The North is known for its often crumbly cheeses, of which Cheshire cheese is the earliest example. Unlike Southern cheeses like Cheddar, Northern cheeses typically use uncooked milk and a pre-salted curd pressed under enormous weights, resulting in a moist, sharp-tasting cheese. Wensleydale, another crumbly cheese, is unusual in that it is often served as a side to sweet cakes, which are themselves well represented in Northern England. Parkin, an oatmeal cake with black treacle and ginger, is a traditional treat across the North on Bonfire Night, and the fruity scone-like singing hinny and fat rascal are popular in the North East and Yorkshire respectively.
While a variety of beers are popular across Northern England, the region is especially associated with brown ales such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Double Maxim and Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale. Beer in the North is usually served with a thick head which accentuates the nutty, malty flavours preferred in Northern beers. On the non-alcoholic side, the North – in particular, Lancashire – was the hub of the temperance bar movement which popularised soft drinks such as dandelion and burdock, Tizer and Vimto.
Greggs, the bakery chain, is an integral part of Northern cuisine and Northern identity. The number of people per Greggs has been cited as a key indicator as to whether a town should be considered Northern.
In recent decades, immigration to Northern England has shaped its cuisine. The Teesside parmo is one example, derived from escalope Parmesan brought to the area by an Italian-American immigrant and adapted to the region's taste. There are large Chinatowns in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, and communities from the Indian subcontinent in all major towns. Bradford has won the Federation of Specialist Restaurant's "Curry Capital" title six years in a row as of 2016, while the Curry Mile in Manchester formerly had the largest concentration of curry restaurants in the UK and now offers a wide range of South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The contrasting geography of Northern England is reflected in its literature. On the one hand, the wild moors and lakes have inspired generations of Romantic authors: the poetry of William Wordsworth and the novels of the Brontë sisters are perhaps the most famous examples of writing inspired by these elemental forces. Classics of children's literature such as The Railway Children (1906), The Secret Garden (1911) and Swallows and Amazons (1930) portray these largely untouched landscapes as worlds of adventure and transformation where their protagonists can break free of the restrictions of society. Modern poets such as the Poet Laureates Ted Hughes and Simon Armitage have found inspiration in the Northern countryside, producing works that take advantage of the sounds and rhythms of Northern English dialects.
Meanwhile, the industrialising and urbanising cities of the North gave rise to many masterpieces of social realism. Elizabeth Gaskell was the first in a lineage of female realist writers from the North that later included Winifred Holtby, Catherine Cookson, Beryl Bainbridge and Jeanette Winterson. Many of the angry young men of post-war literature were Northern, and working-class life in the face of deindustrialisation is depicted in novels such as Room at the Top (1959), Billy Liar (1959), This Sporting Life (1960) and A Kestrel for a Knave (1968).
MusicTraditional folk music in Northern England is a combination of styles of England and Scotland – what is now called the Anglo-Scottish border ballad was once prevalent as far south as Lancashire. In the Middle Ages, much of Northern folk was accompanied by bagpipes, with styles including the Lancashire bagpipe, Yorkshire bagpipe and Northumbrian smallpipes. These disappeared in the early nineteenth century from the industrialising south of the region, but remain in the music of Northumbria. The British brass band tradition began in Northern England at around the same time: the dismissal of the Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire military bands after the Napoleonic Wars, combined with the desire of industrial communities to better themselves, led to the founding of civilian bands. These bands provided entertainment at community events and led protest marches during the era of radical agitation. Although the style has since spread across much of Great Britain, brass bands remain a stereotype of the North, and the Whit Friday brass band contests draw hundreds of bands from across the UK and further afield.
Northern England also has a thriving popular music scene. Influential movements include Merseybeat from the Liverpool area, which produced The Beatles, Northern soul, which brought Motown to England, and Madchester, the precursor to the rave scene. Across the Pennines, Sheffield is the birthplace of influential electronic pop bands from Cabaret Voltaire to Pulp, the New Yorkshire indie rock movement of the 2000s gave the country the Kaiser Chiefs and the Arctic Monkeys, and Teesside has a rock scene stretching from Chris Rea to Maxïmo Park. The press frequently frames music stories and reviews in terms of cultural and class differences between North and South, notably in the 1960s rivalry between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the 1990s Battle of Britpop between Oasis and Blur.
