WAKEFIELD, a market and parish-town, in Agbrigg-division of Agbrigg and Morley, liberty of Wakefield, 5 miles from Dewsbury, 9 from Leeds and Pontefract, 10 from Barnsley, 13 from Huddersfield and Aberford, 15 from Bradford, 20 from Doncaster, 25 from York, 182 from London. Market, Friday. Fairs, July 4 and 5, for pedlary ware; November 11 and 12, for horses, horned cattle, &c. and every other Wednesday, for horned cattle. Bankers, Messrs. Leathams, Tew, Trueman, and Co. draw on Messrs. Dennison and Co, 106, Fenchurch Street; Messrs. Wentworth, Chaloner, and Rishworth, draw on Messrs. Wentworth, and Co. 25, Threadneedle Street. Principal Inns, White Hart, Strafford Arms, George, Black Bull, and Woodman Inn. Pop. 10,764. There are two Churches, the parish church is a vicarage, dedicated to All Saints, in the deanry of Pontefract, value, £20. 19s. 2d. Patron, the King. The other is called St. John's Church, value, p.r. £100. Patron, the Vicar of All-Saints.
Wakefield is delightfully situated on the side of a hill, gently sloping to the Calder. The town is well built, most of the streets regular, and many of the houses are handsome, large, and lofty. The Market Cross is an elegant structure, being an open colonade of the Doric order, supporting a dome, with an ascent of stairs leading to a large room, in which the business of the town is transacted. The Markets are very good, and the fortnight Fairs have long been noted for their large supplies of fat cattle, sheep, &c. The improvement of the woollen cloth Manufacture, &c. have greatly increased the wealth of this town and neighbourhood, and thrown an inexhaustible wealth into Yorkshire, clothed its hills with fatness, and filled its broad vales with houses and population. The Stuffs are exposed for sale in a hall, resembling the cloth Hall of Leeds.
The Church is a spacious lofty, light, and uniform Gothic structure, and the spire, the highest in Yorkshire; when it was erected is uncertain, but in Domesday Book we find that "In Wachfield cum Novem Berewicis, Sandala, Sorebi, &c. sunt duo Ecclesiae;" and it is clear, as Mr. Watson observes, that Wakefield and Sandal were at that time subsisting. However, no part of the present building can be referred to a period more remote than the reign of Henry III.; and it has since under gone many repairs and improvements. About half a mile further to the north, is the new Church, erected towards the close of the 18th century. The ground on which it stands was bequeathed for that purpose, by Mrs. Newstead, together with £1000. for the support of the minister; and the first stone was laid by The Rev. Dr. Zouch.
Here is a free Grammar School, founded and endowed by Queen Elizabeth, and improved by private benefactions. The School House is a spacious building, erected by the Savilles, ancestors of the Earl of Mexborough. There are two Masters, the head Master's salary is £180. per ann. and it has a good Library belonging to it. There are two Exhibitions from this School, one of them for the natives only; and two scholarships at Clare Hall, Cambridge.
To this Seminary the world is indebted for the scholastic erudition of Dr. Bentley; Archbishop Potter; Dr. Ratcliffe; Dr. Zouch; Mr. Joseph Bingham, M.A. author of Origines Ecclesiasticae; Rev. Thomas Robinson; and Mr. Charles Hoole, author of several school books.
Here is also a Charity School, for the education and clothing 106 children of Wakefield, with other charitable donations, amounting to more than £1000. per annum.
At the bottom of Westgate is the House of Correction for the whole Riding. This prison is a large and noble building surrounded by an outer wall, and contains more than 150 cells. Mr. James Shepherd is the present Governor.
Here is the Register Office for the West Riding; the Clerk of the Peace's Office; the Paupers Lunatic Asylum; and other public buildings.
The river Calder was made navigable in 1688, and in 1760, was extended to Elland, near Halifax, which has much increased the trade of this place and neighbourhood. A few miles from the town are numerous Coal Mines, and great quantities of coals are carried by water to York, Hull, and other places.
The Manor of Wakefield, of which his Grace the Duke of Leeds is Lord, is one of the most extensive manors in the county.
In 1460, a bloody battle was fought at this place between Richard, Duke of York, and Margaret, the Queen of Henry VI. The Duke had not been in his Castle of Sandal with his men, more than two days before the Queen approached, at the head of 18,000 men, and much sooner than the Duke expected. She appeared before the Castle with a small party of her army, and tauntingly upbraided him with being afraid to face a woman. Her insults repeated, the Duke could refrain no longer, but four days after his arrival, drew up his men upon the Green facing Wakefield, and after marching a little way down the hill, the battle began. It should seem that two detachments were sent to lie in ambush to attack the Duke in the rear. It is, however, certain that the Duke was deceived in the number of the Queen's troops.
