Q. How did this website come about?
A. This digital archive, which includes contributions from local groups and individuals as well as the library service, illustrates the diversity of life In Wakefield District through time. By sharing this collective experience through historic collections, individuals and communities can learn, grow and contribute to shaping their own future and the future of their city, town or village. There is a rich, diverse and never ending story to record about the Wakefield District. This online archive was first conceived back in 1995 and brought to life in 2003, it continues to educate, inspire and entertain visitors from all over the world.
Major project milestones:
1995 - first discussion of project at Library team meeting
1998 - first stage of grant application submitted to New Opportunities Fund
2001 - second stage of grant application submitted to New Opportunities Fund
2002 - January - grant received from New Opportunities Fund
2002 - April - Project equipment installed at Library Headquarters
2002 - June - Project Coordinator appointed
2002 - September - scanning and indexing of images begins
2003 - March - Project website officially launched
2013 – 'Twixt celebrates its 10th Birthday
Present – Twixt continues to be a popular site with many returning visitors across the world.
Q. What is Wakefield District's historic heritage?
A. The medieval market town of Wakefield is superbly documented in its well preserved set of administrative manuscripts, the Manor Court Rolls and became a city in 1888 at the height of its powers as a thriving inland cloth and grain port. It is still the 'County town' of West Yorkshire, hosting fine Victorian County and Town Halls. The Chantry Chapel of St Mary on Wakefield Bridge is one of the last surviving Medieval bridge chantries, and Wakefield Cathedral, which dates back to pre-Norman times has the highest spire in Yorkshire. Other notable buildings include a restored Elizabethan schoolroom and the Tammy Hall, where finished cloth products or 'tammy' were traded.
In terms of art and culture, Wakefield's Theatre Royal and Opera House was created by the distinguished theatre designer Frank Matcham (1854-1920) in 1894, and Wakefield's famous offspring have included sculptress Dame Barbara Hepworth, for whom the local art gallery was named, and novelist George Gissing. Wakefield and District is also known for its tradition of Rugby League and for being inside 'The Rhubarb Triangle' a small, yet peculiarly fertile area of agricultural land, which is particularly suited to large-scale production of this tasty pink-coloured vegetable crop.
Wakefield also gave rise to one of Britain's best loved nursery rhymes, 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush': the 'Bush' from this rhyme was and still is situated within the walls of Wakefield Prison's exercise yard. Wakefield's reputed connection to the tales of Robin Hood stem from George-a-Green, the Pinder of Wakefield, who at first fought with Robin but then joined him and became one of his 'Merry Men'.
Many individual towns within the wider Wakefield District can also claim their own historical significance. The town of Castleford was named Lagentium by the Romans, who built several large forts there, although it is more presently known for its proud history of coal mining and outstanding Rugby League as well as for its most famous son, sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1983).
Pontefract, whose majestic castle once played host to Richard II and lengthy Civil War sieges, is now best known for its beautiful Parish Church, Market Cross and tradition of fine confectionery. The popular liquorice 'Pontefract' or 'Pomfret' Cake is its best known product, and Pontefract is one of the few places in the world where the Liquorice bush will grow with commercial success.
Horbury was home to renowned architect John Carr (1723-1807) and to the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) who wrote the well known hymn 'Onward Christian Soldiers' whilst he was resident there in 1865 and more recently for the author Stan Barstow.
Ossett is best known for its woollen trade links, especially to Mungo and Shoddy manufacture. The village of Walton was once home to Sir Charles Waterton (1782-1865), whose pioneering South American adventures and attitude to wildlife has caused his estate, Waterton Park to be referred to as one of the world's first private nature reserves.
The communities around South Elmsall and Kinsley are best known for coal extraction, and in 1905, the unique 'Kinsley Evictions' marked an important event in the history of workers' protest. Another such key event occurred at Featherstone in 1893, The Featherstone 'Massacre' where protesting miners were fired on by soldiers after The Riot Act had been read, killing some of those in the crowd.
Also known for its coal mining, the town of Normanton, which is mentioned in the Domesday book, has a parish church dating back to the 14th Century and played host to the Knights Templars of Newland Hall. The nearby village of Altofts was the birthplace of Elizabethan privateer Sir Martin Frobisher (c.1535-1594) and the village of Foulby, to the south of Wakefield is best known as the birthplace of John Harrison, who is responsible for the concept of Longitude.
Q. What is Wakefield Like nowadays?
A. The Wakefield District was brought together following local government reorganisation in 1974. The Cathedral City of Wakefield and the 40 surrounding towns and villages that make up the District are situated in West Yorkshire, England. Wakefield District covers an area of approximately 350 square kilometres and has a current population of approximately 325,000. Residents share the experience of living along the reaches of the Aire and Calder rivers over once rich coal seams. The M1, A1 and M62 motorways that now define the area dominate the modern landscape.
The City of Wakefield, the Five Towns (Normanton, Castleford, Pontefract, Featherstone and Knottingley), the 'shoddy' mill towns and the villages are fiercely proud and independent, some with their own town and parish councils to influence developments in their communities. The Wakefield area houses several notable attractions including The National Coal Mining Museum for England near Overton, Nostell Priory - a country house with an outstanding collection of Chippendale furniture, The Hepworth Gallery and the open air Yorkshire Sculpture Park at Bretton. Plan your visit at www.experiencewakefield.co.uk