Sport has been both one of the most unifying cultural forces in Northern England and, thanks to local rivalries such as the Lancashire–Yorkshire Roses rivalry, one of the most divisive. As huge numbers of people moved into recently-built cities with little cultural heritage, local sports teams offered the population a sense of place and identity that was otherwise absent.
Many early Northern sports players were working class and needed to miss work to play, with their teams compensating them for lost wages. By contrast, Southern teams, drawing from the traditions of public schools and Oxbridge, put great emphasis on amateurism and the Southern-dominated governing bodies forbade payments to players. This tension shaped the sports of association football and cricket, and led to the schism between the two main forms of rugby. The North is also associated with the animal sports of dog racing with whippets, pigeon racing and ferret legging, although these are now far more popular in stereotype than in reality.
Manchester hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which left it a legacy of sporting facilities including the City of Manchester Stadium, Manchester Aquatics Centre and the National Cycling Centre, headquarters of British Cycling. The Grand Départ for the 2014 Tour de France was in Leeds, and every year since Yorkshire has hosted the Tour de Yorkshire cycling event, part of the UCI Europe Tour. Tyneside meanwhile hosts the Great North Run, the UK's biggest mass-participation sporting event and the most popular half marathon in the world.
The first football club in the UK was Sheffield F.C., founded in 1857. Early Northern football teams tended to adopt the Sheffield Rules rather than the Football Association Rules, but the two codes were merged in 1877. Many of the innovations of Sheffield Rules are now part of the global game, including corners, throw-ins, and free kicks for fouls.
In 1883 Blackburn Olympic, a team composed mainly of factory workers, became the first Northern team to win the FA Cup, and the next year Preston North End won an FA Cup match against London-based Upton Park. Upton Park protested that Preston had broken FA rules by paying their players. In response, Preston withdrew from the competition and fellow Lancashire clubs Burnley and Great Lever followed suit. The protest gathered momentum to the point where more than 30 clubs, predominantly from the North, announced that they would set up a rival British Football Association if the FA did not permit professionalism. A schism was avoided in July 1885 when professionalism was formally legalised in English football. The Football League was founded in 1888, and marked its independence from the London-based Football Association (FA) by establishing headquarters in Preston – the League retained a Northern identity even after it accepted several Southern teams into its ranks. Organised women's football followed as the workforces of majority-female factories of Northern England in the First World War entered the 1917–18 Tyne, Wear & Tees Munition Girls Cup – the world's first women's football tournament. However, the FA did not support women's football and banned it altogether in 1921. Intense local derbies between neighbouring teams mean that there is less of a North–South rivalry than in some other sports.
Many of the powerhouses of English football came from the North – as of the 2018–19 season, of the 121 top-flight league titles since 1888, 81 (67%) have been won by teams based north of Crewe. Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City are among the mainstays of the Premier League, while teams like Blackburn Rovers, Middlesbrough, Newcastle United and Sunderland have had more inconsistent runs in recent years, regularly being promoted and relegated from the top flight. Northern England is also the birthplace of the largest proportion the country's top players – as of Euro 2016, 537 Northerners had played for the England team, compared to 266 Midlanders and 367 Southerners, and 15 of the 23 man squad for the 2018 World Cup, as well as 14 of the 2019 Women's World Cup squad, were born in the region.
RugbyThe Rugby Football Union, which enforced amateurism, suspended teams who compensated their players for missed work and injury, leading teams from Lancashire, Yorkshire and surrounding areas to split away in 1895 and form the Rugby Football League. Over time, the RFU and RFL adopted different rules and the two forms of the game – rugby union and rugby league – diverged. Rugby league's stronghold remains Northern England along the "M62 corridor" between Liverpool and Hull. As of the 2019 season, 10 of the 12 teams in the Super League (the highest level of rugby league in Europe) are from Northern England, with one team from London and one from France, and the 14-team Championship below it has 12 Northern teams and two overseas teams.
Rugby union was not entirely driven from Northern England, and in the 1970s the region was home to several strong teams. The high-water mark of rugby union in Northern England was the 1979 New Zealand tour during which the English Northern Division was the only team to defeat the All Blacks. In the 21st century the region's club sides have become less popular, with association football, cricket and rugby league attracting more spectators and talent. In the 2019–20 season, Sale Sharks are the only Northern team left in the English Premiership, and Newcastle Falcons, Yorkshire Carnegie and Doncaster R.F.C. play in the RFU Championship.
