Prince Philip in Yorkshire: A look back at the Duke of Edinburgh's visits to God's Own County

It was December 1 1948, and the streets of Hull were packed with people awaiting a very special visitor.

His train pulled in to Paragon Station to cheers from the crowds, and Philip stepped down on to Yorkshire soil for the first time, beginning an affectionate relationship with the county that was to last for the rest of his life.

It was Philip’s first official visit to Yorkshire, and he was deputising for the ailing George VI. But the people of Hull could not have cheered the King any louder than they did Philip that day.

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The centrepiece of his visit was the official opening of the newly-restored City Hall, but Philip also made time to visit the scene of a factory explosion that had claimed several lives, and to tour the docks, where the newly-commissioned trawler Princess Elizabeth had flagged “Please Return” on its halyards.

Prince Philip and The Queen at the opening of the Humber Bridge

He did return, to Hull and to the rest of Yorkshire, often over the decades to come. Two months after his first visit, he was in Bradford to open the new Grammar School, where the children broke through police lines to rush and greet him.

And then, on July 26 1949, he accompanied the 23-year-old Princess Elizabeth on her first visit to Yorkshire. The glamorous young Royal couple whose wedding two years before had lightened the gloom of post-war Britain spent three days touring the old West Riding.

The tour set Yorkshire alight with enthusiasm for the beautiful young princess and her dashing husband. In Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Pudsey, Wakefield, Harrogate and York, police cordons struggled to hold the vast crowds back.

So many people packed into Wood Street in Wakefield to see them that it was impossible to move. In Ramsden Street, Huddersfield, people climbed onto rooftops to catch a glimpse. In Harrogate, 10,000 gathered outside the Majestic Hotel for a sight of the couple on the balcony. In Leeds, 50,000 packed into Roundhay Park to see them as they watched a childrens’ pageant.

There was to be another landmark tour of Yorkshire in October 1954, when Philip accompanied Elizabeth on her first official visit as Queen. The reception was as spectacular as it had been in the summer of 1949, with crowds packing the streets of the county’s industrial heartland, as the Royal couple visited Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield, Bradford, Batley, Morley and Leeds.

As the years passed, Philip’s visits began to reflect his own passionate interests - charities involving young people, and the state of British industry.

In 1956, he opened Leeds University’s man-made fibres building and told his audience that it must be “of direct service to the country”. Two years later, the city welcomed him back for his first official visit on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. And then in 1961, the other charity closest to his heart, the National Playing Fields Association, brought him again to Leeds to open fields named after him at Potternewton.

That visit also saw the Yorkshire Post play a vital part in informing Philip that his sister-in-law, Princess Margaret, had given birth to a boy as Philip opened a new wing at Leeds General Infirmary. The newsflash was relayed from our offices to the hospital, where receptionist Alice Bell raced up several flights of stairs to tell the royal party.

Philip was back in 1969, when he was the very special guest speaker at a Yorkshire Post Literary Luncheon. He addressed a packed Queens Hotel on the subject of communication in characteristically pugnacious style, telling his audience: “Freedom of speech and communication is fundamental to our idea of human existence. But that does not mean that the systems of communication can be monopolised by pretentious claptrap, twaddle and delusions which seem to owe more to the whims of fashion and self-indulgence than rational thought.”

The 70s really were years to remember for Philip and for the people of Yorkshire. Elizabeth celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1977, and the nationwide tour she and Philip undertook to mark it brought her to Yorkshire on July 12 and 13. The streets were filled with union jacks and cheering crowds as the royal couple met the people of York, Hull and Wakefield. In Leeds, they toured Elland Road, which was filled to capacity with 40,000 people, who gathered for a youth festival in the Queen’s honour.

Philip played a full part in the celebrations as the vast crowds cheered Elizabeth. Britannia was moored off Grimsby, and he and Elizabeth disembarked to tour the town before moving on to Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley.

Four years later, Philip was back to celebrate another silver jubilee that meant much to him - the 25th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. The celebrations brought him to Harrogate’s showground for a four-hour ceremony that ended with the unfurling of a giant banner that read: “Philip fixed it for us.”

Throughout his life, Philip enjoyed a bottle of beer with his lunch, even amid the finery of Buckingham Palace, and his taste for ale made his 1984 visit to the John Smith’s brewery at Tadcaster an occasion close to his heart.

There were to be many more visits over the years that followed, as Philip opened factories, attended church services and met community groups. His schedule was always among the busiest of any member of the Royal Family, and Yorkshire saw a great deal of him.

But however often he visited, Philip always appeared glad to be back in Yorkshire, and the county’s people were always glad to see him.