Before I went to York, I lived in York. Let me explain. I grew up in the small town of York, in WA’s Avon Valley. In 2000, I first visited the cathedral city of York, in England’s north-east, and have since returned on a number of occasions.

The towns of Beverley and Toodyay — formerly Newcastle — are also in the Avon Valley; I’ve also visited their northern UK namesakes.

But back to York and York. They are as divided by size, time and distance as any two places could be. Apart from a shared European cultural and agricultural heritage, what unites them?

UK York has the rivers Ouse and Foss. WA York has the Avon River. Around 71AD the Romans founded UK York; they called it Eboracum; the later Norse knew it as Jorvik, from whence comes its present name.

Originally inhabited by the Ballardong Noongar, WA York sufficiently recalled UK York for a presumably homesick pioneer to label it as such, in 1830. Settlers arrived the following year, but the town wasn’t established until 1835.

The wool industry has been important to both Yorks. However, where UK York benefited from the railway, WA York ultimately missed the train in unwitting deference to nearby Northam.

UK York has a number of seriously impressive historic buildings, not least of which is its famous cathedral, York Minster, completed in 637AD and one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in northern Europe. I’ve heard many an Evensong in its cavernous interior.

I also love The Shambles, a narrow street with leaning medieval buildings, and the old city walls, much of which you can walk around.

WA York also has a number of seriously impressive historic buildings, though of lesser antiquity than its namesake’s.

Its main street, Avon Terrace (in the UK you would call it a High Street) alone has a number of buildings designed in part or in whole by George Temple Poole, including the marvellous York Post Office (1895). The impressive York Town Hall (1911) was designed by James William Wright.

But both places will forever be linked in my mind by the shared qualities of the experiences I’ve enjoyed there. I already mentioned Evensong in UK York. But the High Anglican sense of theatre recalls my days as an altar boy at Catholic St Patrick’s in WA York.

I’ve also partaken of a splendid High Tea at the popular Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms in UK York’s St Helen’s Square on a rainy winter’s afternoon. Which takes me straight back to the equally lavish afternoon teas I and my childhood friends were sometimes treated to at Hartleap, a local homestead on the outskirts of York WA.

I’ve been dazzled by the lavishly decorated rooms, stucco ceilings, paintings, furniture and other objects in UK York’s Fairfax House, one of the finest examples of a Georgian townhouse in England. And I’ve been dazzled by WA York’s historic and opulently restored Faversham House, established in 1840 and now owned and run as a guest house by Richard and Nola Bliss.

Perhaps those with a greater knowledge of history will be able to find more connections between the two Yorks. But what’s important to me is that they will forever be my Yorks.

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the beautiful lands on which The York Festival takes place, the Ballardong Noongar people. We honour and pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.


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