West Yorkshire

Wakefield is one of the three cities of West Yorkshire and its county town.

The city is 9 miles south south east of Leeds, 12 miles east-north-east of the larger West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield and about 9 miles north of Barnsley in South Yorkshire. It is 26 miles south-west of York.

The County Hall was initially the seat of the West Riding County Council and from 1974 the West Yorkshire metropolitan county.

The West Yorkshire authority was abolished in 1986 as collective responsibilities were spread to district authorities. County Hall is now used by the Wakefield metropolitan district authority. Wakefield still has the headquarters of West Yorkshire Police and also the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

The Wakefield metropolitan district also covers the five towns to the east of the city, Castleford ,  Featherstone,  Normanton , Pontefract and  Knottingley , along with  Ossett to the west and many other small towns and villages.

Wakefield became a crossing point of the River Calder from at least Roman times, when it was part of a route between Pontefract and Manchester.

The area experienced a period of growth under Viking influence, later continuing to serve as an inland port via the River Calder, River Aire, River Ouse and Humber estuary to the North Sea.

Wakefield developed a market in the early 13th century and the river link was enhanced by the Aire and Calder Navigation from the start of the 18th century.

Wakefield became an important market for grain but grew with a diverse economy during the industrial revolution, influenced by its position between areas dominated by the woollen textile industry, coal mining and agriculture and also the engineering associated with these.

Two miles south of the city centre at Sandal Magna can be found the remains of Sandal Castle. The castle dates from the early 12th century, although its development as a stone castle came through rebuilding in the 13th century.

On December 30, 1460, during the War of the Roses, the Battle of Wakefield was fought below Sandal Castle. It resulted in fatal injuries to Richard of York, the third Duke of York. Richard a great-grandson of King Edward III, had been Lord Protector of England during the mental illness of King Henry VI and two months before the battle his demands to be his successor had been recognised in parliament by an accord. While Richard never became king, two of his sons became King Edward IV and King Richard III, the latter ordering investment in Sandal Castle during his short-lived two-year reign.

The Castle is near to the Pugneys Country Park, one of a number of country parks to be enjoyed in and around the Wakefield area.

Not far from the centre of the city is Wakefield Prison, the country's largest high security prison, which traces its history back to a House of Correction of the late 16th century. However, the prison was modernised in Victorian times and most of its present buildings date from this period.

Wakefield is one corner of the Rhubarb Triangle, the major growing area of early forced rhubarb which is grown in forcing sheds by candlelight. Tribute is paid at the annual Wakefield Festival of Food Drink and Rhubarb to Yorkshire's favourite vegetable, which is usually used like fruit.

City features

City centre shopping includes a wide selection of shops in the city streets and at The Ridings and Trinity Walk shopping centres. There are also several out-of-town shopping warehouses, mainly situated around the Ings Road area, and a choice of supermarkets in and around the city.

The Wakefield main post office is at WHSmith at the Trinity Walk Shopping Centre, there are also a number of branches in and around the city and its districts.

There are many pharmacies in and around Wakefield.

Most banks and some building societies have a branch in Wakefield.

Wakefield has always offered a vibrant nightlife at its city centre pubs, bars and nightclubs, while there are still plenty of quieter locals to be found in its surrounding districts and villages.

Wakefield has a selection of cafes and coffee shops.

The city has plenty of choice among its range of places to eat.

Wakefield Library is at Wakefield One in Burton Street.

Wakefield Museum is also in the Wakefield One building in Burton Street. More details below.

There are many schools and colleges in and around Wakefield.

Wakefield is on the River Calder.

The Aire and Calder Navigation links Wakefield towards the River Humber and North Sea.
The Calder and Hebble Navigation links Wakefield to Dewsbury, the Huddersfield Broad Canal, Brighouse, Elland and the Rochdale Canal at Sowerby Bridge.

Places of worship: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, other.

Wakefield Cathedral
The cathedral is on the site of a Saxon church, but there have been a number of rebuilds, extensions and alterations in its history. Although it has more recent extensions, most of the current appearance reflects a Victorian restoration between 1858 and 1874 of what was then All Saints Church. It also retains some building work from 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centures. At 75 metres, its spire is the tallest in Yorkshire. The church became the cathedral of the Diocese of Wakefield in 1888. Since 2014, it has become one of three anglican cathedrals in a combined Diocese. The diocese was formed in 2014 from the dioceses of Ripon, Bradford and Wakefield and was named the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales to gain public trust across its entire area, before it was later ordered to use what had actually been registered as its official name of the Diocese of Leeds.


