A brief history of Wakefield

Wakefield is a small City nestled in a valley below the Yorkshire Moors, steeped in history which stretches as far back as the neolithic period it is also riddled with myths and legends of tunnels beneath the streets and has connections with Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, Richard II and many other historical and legendary figures.

Sandal Castle
Sandal Castle

The City also has a history of Warfare and Warriors, The Knights Templar had a preceptory at near by Newlands, Two wars were fought at Sandal castle in the South of the City, the first in 1460 AD and the second in 1640 AD, Italian and German prisoners of war were held captive at Crofton, Lofthouse and Methley all small villages on the outskirts of the City.

Legend has it that Wakefield was founded by a Viking Chief named Wacca, he sailed his ship down the river Calder and there Wacca’s Field was born.

What is more Archaeologically correct is that Wakefield has been the site of activity and occupation for Thousands of years, Stone age axe heads have been discovered as has part of an ancient highway which ran from Chester to Leeds.
Iron age round houses, and Bell pits have been found close to Ossett, a Iron age boat was also found at nearby Bottomboat on the East side of the City.

Wakefield had it’s share of Roman visitors also, coins have been found from the occupation and Lowe hill in Clarence park (locally known as cannonball hill) was the site of a Roman fort, and in later years became Wakefield castle, it was then decided to build the castle at Sandal as it was a more strategic point.

The nickname Cannonball Hill comes from excavations finding cannon balls from the Civil war period around the hill, this is most probably from a camp made by the Royalists before they attacked the castle at Sandal.

Between 1964 and 1973 the castle at Sandal was excavated and many artefacts were uncovered some of which can be viewed in the Museum in the City.

Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral photo credit wakefieldcathedral.org.uk/

Wakefield boasts a magnificent Cathedral and also one of only two remaining Bridge Chapels in England, Chantry chapel of St Mary the Virgin is the last remaining of four chapels which stood at the four roads into Wakefield.

The stone chapel was built on the site of a wooden structure and ford between 1342 AD and 1356 AD, History tells us that during the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 the Earl of Rutland was captured and killed near the chapel and bridge, this area is now known as the Fall Ings.

The river Calder has seen a lot of activity throughout the centuries, Boat building was once big business around Thornes Wharf and barges would carry coal from the many pits scattered around the City, Industry has played a large part in the growth of the city and can be traced back to the Iron Age.

As mentioned before Bell pits have been found and close by a site which is identified as a medieval Iron workings is situated, proving that metal working existed in the area for centuries.

Sandstone, coal and Brick making have all left their scars on the Cities landscape and if you look close enough and in the right places evidence of these industries can still be found.

Written by Philip Ross