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Ripon, Yorkshire

RIPON, YORKSHIRE, a cathedral city and municipal borough in the Ripon parliamentary division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, 214 m. N.N.W. from London, on the North-Eastern railway. Pop. (1901) 8230. It is pleasantly situated at the confluence of the streams Laver and Skell with the river Ure, which is crossed by a fine bridge of nine arches. The streets are for the most part narrow and irregular, and, although most of the houses are comparatively modern, some of them retain the picturesque gables characteristic of earlier times. The cathedral, although not ranking among those of the first class, is celebrated for its fine proportions, and is of great interest from the various styles of architecture which it includes. Its entire length from E. to W. is 266 ft., the length of the transepts 130 ft., and the width of the nave and aisles 87 ft. Besides a large square central tower, there are two western towers. The cathedral was founded on the ruins of St Wilfrid's abbey about 680, but of this Saxon building nothing now lemains except the crypt, called St Wilfrid's Needle. The present building was begun by Archbishop Roger (1154-81), and to this Transition period belong the transepts and portions of the choir. The western front and towers, fine specimens of Early English, were probably the work of Walter de Grey, archbishop of York (d. 1255), and about the close of the century the eastern portion of the choir was rebuilt in the Decorated style. The nave, portions of the central tower, and two bays of the choir are Perpendicular, having been rebuilt towards the close of the 15th century. Earlier than the rest of the fabric (except the crypt) is part of the chapter-house and the vestry, adjoining the south side of the choir, and terminating eastward in an apse. This is pure Norman work, and there is a crypt of that period beneath, which was formerly filled with unburied bones. There are a number of monuments of historical and antiquarian interest. The diocese includes rather less than one-third of the parishes of Yorkshire, and also a small part of Lancashire. The bishop's palace, a modern building in Tudor style, is situated in extensive grounds about a mile from the town. In the vicinity is the domain of Studley Royal, the seat of the marquess of Ripon, which contains the celebrated ruins of Fountains Abbey (q.v.). The principal secular buildings are the town hall, the public rooms, and the mechanics' institution (1894) where technical and other classes are held. There are several old charities, including the hospital of St John the Baptist, founded in 1109 but modernized; the hospital of St Anne, founded probably in the reign of Henry VI. by an unknown benefactor; and the hospital of St Mary Magdalene for women. This last was founded by Thurstan, archbishop of York (1114-41), as a secular community, one of the special duties of which was to minister to lepers. In the 13th century a master and chaplain took the place of the lay brethren, and in 1334 a chantry was founded. The chapel remains, with its interesting Norman work, its low side-windows, said to have allowed the lepers to follow the services, and its pre-Reformation altar of stone, a rare example. There is a considerable trade in varnish, and the saddle-trees and other leather goods produced here are in high repute. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. Area, 1809 acres.

Ripon (In Rhypum, Ad Ripam) owed its origin to the monastery founded in the 7th century. A certain king, Alchfrith, is said to have given the site of the town to Eata, abbot of Melrose, to found a- monastery, but before it was completed Eata was deposed for refusing to celebrate Easter according to the Roman usage, and St Wilfrid was appointed the first abbot. Another version of the story, however, says that the land was given to St Wilfrid, who himself built the monastery. Ripon is said to have been made a royal borough by Alfred the Great, and King AEthelstan, after his victory at Brunanburh in 937, is stated to have granted to the monastery sanctuary, freedom from toll and taxes, and the privilege of holding a court, although both charters attributed to him are known to be spurious. At the same time he is said to have given the manor to Wulfstan, archbishop of York. About 950 the monastery and town were destroyed by King Edred during his expedition against the Danes, but the monastery was rebuilt by the archbishops of York, and about the time of the Conquest was changed to a collegiate church. In 1318, when the Scots invaded England, Ripon only escaped being burnt a second time by the payment of 1000 marks. The custom of blowing the wakeman's horn every night at nine o'clock is said to have originated about A.D. 700. It was probably at first a means of calling the people together in case of a sudden invasion, but was afterwards a signal for setting the watch. A hom with a baldric and the motto " Except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain " forms the mayor's badge. The archbishops of York as lords of the manor had various privileges in the town, among which were the right of holding a market and fair, and Archbishop John, being summoned in the reign of Henry I. to answer by what right he claimed these privileges, said that he held them by prescription and by the charter of King AEthelstan. Henry I. afterwards granted or confirmed to Archbishop Thomas a fair on the feast of St Wilfrid and four following days. The fairs and markets belonged to the archbishops of York until they were transferred to the bishop of Ripon in 1837. In 1857 they were transferred to the ecclesiastical commissioners, from whom they were purchased by the corporation of Ripon in 1880. From before the Conquest until the incorporation charter of 1604 Ripon was governed by a wakeman and 12 elders, or aldermen, but in 1604 the title of wakeman was changed to mayor, and 12 aldermen and 24 common councilmen were appointed. The manufacture of cloth was at one time carried on in Ripon, but was almost lost in the 16th century when the town was visited by Leland. The making of spurs succeeded the cloth manufacture and became so noted that the saying " as true as Ripon rowells " was a well-known proverb. This manufacture died out in the 18th century. Ripon was summoned to send two members to parliament in 1295, and occasionally from that time until 1328-29. The privilege was revived in 1553, after which the burgesses continued to send two members until 1867, when they were allowed only one. This latter privilege was taken away by the Redistribution Bill of 1885, and it now gives its name to one of the divisions of the county.

See Victoria County History, Yorkshire; and W. Harrison, Ripon Millenary: a Record of the Festival and a History of the City, arranged under its Wakemen and Mayors from the year 1400 (1892).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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