Celebrating 130 years of city status

Wakefield, 14th May 1947'Bull Ring
Wakefield, 14th May 1947'Bull Ring

Celebrating 130 years of Wakefield’s city status

The borough received the honour in 1888 and stands alongside 68 other cities in the UK that share the status.

Nostalgia February 1985 - Queen Victoria statue returns to Wakefield Bull ring

Nostalgia February 1985 - Queen Victoria statue returns to Wakefield Bull ring

Events to celebrate the milestone, led by Wakefield Business Improvement District (BID), will be held across the city and run until July next year.

Elizabeth Murphy, Manager of Wakefield BID, said: “Too many people either don’t know or forget that Wakefield is a city – it has been for 130 years and that’s all the reason we need to shout about it.

“It offers us a chance to start reshaping people’s perceptions of the city centre – it’s a long-term plan, but all the ingredients of pride, passion and partnership have been thrown into the mix.

“The BID wants to be the catalyst for others to celebrate in their own way. This is a very fluid campaign with lots of moving parts, so things could change shape as we let people develop each part.

Kirkgate  before Ridings development August 1979

Kirkgate before Ridings development August 1979

“But the plan is to open a door to encourage people to look at their city, challenge it, celebrate it and create things from those processes.

“It’s very much about everyone joining forces, bringing the public and the businesses into the mix. That’s what makes a city, that’s what makes Wakefield.”

The events will include city’s first week of historical ghost tours led by Wakefield Civic Society, the creation of a “WFD PIE” with champion pie-makers Hofmann and Sons , and an exhibition of old Wakefield Express stories and front pages from 1888.

Another scheme will see 88 18-year-olds and 18 88-year-olds contribute to a public art project about the future of their city. It is intended to show “the new generation inspired by the past”.

Christmas shopping Ridings Wakefield

Christmas shopping Ridings Wakefield

The resulting artwork will then form a brief for an artist to create works depicting a future Wakefield. The works will go on display in Wakefield Cathedral.

Dubbed the “Merrie City” in the Middle Ages, Wakefield was an important wool centre and market town, while textiles, corn and coal were vital industries in the 18th century.

It was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and the site of the Battle of Wakefield during the Wars of the Roses

Kevin Trickett, chairman of Wakefield Civic Society, said: “Wakefield has a fascinating story to tell. The city retains much of its medieval street pattern and we will be retracing the steps of the countless people who have lived here in the past.

Kirkgate pedestianised area and multi storey car park. (now all covered in, bottom end of Ridings)

Kirkgate pedestianised area and multi storey car park. (now all covered in, bottom end of Ridings)

“By telling their stories, I hope to bring to life the history of the city, its buildings and, more importantly, the people who trod these streets before us.”

Nigel Hofmann, of Hofmann and Sons , said: “We’ve been proudly flying the flag for Wakefield for several generations since 1896, so it makes perfect sense to be a part of the celebrations.

“We’ve already begun work on recipes and designs for what the WFD PIE will look and taste like as we want to try and capture that pride in our city – in pie form.”

Coun Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “Wakefield is a great city with a very interesting history.

“We’re proud to be involved with a range of organisations to celebrate the 130th anniversary, with a range of events which will bring the past to life, involving people of all ages, including young people.

“It’s a great way to tell stories about the past and to consider how we can look forward and embrace the future of our city.”

BID: Elizabeth Murphy

BID: Elizabeth Murphy

Sam Wright, principal of Wakefield College, said: “The college has been at the very heart of education in the Wakefield district for 150 years, and a large part of what we do is to try and shape the future by educating and inspiring the next generation.

“The WFD 130 celebrations offer us an exciting chance to bring that to life and to be part of something that the whole city can shout proudly about.”

Simon Cowling, Dean of Wakefield, said: “The identity of the cathedral and the city of Wakefield which it serves have been inextricably linked for the last one hundred and thirty years. The whole cathedral community is delighted to be working with BID and with other partners across the city to celebrate this significant anniversary. WFD 130 also gives us an exciting opportunity to show the many ways in which the Cathedral touches people’s lives in Wakefield and beyond, and to think about how the cathedral might play its part in helping Wakefield to prosper and thrive over the next one hundred and thirty years.”

How the Express broke the news:

In 1888 the Express covered a Wakefield Town Council meeting in which jubilant politicians celebrated Wakefield receiving city status.

It was an era when the pages of this newspaper were full of stories of small pox epidemics, riders on horseback, and train lines blocked by abandoned coal carts.

At the meeting, councillors discussed the possibility of new seal for the city and the first time that Wakefield would have a bishop.

A letter to Queen Victoria was read out to the meeting.

It said: “Your memorialists are desirous that in connection with foundation of the Bishopric of Wakefield the borough may be constituted a city.

“Your memorialists therefore most humbly pray that your majesty will be graciously pleased to authorise and direct the issue of a Royal Charter confirmed Wakefield the title of ‘City’ and upon your memorialists the name and description of the Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Wakefield.”

Later in the meeting one councillor asked how much the new charter would cost.

The mayor dismissed the councillor’s concern and said “the idea of asking such a question when we are to be made into a city” to laughter and shouts of “hear, hear” from other councillors in the chamber.