Theatre Royal Wakefield

Drury Lane
Close to the city centre, the Theatre Royal Wakefield offers drama, musicals, dance shows, talented entertainers and bands within the experience of a small Victorian theatre.


Wakefield Trinity

Wakefield Trinity play rugby league at Belle Vue.
Official website:  Wakefield Trinity


Wakefield Museum

Burton Street
Situated in the Wakefield One building in the heart of the city, the museum allows visitors to engage with the history of Wakefield.
More information at  Wakefield Council - Wakefield Museum web page.

Places to Visit

Sandal Castle

Manygates Lane, Sandal Magna, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire
About two miles south of the city centre, the ruins of the medieval motte and bailey castle are freely open to the public and overlook the River Calder and the city. Some walkways at the castle, including steps to the keep, have recently been undergoing renovation and repairs following a £700,000 investment by Wakefield Council. The castle stood just above the site of the War of the Roses Battle of Wakefield in December 1460. Its damage, however, was ordered by Parliamentarians after the surrender of a Royalist garrison there in October 1645 during the English Civil Wars.

 Find on map
More information at the  Wakefield Council - Sandal Castle web pages.

The Hepworth, Wakefield

Gallery Walk
A modern building next to the River Calder in Wakefield provides purpose-built gallery space for a collection donated by the family of Wakefield-born artist and sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, who died in 1975, together with visiting contemporary art exhibitions.
Find out more at  The Hepworth website.

National Coal Mining Museum for England

Wakefield Road, Overton
The National Coal Mining Museum for England is mid-way between Wakefield and Huddersfield, about 6 miles from each, on the main A642 road at Overton. It is also around 10 miles from Barnsley and just under 5 miles from Dewsbury. The former Caphouse Colliery has exhibits showing the history of mining in the Yorkshire coalfield and beyond. The museum also offers the chance to don a miner's helmet to take an underground tour down the mine. The tour takes about an hour and shows the changes in mining and conditions in the pit through its history. There's also chance to meet pit ponies, to take a trip on a colliery railway, to walk its nature trail or relax with food or a drink in its cafe.
More details at the  National Coal Mining Museum website.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

West Bretton
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is at West Bretton about 6 miles south-west of the city centre. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an an international centre for contemporary art set in beautiful parkland surroundings. Click Sculpture Park for more information on this location featured in our Yorkshire Places to visit.

Nostell Priory

Doncaster Road, Nostell
The 1733 house built on the site of a medieval priory and now looked after by The National Trust has been described as an architectural masterpiece. It includes interiors added by Robert Adam and furniture by Yorkshire-born furniture designer Thomas Chippendale. The house, six miles south-east of the city centre, is set in more than 120 hectares of parkland, including lakeside walks.
More information can be found on the  National Trust - Nostell web pages.


Wakefield Westgate

Mulberry Way
Wakefield Westgate offers local trains, including services to Knottingley, Rotherham and Meadowhall, local and express trains to Leeds, Doncaster and Sheffield and express services towards London King's Cross, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, South West England, York, North East England and Scotland. A train operates to the other Wakefield station at Kirkgate, but this generally runs only hourly Monday to Saturday on its way to Knottingley. There is no longer the long-established service to Huddersfield from Wakefield Westgate, the Huddersfield train now only serves Wakefield Kirkgate. A rail journey from Westgate to Huddersfield will require a change at Leeds or Kirkgate. From Huddersfield to Westgate the change time at Kirkgate will often be just 3 minutes, which doesn't count in journey planners as a connection, leaving a Leeds change the only sensible option if you wish to get to Westgate by train.
Station managed by LNER. Train operators: LNER, Northern, Cross Country and East Midlands Trains.

 Northern - Wakefield Westgate Station and departure information at Northern website.

