True North

Following on from an earlier post in which, amongst other things, I tried to educate the residents of internetshire about the facts of English geography, let me put an end to the argument about what is the North and what isn’t.

For reference please consult the following map, kindly supplied by an angry commenter calling himself Chris from Yorkshire (The North)…

..I’m sure this proves beyond all reasonable doubt that “The North”  actually means Northumberland – the clue’s in the name, really. The nameless County between Northumberland and Durham is Tyne and Wear – a relatively recent invention which confuses the issue slightly, but which I include in my definition of “The North” for historical reasons.

Anyway, my point is that Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool etc are all much further South than The North. Even North Yorkshire isn’t really in the North, as any objective reading of the map proves. Sorry, Chris from Yorkshire (The Midlands). I rest my case.

P.S. Looking at the peculiarities of the border between England and Wales has helped me understand why the train crossed in and out of England so many times between Cardiff and Llandudno last week!

42 Responses to “True North”

  1. North starts at Hatfield. This is what the M1 signs tell us. The M1/A1 continues to point to “The North” until you get to Newcastle, where signs start pointing to “Gateshead”, “Morpeth” and so on. There is no more North after that, and apparently Scotland doesn’t even exist.

    Edinburgh of course is in the South. We are the Sassenachs.

  2. telescoper Says:

    Quite a big piece of Scotland is further South than The North…

    The roads from London “Wales and the West” until they get to Bristol, at which point they just say Wales. So presumably Bristol is where “The West” is located.

  3. Anton Garrett Says:

    You are making the mistake of applying logic to a human issue Peter!

    One of my more treasured posessions is a pre-1973 map of the counties before Ted Heath messed them about.

    • telescoper Says:

      Not really, I’m just winding people up!

      I have to admit that I hate “Tyne and Wear”. I was born in Newcastle when it was part of Northumberland and didn’t like it at all when we were lumped in one county with Sunderland.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I had always presumed it was spelt “Tyne and Way” and that “Wear” was the Geordie pronunciation.

  4. The North is a state of mind rather than a geographic location. I hail from Crewe, which is in the North, even though places with higher latitudes (say, Sandbach) are more of the Midlands.

    • telescoper Says:

      I can understand why so many people would like to be in The North, but I’m afraid the facts are against you. Crewe is definitely in the Midlands, along with almost everywhere else in England.

  5. I saw a recent analysis of the ‘north-south’ divide based on various indicators such as pay, house prices, schools, etc (excepting geography!). It suggested that the ‘line’ ran pretty much from Bristol, cutting through leicestershire and up to Hull. Wish I could find the link.
    Being Wirral born I know that I come from the Northwest 🙂

  6. I’m afraid you’re all wrong. The whole of England is in the north.

    • Dave Carter Says:

      This is right, there is quite a precise dividing line between North and South, its calles “the equator”.

  7. Anton Garrett Says:

    Put a compass rose on your desk with North facing away from you, as is usual. North-West is 45 degrees anticlockwise from that. And, since the rose is a circle, ie, the locus of a point having fixed distance from the centre, the North -West is somewhat south of the North. This is exactly the situation in England, where Manchester is in the North-West yet south of ‘the North’. Sorted?


    (Resident in a part of Shropshire where the nearest part of Wales is to my East…)

  8. The North starts wherever cafeteria workers start calling you ‘me duckie’. Hence, Nottingham.

  9. David Whitehouse Says:

    I come from the Midlands (Birmingham) and we considered anyone north of Stoke as a grim northerner. Manchester and Liverpool were definitely north. Anyone south of Stratford-upon-avon was definitely a la-di-da southerner.

    However, the BBC have thought long and hard about where the “North” begins. In days gone by committees were established and reports written. In the recent past focus groups were used and now the BBC pays handsomely a bunch of self-appointed PR experts who tell them what the zietgeist is about the north-south divide and wether it is a geographical concept or a socio-economic one influenced by the BBC’s output over the years of gritty, trouble at pit/mill, what about the workers black and white dramas made by directors who come up from the home counties especially to film them.

