Weekly City Spotlight: Wakefield


Skyline View of Wakefield

Located on the eastern edge of the Pennines, the city of Wakefield is in West Yorkshire, by the River Calder.  The city offers historic attractions such as Nostell Priory and Wakefield Cathedral as well as the modern in the form of The Hepworth Wakefield, one of the biggest galleries outside of London, celebrating the work of countless artists including Dame Barbara Hepworth who was born in the city. Wakefield is also home to beautiful parklands including Anglers Country Park and Haw Park Wood.

Historic Wakefield
Prehistoric settlers were the first to make the area of Wakefield their home, followed in later years by the Celtic tribe the Brigantes, before Roman occupation in 43 AD when significant development of the site took place.

William the Conqueror took control of Wakefield after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, prior to that the manor had belonged to Edward the Confessor, with reference to Wachfeld also made in the Domesday Book in 1086.

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was killed in Wakefield in 1460, close to the site of Sandal Castle during the War of the Roses.  With the Duke’s army also destroyed in the bloody battle, a memorial can be found in the city on Manygates Lane which reads “Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, fighting for the cause of the white rose, fell on this spot in the Battle of Wakefield December 30th 1460”.

As time passed Wakefield became an inland port that would be further assisted with the Aire and Calder Navigation allowing access to the North Sea.  Wool, textiles, cattle, tanning and grain were all thriving trades for Wakefield.  Throughout the Industrial Revolution glass, brewing and boat building industries also developed and mining became an important source of income and employment for the then town.

Popular Culture

Films & TV
This Sporting Life (1963) was written by David Storey and starred Richard Harris, William Hartnell and Alan Badel.  It told the story of a rugby league player Frank Minchin and his turbulent relationship with his widowed landlady.  The film was set in Wakefield and filmed extensively across the city.

Due to be shown at Christmas this year, the BBC period drama Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell has used Wakefield as a filming location with scenes shot in St John’s Square for this magical tale set at the turn of the 19th Century.  Eddie Marsan, Ray Donovan and Bertie Carvel are all starring in this new production.

Five Days (2007) was a five part miniseries which starred Penelope Wilton, Shaun Dooley and Suranne Jones.  The mystery drama focusses on the search for Leanne Wellings following her inexplicable disappearance, with scenes for the drama shot on location in Wakefield as well as Hertfordshire and Essex.

The Red Riding Quartet by David Pearce features 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1983 and is a thrilling crime series featuring characters such as Bob Fraser and Jack Whitehead, with the hugely popular dark tales set in Yorkshire including Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford.

Social Media
Additional information on Wakefield can be found on its official website Welcome to Yorkshire as well as its Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

Famous Faces
George Gissing was born in Wakefield on 22 November 1857, and published over 20 novels in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, including his most famous works The Nether World, The Odd Women and New Grub Street.

Dame Barbara Hepworth was an internationally renowned sculptor whose work reflected the modernism movement with abstract art.  Hepworth was born in Wakefield on the 10th January 1903 and studied at the Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art.

David Storey was born on the 13 July 1933 in Wakefield, and following his successful rugby league career he also became an award winning novelist and playwright whose many works include the novel This Sporting Life, which he also wrote the screenplay for and was awarded the Macmillan Fiction Award.

Chantry Chapel and Bridge
The Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin is located on the medieval bridge which spans the Rover Calder.  Now a Grade I listed building and scheduled ancient monument, the Chapel is the last remaining of its kind in Wakefield, having been 1 of 4 originally built in the area.  The bridge measures 320 ft. and dates back to the mid 1300’s, when the ancient chapel was also constructed built upon a small island in the River and formed part of the bridge’s structure.


West Riding County Hall

West Riding County Hall
Known as both the County Hall and West Riding County Hall, the impressive and ornate building stands on the corner of Bond Street in the city, and dates back to 1898 with its gothic design the work of architect James S. Gibson.  Today the magnificent County Hall provides the offices of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council.

Sandal Castle
In Sandal Magna, a suburb of the city, the ruins of the medieval Sandal Castle can be found looking out onto the River Calder.  The sandstone castle replaced an earlier timber structure which dated back to the early 1100’s, and was once the fortress of Richard of York, the 3rd Duke of York who was killed in the Battle of Wakefield.

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