Metropolitan county of northeast England, created in 1974; in 1986, most of the functions of the former county council were transferred to the metropolitan borough councils.
Area 2,040 sq km/787 sq mi
Towns and cities Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield (administrative centres for districts of the same name), Halifax (administrative centre of Calderdale district), Huddersfield (administrative centre of Kirklees district)
Physical Ilkley Moor, Haworth Moor; high Pennine moorlands in the west, Vale of York to the east; rivers Aire, Calder, Colne, Wharfe
Features Haworth Parsonage; part of the Peak District National Park; British Library, Boston Spa Document Supply Centre (part of the British Library)
Industries woollen textiles, financial services; coal mining is in decline
Population (2001) 2,079,300
Famous people the Brontës, David Hockney, Henry Moore, J B Priestley
Industrial past Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Dewsbury, and Wakefield were formerly all built-up manufacturing centres. The coal that was extensively mined in the vicinity of these towns in the 19th century provided a foundation for West Yorkshire's prosperity. The area already had a long-established domestic clothing industry. The application of steam power to carding, combing, spinning, and weaving led to a rapid transformation of the wool textiles industry, and to a certain degree of specialization in several centres. The local coal-pits met the textile manufacturers' coal needs, and the huge supplies of soft water required in the manufacturing process could be obtained from moorland reservoirs. The coal measures were also exploited for ironstone (a type of iron ore) which gave rise to the production of crude and pure forms of iron. These, in turn, contributed to the development of textile machinery and other engineering products.
Iron smelting, which reached its zenith about 1875, had disappeared by 1930. Fortunately, the mechanical and electrical engineering trades continued to expand and are found in all the major centres. The wool textile industry transformed itself into an industry dealing in all types of textile, but its importance has declined and many old mills have been demolished or been converted for other purposes. Coal mining declined in the 20th century, with major closures in the 1980s; only two deep mines remained open in 2002. Regeneration schemes have focused on environmental improvement, retraining, and the promotion of new industries such as tourism.
The landscape West Yorkshire's landscape was mainly industrial, with much of the of the county (203,914 ha/503,658 acres) remaining semi-rural in character. In the west, there are unspoilt heather-clad moorlands, such as Ilkley Moor and Haworth Moor, intertwined with valleys along which sprawl textile villages; and in the east, arable and pastoral land is interspersed with former coal-mining villages.