The 1980s

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Timeline of Wakefield 1980-1990

The 1980s provide us with three or four main stories. There’s the opening of The Ridings shopping centre, a very ambitious step for Wakefield at the time; then there’s the year-long miners’ strike with the attendant founding of Women Against Pit Closures; there’s the marvellous rescue of the Theatre Royal and Opera House (detailed in Kate’s book, Right Royal), and there is the winding up of the West Yorkshire County Council. There is the activity from 1982 of those aiming to found a Hospice in Wakefield (the story is told by Alan Kirkbright in Kate’s book Aspects of Wakefield). From 1979 and throughout the decade there was the activity of the Gissing Trust, working to acquire funds to establish a centre in the Gissing family home (boyhood home of George Gissing, Wakefield-born novelist, 1857-1903). There are also the first out-of-town developments like the Wakefield 41 Industrial Estate, and the Asda Superstore. And there is a proliferation of private residential homes for the elderly, generally in converted premises like the Manor House, Heath.

1980 Work begins to create the Wakefield 41 Industrial Estate
1980 Ladbrokes cease their bingo operation at Wakefield Theatre Royal and Opera House and the
building, erected in 1894 and listed in 1979, becomes redundant.
1981 Sandstone quarries discovered in the Upper Kirkgate/Southgate area during excavations for
the Ridings Shopping Centre
1981 April, Rodney Walker (now Sir Rodney walker) calls a public meeting to explore the future
of the Theatre as a result of which the Wakefield Theatre Trust is set up and subsequently purchases
the building.
1982 November, the Queen visits Wakefield and goes walkabout in the Cathedral precinct
1982 November, the Friends of Wakefield Theatre Royal and Opera House formed
1982 November, plans to provide a Hospice for Wakefield sit in motion at inaugural meeting
1982 December, Parkhill, the last colliery in Wakefield, closes.
1983 November, Wakefield’s first out-of-town supermarket, the Asda store, Durkar, opens
1984 March, Miners’ strike, against pit closures, begins affecting such remaining collieries in the
locality as Denby Grange, Nostell, Sharlston, Woolley, and impacting on the Wakefield economy
and on schools attended by miners’ families.
1984 Snapethorpe Hospital (for infectious diseases) closed
1984 July, an earth tremor measuring 5.5. on the Richter Scale is felt in Wakefield
1985 5th March, the year-long miners’ strike ends
1985 May, the Prince and Princess of Wales visit Wakefield
1985 Pugneys Country Park opens
1985 November, work begins to construct the Sharlston Haul Road to take waste from Sharlston
Colliery to the projected Welbeck land reclamation and waste disposal scheme
1985 November, Wakefield-born David Hope enthroned as Bishop of Wakefield
1986 January, Trinity Methodist Church, Norton Road, opens
1986 March, the winding up of the short-lived West Yorkshire County Council. Disposal of its
assets includes a grant of £400,000 to the Wakefield Theatre Royal and Opera House, and £100,00
to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park
1986 County Hall is occupied by the West Yorkshire Residuary Body.
1986 March, grand reopening of Wakefield Theatre Royal and Opera House, following restoration
with a variety performance conceived as a tribute to the West Yorkshire County Council.
1987 The County General Hospital, used since 1972 for the care of the elderly, finally closed.
1987 After protracted negotiations Wakefield Council acquires County Hall
1987 David Hinchliffe succeeds Walter Harrison as Wakefield’s member of Parliament.
1989 July, The Princess Royal to Pugneys Country Park for a gala marking the 70th anniversary
of the Save the Children Fund
1989 October, the Business Park at the Wakefield 41 Estate is opened.
1989 November, Richard Attenborough opens the Access Trail for people with disabilities at
Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
1990 April, the first patient admitted to Wakefield Hospice.
1990 May, the Gissing Centre, Thompson’s Yard, opened in the childhood home of Wakefieldborn novelist, George Gissing.

© Kate Taylor

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