    So, the official position is (synonymous with the BBC’s view, as it should be) is that the north starts somewhere south of Manchester. BBC Midlands today includes, rarely, goings on in Stoke. BBC North West Tonight encompasses manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cumbria and the upstarts on the Isle of Man.

    Look North covers the North East and Cumbria, Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear.

    Manchester must be in the north. The BBC has said it will move a large percentage of its programme making to the north and it chose….Salford.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Great, now we can bring in the dispute over whether Salford is part of Manchester…

    • telescoper Says:

      The local news programme for Tyneside on BBC TV was – and possibly still is – called Look North. I remember being quite annoyed that they kept covering news from places like Middlesborough.

  10. John Womersley Says:

    If I remember correctly, where the A64 from York meets the A1(M), the road signs offer you three options: left is “The SOUTH”, right is “The NORTH” and straight ahead is “Leeds”. I conclude that Leeds, being neither in the North nor the South, must be on the dividing line between the two. Also, viewed from Yorkshire, the Midlands do not seem to exist – they appear to be a subset of the South.

  11. Anton Garrett Says:

    The discussions here remind me of how readily people disagree. A long time ago I was in the junior section of the National Cactus and Succulent Society, but then let membership lapse. When I looked again at the cactus world in the 1990s I was astonished to find that the NCSS had split into two a long time before.

    In fairness I could see the two sides clearly enough even as a teenager: those who wanted it to be a social club, and those who saw it as an academic society. The magazine had articles that fell very clearly on each side of the divide. But people will disagree about ANYTHING!

  12. Eddie Waring Says:

    The North is where Rugby League is played, surely? Your “North” is some sort of wilderness lying between Scotland and the actual North, I think.

  13. David Whitehouse Says:

    Best way to tell if you are oop norf.

    Look around.

    It’s grim.

    • telescoper Says:

      Nobody who’s ever seen the glory of Northumberland would ever say it’s grim up North. It’s the Midlands that’s grim.

  14. steve eales Says:

    So many things wrong with the post and the comments. As a Brummie married to somebody from Lancashire (via Canada), it has always been perfectly clear to me that the dividing line between the Midlands and the North is where people start talking to you on the street and calling you ‘Love’ on the bus – somewhere between Birmingham and Manchester. As for places like Newcastle, I always assumed they were part of Scotland.

  15. Jim Geach Says:

    As a Cornishman, we refer to everything beyond the Tamar as the North, or rather ‘up country’.

  16. Phil Uttley Says:

    The two northernmost Scottish mainland counties, about 300 miles north of Newcastle, are Caithness and Sutherland. Sutherland was named by the Vikings, literally “Southern Land”. To the Vikings the rest of the world were southern softies…

  17. Slight issue here – I am Cumbrian and would most definitely class myself as northern – your map would also suggest I am very much northern, although not from the north east (thank god, as that is almost worse than being southern). However, I am inclined to believe that you will tell me I am from the midlands just to prove a point.

    • telescoper Says:

      If you look at the map you’ll see that the “North East” is actually The North, although it is North East of Cumbria, which must therefore be the South West.

  18. David Whitehouse Says:

    Nobody who’s ever seen the glory of Northumberland would ever say it’s grim up North. It’s the Midlands that’s grim.

    Tongue out of cheek, I totally agree that the North is wonderful, but then so is Birmingham and the Black Country.

    But as for London….

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      “Earth hath not anything to show more fair” – Lines composed on Westminster Bridge (by Wordsworth), 1802.

      In England’s green and pleasant land?

  19. […] Professor Peter Higgs, was in fact born in the fine city of Newcastle upon Tyne, which really is in The North. This fact identifies him as a Geordie, although having just heard him on the radio I think […]

  20. […] just about to head by train off up to Merseyside (which, for those of you unfamiliar with the facts of British geography, is in the Midlands). The reason for this trip is that I’m due to give a talk tomorrow […]

  21. […] Keith’s mum says Wigan is not In the Midlands. But she’s wrong. Obviously. […]

  22. […] “Poetry Emotions“, is a collection of poetry written by children from schools across The Midlands. Here’s Saoirse’s […]

  23. […] of the decline of educational standards that this issue is still being discussed, when it was settled definitively several years ago.  Let me once again put an end to the argument about what is The North and what […]

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