Ripon - North Yorkshire's little gem

PUBLISHED: 14:01 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:14 20 February 2013

The cathedral looms over the city centre shops

The cathedral looms over the city centre shops

History is preserved and celebrated in the compact city of Ripon, as Paul Mackenzie reports

As childhood nicknames go it's fairly clever but the lad at the bus stop wasn't laughing. In the end the boy the others kept calling Old Boots got fed up and used his boots to walk home rather than face a journey with his tormentors.

Bullying is never nice, obviously, but that group were at least proving they had paid attention in their history lessons. Old Boots, also known as Tom Crudd, worked at Ripon's Unicorn Inn in the 18th century, helping visitors remove their boots and feel at home. He also - as, it has to be said, did that poor boy at the bus stop - had an enormous nose.

Legend has it that the original Old Boots could perform the unusual party trick of holding a coin between his nose and his chin. The lad left the bus stop before anyone produced their left-over dinner money.

And the story of Old Boots isn't the only relic of old Ripon to survive. Were the original Old Boots to return today - maybe to give some coin trick tips to his modern self - he would see much he would recognise.

The Unicorn for instance is still there although no-one now helps you off with your boots and he'd know to expect the nightly horn-blowing ceremony which has gone on for more than 900 years. The Wakeman, the keeper of law and order in Ripon, would give a tooty-toot to let everyone know he was awake and watching them - a kind of ancient CCTV system.

The cathedral hasn't changed much either. Originally built in the 7th century when Saint Wilfrid brought stonemasons, plasterers and glaziers from France and Italy.

They made a good job of it - creating an ornate church with wide aisles and a winding cloister - but it was destroyed after 200 years or so. Work to create the current building began in the 11th century and took a couple of hundred years to complete.

The organ was built more recently - in the late 1800s - and has been rebuilt and enlarged several times since. It can still produce a resounding.

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