WAKEFIELD: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1834.


"WAKEFIELD, is a large, opulent and populous market town and township, and, by the Reform Bill, created a parliamentary borough, in the parish of its name, and in the lower division of the wapentake of Agbrigg, West Riding, and in the centre of the parish and liberty to which it gives name ; 178 miles n.n.w. from London, 38 n.e. from Manchester, 29 s. by w. from York, 14 s.e. from Bradford, 10 n. from Barnsley, 9 s. from Leeds, and the like distance w. from Pontefract ; situate in the heart of a rich and fertile country, on the north side of the river Calder, which falls into the Aire ; 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 town and surrounding country. Over the Calder is a remarkably fine bridge of stone, with eight arches, near the end of which, on the eastern 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 the year 1460. The discovery in the neighbourhood of many coins, and other relics of the Romans, indicates its existence in the time of that people. In the reign of Edward the Confessor, it formed part of the royal demesne, and was subsequently transferred to the Conqueror. The derivation of its name is uncertain --- in Domesday Book it is written Wachefeld. The town consists of several spacious and regular streets, with many handsome houses ; it is paved, lighted with gas, and well supplied with water. On its northern side, of late years, great improvements have been effected, and handsome rows of houses erected : in this part are some elegant detached mansions, surrounded by shrubberies and pleasure grounds ; indeed the general appearance of Wakefield, denotes the high respectability of its inhabitants. The municipal government of the town is vested in a chief constable, who is appointed by the inhabitants, and sworn in by the steward of the lord of the manor, the Duke of Leeds, who holds his courts of record once in three weeks, for adjudging petty causes, and for the recovery of debts under 5. The Epiphany quarter sessions and the petty sessions held by the magistrates, weekly on Monday, take place at the sessions house, in Wood street ; and the commissioners for paving, lighting and watching the town, and for transacting other public business, held their meetings in a room over the Cross. The register office established in 1704, and the office of clerk of the peace, for the West Riding, are both in this town. The house of correction, for the West Riding, is an extensive pile of building, near the bottom of Westgate, constructed on the improved plan of county prisons : it comprises a chapel, a school for juvenile offenders, day rooms, and a tread mill, for grinding corn. The internal arrangements of this prison are most admirably conducted. The Reform Bill conferred upon Wakefield the privilege of sending one representative to the British parliament. The present sitting member (returned at the election in 1832 without opposition) is Daniel Gaskell, Esq. of Lupset hall. Joseph Holdsworth, Esq. was the returning officer. At Wakefield the election of members to represent the West Riding of the county takes place.

The manufacture of woollen cloth, stuff goods and worsted yarn was formerly carried on to a great extent. Leland, in speaking of the town, says, "it standeth now al by clothying;" these branches, of late years, have greatly declined, a very considerable portion of the trade having been transferred to Halifax and Bradford ; and the wool market, though yet of importance, is of much less consequence than it was some few years since. The malting business continues very extensive, as does that in corn ; and the cattle and sheep market is, perhaps, the best in the county. In the vicinity of the town are valuable coal mines, the produce of which is shipped in barges down the Calder, as far as the Ouse and Humber. By means of railways from some of these colleries, the town and its vicinity are supplied with coals at a very reasonable price. The other principal establishments, as connected with the trade and manufactures of Wakefield, may be embraced under the several heads of iron and brass founding, together with the making of steam engines ; boat and sloop building, tanning and rope making ; there are besides copperas works, breweries, and extensive dye works.

