Patricia's Yorkshire

The view from Baildon moor.

People often have two different views of what the native's call God's own county: it's either an idyllic paradise of rolling hills and dales or it's a grim inferno of mills and coal mines and streets of Victorian terraced houses. And of course the people talk a bit "funny" in their quaint dialect which must be a hangover from before the industrial revolution.

Baildon Parish Church -
Family weddings and funerals.

In fact my part of Yorkshire, the old West Riding, where the many rivers that feed the mighty Humber have carved steep valleys into the Pennine hills, is a bit of all these things, and more. I was lucky enough to be born and brought up on the edge of Bradford where the glorious Dales meet the Victorian towns and cities. It's always been a country of contrasts and a few more have been thrown into the mix by the past fifty years of massive social change.

When I was a girl at school in Bradford, this was a proud and mighty city, taking wool from the world and turning it into the best cloth there is. When a woolman met a woolman he'd take the other's suit lapels between sensitive fingers to judge the quality of what he was wearing. Wool manufacture was a staple of the English economy from medieval times, but it wasn't until the nineteenth century and the introduction of steam powered machinery that Yorkshire, with its soft water for washing the fleeces, fast streams and local coal for providing power, came to dominate the trade - to the detriment of weavers elsewhere in the country. Yorkshire cloth, carpets, blankets and much else were the best in the world and Bradford grew from a village to a city in fifty years, the centre of a textile conurbation which spread right through the Pennine valleys from Huddersfield to Skipton. Wool was king and weavers were his princes.

But change came in waves. In the 1960s the mills were still flourishing and thousands of workers from overseas, many from Pakistan, were recruited to keep them running round the clock. In the 1970s the textile economy began to falter. In the 1980s it virtually collapsed, leaving mills derelict, poverty and unemployment high, and people without a purpose.

That is the area where I've chosen to set my crime series featuring reporter Laura Ackroyd and DCI Michael Thackeray - a place of massive social change, with all the stresses and strains and crime that generates; a place where degeneration and regeneration sit side by side; a people of great tradition and resilience; and a landscape, both industrial and rural, of grandeur and excitement. You can tell from this that it's a place I love. I hope through the books you will come to appreciate it too.

Copyright © 2012 Patricia Hall

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