North Yorkshire

Tadcaster is a small market town on the River Wharfe in the Vale of York where breweries are a major industry.

The town is 9 miles south-west of York, 6 miles south-east of Wetherby, 11 miles north-west of Selby, 12 miles north-north-east of Castleford and 13 miles north-east of Leeds.

The town had a difficult year during 2016 following the partial collapse of its historic bridge on December 29, 2015 after its closure during Boxing Day floods. It was the only route for vehicles to travel between east and west parts of the town without a diversion of many miles. But the town was reunited after the reopening of the bridge on February 3, 2017.

The town has shops, eating places and easy parking which make it an excellent place for a break of journey.

The town has been a crossing point of the River Wharfe since at least Roman times when it was the settlement of Calcaria, a name derived as a place of limestone, which was quarried in the area. More than a millennium later, stone was still being quarried and used for the building of York Minster.

During the Norman period an early motte and bailey castle was built on the west bank of the River Wharfe, north of the town centre. A few earthworks remain, partly disturbed by past building and with some infilling of its moat, but the castle is of historical significance and is a scheduled ancient monument. The founding of the castle has been attributed to William de Percy in the late 11th century, but it had become neglected a century later.

The village of Towton, 2 miles south of Tadcaster, was the scene of the Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461 during the War of the Roses. It is often claimed to have been the biggest and bloodiest battle on British soil. In it King Edward IV secured his claim to the throne, deposing King Henry VI, after the Yorkist's decisive defeat of Lancastrian forces.

The castle site in Tadcaster was briefly refortified during the English Civil War by Parliamentarians under Lord Fairfax attempting to control the crossing over the Wharfe in the autumn of 1642, but the Parliamentarians, outnumbered by the Royalists at York, fell back after a skirmish and the town was taken by the Royalists in December that year. Lord Fairfax apparently returned to trouble the Royalists and dismantle the defences in a raid in March the following year. Just over a year later, in July 1644, the Parliamentrarians gained victory over the Royalist forces from York at the decisive Battle of Marston Moor around 5 miles north-north-east of Tadcaster.

Tadcaster Bridge is on the foundations of a bridge built around 1200, but has had a number of rebuilds over the years, the one before the recent rebuilding was around 1700. Tadcaster Bridge is at the head of the navigable section of the River Wharfe. In the 1840s, maps marked the bridge with its adjoining New Crane Wharf "Spring tides flow to this point. Navigable to this point for vessels of 40 Tons."

Tadcaster's cycle shops and its situation in the flatter area of Yorkshire in the Vale of York make it a cycle-friendly town, which is also reflected in its choice as the starting point of the Women's Race and Stage 2 of the Tour de Yorkshire in 2017.

Yorkshire's oldest surviving brewery, The Old Brewery in Tadcaster, was established in 1758 by Stephen Hartley. John Smith, helped by his father Samuel, bought the Backhouse and Hartley brewery in 1852, operating it with his brother William who went on to establish the new bigger John Smith's brewery next door. Around 1886, The Old Brewery premises were inherited by a nephew Samuel Smith. The Samuel Smith brewery, a small independent brewery, still uses the old well sunk in 1758 to draw its brewing water for traditional brewing methods. It also has a team of shire horses for local deliveries.

John Smith's Brewery business grew and took over other breweries and pub estate to become one of the largest brewers in the country when it was taken over by Courage in 1970. The John Smith's brand and brewery is now part of the international brewing giant Heineken, founded and with headquarters in Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

Tadcaster's third brewery, the Tower Brewery, founded in 1882, was consumed in a succession of takeovers, including Hammonds of Bradford and later Bass Charrington, and is now run by Canadian/USA multinational giant Molson Coors.

In the heyday of coaching in the early 19th century, the inns of Tadcaster were a popular stop on the turnpike road between Leeds and York.

Between 1847 and 1966, Tadcaster had a railway station on a line which ran from the main line at Church Fenton, through Tadcaster and Wetherby to the fashionable resort of Harrogate. At one time it was on the route for services between London King's Cross and Harrogate. The railway also offered private sidings when the town's breweries developed. The line having been closed in the 1960s, the station has since been demolished. A railway viaduct over the River Wharfe about a quarter of a mile north of the town is a relic of another railway branch started in the late 1840s which was to join the line at Tadcaster to Copmanthorpe near York. The line was not completed, but a line laid across the viaduct provided a siding to a flour mill. There is now a footpath across the viaduct.

The area surrounding Tadcaster is mainly agricultural land but also includes a number of small villages.

Town features

Tadcaster has a great selection of shops in the town centre to the west side of the bridge, including a butcher and baker, florist, delicatessen and beer shop, gift shop, watchmaker and jeweller, chocolate shop, fashions, interiors, pet products and cycle shops. Shops to the east side of the bridge include a Sainsbury's and Costcutter store. The town gained a market charter in 1270 and a weekly outdoor market is held on Thursdays, now behind the social club in St Joseph's Street.

Tadcaster has Post Office branches at Commercial Street and Stutton Road.