The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, stands in the centre of the town ; it is a spacious and handsome edifice, of English architecture, erected in the reign of Henry III, but from the many repairs and improvements it has undergone little of the original style remains. The noble tower is adorned with battlements and pinnacles, and surmounted by an octagonal spire ; the height of both being upwards of two hundred and thirty feet. The church yard is surrounded by an elegant iron railing, affording a view of the beautiful fabric within it. The living is a vicarage, in the gift of the crown, and incumbency of the Rev. Samuel Sharp, A.M. The church, dedicated to St. John, situate in that part of the town called St. John's, was commenced in 1792, and completed in 1795, at an expense of about 10,000. ; the site for its erection, and 1000. for the support of the officiating minister, were bequeathed by Mrs. Newstead. It was made parochial, jointly with the church of all Saints, by an act of parliament obtained in 1815 : the right of presentation is with the vicar of All Saints. The other places of worship are, for independents, the several denominations of methodists, and for unitarians, Roman catholics and the society of friends. There are several valuable scholastic institutions which dispense the advantages of education to all classes of youth. The free grammar school was founded in 1592, by Queen Elizabeth, and is under the government of fourteen trustees, who are a corporate body ; the children of all residents, both in the town and parish, are admissible, and eligible to the several exhibitions from this establishment to the universities. The ' West Riding Preparatory School,' recently established, is a most useful institution, and the building in which it is conducted is an ornament to the town. It is vested in ten trustees, elected from amongst the proprietors, who hold in all two hundred and forty shares, of which no one proprietor is entitled to possess more than four -- these are transferrable, the purchaser being subject to ballot. A board of directors is composed of a president, four vice-presidents, treasurer, secretary, and fifteen other proprietors. A fee, not exceeding 10, is paid half yearly by each scholar. The first and second masters must be graduates of one of the universities ; there is also a third or assistant master, and another for teaching the German and French languages. The second and assistant masters have the privilege of taking boarders (scholars or nominee scholars of the institution). Each pupil, on entering, pays 1. towards a fund, to be expended in the purchase of a library for the use of the school. Here are besides, 'green coat schools' for boys and girls, one Lancasterian school, two upon the national plan, one for infants, and some Sunday schools. There are several sets of well endowed alms houses ; a dispensary in Silver street, a house of recovery on Westgate common ; and the West Riding pauper lunatic asylum ; the last named establishment, situate about a mile north-east of the town, was erected about 1817, and is calculated to contain upwards of two hundred and fifty patients: it is a handsome and commodious edifice, and is conducted in a manner admirably adapted both for the bodily comfort and mental relief of the inmates. A building is now in progress of erection, near to the court-house, in which the business of the savings' bank is to be conducted. The ' Wakefield subscription library,' in the public buildings, Wood street, is conducted by a president, treasurer, secretary and librarian ; and there are two news rooms, one in Kirkgate, the other in Wood street. A newspaper is published here weekly on Friday, called the Wakefield and Dewsbury Journal. Wakefield has been the birth-place of several eminent persons, amongst whom may be enumerated Dr. Richard Bentley ; Dr. John Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury, a distinguished author, and Dr. John Radcliffe, founder of the Radcliffe library -- these were all educated in the grammar school of this town. In addition to these, Dr. Thomas Zouch, a learned divine, the Rev. Joseph Bingham, M.A. and Dr. John Burton, authors of eminence, were born here. The country around Wakefield is very beautiful, well wooded and watered, and ornamented with many elegants seats and handsome mansions : the land is fertile, and many of the views extensive and highly pleasing ; and, although the district is a manufacturing one, yet it possesses none of the disadvantages of such a situation.

The market cross, which was built, by subscription, upwards of one hundred and thirty years since, is a handsome structure, of the Doric order. The market is held on Friday -- a very extensive one, as has been observed, for corn, besides other commodities in abundance for domestic consumption. A fair, for cattle and sheep, is held on every alternate Wednesday, and annual fairs, on July 4th and 5th, and November 11th and 12th. The parish of Wakefield contained, by the census taken in 1821, 22,307 inhabitants, and by that in 1831, 24,538, of which last number 12,232 were returned for the township. Alverthorpe is a village, in the township of Alverthorpe-with-Thornes, parish of Wakefield ; about one mile w.n.w. from that town. The manufacture of woollen cloth prevail in this township. A church, dedicated to St. Paul, was erected a few years since, by grant from the parliamentary commissioners: the Rev. William Thompson Alderson is the minister. Population of the township, at the last census, 4,859.

The village of Thornes is about three quarters of a mile from the Corn Exchange, Wakefield. Containing nothing interesting beyond its neat church, which exhibits a pleasing feature in the scenery as viewed from Wakefield. It was erected by means of a grant from the parliamentary commissioners, and the patronage of the living belongs to the vicar of Wakefield. The population is included with the township."

"HORBURY, is a large village and chapelry, in the parish of Wakefield, about two miles and a half west from that place, and about four s.e from Dewsbury ; pleasantly situate close to the banks of the river Calder. The manufacture of woollen cloth is carried on in the chapelry ; and in Ossett, a short distance west, on the road to and in the parish of Dewsbury, the establishments in this branch of trade are very numerous. The church in Horbury, which is dedicated to St. Peter, is a handsome edifice of stone, erected at the expense of 8,000, defrayed solely by Mr. John Carr, a respectable architect (uncle to Francis John Carr, Esq. of Carr Lodge.) The other places of worship are two chapels for methodists. There is a free school here with a small endowment, and one for infants ; the latter patronised by Mrs. Gaskell. The chapelry contained, at the last census, 2,400 inhabitants. (for the 1834 directory, see under Wakefield)."

[Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2000 from
Pigot's directory (Yorkshire section) 1834]