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West Riding
Ripon Cathedral in spring.jpg
Ripon Cathedral
Grid reference: SE312714
Location: 54°8’17"N, 1°31’25"W
Population: 15,922  (2001)
Post town: Ripon
Postcode: HG4
Dialling code: 01765
Local Government
Council: Harrogate
Skipton and Ripon

Ripon is a cathedral city in Yorkshire, within the West Riding. An ancient market town, over 1,300 years old, it stands located at the meeting of two streams of the River Ure there named the Laver and Skell. Ripon is one of the smallest cities in Britain; at the 2001 Census it had a population of 15,922.

Dominating the city is Ripon Cathedral, whose Gothic appearance hides a more ancient foundation; its undercroft is from the earliest days of English Christianity. Also in the town centre is its other focus; the market. Outside the town is Ripon Racecourse.

An Abbey was founded here by St Wilfrid during the time of kingdom of Northumbria, and swiftly the Abbey rose to a prominence in terms of religious importance, which declined only at the Viking conquest of Northumbria. The Normans destroyed much of the city. After a brief period of building projects under the Plantagenet kings, the city emerged with a prominent wool and cloth industry. Ripon became well known for its manufacture of spurs during the 16th and 17th century, but would later remain largely unaffected by the Industrial Revolution

Name of the city

The city's name is from Old English; the earliest surviving reference we have to the place is as Inhrypum, when Wilfred founded the Abbey.


Inside St Mary's at Studley Royal

Ripon Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Wilfred, known as Ripon Cathedral is the grandest church in the city and is the seat of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, a bishopric created in 1836 as the Diocese of Ripon; its name but altered to include Leeds in 2000.[1] During the time of the Northumbrian kingdom there was a short lived Diocese of Ripon, with Eadhedus as its only bishop.

St Wilfrid brought craftsmen from Europe to build a new stone church here, which was dedicated in 672. Today's church was built in the 12th century, and most of the nave in the 15th and 16th centuries, giving an eclectic range of architectural styles. The late-Gothic nave was built after the central tower collapsed in 1450, but the Reformation cut the church's source of income off, that from pilgrims, and some pillars are left incomplete and arches are mis-matched beneath the tower.

In 1604, King James I re-founded the church at Ripon as a collegiate church. In 1836 Ripon Minster became a Cathedral; head of the first new diocese in Church of England since the Reformation.

The cathedral contains a tomb said to contain (or to have contained) Wilfred's bones.

The Undercroft

The crypt or undercroft survives from the church's earlest days; it is part of Wilfrid’s original church, and the only part to survive. It has been here intact since 672, making it arguably the oldest church building in Britain to have remained in continuous use.

The crypt incorporates stone that was probably salvaged from nearby Roman ruins, and reveals building methods that were largely unknown in England at the time, but which Wilfrid would have encountered in his travels in Europe.

Other churches

Churches in Ripon include:

two churches


Early Middle Ages

The foundation of Ripon was in the time of the kingdom Northumbria in the 7th century.[2] The first structure built Inhrypum, was a Christian church dedicated to St Peter, and the town was founded in the year 658[2] by a Northumbrian nobleman known as Wilfrid, who later became the Archbishop of York; he was granted the land by King Alhfrith of Deira.[2] Wilfrid religiously directed the kingdoms of the north from Celtic Christianity to Roman standards and for this he was later venerated as a saint by the Romanised church.[2]

The earliest settlers in Ripon were stonemasons, glaziers and plasterers that Wilfrid had brought over to help construct the Ripon monastery, from Lyon in France and from Rome (which was then under Byzantine rule).[3][4]

The years just following on from the death of Wilfrid are obscure in Ripon's history. After the invasion of the so-called Great Heathen Army of Norse and Danish Vikings, the Kingdom of Northumbria was overthrown and Norse kings ruled in its place, until King Athelstan drove them out for a time. Athelstan was said to have granted privileges to Ripon, Beverley and York.[2] One of his successors was less favourable; after the Northumbrians rebelled against southern rule in 948, King Edred had the buildings at Ripon burned.[2] Prosperity was restored by the end of the 10th century as the body of Cuthbert was moved to Ripon for a while, due to the threat of Danish raids.[2]

