Wakefield (city), Yorkshire Genealogy

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Guide to Wakefield history, family history, and genealogy: parish registers, census records, birth records, marriage records, and death records.

Wakefield Sandal Castle.jpg

History[edit | edit source]

Wakefield coat of arms
Wakefield location in England
Flag of the county of Yorkshire


Wakefield is a city in West Yorkshire, England, on the River Calder and the eastern edge of the Pennines. Wakefield was dubbed the "Merrie City" in the Middle Ages and in 1538 John Leland described it as, "a very quick market town and meately large; well served of fish and flesh both from sea and by rivers ... so that all vitaile is very good and chepe there.

The name "Wakefield" may derive from "Waca's field" – the open land belonging to someone named "Waca" or could have evolved from the Old English word wacu, meaning "a watch or wake", and feld, an open field in which a wake or festival was held. In the Domesday Book of 1086, it was written Wachefeld and also as Wachefelt.

Flint and stone tools and later bronze and iron implements have been found at Lee Moor and Lupset in the Wakefield area showing evidence of human activity since prehistoric times. This part of Yorkshire was home to the Brigantes until the Roman occupation in AD 43. A Roman road from Pontefract passing Streethouse, Heath Common, Ossett Street Side, through Kirklees and on to Manchester crossed the River Calder by a ford at Wakefield near the site of Wakefield Bridge.

Wakefield was probably settled by the Angles in the 5th or 6th century and after AD 876 the area was controlled by the Vikings who founded twelve hamlets or thorpes around Wakefield. They divided the area into wapentakes and Wakefield was part of the Wapentake of Agbrigg. The settlement grew near a crossing place on the River Calder around three roads, Westgate, Northgate and Kirkgate. The "gate" suffix derives from Old Norse gata meaning road and kirk, from kirkja indicatingf there was a church there.

Before 1066 the manor of Wakefield belonged to Edward the Confessor and it passed to William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. After the Conquest Wakefield was a victim of the Harrying of the North in 1069 when William the Conqueror took revenge on the local population for resistance to Norman rule. The settlement was recorded as Wachfeld in the Domesday Book of 1086, and covered a much greater area than present day Wakefield, much of which was described as "waste".

The Domesday Book recorded two churches, one in Wakefield and one in Sandal Magna. The Saxon church in Wakefield was rebuilt in about 1100 in stone in the Norman style and was continually enlarged until 1315 when the central tower collapsed. By 1420 the church was again rebuilt and was extended between 1458 and 1475.

In 1203 William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey received a grant for a market in the town. In 1204 King John granted the rights for a fair at the feast of All Saints, 1 November, and in 1258 Henry III granted the right for fair on the feast of Saint John the Baptist, 24 June. The market was close to the Bull Ring and the church. The townsfolk of Wakefield amused themselves in games and sports earning the title "Merrie Wakefield", the chief sport in the 14th century was archery and the butts in Wakefield were at the Ings, near the river.

During the Wars of the Roses, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was killed on 30 December 1460 in the Battle of Wakefield near Sandal Castle. As preparation for the impending invasion by the Spanish Armada in April 1558, 400 men from the wapentake of Morley and Agbrigg were summoned to Bruntcliffe near Morley with their weapons. Men from Kirkgate, Westgate, Northgate and Sandal were among them and all returned by August.

In medieval times Wakefield became an inland port on the Calder and center for the woolen and tanning trades. In 1699 an Act of Parliament was passed creating the Aire and Calder Navigation which provided the town with access to the North Sea. The first Registry of Deeds in the country opened in 1704 and in 1765 Wakefield's cattle market was established and became the one of largest in the north of England. The town was a center for cloth dealing, with its own piece hall, the Tammy Hall, built in 1766.

At the start of 19th century Wakefield was a wealthy market town and inland port trading in wool and grain. The Aire and Calder and Calder and Hebble Navigations and the Barnsley Canal were instrumental in the development of Wakefield as an important market for grain and more was sold here than at any other market in the north. Large warehouses were built on the river banks to store grain from Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire to supply the fast-growing population in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Great quantities of barley were grown in the neighborhood and in 1885 more malt was made in Wakefield "than in any district of equal extent in the kingdom". Obviously for brewing beer!

