About Ripon

Ripon's Rich Heritage

Founded over 1300 years ago, Ripon rich heritage is still very much in evidence today. In addition to the 7th-century Cathedral, the City boasts many historic buildings, museums and monuments including a traditional market square and 300-year-old (and 90ft-high) obelisk. Every evening at 9pm the city's official Hornblower, sounds the 'Setting of the Watch' to assure everyone that they are in safekeeping for the night - a ritual that has maintained without fail for over 1,100 years.

The market square is surrounded by quaint medieval streets (filled with fascinating shops and tearooms), and both Georgian and medieval buildings. The latter include the Town Hall, completed in 1801 and the 14th century half-timbered Wakeman's House. There is a year-round calendar of events to appeal to everyone; many of these take place on the market square and include a variety of markets. You can also visit the Ripon Prison & Police Museum, Courthouse Museum and the Workhouse Museum, or the picturesque Spa Gardens (with its Victorian bandstand) and Baths, or spend a day at the races at Ripons own racecourse. The recently restored Canal Basin, now makes Ripon the most northerly point on the England and Wales waterways system.

Origins and Links with the Church

Ripon is an ancient city based on the foundation of a monastery by Abbot Eata of Melrose in 657AD. At the Synod of Whitby in 664 St. Wilfrid argued and won the case for the supremacy of the Roman over the Celtic Church. He then started to build a stone church at Ripon and completed it in 672AD. The present Cathedral is the 4th on the site.

In 937AD King Athelstan of England granted the right of sanctuary to create St Wilfrid's Liberty for a mile around the Minster church. Ripon's subsequent history is bound up with that of its Minster church which became a Cathedral in 1836. See also The Story of Ripon/History of the Cathedral

Markets and Fairs

Ripon has grown up around its Market Place which has provided a focus for the life of the town and city. A market had probably developed at Ripon by the 10th century when Yorkshire was renowned for the number of its markets and fairs. There has thus probably been a market in Ripon for over a thousand years!

It is likely that the Market Square was laid out sometime in the 12th Century. In the 18th Century, Daniel Defoe described Ripon Market Square as 'The finest and most beautiful square that is to be seen of its kind in England'. By the end of the thirteenth century, as well as the weekly market, a charter had been granted for fairs in May and October. In addition there were the corn market, wool market and 'fairs' for the sale of cattle, sheep and horses at different times of the year.

The Wakeman A Proud tradition

For 1000 years, Ripon administered its own justice and policed its own streets. In the 13th Century the wakeman was responsible to the Archbishop for arrangements within the town and for its security. The Wakeman could exact fines and was required to make compensation in the event of burglary during the hours of the watch. By the end of the 16th century, the overlapping jurisdictions of Archbishop, Chapter and Wakeman were no longer proving effective. Reforms were introduced in 1598 with a new, fourth, Town Book setting out duties, responsibilities and penalties. Even today, every night at 9 o'clock, all year round, the Ripon Hornblower still 'sets the night watch' at the four corners of the obelisk in the Market Square: a proud City tradition.

Visit Ripon 2014