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The land historically bordered the county of Durham and North Sea. Within Yorkshire the area bordered the East Riding and western parts of the North Riding. A national park called the North York Moors formed in the 1800s and a non-metropolitan county under the same name formed from 1974-1996 leading to ambiguity between the county and the name's historic extent.
Cleveland has centuries-long association with the area from Middlesbrough to Pickering and Thirsk to Whitby, effectively the eastern half of Yorkshire's North Riding. Ralph, Archdeacon of Cleveland, was the area's first archdeacon recorded, before 1174. A Dukedom of Cleveland was first created in the 17th century.
The Cleveland Hills were key suppliers of the ironstone which was essential to running blast furnaces alongside the River Tees. Cleveland’s rich ore has created a significant industrial heritage arising from its central role in the 19th century iron boom that led to Middlesbrough growing from a hamlet into a major industrial town in only a matter of decades. Teesport is one of the United Kingdom's main ports, initially due to the iron boom, with between Middlesbrough and Redcar having other heavy industrial plants.
The Cleveland Parliamentary constituency (1885–1974), was the first instance of Cleveland referring to only land around the river Tees. The county of Cleveland and Tees Valley have followed on the same boundaries. The constituency was created by the division of the North Riding constituency, and was succeeded in name by the Cleveland and Whitby for the February 1974 general election.
Unlike multiple towns and cities in North America, Cleveland in Ohio is not named after its English namesake. This is commonly direct or via a toponymic surname. A notable usage of the area as a surname being Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the USA.
The area is extremely varied geographically:
- North York Moors
- Howardian Hills
- Roseberry Topping: a distinctive hill. Its original roughly conical form was undercut by extensive mining, giving it a jagged appearance that many have thought reminiscent of the Matterhorn mountain.
- River Tees and east Teesdale
- River Esk
- Vale of Pickering
- Hambleton (part)
- Redcar and Cleveland
- Stockton-on-Tees (south Tees)
- Lord Lieutenant of Cleveland
- High Sheriff of Cleveland
- Duke of Cleveland
- Earl of Cleveland
- Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner
- Cleveland Bay
- Cleveland Way
- Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, major structural engineering company
- Cleveland Shopping Centre, Middlesbrough
- Ironstone mining in Cleveland and North Yorkshire
- Greenaway, DianaE. (1999), Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300, 6, pp. 36–40
- Royal Mail, Address Management Guide Edition 4, (2004)