Normans and the Middle Ages

Ripon Cathedral

After the Norman conquest of England, much of the north rebelled in 1069, even trying to bring a Danish king; the suppression that followed was the Harrying of the North.[2] Ripon is thought to have shrunk to a small community around the church after it, after 1/3 of the North of England had been killed.[2] The lands of the church were transferred to St Peter's Church at York as the Liberty of Ripon and it was during this time that the Ripon Cathedral was built on top of the ruins of Wilfrid's building. Eventually developing in the Gothic architecture style, the project owed much to the work of Roger de Pont L'Evêque and Walter de Gray, two Archbishop of York during the Plantagenet period.[2] During the 12th century Ripon built upon a booming wool trade, attracting Italian trade merchants, especially Florentines who bought large quantities.[2]

Ripon's proximity to Fountains Abbey where the Cistercians had a long tradition of sheep farming and had vast grazing land for the animals, was of a considerable advantage.[2] After English people were forbidden from wearing foreign cloth in 1326, Ripon also developed a cloth industry; after York and Halifax, Ripon was the chief Yorkshire producer of cloth.[2] Due to conflict in Scotland, political emphasis was on the North during the time of Kings Edward I and Edward II, as Scottish invaders attacked numerous northern English towns.[2] Ripon had a wakeman to make sure the residents were safely home by curfew and law and order was retained, yet Ripon was forced to pay 1,000  marks to the Scots to prevent them from burning down the town on one occasion.[2]

Reformation and Early Modern period

Fountains Abbey

Ripon, which relied heavily on its religious institutions, was worried by the effects of the Reformation under King Henry VIII.[2] The abbot of Fountains, William Thirske, was expelled by Henry and replaced; he went on to become one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace.[2] Northern England was quite traditionalist and people were unhappy about Henry's intention to break with Rome; the Pilgrimage of Grace as a popular rising was the manifestation of this sentiment.[2] The revolt failed and Henry followed through with the break from Rome and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which closed Fountains Abbey.[2]

After Mary, Queen of Scots, fled Scotland to the North of England, she stayed at Ripon on her way.[2] The Roman-oriented gentry of the North supported her and there was another popular rising in the form of the Rising of the North; this began six miles away at [[Topcliffe, Yorkshire|Topcliffe and was led by the Earl of Northumberland and the Earl of Westmorland.[2] The rebels stayed at Ripon on 18 November 1569 but the rising eventually failed; 600 were executed in total, 300 of whom were hanged at Gallows Hill in Ripon during January 1570.[2]

Plans were drawn up under Queen Elizabeth I to make Ripon a centre of education, a University of the North to rival Oxford and Cambridge. Although the Queen's chief adviser Lord Burghley and Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York supported the idea, the Queen did not follow it through.[2]

Civil War and Restoration

The house where James I stayed during 1617

Ripon replaced their old textiles industry with one in the creation of spurs starting in the 16th century.[2] They were so widely known that it gave rise to the proverb "as true steel as Ripon Rowels".[5]

At the time spurs did not just serve as functional riding gear, but were also fashionable; an expensive pair was made for King James I when he stayed at Ripon during 1617.[2] It was James who granted Ripon a Royal Charter in 1604 and created the first mayor of Ripon.[6]

After the Bishops' Wars in Scotland, the Treaty of Ripon was signed at Ripon in 1640 to stop the conflict between King Charles I and the Scottish Covenanters.[2] Although it was not in the main line of fighting to the east, Ripon remained loyal and royalist]] during the English Civil War.[2] There was an incident in 1643 when parliamentarian forces under Thomas Mauleverer entered Ripon and damaged the Minster, but John Mallory and the royalist forces soon settled the matter after a skirmish in the Market Place.[2] The royalists were defeated in the Civil War and Charles I spent two nights as a prisoner in Ripon.[2] Oliver Cromwell visited the city twice on his way to battle; first on the way to Preston and then on the way to battle in Worcester.[2]

