“Heritage” is a somewhat overused word, but strictly it means something that is handed down from one person or one generation to another. And here at The Yorkshire Society we take Yorkshire’s heritage very seriously.
It can be as much about intangibles or cultural values as about artefacts, property or even money. For that reason, a preferred collective term is cultural heritage, which is basically all that we most value and has been handed to us from previous generations – our memories, history, literature, language, art, music and folklore, but also our environment – both natural and manmade.
Yorkshire, because of its size and extraordinarily varied geography – which has determined its amazing scenery and wildlife, together with its long history and the contributions of generations of immigrants now has an immensely rich and unique cultural heritage.
Today, the Yorkshire we know and love is a mixture of the natural and the man-made over time. Centuries of farmers, foresters, miners, fisherman, quarrymen, architects and engineers have shaped the environment we inhabit and value today. But our culture is also about our collective memory, the way of life and shared values of our parents and grandparents, evident in every town and village, every field, wood and footpath of Yorkshire’s three historic Ridings. How we live and where we live has also determined how we speak and helped create the distinctive character and language we so proudly have today.
All of this living history is important and is, by and large, what makes Yorkshire, Yorkshire. This historical inheritance is part and parcel of who we are today and is fundamental to Yorkshire maintaining its unique identity in the future.
Whatever our origin or background, Yorkshire people rightly feel proud of who they are and where they come from, and for good reason. As such, it is vital that the very reason for this pride, our cultural heritage, is protected and passed on to future generations intact.
So, who looks after this most valuable commodity, Yorkshire’s cultural heritage, which is so vulnerable to the forces of change?
There are numerous publicly funded organisations, government bodies and local authorities looking after key aspects of our physical environment, but it invariably falls to the voluntary sector to take care of the rest. As a result, Yorkshire has a number of vital not for profit organisations, like The Yorkshire Society, dedicated to saving the important, often intangible, parts of Yorkshire’s culture and heritage not safeguarded by the public purse.
These like-minded organisations may have a long or more recent history but all are important and all have the same goal. Therefore, over the coming year, The Yorkshire Society will be working with many of these voluntary bodies involved with the protection and enhancement of our cultural heritage. The Society will work to establish networks between these regional groups to improve communication and influence on national and regional agencies and decision makers.
We will work together and offer mutual support to achieve what many people see as an opportunity to rethink the way we care for nature, our built environment and cultural heritage. Each year we will organise a congress of all the participating organisations so that a coherent strategy and efficient plan of collaborative action can be organised.
We have called this new group of mutually supportive Yorkshire organisations, the Yorkshire Heritage Guardians, and we will be making the first announcements about participants soon.
Rest assured. Yorkshire’s cultural heritage is in safe hands.
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