Near the brewery town of Tadcaster is the village of Aberford. The entrance to Parlington Hall has a Triumphal Arch built by Sir Thomas Gascoigne in 1783 to celebrate the end of the War of Independence. An inscription, which reads ‘Liberty in North America Triumphant 1783’, gave great offence to a Visiting Prince Regent later George IV.
Nineteenth-century industrialisation brought great changes to the town. Today it is known, amongst other things, for having the headquarters of the world’s largest building society, Architecturally, the Victorian era gave Halifax its town hall the work of Sir Giles Barry, designer of the Houses of Parliament and the folly, Wainhouse Tower, originally a 253ft dye-works chimney, now crowned with a Renaissance-style pinnacle.
Rebuilt in the 18th century at the same time as Harewood House, the long terraces of the village extend from the main gates of this opulent yellowstone mansion, probably the most exquisite in the region. Planned by John Carr of York, the beautiful interior of the house, home of the Earl and Countess of Harewood, was largely decorated by Robert Adam and furnished by Chippendale. The picture collection contains works by John Singer Sargent; Epstein’s ‘Adam’ is also housed here. The park, created by Capability Brown, has a four acre fascinating bird garden.
Although situated in the River Wharfe valley, this inland health resort is 400ft above sea-level. There are some interesting buildings including Box Tree Cottage and Manor House Museum, which is built on the site of a Roman fort. All Saints is a 13th-century church with a fine old tower and some rare wood carvings. Three Saxon crosses stand in the churchyard. Several Bronze Age carvings have been found in this area and examples are on display in the garden opposite the church. Nearby Heber’s Ghyll is the site of the Swastika Stone, a unique carved relic believed to have been instrumental in ritual fire worship. The surrounding Ilkley Moor remains the bleak but beautiful setting immortalised in the Yorkshire anthem ‘On Ilkla Moor baht’at’.
Originally a wool town, Leeds has developed into a world centre for ready-made clothing; it is also involved in the manufacture of a large variety of commodities ranging from footwear to ferro-concrete constructions. Despite progress, the old town is still evident. The Grammar School was founded in 1552 and both the Corn Exchange and Town Hall are 19th century. St John’s Church has interesting 17th-century woodwork, while St Peter’s preserves a restored pre-Conquest cross. Three miles north west of the town stand the extensive remains of Kirkstall Abbey now a museum of folk studies. To the south east lies Temple Newsam, a splendid house which was the birthplace of Lord Darnley. Middleton Colliery Railway, dating from 1758 and the oldest in existence, is still in operation, manned by a group of enthusiasts. As a young man one of America’s most famous preachers, the Reverend Robert Collyer, worked as a ‘bell ringer’ at the Washburn Valley mills, north of Leeds. These mills were demolished to make way for reservoirs. The Collyer’s bell which now rings in Cornell University was presented by the preacher himself.
The round black sweets known as Pontefract cakes were originally made of locally grown liquorice, but nowadays it is imported. Where the liquorice field once was, stand the ruins of Pontefract Castle, where Richard II was imprisoned and eventually murdered. Many people were executed here in the Wars of the Roses and its reputation was so sinister that the townspeople petitioned Cromwell to pull it down. A painting of the castle before its destruction hangs in Pontefract Museum. Nostell Priory was built as a house in 1733 on the site of an Augustinian priory, and about 30 years later Robert Adam remodelled a large part of it. There are many good paintings and some excellent Chippendale furniture, and murals by Angelica Kauffmann.
Before the rise of neighbouring cities Leeds and Bradford, Wakefield was the centre of the clothing trade. Its former prosperity is reflected in the many Georgian houses. Yorkshire’s tallest spire can be seen on Wakefield’s cathedral, and the medieval bridge chapel is the most beautiful of the four which survive in England. The 19th century naturalist Charles Waterton was born and died just outside Wakefield at Walton Hall. Waterton’s Wanderings in South America (1825) is still much loved.
Nostell Priory is a magnificent mansion on the site of a 12th-century Augustinian priory; it was built by James Paine in 1733 and extended by Robert Adam some 30 years later. The village church stands within its park.