The Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation (KCF) underlies much of the Vale of Pickering where it is almost wholly concealed by the Cretaceous Speeton Clay Formation and Quaternary deposits. There are few KCF inland or coastal exposures in Yorkshire with the result that the succession was stratigraphically poorly known until the 1970s oil crisis when the British Geological Survey drilled continuously cored boreholes at Marton and Reighton to examine the formation as a possible source of hydrocarbons. These were supplemented in 1987 by continuously cored boreholes drilled at Marton, Reighton, Ebberston and Flixborough by the Institut Français du Pétrole for hydrocarbons research. Taken together, the boreholes have enabled the lithological, palaeontological, geochemical and geophysical characters of the full thickness of the formation to be examined. Comparison of the KCF successions proved in Yorkshire with those in the adjacent North Sea, the East Midlands and the Dorset coast type area, shows marked variations in thickness related to penecontemporaneous faulting. However, there are only minor variations in the lithologies and faunas at any particular stratigraphical level. This appears to be due to a combination of Milankovitch-driven climatic fluctuations and pulsed variations in sea level which combined to produce similar depositional conditions throughout the English KCF at any one time. The chronostratigraphical classification of the KCF developed in southern England has therefore been shown to be applicable to the Yorkshire outcrop and the southern North Sea. The changes in sea level may be eustatic rather than regional events, but there is insufficient palaeontological evidence to enable them to be correlated with confidence with those of the standard Jurassic sea-level curve.