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Wakefield is the main settlement and administrative centre of the City of Wakefield, a metropolitan district of West Yorkshire, England. Located by the River Calder on the eastern edge of the Pennines, the urban area is 2,062 hectares (5,100 acres) and had a population of 76,886 in 2001.
Wakefield was dubbed the "Merrie City" in the Middle Ages and in 1538 John Leland described it as, "a very quick market town and meately large; well served of fish and flesh both from sea and by rivers ....
The site of a battle during the Wars of the Roses and a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War, Wakefield developed in spite of setbacks to become an important market town and centre for wool, exploiting its position on the navigable River Calder to become an inland port.
During the 18th century Wakefield continued to develop through trade in corn, coal mining and textiles and in 1888 its parish church, with Saxon origins, acquired cathedral status. The county town became seat of the West Riding County Council in 1889 and the West Yorkshire Metropolitan Council in 1974.
The economy of Wakefield changed in the last quarter of the twentieth century, coal mines closed and other traditional manufacturing industries declined contributing to high rates of unemployment. In terms of deprivation, Wakefield, as a whole, is ranked 54th out of 354 Local Authority Districts (1 being the worst). Employment grew by 12% between 1998 and 2003 as the economy recovered and enjoyed growth as the economic base of the district was diversified. Growth has been supported by inward investment from European and United Kingdom government funding which has impacted on the regeneration of the area. Manufacturing still remains an important employment sector although the decline is projected to continue whilst distribution and the service industries are now among the main employers.
At the time of the 2001 Census, there were 33,521 people in employment who were resident within Wakefield. Of these, 20.74% worked in the wholesale and retail trade, including repair of motor vehicles; 14.42% worked within manufacturing industry; 11% worked within the health and social work sector and 6.49% were employed in the transport, storage and communication industries. Wakefield is a member of the Leeds City Region Partnership, a sub-regional economic development partnership covering an area of the historic county of Yorkshire.
There are number of ongoing regeneration projects in Wakefield including the Trinity Walk development to the north east of the city centre, replacing the market hall and containing retail units and a library. Work began in autumn 2007 but was halted in 2009 and restarted in 2010. The cross roads at the Bull Ring in the city centre has been redesigned and the Ridings Shopping Mall refurbished. Westgate Station goods yard and land on Westgate has been developed to create retail and commercial space including new council offices and a hotel. Developments by the river and canal, the "Wakefield Waterfront", included the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Navigation Warehouse as well as office, retail, restaurant and cafe units. The development also includes The Hepworth Wakefield named in honour of local artist and sculptor, Barbara Hepworth which will open in 2011. Flats and offices are also being built at Chantry Waters, on an island between the river and canal.
The most prominent landmark in Wakefield is Wakefield Cathedral, which at 247 feet (75 m) has the tallest church spire in Yorkshire. Other landmarks include the Civic Quarter on Wood Street which includes the Neoclassical Wakefield Crown Court of 1810, the Town Hall built in 1880 and the Queen Anne Style County Hall of 1898. St John's Church and Square date from the Georgian period.
The old Wakefield Bridge with its Chantry Chapel and Sandal Castle are ancient Monuments along with Lawe Hill in Clarence Park. Another prominent structure is the 95-arch railway viaduct, constructed of 800,000,000 bricks in the 1860s on the Doncaster to Leeds railway line. At its northern end is a bridge with an 80-foot (24 m) span over Westgate and at its southern end a 163-foot (50 m) iron bridge crossing the River Calder.
Wakefield has good access to the motorway system, the intersection of the M1 and M62 motorways, junctions 42/29, is to the north west and the M1 to the west is accessed at junctions 39, 40 and 41. The A1(M) is to the east of the district. Wakefield is crossed by the A61, A638, and A642 roads and is the starting point of the A636 and A650 roads.
The Council is working with Metro, the other four West Yorkshire district councils and transport operators to provide an integrated transport system for the district through the implementation of the West Yorkshire Local Transport Plan. A network of local buses, coordinated by West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (WYPTE) and departing from the bus station in the town centre, serves Wakefield and district. Buses are operated by Arriva, B L Travel, Poppletons, Stagecoach Yorkshire and National Express.
Wakefield Kirkgate was opened by the Manchester and Leeds Railway in 1840. Wakefield Kirkgate is unmanned and operated by Northern Rail who operate trains to Barnsley, Meadowhall, Sheffield, Normanton, Pontefract, Knottingley, Leeds, Castleford and Nottingham. The station serves the Hallam Line, Huddersfield Line and the Pontefract Line of the MetroTrain network. Grand Central Trains operating between London King's Cross and Bradford Interchange stop at Kirkgate. In 2009 CCTV was installed at the station which has been dubbed the worst in the country. There has been a campaign for the station to be manned after a number of high profile crimes.
Wakefield Westgate opened in 1867 on the Doncaster to Leeds line. It has connections to the East Coast Mainline, trains to Leeds, Doncaster, and stations towards London King's Cross. CrossCountry trains go to Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Birmingham and the South West. East Midlands Trains also run trains via Sheffield, Leicester to St Pancras International. Wakefield Westgate is on the Wakefield Line of the MetroTrain network. The line was electrified in 1989. Wakefield is served by inter city express trains, from both its mainline railway stations.
The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford International Airport, 19 miles (31 km) to the north of the city at Yeadon.
The Aire and Calder Navigation is 33 miles (53 km) from Leeds to Goole, and 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from Wakefield to Castleford and was created by Act of Parliament in 1699, it was opened to Leeds in 1704 and to Wakefield in 1706 enabling craft carrying 100 tons to reach Wakefield from the Humber. It is still used by a small amount of commercial traffic and leisure craft.The Calder and Hebble Navigation was created by Act of Parliament in 1758 with the intention of making the Calder navigable to Sowerby Bridge. The route was originally surveyed by John Smeaton remains open and is used by leisure craft.The Barnsley Canal, a broad canal with 20 locks, opened in 1799 connecting Barnsley to the Aire and Calder Navigation at Wakefield and was abandoned in 1953.
Wakefield's oldest surviving school is Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, QEGS Wakefield, a boys' only school established in 1591 by Queen Elizabeth I by Royal Charter. The original building in Brook Street is now known as the 'Elizabethan Gallery'. QEGS moved to Northgate in 1854. The school was administered by the Governors of Wakefield Charities who opened Wakefield Girls High School, WGHS on Wentworth Street in 1878. These two schools today are independent schools. National schools were opened by the Church of England including St Mary's in the 1840s and St John's in 1861.St Austin's R.C. School opened about 1838. A Methodist School was opened in Thornhill Street in 1846. Pinders Primary School, originally Eastmoor School is the only school opened as a result of the Education Act 1870 which remains open today.
Wakefield College has its origins in the School of Art and Craft of 1868 and today is the major provider of 6th form and further education in the area, with around 3,000 full-time and 10,000 part-time students, and campuses in the city and surrounding towns. In 2007 Wakefield City Council and Wakefield College announced plans to establish a University Centre of Wakefield but a bid for funding failed in 2009.Other schools with sixth forms include: QEGS, Wakefield Girls High School, and Cathedral High School, which is now a Performing Arts College for ages 11 to 18.
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