‘It’s Yorkshire and they’ve taken it away’: The Greater Manchester village whose residents still believe it’s in another county

Today, hundreds of people will take to the streets of several Greater Manchester villages to celebrate Yorkshire. Almost half a century on from Saddleworth being separated from the rest of the White Rose county, it remains a controversial subject here.

Historically part of the former West Riding of Yorkshire, the collection of villages and hamlets became part of Oldham and Greater Manchester under the local government overhaul of 1974. Some still refuse to accept the decision which is why, each year, villagers take to the streets to celebrate Yorkshire Day.

Held across the parish on the Sunday nearest to August 1, the event is a celebration of Yorkshire culture and history. Proud Yorkshireman Mark Mothersdale is one of those celebrating in the picturesque Saddleworth village of Uppermill this weekend.

READ MORE: Does Saddleworth yearn to be part of Yorkshire almost 50 years after controversial split?

“Saddleworth is Yorkshire,” he insisted. “It always has been.

“A lot of people round here feel the same way. It’s Yorkshire and they have just taken it away.”

Sunday’s celebrations will see crowds gather to watch a wreath laid around the neck of the statue of the town’s poet Ammon Wrigley in the front of Saddleworth Museum. A brass band will then lead a parade to the nearby King George V Playing Fields where a country fair will take place.

Viki Taylor is celebrating both her 50th birthday and Yorkshire Day this weekend. Ms Taylor, who owns the gift shop Authentic on Uppermill high street, was brought up several miles away in Shaw and identifies as a ‘Lancashire lass’.

Hundreds of people will take to the streets of Uppermill to celebrate Yorkshire Day on Sunday
(Image: Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

However, she now lives in Saddleworth and believes the area falls under Yorkshire. “It doesn’t bother me but it certainly does my husband,” she said.

“Telling a Yorkshireman he’s not a Yorkshireman is like taking away. It’s definitely an age thing.

“It’s a lot of the older generation who care. Anybody born up to 1973 has West Yorkshire on their birth certificate.

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“I don’t think it matters to the new generation. It’s definitely the best way to get an argument going on the local Facebook group though.”

Martin Byrom, co-owner of Towpath bookshop, plans to fly the White Rose flag outside his shop this weekend but says he’s unlikely to join in the celebrations himself.

Martin Byrom, co-owner of Towpath bookshop in Uppermill
(Image: KBP)

“It usually brings the hardcore out,” he said. “Saddleworth is still Yorkshire to me and I can understand why people get uptight about it. Identity is important.”

Traces of the area’s Yorkshire roots are not hard to find in Saddleworth, which is comprised of several villages and makes up 53pc of Oldham borough.

A ‘Saddleworth Yorkshire’ plaque adorns the wall outside Nick Watts’ home in Uppermill. Despite this, he says he tends to ‘sit on the fence’ during debates on the subject.

“I’m from Bradford but my own personal feeling is we are in Greater Manchester,” he explained. “There are some people who absolutely stand by it being in Yorkshire.

“It doesn’t really matter though. I bought the sign a long time ago at a Yorkshire Day. It’s historically where I’m from and it’s just a bit of fun.”

Traces of Saddleworth’s Yorkshire roots are not hard
(Image: Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

The area’s White Rose Society has campaigned for the recognition of the parish’s historic identity as part of the West Riding of Yorkshire for almost 50 years. The society has successfully marked some of the places where the boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire coincides with the Saddleworth boundary.

In 2012, a sign erected in Springhead, claiming it as part of Yorkshire, was met with outrage from some Red Rose loyalists, who branded it ‘inflammatory’. Brenda Cockayne is one of those still upset about attempts to strip Saddleworth of its Yorkshire identity.

“It’s outrageous what they did,” she said. “We all wanted to stay where we were.

“Oldham is a Lancashire mill town and the buildings are all red brick. It’s nothing like ours.”

Saddleworth was part of the former West Riding of Yorkshire until 1974
(Image: Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

A staunch White Rose loyalist, Ms Cockayne helps to organise the Yorkshire Day festivities, which she argues are important to ensure people remember the area’s traditional roots.

“It’s a big part of people’s identity,” she said. “Some people are passionate about it being Yorkshire but not the younger ones really. I’d like it to as it was again.”

Not everyone takes it so seriously though. Coun Pam Byrne, who represents Saddleworth North on Oldham council, said the main aim of the Yorkshire Day celebrations is to bring the community together.

“Some people are passionate and wear white roses but you don’t have to be rabid about it,” she said. “The fact we got moved into Greater Manchester was not our fault but we have to live with the fact we are within Oldham now.

“It doesn’t inconvenience anybody. Many people have moved into the area since 1974.”

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham