Skipton (also known as Skipton-in-Craven) is a market town and civil parish within the Craven district of North Yorkshire, England. It is located along the course of both the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the River Aire, on the south side of the Yorkshire Dales, 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Bradford and 38 miles (61 km) west of York. At the time of the United Kingdom Census 2001, Skipton had a population of 14,313.
Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Skipton was anciently distinguished by Skipton Castle, first constructed in 1090 as a motte-and-bailey by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron. This building was replaced by a stone keep as a means to repel attacks from the Kingdom of Scotland to the north, the erection of which elevated Skipton from a poor dependant village to a burgh administered by a reve. The protection offered by Skipton Castle during the Middle Ages encouraged the urbanisation of the surrounding area, and it times of war and disorder, attracted an influx of families.
The community around Skipton Castle encouraged the region to become a prosperous market town, trading sheep and woollen goods. A market stemming from its formative years still survives, albeit with significant modification. In the 19th century, Skipton emerged as a small mill town connected to the major cities via the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and its branch Thanet Canal, but during the 20th century Skipton’s economy shifted to tourism, aided by its historic architecture and proximity to the Yorkshire Dales. Since 1974, Skipton has been the seat of Craven District Council.
The town of Skipton is known to have been in existence since 1085 as it is listed in the Domesday Book. It played roles in history during the English Civil War and as the site of a prisoner of war camp during World War I.
Home to one of the oldest mills in North Yorkshire, historical documents indicate High Corn Mill dates back to 1310 when it was owned by Robert de Clifford, at this point it was transferred to the powerful Clifford family by the then King Edward II. The Mill as it appears today is only half of what use to exist when two mills were in operation to produce corn for the whole of Skipton.
Skipton lies within the Parliamentary Constituency of Skipton and Ripon, which was created in 1983. The constituency has returned a Conservative MP since its inception. The seat is currently held by Julian Smith MP.
Skipton forms part of Craven District, a Non-metropolitan district, and is home of the offices of Craven District Council. In 2007, proposals to make North Yorkshire County Council a unitary authority, removing the layer of government represented by Craven District, were rejected.
Skipton has its own town council.
The town’s major local employer is Skipton Building Society and its subsidiary companies. Tourism and retail sales are also significant: The town is known as the gate way to the Dales, due to its close proximity to the Yorkshire Dales. Skipton has many visitors, particularly on market days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). As Skipton is the nearest and largest town to most of the small towns and villages within the Dales it attracts a lot of shoppers and as a result has a bustling atmosphere and a wide range of shops. In 2008 the Academy of Urbanism voted the High Street the best shopping spot in Britain. The wide main street used to host the sheep market, but now a general market is held there four days a week, and livestock is auctioned at the Auction Mart on the western edge of the town.
A brewery opened in 2002. The Copper Dragon Brewery produce five different cask beers, four of which are also available bottled. The company’s logo is a green dragon coiled around the top of a brewer’s copper kettle. Copper Dragon currently has seven pubs.
On Saturday, 13 July 1901, a gala was held in Skipton to raise money for the Skipton and District Cottage Hospital, built at the time of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, held on the Brick Buildings Fields off Bailey Road. This was such a major event in the area that extra trains were laid on to bring revellers to the town from miles around. After the formation of the NHS, with the hospital being funded from central government, the Skipton Charities Gala continued, raising money for local charities and non-profit-making organisations. Nowadays, this charity gala, held every year on the second Saturday in June, starts with a procession through the town centre to Aireville Park, where various live performance acts entertain the public, culminating in live music and a firework display.
The Town Hall in Skipton holds regular craft fairs and special events and also houses a local history museum, Craven Museum & Gallery.
Skipton Little Theatre is located near the town centre. The Mart Theatre is an unusual and unique venue. Opening in October 2005 with funding from the European Regional Development Fund, Yorkshire Forward, Craven District Council and the Arts Council England, it provides a unique rural theatre, events and other facilities within a functioning Auction Mart.
Skipton is twinned with the Bavarian town of Simbach. In May 2009 the town council decided to proceed with twinning with Erquinghem-Lys in France.
Skipton has many pubs, two nightclubs, and restaurants ranging from traditional fish and chips to high quality French cuisine, taking in modern British, Mexican, Indian, Greek, Chinese and Italian.
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