Studley Royal Park

Seventeenth century non-conformism did not take root in Ripon as strongly as it did elsewhere; the town was staunchly Church of England, but there remained a Roman Catholic minority.[2] After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew James II, there were Jacobite risings in the British Isles; some Riponmen were put in jail during February 1764 upon "suspicion of corresponding with Prince Charles Edward Stuart".[2]

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached in Ripon and a community of followers built up.[2] During the Georgian era Ripon, unlike several other cities was not significantly effected by the Industrial Revolution despite the existence of various guilds. Although more widely known for his activities outside of Ripon, John Aislabie during his time as Member of Parliament for Ripon created the Studley Royal Park, its water garden and erected the obelisk (designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor[7]).[6] Newby Hall was also created during this period by Christopher Wren.[6]

Contemporary Ripon

Communications were improved with the opening of the Ripon railway station during May 1848.[2] At the time of the First World War a large military training camp was built in Ripon, the local community provided hospitality for the soldiers wives and also the Flemish refugees became part of Ripon's community.[2] It had a similar, though less large scale role during Second World War and in recognition of this the Royal Engineers were presented with the Freedom of the City in 1947.[2] Since the war, Ripon has gone through some remodeling and has grown in size, it attracts thousands of tourists each year who come to view the religious buildings, nearby Studley Park, the Ripon Racecourse and in recent times the theme park Lightwater Valley.[2]

Civic government

Sir George Cockburn MP

During the Middle Ages, Ripon was governed by one wakeman and aldermen known as the twelve keepers, they oversaw the general running of the town and the maintaining of law and order.[8] The title of wakeman was changed to mayor in 1604, and twenty-four common councilmen were appointed to assist the aldermen in the governing of Ripon.[8] The borough corporation was reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.


View over the market place of Ripon
The Ripon Hornblower

As a market town, the market day is central to culture in Ripon; market day is held on a Thursday, there are around 120 stalls in total.[9]

In celebration of the city's founder, the Wilfrid Procession is held every year. The procession originated in the year 1108 when King Henry I granted the privilege of holding a fair for him.[10] At the procession there are various decorated floats which make their way through the city with locals in costume.[11] Part of the tradition represents the return of Wilfrid to Ripon, a decorated dummy (sometimes a man in costume instead) dressed as Wilfrid is sat on a horse, accompanied by two musicians with another man carrying St Wilfrid's hat around.[12]

Ripon also has dancing traditions such as the Long Sword dance and Morris dance.[10]

The tradition of the Ripon Hornblower has endured for centuries and continues on to this day.[13] It originates with the wakeman of Ripon, whose job in the Middle Ages was similar of that to a mayor although he had more responsibilities in the keeping of law and order. Every day at 9:00pm the horn is blown at the four corners of the obelisk in Ripon Market.[14] The horn has become the symbol of the city.

There are three museums in Ripon collectively known as the Yorkshire Law and Order Museums; it includes the Courthouse, the Prison and Police and the Workhouse Museums.[15]


Horse racing

Horse racing is the most noted local sport: Ripon Racecourse stands outside the town. The sport has a long history in Ripon, with the first recorded meeting on Bondgate Green in 1664, while its current location has been used as a racetrack since 1900.[16] Ripon staged Britain's first race for female riders in 1723.[16]

The Great St Wilfrid Stakes is perhaps the best known race at the course.


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ripon)


  1. "Church of England: Diocese of Ripon and Leeds". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 Thomson, Ceclia. The Book of Ripon: An Historical Anthology. Barracuda Press. ISBN 0860230414. 
  3. "Ripon History". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  4. "Ripon". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  5. "Ripon". Old Towns of England. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Ripon Timeline". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  7. "Engineering timelines". Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Ripon". 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  9. "Ripon Market". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Custom and Tradition". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  11. "Sun shines on crowds and floats at 'magnificent' St Wilfrid's procession". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  12. "The St Wilfrid's Tradition". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  13. "Customs & Traditions". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  14. "Ripon Hornblower" (PDF). Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  15. "Yorkshire Law and Order Museums". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Ripon Races". Retrieved 1 February 2009. 


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