Cricket has a strong following in Northern England, and three counties are represented by first-class county cricket teams: Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire. The Roses Match (named for the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York) between Lancashire and Yorkshire is one of the hardest fought rivalries in the sport – the pride of both sides, and their determination not to lose, resulted in the teams developing a slow, stubborn and defensive style that proved unpopular elsewhere in the country. The London-based Marylebone Cricket Club, which controlled the game at the time, selected few Northern players for Test matches, and this was perceived as a snub to their playing style – the anger united Lancashire and Yorkshire against the South and helped cast a shared Northern identity that transcended the Roses rivalry. This divide was illustrated in the 1924 County Championship, when Yorkshire beat London-based Middlesex to claim the title. Surrey accused Yorkshire of scuffing the pitch and intimidating the bowlers, while the match with Middlesex was so vicious that the team threatened to never play in Yorkshire again. The Lancashire captain Jack Sharp on the other hand was quoted as saying "I'm real glad a rose won it. Red or white, it doesn't matter." Durham are a recent addition to top-flight cricket, having only achieved first-class status in 1992, but have won the County Championship three times.
Although Yorkshire and Lancashire were traditionally more relaxed about professionalism than other counties, cricket did not see the same regional schisms on the topic that rugby and football did – there were debates over amateur status in first-class cricket, but these tensions were given release in the Gentlemen v Players fixture. Nevertheless, the annual North v South games were among the most popular and competitive in the sport, running annually from 1849 until 1900 and intermittently thereafter.
PoliticsNorthern England, as the first area in the world to industrialise, was the birthplace of much modern political thought. Marxism and, more generally, socialism were shared by reports into the lives of the Northern working class, from Friedrich Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England to George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. Meanwhile, enterprise and trade at the North's ports influenced the birth of Manchester Liberalism, a laissez-faire free trade philosophy. Expounded by C. P. Scott and the Manchester Guardian, the movement's greatest success was the repeal of the Corn Laws, protests against which had led to the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester.The first Trades Union Congress was held in Manchester in 1868, and as of 2015 trade union membership in Northern England remained higher than in Southern England, although it is lower than in the other Home Nations. Since the Thatcher era, the Conservative Party struggled to gain support in the area. Today, Northern England is generally described as a stronghold of the Labour Party – although the Conservatives hold some rural seats, they traditionally held almost no urban seats and as of the 2016 local elections there are no Conservative councillors on Liverpool City Council, Manchester City Council, Newcastle City Council or Sheffield City Council. During the 2019 general election, many traditionally Labour constituencies in Northern England swung heavily towards the Conservatives, and the collapse of the "red wall" of Northern Labour seats was a major factor in the Conservative victory. Historically the region was also a heartland for the Liberals, and between the 1980s and the 2010s their successors in the Liberal Democrats benefited from Conservative unpopularity by positioning themselves as the centrist alternative to Labour in the North.
At the 2016 EU membership referendum, all three Northern England regions voted to leave, as did all English regions outside London. The largest Northern Remain vote was 60.4% in Manchester; the largest Leave vote was 69.9% in North East Lincolnshire. In total, the Leave vote in the Northern England regions was 55.9% – higher than in the Southern England regions and the other Home Nations, but lower than in the Midlands or the East of England. The Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) positioned themselves as the main challenger to Labour in Northern constituencies, and came second in many at the 2015 general election. UKIP originally struggled in the region due to vote splitting with the far-right British National Party (BNP), who exploited racial tensions in the wake of the 2001 Bradford riots and other riots in Northern towns. In 2006, 40% of BNP voters lived in Northern England and both BNP MEPs elected at the 2009 European elections came from Northern constituencies. After 2013, BNP support in the region collapsed as most voters swung to UKIP. The Northern UKIP vote in turn collapsed following the EU referendum, with most UKIP voters returning to their former allegiances.
Campaigns for regional autonomy for the North have seen little electoral support. Plans by Labour under Tony Blair to create devolved regional assemblies for the three Northern regions were abandoned after the government lost the 2004 North East England devolution referendum against a No vote of 78%. The regionalist Yorkshire Party and North East Party only hold seats at the local council level, and the Northern Party, which campaigned for a devolved Northern government with the power to make laws and full control of taxation and spending, was wound up in 2016.
