Picture Credit: Tim Green Wikipedia creative commons

“A floral town with a difference” –anon

Wetherby is a market town situated on the River Wharfe and has a population of 11,242 people. The place is known for hospitality due to its location between London and Edinburgh, award winning floral displays and equine traditions.

Nowadays Wetherby’s central location means that it has become an ideal place for tourists to stay in order to explore other parts of Yorkshire.

Wetherby does have some delights of its own. The River runs through the centre of the town, making it a lovely setting for a picnic and riverside walk. The nearby bandstand offers Sunday afternoon entertainment, with brass bands from around the county booked each week from April to September.

Wetherby Town Hall and one of the town's famous floral displays. Picture credit: Tim Green Wikipedia creative commons.
Wetherby Town Hall and one of the town’s famous floral displays. Picture credit: Tim Green Wikipedia creative commons.

The town has won many local and national awards for its floral displays, winning the Yorkshire in Bloom town category on several occasions. In 1998 Wetherby went one step further by winning the Britain in Bloom award and an Entante Floral Gold Award at the continental equivalent in 1999, plus an International Communities award in six years later. During the summer months there can be as many as 250 hanging baskets around the town centre.

The nearby Stockeld Park estate holds several seasonal family-based activities throughout the year, at Easter, Christmas and during the summer. It also has other attractions, including an ice rink, maze and enchanted forest. In December there is a Santa’s grotto and Christmas tree store, which sells products grown on site.

Bramham Park is a historical house, concert venue and corporate centre, located a few miles outside the town. It was built in 1698 by Robert Benson and his descendants still live on the estate today. It is more famous for the range of national events held here, such as Leeds Festival and Bramham horse trials, which is one of the country’s leading three day eventing tournaments held each June.

The racecourse at Wetherby is a permanent fixture on the British racing map. Picture credit: mtaylor848 Wikipedia creative commons.
The racecourse at Wetherby is a permanent fixture on the British racing map. Picture credit: mtaylor848 Wikipedia creative commons.

Wetherby has a long connection with equine sports, which date back to Roman Times. The town has had its own racecourse since 1891, although there are earlier records of horse-racing at nearby Linton. Wetherby is the only racecourse in Yorkshire to hold exclusively National hunt meetings, which mean the races are purely over jumps and ditches, rather than flat. This is due partly to the course’s tendency to flood during the winter months.

The town is located on the Great North Road, nowadays the modern day A1, which was an old travel route from London to Edinburgh. Wetherby marks the exact halfway point between these two cities at 198 miles each way. The town became a well-known stopping off point for stagecoaches and in its hospitality heyday had 40 inns, such as “The Brunswick” and “The Angel” to accommodate weary travellers. As well as the A1, modern day road links see the town well connected to other Yorkshire towns and cities, including the A58 to Leeds and A661 to Harrogate. It is connected directly to York only by the rather narrow, winding, B1224, but still provides a rather scenic drive through the surrounding countryside.

The coming of the railways to Wetherby in 1854 sparked much debate, especially amongst the town’s publicans, who were concerned that it would affect business at their inns and destroy the town’s long held tradition of hospitality. Nowadays, for a town its size and central location in Yorkshire it is surprising that there is no operating railway station in Wetherby. There have been three stations in the town on York Road, Linton Road and at the racecourse, all of which are now disused.

The town runs bus services to Leeds, Harrogate and York, amongst other places and further afield, to destinations such as Newcastle and Nottingham through the National Express.

The Engine shed is a popular entertainments venue in the town. Picture credit: mtaylor848
The Engine shed is a popular entertainments venue in the town. Picture credit: mtaylor848

Wetherby has had a long tradition of public houses and eleven still remain within the town’s boundaries, which given its size is still quite a high proportion. The Engine Shed, the site of the old York Road station, is now a dance hall and entertainments venue, hosting a range of public, private and community events. Wetherby film theatre was opened in 1994 within the same building as the original Wetherby Rodney Theatre, which closed in 1964 and was a bingo hall during the intervening years.

Wetherby is the home of the UK’s first out of town Retail Park, Thorp Arch, built in 1961 on the site of an old WWII munitions factory. Inside the town there are a number of high street names in the Horsefair centre, built in the 1970’s and roofed in the 21st Century.

Wetherby is a great Yorkshire town, which has always succeeded in giving visitors a warm welcome.

Wetherby was first mentioned in the Doomsday book as “Wederbi”, meaning “settlement on the bend of the river.” The town was given a market charter in 1240 to be held on a Thursday, which remains to this day. Wetherby was a victim of raids from invading Scots in 1318-19, with much of the town burned and population killed. The town managed to rebuild itself and became an important landmark on the map of Britain. The invention and popularisation of the stagecoach in the 18th-19th centuries along with Wetherby’s strategic location halfway between London and Edinburgh meant that many alehouses and inns started to grow around the town. The first recorded mail coach stopped in Wetherby, around 1789 and by the middle of the nineteenth century the trade was thriving.

Wetherby built its wealth on inns such as this one. PIcture credit: mtaylor848 Wikipedia creative commons.
Wetherby built its wealth on inns such as this one. PIcture credit: mtaylor848 Wikipedia creative commons.

During the First World War many Wetherby men were killed in Flanders and a war memorial was designed and built for the town in 1922. Moreover munitions factories were constructed in Wetherby to help the effort in both World Wars at Thorp Arch and the Sandbeck trading estate.

Nowadays the town is famous for its river, present in the town since the first settlers arrived and its exploits in floral competitions, as well as maintaining a long-held reputation for good hospitality, nowadays to tourists.

Wetherby is mentioned in the Domesday book and is recorded as Wederbi. This name could possibly derive from wether or ram-farm. Another possibility is that it means settlement on the bend of a river. There is a local belief that Wetherby that when there are heavy snow storms the town does not get as much because Weather-Goes-By.

Archaeological finds seem to show that the Wetherby area was inhabited in Neolithic (New Stone age) times. Bronze age artefacts have also been found.

The Knights Templar were given lands in the area and in 2140 they were granted a Royal Charter by Henry III which gave them the right to hold a Market on Thursdays and a three day annual fair.

Spanning the River Wharf is Wetherby Bridge. It is a Grade II listed structure.

Wetherby experienced many raids from the Scots in the years 1318 to 1319.In the period following the Battle of Bannockburn, Wetherby was burned and many people were either taken or killed. There is a Blue Plaque at the entrance to Scott Lane which suggests that it was named after the raiders. So named because the Lane ran with blood.

William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, sold Wetherby to pay for the building of Chatsworth in 1824.
During the Second World War local airfield Tockworth was renamed Marston Moor Airfield so as not to be confused with Topcliffe Airfield.
Clarke Gable, the famous American actor, was stationed at Marston Moor Airfield during the Second World War. Adolf Hitler apparently offered a reward to anyone who was able to catch Gable. No one ever claimed the reward.

Wetherby is exactly 198 miles from London and Edinburgh.

The White Rose Way, which is a long distance walk from Leeds to Scarborough, passes through the town.

At one time Wetherby had seventeen pubs in the town centre only ten now remain open. During the Second World War, German and Italian prisoners of war were served in The Angel public house. As you can imagine that provoked some controversy at the time.