WAKEFIELD: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1829.
"WAKEFIELD, is a large, opulent and populous market-town, in the wapentake of Agbrigg, west riding, in the parish of its name and in the centre of the liberty to which it gives name, 178 miles from London, 38 from Manchester, 29 from York, 14 from Bradford, 10 from Barnsley, and 9 from Leeds and Pontefract. The town is situated in the heart of a rich and fertile country, possessing a fine southern exposure, and is built on the north east side of the river Calder, which falls into the Aire, a little above Castlebridge; their united streams afterwards joining the rivers Ouse and Trent, assume the name of the Humber. The communication carried on by means of this river between Wakefield and Hull is extensive, and of immense advantage to the surrounding country. Over the Calder is a remarkable fine stone bridge, with eight arches, near the end of-which, on the east side, stands an old chapel, erected by Edward IV. in memory of his father, Richard, Duke of York, who, with many of his followers and friends, were slain near it in 1459. In the centre of the town stands the parish church, a large and beautiful Gothic building, with a handsome spire 225 feet high; it is dedicated to All Saints, and the benefice is a vicarage in the gift of the crown, and incumbency of the Rev. Samuel Sharp. St. John's is a chapel of ease, an elegant erection, completed at the expense of £10,000. the minister is the Rev. Thomas Kilby; the Unitarians and the various sects of Methodists, and Catholics have their places of worship, and the society of friends' a meeting-house. The free grammar school, which owes its foundation and endowment to Queen Elizabeth, is a spacious building, and has exhibitions for its students at Cambridge;, besides what it at first received from its royal founder; numerous benefactions have since been left by private and other individuals. There is also a charity school for the instruction and clothing of more than 100 boys and girls, in addition to those founded on the systems of Bell and Lancaster, besides many others, taught by private individuals, and numerous Sunday schools. In a large room over the cross the meetings for public business are held, and in the town-hall the epiphany quarter sessions of the peace for the west riding of York. The Duke of Leeds holds his courts of record here every three weeks, for the manor of Wakefield, and as lord of it receives tolls for cattle sold at the market and other fairs. The town is governed by a chief constable. The house of correction has been re-built and improved, within little more than twenty-five years, and is now a very elegant building, in an airy situation. The other public erections are the court-house, the register office for the west riding, the clerk of the peace's office, the west riding pauper lunatic asylum, the theatre, the public rooms, the tammy hall, and corn exchange. The subscription news room is amply supplied with the London and provincial papers, and there is an excellent library attached. The principal trade carried on here is the manufacture of cloth and worsted goods of various descriptions. The wool market is considered the greatest in England. The corn market is very extensive, and the market for cattle and sheep, which is held every fortnight, is considered but little inferior to that of Smithfield, In London. In the vicinity of the town are extensive collieries, the produce of which is shipped in barges down the Calder, as far as the Ouse and Humber. Two of these collieries; by means of a railway, supply the town and its vicinity with coals at a very cheap rate. The celebrated Archbishop Potter, author of the 'Antiquities of Greece,' &c. was a native of this place, as was Dr. Radcliffe founder of the 'Radcliffe library,' at Oxford; and several others of distinguished reputation as scholars. The country around Wakefield is very beautiful, well wooded and watered, ornamented by many genteel seats and handsome mansions : the land is generally fertile, and although the district is a manufacturing one, yet it possesses none of the disadvantages of such a situation. The market-day is on Friday, and is a great one for corn, besides other commodities for domestic consumption in abundance. A fair for cattle and sheep is held on every alternate Wednesday; and the annual fairs are July 4th and 5th, and November 11th and 12th. By the population return for 1801 Wakefield contained 8,131 inhabitants; in 1811, 8,593, and in 1821, 10,764."
[Transcribed from Pigot's National Commericial Directory for 1828-29 ]
by Colin Hinson ©2007