When cloth dealing declined, wool spinning mills using steam power were built by the river. There was a glass works in Calder Vale Road, several breweries including Melbourne's and Beverley's Eagle Breweries, engineering works with strong links to the mining industry, soap-works and brickyards in Eastmoor, giving the town a diverse economy. Boats and sloops were built at yards on the Calder. On the outskirts of the town, coal had been dug since the 15th century and 300 men were employed in the town's coal pits in 1831. During the 19th century more mines were sunk so that there were 46 small mines in Wakefield and the surrounding area by 1869.

During the twentieth century, Wakefield saw many major changes. The glass and textile industries closed in the 1970s and 1980s, and coal faced competition from alternative sources and demand decreased. The coal mines around Wakefield were among the first in Yorkshire to close under the government of Margaret Thatcher, which altered the national energy policy from a reliance on British coal and opposed the political power of the NUM. Between 1979 and 1983, the pits at Lofthouse, Manor, Newmarket, Newmillerdam, Parkhill and Walton all closed. As the Wakefield pits closed, the Selby Coalfield was being opened, and many colliers in Wakefield accepted offers to transfer to the new pits which were built to facilitate commuting.[1]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries (Civil)[edit | edit source]

Wakefield Cemetery
Sugar Ln
Wakefield WF1 5LF

Mexborough Cemetery
A V S Controls Ltd
9 Blackthorn Way
Wakefield WF2 0HN

Upper Cemetery
8 Neville St
Normanton WF6 1HU

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Wakefield Cathedral
Westmorland St
Wakefield WF1 1PJ
Phone: +44 1924 373923

St Catherine's Church
6 Yew Tree St
Wakefield WF1 5EE
Phone: +44 1924 211130

Trinity Church, Ossett
Church St
Ossett WF5 9DW
Phone: +44 1924 263497

West Bretton Church
Huddersfield Rd
West Bretton
Wakefield WF4 4TP
Phone: +44 1226 382550

St John's Church
Wentworth St
Wakefield WF1 2QU
Phone: +44 1924 371029

St Peter's and St Leonard's Church
Northgate
Horbury
Wakefield WF4 6AS
Phone: +44 1924 576745

St Helen's - Sandal Magna Church
333 Barnsley Rd
Wakefield WF2 6EJ
Phone: +44 1924 259966

St Anne's Church
Wrenthorpe Road
Wrenthorpe WF2 0JS
Phone: +44 1924 373758

Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin
3 Calder Vale Rd
Wakefield WF1 5DJ
Phone: +44 1924 372748

Non Conformists[edit | edit source]

Other Christian and non-christian groups follow:

  • Baptist
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Destiny Church
  • Jehovah's Witness
  • Methodist
  • Presbyterian
  • Roman Catholic
  • Westgate Unitarian
  • Zion Christian Center


Non Christian groups that meet regularly in Bournemouth include:

  • Buddhist
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Muslim
  • Sikh

Civil Registration[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the UK government, from July 1837 to the present day.

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Occupations[edit | edit source]

Wakefield lost most of its major employment opportunities toward the end of the twentieth century, as the coal mines and traditional engineering industries shut down. This contributed to one of the highest unemployment levels in the area.

The city council has worked with the UK Government in diversifying employment opportunities, with stellar growth in the legal arena, financing, and education.

Large companies such as Beaumont Legal, Minster Law, Team 17 Digital, PC Specialist, Fujitsu, GCI Communications PLC, Morrisons Supermarkets, Sainsbury's, the NHS, and XPO Logistics have all established regional HQ's in Wakefield.

Regeneration projects in Wakefield included the Trinity Walk retail development to the north east of the city center, including department stores, a supermarket and shop units. Wakefield Westgate Station goods yard and land on Westgate and Balne Lane have been developed to create retail, residential and commercial space including new offices, a multi-storey carpark serving the station, and a hotel. Developments by the river and canal, the "Wakefield Waterfront", include the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Navigation Warehouse and office, retail, restaurant and cafe units.

However Wakefield would still be listed as an economic backwater by 2016, and is certainly not providing many opportunities to local school leavers who opt to remove to better locations such as Leeds and York within Yorkshire, or heading south the the London megalopolis.[2]

Societies[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Wakefield," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakefield, accessed 16 February, 2018.
  2. Glassdoor, UK,https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/wakefield-reviews-SRCH_IL.0,9_IC3319411_IP3.htm, accessed 22 February, 2018.