Christianity has been the largest religion in the region since the Early Middle Ages; its existence in Britain dates back to the late Roman era and the arrival of Celtic Christianity. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne played an essential role in the Christianisation of Northumbria, after Aidan from Connacht founded a monastery there as the first Bishop of Lindisfarne at the request of King Oswald. It is known for the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels and remains a place of pilgrimage. Saint Cuthbert, a monk of Lindisfarne, was venerated from Nottinghamshire to Cumberland, and is today sometimes named the patron saint of Northern England. The Synod of Whitby saw Northumbria break from Celtic Christianity and return to the Roman Catholic church, as calculations of Easter and tonsure rules were brought into line with those of Rome.After the English Reformation Northern England became a centre of Catholicism, and Irish immigration increased its numbers further, especially in North West cities like Liverpool and Manchester. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the area underwent a religious revival that ultimately produced Primitive Methodism, and at its peak in the 19th century Methodism was the dominant faith in much of Northern England.
As of 2016, the list of places of worship registered for marriage for Northern England included at least 1,960 that are Methodist or Independent Methodist, 1,200 Roman Catholic, 370 United Reformed, 310 Baptist or Particular Baptist, 250 Jehovah's Witness and 240 Salvation Army, as well as many hundreds of churches from smaller denominations.
In the ecclesiastical administration of the Church of England the entire North is covered by the Province of York, which is represented by the Archbishop of York – the second-highest figure in the Church after the Archbishop of Canterbury. The unusual situation of having two archbishops at the top of Church hierarchy suggests that Northern England was seen as a sui generis. Likewise, with the exception of parts of the Diocese of Shrewsbury and Diocese of Nottingham, the North is covered in Roman Catholic Church administration by the Province of Liverpool, represented by the Archbishop of Liverpool.
Small Jewish communities arose in Beverley, Doncaster, Grimsby, Lancaster, Newcastle, and York in the wake of the Norman Conquest but suffered massacres and pogroms, of which the largest was the York Massacre in 1190. Jews were forcibly banished from England by the 1290 Edict of Expulsion until the Resettlement of the Jews in England in the seventeenth century, and the first synagogue in the North appeared in Liverpool in 1753. Manchester also has a long-standing Jewish community: the now-demolished 1857 Manchester Reform Synagogue was the second Reform synagogue in the country, and Greater Manchester has the only eruv in the United Kingdom outside London. Traditionally, there is also a large Jewish presence in Gateshead. In total, there are 84 synagogues in Northern England registered for marriages.
Spiritualism flourished in Northern England in the nineteenth century, in part as a backlash to the fundamentalist Primitive Methodist movement and in part driven by the influence of Owenist socialism. There remain 220 Spiritualist churches registered in the North, of which 40 identify as Christian Spiritualist.
The first mosque in the United Kingdom was founded by the convert Abdullah Quilliam in the Liverpool Muslim Institute in 1889. Today, there are around 500 mosques in Northern England. Indian religions are also represented: there are at least 45 gurdwaras, of which the largest is the Sikh Temple in Leeds, and 30 mandirs, of which the largest is Bradford Lakshmi Narayan Hindu Temple.
TransportTransport in the North has been shaped by the Pennines, creating strong north-south axes along each coast and an east-west axis across the moorland passes of the southern Pennines. Northern England is a centre of freight transport and handles around one third of all British cargo. Both passenger and freight links between Northern cities remain poor, which is a major weakness of the Northern economy.
The passenger transport executive (PTE) has become a major player in the organisation of public transport within Northern city regions; of the six PTEs in England, five (Transport for Greater Manchester, Merseytravel, Travel South Yorkshire, Nexus Tyne and Wear and West Yorkshire Metro) are located in the North. These coordinate bus services, local trains and light rail in their regions. Following the passage of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, Transport for the North became a statutory body in 2018 with powers to coordinate services and offer integrated ticketing throughout the region.
RoadThe Preston By-pass, opened in 1958, was the first motorway in the UK, and today an extensive network connects the major cities of the North. The main western route through the North is the M6, part of a chain of motorways from London to Glasgow, while the main eastern motorway is the M1/A1(M), which runs as far north as Newcastle. The M62 links Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull across the Pennines. Other trans-Pennine roads are comparatively minor, and the lack of any dual-carriageway connection between the east and west coasts anywhere in England north of the M62 has been identified by the Department for Transport as a significant hindrance to the Northern economy. In many cases, modern roads still follow ancient routes: the M62 motorway effectively duplicates the Roman road between York and Chester, while the Great North Road, the stagecoach route from London to Scotland, became the modern A1 road.
Buses are an important part of the Northern transport mix, with bus ridership above the England and Wales average in all three Northern regions. Many of the municipal bus companies were located in Northern England, and the region saw intense competition and bus wars following deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s. Increasing car ownership in the same era caused bus use to decline, although it remains higher than in most areas of the South.
