Wood Street: Heart of Wakefield

Wood Street: Heart of Wakefield

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Wakefield Council, with Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield Civic Society and Leeds Beckett University as partners, this project explored the rich heritage of Wood Street and the institutions and businesses which have existed over the years.

When the Reverend. William Wood laid out a new street in Wakefield in about 1806 on land he owned, he created the space for the many new public buildings that would be needed as a wider range of public services were set up over time to provide better amenities for the people of Wakefield. At the centre of Wood Street are four iconic buildings: the Court House of 1810, The Music Saloon of 1821, the Town Hall of 1880 and County Hall of 1898. In addition around Wood Street a great many other public buildings have come and gone over the years, largely unrecorded. Some of the earliest were provided by charity or by private enterprise.

Wakefield Historical Society undertook the training of participants to do historical research on Wood Street, and also trained people to record people’s memories.

More information and films on One to One Development Trust’s website:

One To One Development Trust’s Wood Street website 

Wood Street - looking at maps

Looking at maps at the Local Studies Library, 19 Jan 2017

Wood Street: The heart of Wakefield launch event on 12th October 2016

The launch event for the project was held in the Kingswood Suite at Wakefield Town Hall. The Society provided a display about the activities of the Society, including our recent Wakefield Waterfront project. Phil Judkins gave entertaining short talks about some historical aspects of Wood Street.

There was a steady stream of interested visitors throughout the afternoon, many of whom had memories of working on Wood Street: for the Council, the Law Courts or in the shops and businesses.

Research Group

Filming the research group

Filming the research group 19th October 2017

The Research Group for the project was filmed by One to One Development Trust. Members described the progress of their individual research and were interviewed about their involvement in the project.

Wakefield Civic Society Walks

Wakefield Civic Society contributed to the project by:
1. Publishing a booklet on the history of Wood Street and its buildings
2. Putting up some new blue plaques
3. Leading guided walks to explain some of the history of the street.

Please contact the Civic Society if you are interested in purchasing the booklet.

Meeting with Leeds Beckett University students

Meeting with students

At the meeting in the Town Hall on the 2nd March 2017, volunteers with the project met the three Leeds Beckett University students who will be taking part in the Heart of Wakefield project. They will be working on a tour of the Wood Street area which they hope to put on mobile phones and engage a younger audience through use of social media.

Training sessions at the Town Hall

Training sessions

On the 15th December, Phil Judkins led the fifth training session, this one titled ‘Keeping Healthy’. Previous sessions have included ‘Court and Community’, ‘Trade and Commerce’, ‘Court and Police’, and ‘Public Events’.

The sessions have provided participants with many possibilities for research, and Phil has whetted appetites to find out more; much interesting material has already been uncovered and shared by members of the group, several of whom have chosen topics for their own research. Sessions continued in 2017 at the Local Studies Library, and at the West Yorkshire History Centre on Kirkgate.

Research Topics

Members of the group have researched these topics:

  1. Charles Watson, Architect of Wood Street
  2. Events at the Music Saloon 1823 – 1855
  3. Transported beyond the Seas
  4. Elections in Wakefield: Riot and Corruption
  5. Wakefield’s Savings Bank
  6. The Crystal Palace in Miniature; Wakefield’s Exhibition 1865
  7. A Life’s Morning: George Gissing walks to Wood Street, 1865
  8. Ironmongers of Wood Street: Holdsworth’s
  9. The Court in Victorian Wakefield
  10. Policing in Victorian Wakefield
  11. Guns, Toys and Alphabets: Eagle Press and its Predecessors
  12. Royal Events in Wakefield
  13. Wood Street in 1901
  14. Miners’ Events in Wakefield

Although most of the research is completed, if you have a particular interest in any of these topics, or have significant information about them, please contact us: info@wakefieldhistoricalsociety.org.uk

Guided walk of Wood Street area

Wednesday, 23rd May at 12 noon, starting from Wakefield Town Hall.

The walk, lasting about 90 minutes, was led by Kevin Trickett MBE, President of Wakefield Civic Society.

Banners flying!

Good to see the banners flying in Wood St for the project!

Wood Street banners

Celebration event 10th March 2017

Celebration event

Deborah Scriven describing her research into the Industrial Exhibition in Wakefield in 1865

Tightrope walking

John Whitaker of Wakefield Museum practising tightrope walking with the players of ‘Oh Susannah’.

Some twenty volunteer researchers, mainly from our Society, carried out a mass of investigations, perusing papers in archives, libraries, and on-line, recording oral histories from those with knowledge and memories of Wood Street’s buildings, offices and shops, and writing up the information for future generations of researchers.

The Celebration Event in Wakefield Town Hall brought together this mountain of work and presented it in all its formats. There were three performances of ‘Oh Susanna!’ to set firmly on record Wood Street’s connection with Victorian Circus owner and equestrian Pablo Fanque. Wakefield Civic Society and our Society had stalls where visitors were able to see the researchers’ papers on 16 fascinating subjects, with illustrative wall displays. Our researchers also presented short summaries of their findings across a very broad range of topics.

In the Civic Society room, there were three showings of the Heart of Wakefield DVD created by One-to-One during the project.

The event was well attended and considerable interest was shown, with visitors spending time to read the folders describing our research.

Museum display cases

Two Museum cases in the vestibule of Wakefield One housed displays linked to the project, with information and artefacts to do with photographers on Wood Street, and Music at the Mechanics Institute.

Museum display cases


These banners on silk were created by a group working with Tony Wade and Faceless Arts as part of their involvement in the project. They were on display in the Cathedral in November.


The banner at the top of this page is based on an engraving of Wakefield by Samuel Buck: view original
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