28 October 2008

Cities

Prepare to be bored as Yorkshire Pudding again dips his toes into one of his passions - namely, geography - specifically cities. This weekend Mrs Lincolnshire Pudding and I will be travelling to one of the world's great cities. New York? Rome? Sydney? Kuala Lumpur? No, none of these. We are off to Ripon in North Yorkshire. Ripon you say? Yes Ripon which, with an eye on wavering tourists, proudly boasts that it is England's fourth smallest city. So what's the smallest? Why, of course, it is Wells in Somerset, though the city of St David's in Wales is much smaller - with a population of just over two thousand at the last census.

I began some research into English cities and please don't yawn at the back as I share some of my fascinating findings with you.

The Romans arrived in Britain in 43BC and not long afterwards established significant "camps" at London, Colchester and St Albans. When they "left" three centuries later they had developed a whole network of significant and influential townships including Wroxeter and Eboracum - later to become York. By the time of the Norman Conquest, London was believed to have a population of around 10,000 and the other major "city" was Winchester, the old Anglo-Saxon capital with a population of about 6000.

By 1334, the influence of large settlements was growing and in that year eleven of the top thirty places in the country were all in East Anglia - testament to the economic impact of the wool trade - Norwich, King's Lynn, Boston, Great Yarmouth, Thetford etc. . In that list of thirty there was of course no Manchester, no Birmingham, no Sheffield, no Liverpool. These places were then pretty much just little agricultural villages of negligible significance. This remained so in 1523 when after London, the two biggest "cities" were Norwich and Bristol.

In 1662, London had an estimated poulation of 350,000 and by 1750, we see the real emergence of the great industrial centres on the population hit list - Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield - then with a population of some 12,000 souls.

In 1861 London's population had grown to over three million while the second city in the land was now Liverpool with 443,000 residents - half of them pickpockets, horse and cart joyriders and vagabonds (I made the last bit up!). Forty years later in 1901, London's population had shot up to 6.3 million, Liverpool was now up to 702,000 and Hull was also in the charts with 240,000 Hullensians though Hull had clearly been a significant trading place since the middle ages. Below see the cartographer John Speed's map of Hull in 1611:-

Well, moving on with Professor Pudding's lecture, let's finish... you at the back - WAKE UP! .... let's finish with reference to the biggest cities in each continent. I think Paris simply makes the list because of its metropolitan area - including suburbs and satellite towns - but even so - EUROPE = Paris (9.6 million frog eaters), NORTH AMERICA = Mexico City (18 million - that's a hell of a lot of Corona beer to recycle), SOUTH AMERICA = Sao Paulo (17.7 million and they all play beach volleyball), AFRICA = Lagos, Nigeria (13.5 million but I think they missed a few), AUSTRALASIA = Sydney (3.6 million whingeing Aussies) and last but not least ASIA = Tokyo (28 million sushi-eating, pod-hotel-dwelling, karaoke-screeching Japanese).

But when all is said and done do we like cities or do we prefer the countryside or is that a silly question? Of the cities I have visited - here's my personal top ten in terms of their likeability for different reasons:-

1. Hull
2. Sheffield
3. San Francisco
4. Venice
5. London
6. New York
7. Berlin
8. Amsterdam
9. Rome
10. Lisbon

And just missing out by a whisker - Marrakesh, Durban, Boston USA , Birmingham UK, Galway, Oslo, Gdansk - oh what the hell sometimes these favourite lists are a dumb waste of time... It's like asking someone what their favourite drink is. Sometimes you want a nice cup of tea, sometimes a glass of fine wine. Sometimes you want to dip your head in a mountain stream and gulp the crystal water. It's the same with cities. How can you compare the medieval din of the main square in Marrakesh with a stroll through Central Park or Guinness supped in a tiny Galway bar with a walk through The Brandenburg Gate?

12 comments:

  1. I wasn't bored at all. I like geography too, only we called it social studies and the kids today (in our country, at any rate) call it cultural studies.

    I am absolutely elated, Yorkshire, to learn that your wife's name is Lincolnshire. What a strange people the English are to name their children after cities, although I know a couple of fellows named Dallas. (Are Yorkshire and Lincolnshire cities or counties?)

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  2. Have fun in Ripon. It's a great place.

    And don't forget to give Chelsea and ManU a wupping.

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  3. RHYMES WITH VAGUE - Yorkshire is of course the centre of the known universe and historically it is England's largest county. We don't really have states as in the U.S.. My wife is from the neighbouring county of Lincolnshire which makes her a "yellow belly". She only told me this on our wedding night and then it was too late! My children are consequently of mixed race.
    STEVE Yes It's Rippin' in Ripon! As for Chelsea and Man U - easy peasy! Of Chelsea we'll sing - "Are you Chesterfield in disguise?"

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  4. You probably know this already, but I was surprised way back when to learn that a reeve (as in Chaucer's "Reeve's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales) is a constable, the fellow who enforces the law, in the shire. Hence, we get "shire reeve" and, eventually, the word "sheriff."

    It is more surprising to an American because we say "shyer."

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  5. Having lived most of my life in suburbs of cities, I really like living in north Wales where the nearest thing to a city is the town of Wrexham and I'm constantly surprised at how compact it is. Enjoy your break.

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  6. Hull at Number One! What a result! (I'm a dedicated Hull-o-phile after going to uni there and being shouted at by Philip Larkin. Wonderful place, full of character!)

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  7. I spent some time in Ripon YP, but then they turned the workhouse into a museum and told me it was time to move on :-(

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  8. Geez, YP, no Ohio cities on the list??

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  9. Deirdre5:52 am

    going to oslo next week...any tips?

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  10. RHYMES WITH HAGUE. Thanks for the little language lesson. Interesting, Ever read Bill Bryson's brilliant "Made in America" on language?
    JENNYTA Wrexham - "compact"? You mean tiny pit cottages and narrow streets? But yeah it must be so different after Kidneypool etc..
    DOTTEREL - Even though your are from the in-breeding centre of England - Lincs you are clearly a well-educated man having been to Hull. As Shakespeare said - "You ain't so dull if you wentto Hull".
    ARTHUR - Wow! You were in a workhouse? You must be very, very old!
    SAM To tell you the truth - I mainly saw the countryside of Ohio and just bits of Cleveland and Youngstown. My favourite place in The Buckeye state was Chagrin Falls.
    DEIDRE Make sure you get the ferry from the main harbour out to the nearby peninsula where the main museums are housed - The Viking Ship Museum - and because I was obsessed by Heyerdahl's adventures - The Kon Tiki Museum. There's also a polar exploration museum. All well worth seeing. As regards tips - my advice is don't give any!

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  11. Pointless lists are one of life's great pleasures, so - like it or not - I'm joining in:

    1 Dublin, 2 Edinburgh, 3 Barcelona, 4 Rome, 5 Ely, 6 Wolverhampton, 7 Stuttgart, 8 Galway, 9 Inverness, 10 Cardiff.

    I'll do it again in ten minutes and it'll be completely different - apart from Wolverhampton, of course.

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  12. Ripon workhouse had homeless people living there into the nineteen seventies YP

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