The ancient West riding of Yorkshire pre-1974 covered a vast area of land stretching from the southern borders of Sheffield to the now Cumbrian town of Sedbergh in the North. Places such as Skipton and Harrogate were all part of the old West Riding, while the modern South Yorkshire heartlands of Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster were also included in its borders. Towards the Pennines the towns of Barnoldswick and Slaidburn were also considered to be part of the county.
The 1889 act saw the creation of five urban borough councils, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax and Sheffield, plus the addition of York. The area became known as the “County of York West riding. The abbreviated form “Yorks WR” can still be seen written above a hollow circle on signposts that were made before the mid 1960s, especially on rural roads. The administrative headquarters for the riding was at County Hall in Wakefield.
Post 1974 West Yorkshire dramatically reduced in size, with the creation of a new county, South Yorkshire. Further north huge areas of land was conceded to the newly expanded North Riding meaning that the area of West Yorkshire was compacted around the traditional heavy woollen districts of Bradford and Leeds. In 1986 West Yorkshire Council was abolished and split into five separate councils known as Leeds, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale and Bradford. Barnoldswick and Slaidburn had the misfortune to become part of Lancashire.
The new more compact West Riding is now a multi-cultural urban area which has a population of around 2.2m people. Most of the wool and cloth making industries have gone, but the area is now one of the most important financial and legal centres outside Greater London. Leeds has become the largest city in Yorkshire and is home to a vast array of retail, culture and services, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the county. There are also numerous places to visit which celebrate the area’s industrial past and hopes for the future.