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Pickering is an ancient market town and civil parish in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, England, on the border of the North York Moors National Park. Historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, it sits at the foot of the moors, overlooking the Vale of Pickering to the south. According to legend the town was founded by King Peredurus around 270BC; however, the town as it exists today is of medieval origin. The legend states the town was named by King Peredurus; he lost his ring and accused a young maiden of stealing it, but later that day the ring was found in a pike caught that day in the River Costa for his dinner. The king was so happy to find his ring he married the young maiden. The name Pike-ring got changed over the years to Pickering.The tourist venues of Pickering Parish Church, with its medieval wall paintings, Pickering Castle, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Beck Isle Museum have made Pickering popular with visitors. Nearby places include Malton, Norton and Scarborough.
Positioned on the shores of a glacial lake at the end of the last Ice Age, Pickering was in an ideal place for early settlers to benefit from the multiple natural resources of the moorlands to the north, the wetlands to the south, running water in the beck and the forests all around. It had wood, stone, wildfowl, game, fish, fresh water and fertile easily worked soils. The east–west route from the coast passed along the foothills of the North York Moors through the site at a place where the beck could be forded.There is evidence of Celtic and Roman era habitation in the areas surrounding Pickering but little remains in the town. Legendary sources suggest an early date for the establishment of a town but traces of earlier settlements have been erased by subsequent development.
The town probably existed throughout the Anglo-Saxon period of British history. According to the Domesday Book there was enough arable land for 27 ploughs, meadows and extensive woodlands. The town may have grown up to service the Norman castle.
After 1066 when William I became the king the town and its neighbourhood was in the possession of the crown. A castle and church were built at this time and the medieval kings occasionally visited the area. In 1267 the manor, castle and forest of Pickering were given by Henry III to his youngest son, Edmund First Earl of Lancaster. The estate was confiscated by the king and then returned. Eventually, it passed to Henry, Duke of Lancaster who became King Henry IV of England. It has belonged to the monarch ever since.
In 1598 the streets of Pickering were: East Gate, Hall Garth, Hungate, Birdgate, Borrowgate (the present Burgate) and West Gate.
Many older small houses were built at this time, some of stone with thatched roofs. The stocks, shambles and the market cross stood in the centre of town in the Market Place. The castle fell into disrepair yet the town flourished. In the English Civil War, Parliamentary soldiers were quartered in the town and damaged the church and castle and Pickering was the location of a minor skirmish but not a pitched battle.
In the 1650s George Fox, the founder of Society of Friends, or Quakers, visited the town to preach on at least two occasions.
Nicholas Postgate, the Catholic martyr, lived for a time in Pickering. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in York in 1679.
Pickering prospered as a market town and agricultural centre. It had watermills and several inns and was a centre for mail coach traffic and trade. At this time the beck was an open sewer and it remained so until the early part of the 20th century.
Many townspeople adoptioned Non-conformist religious sects and were visited by John Wesley on several occasions, the first in 1764 and the last in 1790. The Quakers held meetings in a cottage long before they built their Meeting House in Castlegate in 1793. In 1789 the first Congregational Church was built in Hungate and for several years following 1793 a private residence was licensed for divine worship by protestant dissenters. The Pickering Methodist Circuit was formed in 1812.
Non-conformism flourished in Pickering during the 19th century and meeting houses and chapels were enlarged. There were both Wesleyan and Anglican schools in the town from the middle of the century.
The Whitby and Pickering Railway was opened in May 1836. At first the carriages and wagons were horse drawn but steam locomotives were used from 1847. The Forge Valley Line ran from 1882 to 1950, connecting Pickering to the Whitby–Scarborough line. The local Health Board (the forerunner of the Urban District Council) was formed in 1863. A Gas and Water Company provided gaslight and piped drinking water. The shop fronts were closed in and glass windows were used to display goods for sale.
The parish church is at the eastern end of the Market Place and dominates views of Pickering from all directions. It is a Grade I Listed building that dates from the 12th century. It is notable for its mid-15th-century wall paintings, which cover the north and south walls. The wall paintings were covered over at the Reformation, but rediscovered in 1852. They were painted over once more, but were restored in the 1870s. The church is open every day. North of the church at the top of the hill is Pickering Castle, which was built in the late 11th century to defend the area against the Scots and Danes. The sloping Market Place between the church and the beck is lined with two- and three-storey buildings dating from a variety of periods. Most are listed for their historical or architectural interest. This area is the centre of the town's main Conservation Area
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