The North of England pioneered rail transport. Milestones include the 1758 Middleton Railway in Leeds, the first railway authorised by Act of Parliament and the oldest continually operating in the world; the 1825 Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first public railway to use steam locomotives; and the 1830 Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first modern main line. Today the region retains many of its original railway lines, including the East Coast and West Coast main lines and the Cross Country Route. Passenger numbers on Northern routes increased over 50% between 2004 and 2016, and Northern England handles over half of total UK rail freight, but infrastructure is poorly funded compared to Southern railways: railways in London received £5426 per resident in 2015 while those in the North East received just £223 per resident, and journeys between major cities are slow and overcrowded. To combat this, the Department of Transport has devolved many of its powers to Rail North, an alliance of local authorities from the Scottish Borders down to Staffordshire which manages the Northern Rail and TransPennine Express franchises that operate many routes in Northern England. Meanwhile, new build such as the Northern Hub around Manchester, High Speed 2 from Manchester and Leeds to London and Northern Powerhouse Rail from Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle is planned to increase capacity on important Northern routes and decrease travel times.
The first tram line in the United Kingdom was built in Birkenhead and opened on 30 August 1860 (partially open intermittently as a heritage tramway). Trams turned out to be especially well suited for Northern cities, with their growing working-class suburbs, and by the turn of the century, most Northern towns had an extensive interconnected electric tram network. At the network's height, it was possible to travel entirely by tram from Liverpool Pier Head to the village of Summit, outside Rochdale, a distance of 52 miles, and a gap of only 7 miles separated the North-Western network from the West Yorkshire network. Starting in the 1930s, these were largely replaced by motor buses and trolley buses. With the closure of Sheffield Tramway in 1960 and Glasgow Tramway in 1962, Blackpool Tramway – popular as a tourist attraction as much as a means of transport – was left as the only public tram system in the UK until the Manchester Metrolink opened in 1992. Today there are four light rail systems in the North – Blackpool Tramway, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram and Tyne & Wear Metro.
Manchester Airport serves as the main international hub for Northern England and is the busiest airport anywhere in the UK outside London, handling 27.8 million people in 2017. In total, there are eight international airports in the North; these are (in descending order of passenger traffic) Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool John Lennon, Leeds Bradford, Doncaster Sheffield, Humberside, Teesside and Carlisle Lake District. Many of these airports were developed during the boom in low-cost air travel during the early 2000s, but have suffered since the Great Recession – Teesside is running at just 3% of its maximum capacity, and Blackpool Airport closed as an international airport in 2014. The devolution of Air Passenger Duty to Scotland represents a further possible threat to Northern English airports, allowing Scottish airports to offer cheaper flights than their English rivals. Few spoke flights operate between Northern airports and the national hubs at Heathrow and Gatwick, putting further strain on the smaller Northern airports and forcing connecting passengers to travel via continental European airports. The planned High Speed 2 station at Manchester Airport will offer direct high-speed services to London, allowing spare capacity at Manchester Airport to take some of the flights which currently serve busy London airports.
WaterThe first modern canal in England was Sankey Brook, opened in 1757 to connect Liverpool's ports to the St Helens coalfields. By 1777, the Grand Trunk Canal had opened, linking the rivers Mersey and Trent and making it possible for boats to travel directly from Liverpool on the west coast to Hull on the east coast. Manchester, 40 miles inland, was connected to the Irish Sea by the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, although the canal never saw the success that was hoped for. The North retains many navigable canals, including the Cheshire, North Pennine and South Pennine canal rings, although they are now used mostly for pleasure rather than transport – the Aire and Calder Navigation, which carries over 2 million tons of oil, sand and gravel per year, is a rare exception.
Many Northern coastal towns were built on trade, and retain large sea ports. The Humber ports of Grimsby and Immingham (counted as a single port for statistical purposes) are the busiest in the UK in terms of tonnage, serving 59.1 million tons as of 2015, and Teesport and the Port of Liverpool are also among the country's largest – in total, 35% of British freight was shipped through Northern ports. Roll-on/roll-off ferries offer passenger and freight connections to the Isle of Man and Ireland along the west coast, while east coast ports connect to Belgium and the Netherlands, although Northern ports handle only a small percentage of the UK's vehicle traffic. Liverpool Cruise Terminal opened in 2007, cruises also operate out of Port of Hull and Newcastle International Ferry Terminal.