Wakefield Kirkgate

Monk Street
Wakefield Kirkgate offers local trains, including services to Huddersfield, Mirfield, Castleford, Pontefract and Knottingley, a local and regional express service to Leeds, Barnsley, Meadowhall, Sheffield with expresses continuing to Nottingham and there are a few express departures a day towards London King's Cross and to Mirfield, Brighouse, Halifax and Bradford. The station, which a few years ago was one of the most dilapidated in the county, has been refurbished in recent years. It has a station buffet which is a welcome addition for passengers faced with a very poor timetable if they hope to make a connection. On weekdays and Saturdays, three trains heading in different directions arrive in the first few minutes of each hour. The timings are such that none provide five minutes to make a connection with one of the other trains, and, if attempted in preference to a longer route, a potential miss could leave a wait of an hour for the next train. The station subway has been brightened up with Ashley Jackson artwork and recorded brass band music.
The station is managed by Northern. Train operators: Northern and Grand Central.

 Northern - Wakefield Kirkgate Station and departure information at Northern website.

Wakefield bus station

Union Street
Inter-town bus services operate through city streets and into the bus station in Union Street, which is to the north of the city centre and not far from the Trinity Walk shopping centre. The bus station is a 10 minute walk from Wakefield Westgate railway station and about 15 minutes walk from Wakefield Kirkgate, although both the railway stations have street bus stops near to them.
The bus station is managed by Arriva - a Deutsche Bahn company.

Road travel

Wakefield is particularly well connected to many parts of the Yorkshire region being just 2.5 miles from the north to south M1 motorway and about 10 miles from the east to west M62 motorway.

The HS2 effect

Our new Yorkshire.guide study has assessed cities and major towns throughout the Yorkshire region for the benefits HS2 will bring in travelling from Yorkshire to London when the proposed section between the Midlands and Leeds is complete in 2033. The line is also planned to link to existing lines to Sheffield and York. Each city or town has been given one of three simple ratings based on convenience and time saved over existing services.
White elephant: Takes the same time or longer than an existing service* or saves less than 10 minutes while now causing a change of trains. (* or HS2 completed to Manchester).
Coffee break: Saves 10 to 45 minutes. Time for a cup of coffee at your destination rather than on the train?
City slicker: Saves 45 minutes or more on existing service getting you to that all-important London meeting in good time.

We've been fairly generous to HS2 in making the assessment. Where a change of trains is now needed, we have assumed that you are on the fastest train to the station where you change to HS2, that it arrives on time, you have 10 minutes to change to the HS2 platform and an HS2 train is waiting to depart at that time. No assessment is made of additional journey costs possible in connecting to or travelling on HS2. The assessment is made on journeys from Yorkshire to London with again no account taken of any convenience or inconvenience in arrival at London Euston rather than London King's Cross station. Further details about our study can be found on The HS2 Effect page.


HS2 might have been designed to join existing tracks south of Wakefield to allow HS2 trains to stop in the city before continuing towards the present station in Leeds. Instead an expensive HS2 by-pass has been planned around the city, leaving it unconnected and without an HS2 station.

The by-pass saves around five minutes travel time between a point at Crofton, south of Wakefield, where HS2 would just bridge existing tracks, on the journey into Leeds. But HS2 plans a new terminus station in Leeds which would mean an extra five minutes walking time to the platforms of the present station to change to trains for other destinations. All the journey time saving is lost on the walk time between plattorms.

Wakefield therefore faces travelling north to Leeds to change to HS2 to travel south again. This will not offer any significant time saving over the present service. The very best connection time would save 3 minutes at most and would mean the extra hassle of changing trains and possible additional costs. However, with HS2 in place it seems doubtful whether existing city to city services stopping at Wakefield would continue at their present frequency.

Travelling south from Wakefield to catch HS2 at Sheffield would mean even longer journey times than at present.

Emergency services

West Yorkshire Police  West Yorkshire Police website.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service  West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust  Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust website.

Local government

Metropolitan district council

County strategic authority

West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Covers some combined services of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield - which were at one time provided by a West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, with the addition of the non-contiguous City of York council and unelected Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.
 West Yorkshire Combined Authority website.

Police and Crime Commissioner

The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire
 Police and Crime Commissioner West Yorkshire website.

Fire Authority

West Yorkshire Fire Authority
West Yorkshire Fire Authority
The fire authority is made up of elected members of each of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield.
 West Yorkshire Fire Authority web pages.

Ceremonial county

West Yorkshire


Municipal borough 1848-
West Riding County Council headquarters 1889-
County borough 1913-1974 (within the West Riding of Yorkshire)
City charter from 1888, granted upon elevation of Wakefield to a Diocese

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