Wakefield is a cathedral city in the City of Wakefield district of West Yorkshire, England. The city is on the River Calder and the Pennines eastern edge. The Battle of Wakefield took place in the Wars of the Roses and it was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War. In the 18th century, Wakefield traded in corn, coal mining and textiles and in 1888 its parish church acquired cathedral status. It was the county town of the West Riding of Yorkshire and was the seat of the West Riding County Council and the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council. It is part of the West Yorkshire Built-up Area and the Yorkshire and The Humber region.
The economy of Wakefield declined as the coal mines and traditional manufacturing industries closed, but more recently the town has 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 remains an important employment sector, whilst distribution and the service industries are now among the main employers.
Of the working population 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.
Regeneration projects in Wakefield included the Trinity Walk retail development to the north east of the city centre, including department stores, a supermarket and shop units. The central square at the Bull Ring has been redesigned with a water feature and the Ridings Shopping Centre refurbished. Wakefield Westgate Station goods yard and land on Westgate and Balne Lane have been developed to create retail, residential and commercial space including new offices, a multi-storey car-park serving the station, and a hotel. Developments by the river and canal, the "Wakefield Waterfront", include the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Navigation Warehouse and office, retail, restaurant and cafe units. The development includes the art gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield named in honour of local sculptor, Barbara Hepworth. The gallery has ten internal spaces, exhibiting many examples of Hepworth's work. The gallery added about £10 million to the local economy by attracting 500,000 visitors in its first year. Flats and offices were built at Chantry Waters, on an island between the river and canal.
Wakefield has good access to the motorway system, with the intersection of the M1 and M62 motorways, junctions 42/29, lying to the north west, whilst 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.
Wakefield Westgate station is on the Doncaster to Leeds line. It has connections to the East Coast Main Line, trains to Leeds, Doncaster, and stations towards London King's Cross. CrossCountry trains go to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and the South West. East Midlands Railway also run a limited service via Sheffield, Derby and Leicester to London St Pancras. Wakefield Westgate is on the Wakefield Line of the West Yorkshire Metro network. Wakefield is served by inter-city express trains from both its railway stations. London can be reached in less than two hours.
Wakefield Kirkgate station has trains to Barnsley, Meadowhall Interchange, 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 operating between London King's Cross and Bradford Interchange stop at Kirkgate.
The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford 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.
Wakefield has a population of over 330,000 people. Wakefield also forms part of the wider Leeds-Bradford metropolitan area which has a population of over 2,302,000 people.