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Wood street: heart of wakefield

Wood street: Heart of wakefield

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Wakefield Council, with Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield Civic Society and Leeds Beckett University as partners, this project will explore the rich heritage of Wood Street and the institutions and businesses which have existed over the years.

When the Reverend. William Wood laid out a new street in Wakefield in about 1806 on land he owned, he created the space for the many new public buildings that would be needed as a wider range of public services were set up over time to provide better amenities for the people of Wakefield. At the centre of Wood Street are four iconic buildings: the Court House of 1810, The Music Saloon of 1821, the Town Hall of 1880 and County Hall of 1898. In addition around Wood Street a great many other public buildings have come and gone over the years, largely unrecorded. Some of the earliest were provided by charity or by private enterprise.

Wakefield Historical Society is undertaking the training of participants to do historical research on Wood Street, and also training people to record people's memories, so we need volunteers to help us.

Can you help us? The next phase for the WHS part of the project, is to do training in oral history, so that we can interview people with stories to tell about Wood Street and record their memories and transcribe them. The training takes one day, and we have two dates provisionally arranged on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 April, so people who work can still take part. If you would like to do the training, or if you have stories to tell about Wood Street and would be happy to be recorded, please do get in touch via or phone Pam Judkins on 07971 449463.

Please contact the Society if you are interested in becoming a volunteer:

More information:

looking at maps

Looking at maps at the Local Studies Library, 19 Jan 2017

wood Street:the heart of Wakefield
Launch event on 12 October 2016

The launch event for this project was held in the Kingswood Suite at Wakefield Town Hall on Wednesday afternoon. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Wakefield Council, this project will explore the rich heritage of Wood Street and the institutions and businesses which have existed over the years.

The Society provided a display about the activities of the Society, including our recent Wakefield Waterfront project. Phil Judkins gave entertaining short talks about some historical aspects of Wood Street.

There was a steady stream of interested visitors throughout the afternoon, many of whom had memories of working on Wood Street: for the Council, the Law Courts or in the shops and businesses.

As partners in the project with Wakefield Civic Society and Leeds Beckett University, Wakefield Historical Society is undertaking the training of participants to do historical research on Wood Street, and also training people to record people's memories.

If you would like to be involved, please contact us:

Research group

Filming the research group 19 October 2017

Wood St filming

The Research Group for the project was filmed today by One to One Development Trust. Members described the progress of their individual research and were interviewed about their involvement in the project.

Wakefield civic Society walks

Wakefield Civic Society is contributing to the project by:
1. Publishing a new booklet on the history of Wood Street and its buildings
2. Putting up some new blue plaques
3. Leading guided walks to explain some of the history of the street.


Hearyt 2 Mar 17

At the meeting in the Town Hall on the 2nd March 2017, volunteers with the project met the three Leeds Beckett University students who will be taking part in the Heart of Wakefield project. They will be working on a tour of the Wood Street area which they hope to put on mobile phones and engage a younger audience through use of social media.

Training Sessions at the Town Hall

training session

On the 15th December, Phil Judkins led the fifth training session, this one titled 'Keeping Healthy'. Previous sessions have included 'Court and Community', 'Trade and Commerce', 'Court and Police', and 'Public Events'.

The sessions have provided participants with many possibilities for research, and Phil has whetted appetites to find out more; much interesting material has already been uncovered and shared by members of the group, several of whom have chosen topics for their own research. Sessions will continue in 2017 at the Local Studies Library, and at the new Archives building on Kirkgate, once it is opened in February.



Research topics

Members of the group have researched these topics:

  1. 1. Charles Watson, Architect of Wood Street
    2. Events at the Music Saloon 1823 - 1855
    3. Transported beyond the Seas
    4. Elections in Wakefield: Riot and Corruption
    5. Wakefield’s Savings Bank
    6. The Crystal Palace in Miniature; Wakefield’s Exhibition 1865
    7. A Life’s Morning: George Gissing walks to Wood Street, 1865
    8. Ironmongers of Wood Street: Holdsworth’s
    9. The Court in Victorian Wakefield
    10. Policing in Victorian Wakefield
    11. Guns, Toys and Alphabets: Eagle Press and its Predecessors

    12. Royal Events in Wakefield
    13. Wood Street in 1901
    14. Miners’ Events in Wakefield

  2. Although most of the research is completed, if you have a particular interest in any of these topics, or have significant information about them, please contact us:

Further Information:

Wood Street: Heart of Wakefield Website

Wood Street: Heart of Wakefield Facebook page

Guided walk of Wood Street area Wednesday, 23rd May at 12 noon, starting from Wakefield Town Hall.

lThe walk, lasting about 90 minutes, will be led by Kevin Trickett MBE, President of Wakefield Civic Society. Although it is not essential to book, it would be helpful if you would drop Kevin an email:

Banners flying!

Good to see the banners flying in Wood St for the project!



Wakefield historical Society at the celebration event 10 March

Talk on Exhibition

Deborah Scriven describing her research into the Industrial Exhibition in Wakefield in 1865

At the Celebration Event on 10th March, our Society presented their research into the history of Wood Street, both in written form and by talks. The event was well attended and considerable interest was shown, with visitors spending time to read the folders describing our research.

The play about Pablo Fanque's circus, 'Oh Susannah!' had two performances, and the Civic Society who have produced a booklet about the history of Wood Street were in attendance. The excellent film about the project by One to One Development was shown for the first time, and there was the opportunity to learn about Silk Painting.

tightrope walking

John Whitaker of Wakefield Museum practising tightrope walking with the players of 'Oh Susannah'.

Celebration Event for the Heart of Wakefield Project.

10 March, 11.00am to 3.00pm
Town Hall, Wood Street

WHS members will know that for the last 18 months, WHS together with Wakefield Civic Society have been working with Wakefield Council in a Heritage Lottery Funded project to research the history of Wood Street, and some twenty volunteer researchers, mainly from our Society, have carried out a mass of investigations, perusing papers in archives, libraries, and on-line, recording oral histories from those with knowledge and memories of Wood Street's buildings, offices and shops, and writing up the information for future generations of researchers.

The Celebration Event - absolutely free! - brings together this mountain of work and presents it in all its formats - in the Kingswood Suite, there will be three performances of 'Oh Susanna!' to set firmly on record Wood Street's connection with Victorian Circus owner and equestrian Pablo Fanque (so everyone who missed this at our December meeting, or couldn't hear, come along and catch up on what you missed!), and stalls by WCS and ourselves, where you will be able to see the researchers' papers on 16 fascinating subjects, with illustrative wall displays.

Taking just one example - did you know a new British alphabet was invented in Wood Street, with books and a typewriter to match? No? - then come and find out more!

In the Civic Society room, there will be three showings of the Heart of Wakefield DVD created by One-to-One during the project; members who have seen the Waterfront DVD (and if you haven't, why not?) will know the quality of One-to-One's work and will be keen attend this 'World Premiere'.

Our researchers will also personally present short summaries of their findings across a very broad range of topics, and we can promise that you will be surprised at the new or long-forgotten material their hard work has produced.

Put it in your diaries now and come along to the Town Hall - 11 am to 3pm, 10 March - see you there!

Museum display cases

The two Museum cases in the vestibule of Wakefield One house displays linked to the project, with information and artefacts to do with photographers on Wood Street, and Music at the Mechanics Institute.

display cases


These banners on silk were created by a group working with Tony Wade and Faceless Arts as part of their involvement in the project. They are on display in the Cathedral until 29 November.

wood st banners