The ambush parties ware commanded by the Earl of Wiltshire, and Lord Clifford. These two parties attacking the Duke on the right and left at the same moment, quickly surrounded him. The battle lasted half an hour, and it is probable that the Duke was killed, about 400 yards from the Castle, by Clifford who had sworn destruction to every member of the House of York. He, however, cut off the Duke's head when slain, placed on it a paper crown, and carried it on a pole to the Queen, who, rejoicing as much as himself, caused it to be placed on the walls of York. In this fatal conflict fell Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, the Duke's uncles, Sir David Hall, Sir Hugh Hastings, Sir Thomas Neville, and about 2800 men. The Earl of Salisbury, Sir Richard Limbric, and others, were taken prisoners and beheaded, and their heads placed on Micklegate Bar, York. --Hall --Holingshed --Rapin.
The Earl of Rutland, a child of 12 years old, probably remained in the Castle with his tutor, Mr. Aspell; but when the battle was lost, he fled for safety, without knowing wither to fly. The savage Clifford had intelligence; in a fright the child ran into the house of an old woman, near the bridge, begging protection, which the woman durst not grant. He then hastened down a footpath, by the river side; the furious Clifford overtook him and his tutor. The child fell on his knees, wrung his hands, but could not speak. The tutor begged for mercy to the child, but the monster, with more than savage ferocity, stabbed him to the heart. The place where he fell is called The Fallings.
Edward IV. in commemoration of this battle, erected a beautiful little Chapel upon the bridge, in which, two priests sung requiems for the souls of the slain. The Chapel is ten yards long, and six yards wide. One end of the building constitutes part of the bridge. It is three stories high, and has nine rooms, three on each floor. On the outside is curious Gothic work, but some of it is gone to decay. The front is divided into compartments, with arches in relief; their spandrils are richly flowered, and over each compartment, are five shorter ones, with historical relics. In one is a woman reclined, lamenting a youth, who, at her feet, sits wringing his hands: this is probably the Earl of Rutland, begging protection of the old woman at the foot of the bridge. The buttresses are beautifully carved, the windows have a rich tracery, and the whole has a charming effect. Since the priests left it, the place has often changed its use. --Hutton.
It is now converted into a News Room, having been previously occupied by an old clothesman, who was in the habit of hanging on the precious traceries, his filthy ware, and afterwards by a den of flax dressers. A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1808, observes, that "it has been repaired: repaired! yes, and in a truly gothic style: the beautiful tracery of the windows, rarely to be equalled, is totally demolished, not a wreck is left behind; and its place is now supplied by plain cross headed mullions, filled up with spruce sash squares. The front, that inimitable specimen of rich tracery and chaste ornament, presented itself to the despoiler; and in order to give a finish, probably, as he thought, to the dilapidated buttresses, he propped them up with short round pillars, four little short round laughable things all in a row."
The following eminent men were born at Wakefield: Dr. John Potter, the son of a linen draper in Wakefield, and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, a celebrated antiquary, critic, historian, and theological writer, was born here in 1674. His best works are "Variantes Lectiones et Note ad Plutarchi librum de Audiendis Poetis; an edition of Lycophron;" "Antiquities of Greece; "a discourse on Church Government;" and "Divinity Lectures." He died in 1747.
Joseph Bingham, born in 1668. He wrote a learned and laborious work, "Origines Ecclesiasticae;" the first volume of which was published in 1708 in 8vo. and was completed afterwards in 9 vols. more. He died, Aug. 17, 1723.
The celebrated John Burton, M.D. author of the Monasticon Eboracense, a work of infinite labour and research, published in 1758. After he had finished his studies at Edinburgh, he settled at York, where he practised as a physician.
Dr. John Radcliffe, a very eccentric character, and most popular physician of his age, was born here in 1650. He was physician to King William, but when the King returned from Holland in 1699, being indisposed, he sent for Radcliffe, and having shown him his swollen ankles, while the rest of his body was emaciated, and skeleton like, said, "what think you of these? "Why truly," replied the physician, "I would not have your Majesty's two legs for your three Kingdoms," by which freedom, he lost the King's favour. His practice was very considerable among the first persons in the Kingdom. He died in 1714.
[Description(s) edited from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson © 2013]