we love the idea so much that we just had to include it! Founder Simon Thackray of the Shed (a music and comedy venue on the edge of the North York Moors) dreamed up the idea. Essentially, kids jump into their own giant Yorkshire pudding boat and try to race each other. The event didn’t take place in 2014. Will it make a comeback this year?

A visit to Yorkshire doesn’t just give you the chance to visit historic buildings, but also to witness these unique customs that simply don’t exist anywhere else. Buy or rent a timber holiday lodge in Yorkshire to start exploring this incredible region.
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