Tadcaster Library is in Station Road. The library is a community library, managed and operated by volunteers working in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council.
 NYCC - Tadcaster Community Library

The town has a bank branch.

Tadcaster has a pharmacy.

The brewery town has a small selection of pubs and a social club.

The town has a cafe, coffee shop, tea rooms and bistro, restaurants and pub food, takeaways and a fish and chip shop.

Tadcaster Leisure Centre is in Station Road

The River Wharfe flows through the bridge in the centre of the town.

There is a 20p entry toilet at the bus station.

St Mary's Church has been a location of worship since at least the 7th century, but the present church, except for its tower, is a Victorian rebuilt of 1877 after its original foundations were damaged by flooding. The church does however incorporate fragments from its earlier history, including a Norman arch, parts of a Saxon cross and early stained glass.  Tadcaster Benefice website

The Methodist Church became popular in Tadcaster in the latter part of the 18th century when John Wesley preached in the town on at least 11 occasions. At one time Tadcaster had both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels, but the Primitive Methodist chapel, dating from in 1864, was closed in 1962 and later demolished, leaving the Wesleyan Chapel in High Street as the only Methodist Chapel in the town.  Tadcaster Methodist Church website

The Roman Catholic Church returned to the centre of Tadcaster in the late 19th century when a chapel of ease was established in 1866, attracting such congregations that St Joseph's Catholic Church was built and officially opened in August 1869. The church incorporates stone from the same source as that used for York Minster.  St Joseph's Catholic Church website


Riley-Smith Hall

The Riley-Smith Hall is a theatre, ballroom and concert venue in the centre of Tadcaster. It provides a venue for the shows of the Tadcaster Theatre Company, which performs two shows there every year, and also regular dancing and other events.

More information:  The Riley-Smith Hall website.  Tadcaster Theatre Company website.

Places to visit


Tadcaster is just 9 miles south-west of Yorkshire's principal city by road and is in easy reach by bus or car. Find out more about the historic city on our York page.


Bus services

Tadcaster has a bus station at the eastern side of its river bridge. Coastliner services between Leeds, York, Malton and the Yorkshire coast operate through the town.

Road travel

Tadcaster is bypassed by the A64 and its centre is just half-a-mile away via the A162. It is also 5 miles from the A1(M) via the A659. The town has plenty of parking space including one-hour street parking and car parks, including one serving its central area, off Chapel Street.

Emergency services

North Yorkshire Police  North Yorkshire Police website.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service  North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust  Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust website.

Local government

Town council

Tadcaster Town Council
Tadcaster Town Council is based at The Ark, a historic building in Kirkgate which has its origins as a 15th century house, but has had rebuilding and more recent extension to suit various uses, including a meeting house, an inn, shop and a museum which closed in 1989, before becoming council offices. The council is responsible for looking after land and properties it owns, allotments, some footpaths, footpath lights, bus shelters, seats, litter and dog bins, town trail information and noticeboards. It also coordinates the town's Christmas festival and illuminations, markets and co-ordinates other events as well as awarding grants, commenting on planning applications and promoting the interests of the town, particularly in liasing with other councils. The council has 12 councillors elected every four years. The town council elects a mayor and deputy mayor each year.

Link to council website  Tadcaster Town Council

District authority

Selby District Council

The southernmost district of North Yorkshire is centred on Selby and also includes the towns of Tadcaster and Sherburn-in-Elmet and many villages.

The district is a mostly rural area and has boundaries with the City of York unitary authority, the East Riding of Yorkshire unitary authority, the Doncaster district of South Yorkshire, Wakefield and Leeds districts of West Yorkshire and its shortest border with the North Yorkshire district of Harrogate.

The council is made up of 31 councillors who are elected each four years across 19 wards. There are between one and three councillors per ward.

Link to  Selby District Council website.

The political composition of the council after the May 2019 election was:

1684YP  3
31 members YP = Yorkshire Party

County authority

North Yorkshire County Council
Includes the Selby district and six other non-unitary districts of North Yorkshire.
 North Yorkshire County Council website.

Police and Crime Commissioner

Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire
Covers the county of North Yorkshire and City of York.
 Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire website.

Fire Authority

The North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was previously governed by the North Yorkshire Combined Fire Authority made up of elected members from across the broad areas of North Yorkshire and City of York councils which it serves. Following a ministerial announcement in June 2018 the governance of the fire service was transferred to the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire from 15 November 2018.
Further information at the  North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.
 Police and Crime Commissioner North Yorkshire website.

Ceremonial county

North Yorkshire


1894-1974: Tadcaster Rural District in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
1974-present: Within Selby district of the county of North Yorkshire. Some villages of the large Tadcaster Rural District were moved into the Leeds metropolitan district of West Yorkshire in 1974.

Also in Yorkshire.guide

 New     Places to visit     Gazetteer   

Yorkshire.guide - a dotguide.co.uk website. Made in Yorkshire UK   |  Terms of use  |  Privacy policy  with  No cookies  |  Contact  |