Northallerton's hidden heritage to be showcased to a new audience with a history trail of North Yorkshire's county town

Tucked away in the northern fringes of the Vale of York, the market town of Northallerton can trace its origins back to the Roman era.

The new digital trail around Northallerton has been developed over the past four months by Elena Leyshon, a graduate trainee archivist who has been working at the County Record Office for the past two years. (Picture: North Yorkshire County Council)

Originally thought to be a military station for the Roman army, the county town of North Yorkshire has had a long and distinguished history.

And now that heritage is due to be showcased to a new audience with the launch this week of a trail through Northallerton charting its hidden history dating back to the 12th century.

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The new digital initiative, which features a total of 13 stops along a mile-long trail, has been created using historic photographs held at North Yorkshire County Council’s County Record Office.

North Yorkshire County Hall pictured in 1956. The building is one of the locations on the digital trail launched to highlight Northallerton's heritage. (Picture: North Yorkshire County Record Office)

Anyone embarking on the trail can download a virtual map on to their mobile phone, which features historic photographs of specific locations along the route, along with details of each site’s past.

The venture has been developed over the past four months by Elena Leyshon, a graduate trainee archivist who has been working at the County Record Office for the past two years.

Miss Leyshon said: “The aim of the trail is to open up some of the hidden history of Northalleron to not only the town’s residents, but also to visitors as well.

“The County Record Office is a really important resource, but people may have the perception that it is full of dusty old documents. This is about opening up the heritage of Northallerton to a whole new audience who we may not have engaged with before.”

The Market Cross in Northallerton, pictured in 1946. It is one of the locations on a new digital trail aimed at highlighting the town's heritage. (Picture: North Yorkshire County Record Office)

The trail starts at Northallerton’s railway station before finishing at All Saint’s parish church, parts of which date back to 1120.

Other historic locations include the Victorian vista of South Parade, County Hall and Zetland Street, where the Joe Cornish art gallery is located on the site of the former North Riding register office.

The market place is also included, and the trail gives details of the fact that a market has been held in the town on a Wednesday since 1127.

Among the locations which have changed dramatically is the site of the town’s former prison, which was acquired by Hambleton District Council in 2015 and transformed into the Treadmills development, featuring retail and leisure facilities and a business tech hub.

The name of the development was taken from the world’s largest treadmill once used by inmates in the prison.

The trail has been developed in partnership with East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s archives department and is available through its What Was Here app, which was launched in 2019.

Other trails on the mobile app include Skipton, Harrogate and Beverley, although the Northallerton route is the first to be developed by the North Yorkshire County Record Office.

The County Record Office provides a fascinating insight into North Yorkshire’s history, with documents and photographs stored across shelving stretching the equivalent of five miles.

The oldest documents in the collection, which is located in the County Record Office on Malpas Road in Northallerton, date back to the 12th century, and include maps, deeds, parish registers and photographs through the centuries.

The app can be downloaded at www.whatwashere.org and if the new Northallerton trail proves a success, more routes in North Yorkshire could be introduced.