To add photos please click here Add Photos!


Wakefield is a metropolitan district of West Yorkshire; located by the River Calder on the eastern edge of the Pennines, the urban area is 2,062 hectares (5,100 acres); it is at the junction of major north-south routes to Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster and west-east routes to Huddersfield, Dewsbury and Pontefract; it is within the area of the Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire & Yorkshire coalfield and lies on the middle coal measures and sandstones laid down in the Carboniferous period.

On the outskirts of the town, coal has been dug since the 15th century and 300 men were employed in the town's coal pits in 1831; during the 19th century more mines were sunk so that there were 46 small mines in Wakefield and the surrounding area by 1869; the National Coal Board eventually became Wakefield's largest employer with Manor Colliery on Cross Lane and Park Hill colliery at Eastmoor surviving until 1982.

During the 18th century Wakefield developed through trade in corn, coal mining and textiles; during the 19th century Wakefield became the administrative centre for the West Riding and much of what is familiar today in Wakefield was built at that time.

Wakefield was the de facto seat of regional government in Yorkshire for two centuries and became the county headquarters of the West Riding County Council created by the Local Government Act of 1888; the West Riding County Council, based in Wakefield, was abolished in 1974 and the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council, also based in Wakefield from its inception in that same year, was abolished in 1986.

The name "Wakefield" may derive from "Waca's field" – the open land belonging to someone named "Waca" or could have evolved from the Old English word wacu, meaning "a watch or wake" and feld, an open field in which a wake or festival was held; in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was written Wachefeld and also as Wachefelt.

Wakefield was probably settled by the Angles in the 5th or 6th century and after 867AD the area was controlled by the Vikings who divided the area into wapentakes; Wakefield was part of the Wapentake of Agbrigg; the settlement grew up near a crossing place on the River Calder around three roads, Westgate, Northgate and Kirkgate; the "gate" suffix derives from Old Norse gata meaning road and kirk, from kirkja indicates there was a church.

The most prominent landmark in Wakefield is Wakefield Cathedral, which at 247 feet (75 metres) has the tallest spire in Yorkshire; this old Saxon church was rebuilt in about 1100 in stone in the Norman style and was continually enlarged until 1315 when the central tower collapsed; by 1420 the church was again rebuilt and was extended between 1458 and 1475; this Parish Church was raised to cathedral status in 1888 and after the elevation of Wakefield to a diocese, Wakefield Council immediately sought city status and this was granted in July 1888.

Wakefield was dubbed the "Merrie City" in the Middle Ages and Sandal Castle, near Wakefield was the site of a Wars of the Roses battle, the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, when Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was killed.


Go back.