Aspects of Wakefield history

Discover the rich and interesting history of Wakefield

Apart from the information below, more about Wakefield’s history can be discovered by contacting us,

Wakefield Local Studies Library at Wakefield One, and West Yorkshire Archives hold large collections of books, documents and maps, see: Links

PLEASE NOTE: All articles and images on the pages below are the Copyright of the authors and/or Wakefield Historical Society and are not to be copied in any medium without explicit written permission.

John Ruskin and Wakefield by Lesley Taylor.
2019 is the bicentenary of John Ruskin’s birth. This great art critic, artist and social thinker seems to have spent time in Wakefield, and soon after published a correspondence about the town. Ruskin wrote that the scene from Wakefield Bridge, by the Chapel, was one of the ‘two most frightful things I have ever yet seen in my life.’ Find out more about his views and what his correspondent ‘E.L’ thought of the town, the river, and Edward Green and his ‘Economiser’.

Wakefield World War One Roll of Honour. Steve Slade has compiled a database of names for the Wakefield Roll of Honour by researching the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and census records, and has given permission for the Society to host it here. This spreadsheet will download onto your computer, tablet or phone and  is for information only; it should not be copied or reproduced in any form. If you wish to contact Steve Slade, please email: and we will pass your query on.

Guide to Selected Historical Buildings in Wakefield. This guide can also be purchased as an A5 booklet, more information: Publications

Timeline of Wakefield in the 20th Century by Kate Taylor. These were originally written for the Wakefield Express newspaper in 1999. Not all decades are included.
The 1920s,The 1930sThe 1950sThe 1960sThe 1970sThe 1980sThe 1990s.

Walk About Lupset, by Kate Taylor, originally written in 2007

Entertainment in some of Wakefield’s public houses and inns, by Kate Taylor. Find out where you could have watched cock-fighting, played bagatelle or dominoes, or listened to a Polyphon in the past.

Wakefield and its surroundings from John Warburton’s Map of Yorkshire 1720
The map of Yorkshire, made in 1720 by John Warburton, Somerset Herald, F.R.S., F.S.A., was made to a scale of two and a half miles to an inch from a survey by compass bearings and measured distances. It shows the road system, rivers, churches, major houses and their estates, windmills and distances.

The Elephant and the Wakefield Tradesmen’s Benevolent Institution Find out about the grand parade that took place in 1882, and the elephant and camels that were part of the procession.

1913 Wakefield Corporation embarks on the provision of council houses by Kate Taylor. Find out how the Corporation provided new housing to replace squalid and unhealthy slums.

The 1913 Dispensary for the care of people with tuberculosisLearn how Wakefield made special provision of dispensaries and a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis.

Floods at Westgate Common. The new bridge on Westgate, completed in 2014 was designed to prevent the floods which had inundated the bottom of Westgate for centuries.

Westgate Station. The first railway station was opened in 1856, learn about this and the two later stations.

Dr J W Walker, the Churchwarden. Dr J W Walker is well-known as the writer of a history of Wakefield, and as a doctor, but Kate Taylor has researched his contribution as a churchwarden at the Cathedral.

The Benedictines at Heath by Ron Mulroy
The story of the nuns who settled at Heath having escaped from revolutionary France in 1792, and whose memory lives on in the gravestones at Kirkthorpe Church.

Wakefield goes Pop by Peter Wood. E.P. Shaw and the mineral water industry in Wakefield.

Charles Dickens in Wakefield by Kate Taylor. His visit in 1858 to give a reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Corn Exchange

Wakefield and the Titanic Disaster by Kate Taylor. A Wakefield traveller on the ship, and Wakefield’s response to the disaster.

The Royal Visit to Wakefield, July 1912 by Deborah Scriven. The visit by King George V and Queen Mary to Wakefield and the businesses they visited.

The Luddite Risings of 1812 by Ken Rowley. The rising of the textile workers, and the attack on Fosters Mill at Horbury Bridge.

When Wakefield prospered as an inland port by John Goodchild. The development of the Navigation and the many businesses that lined the waterfront.

The Building that might have been the Town Hall by Kate Taylor. The opening of the Public Rooms in 1823 and the many uses they have had since – library, savings bank, Mechanics Istitute, music saloon, public baths, and most recently as the town’s museum.

Warburtons map of 1720

Warburtons map of 1720

The public rooms

The public rooms

Thornes Wharf

Thornes Wharf

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