Is our future behind us?

53 Northgate, Wakefield, as it is today – Fino Pizzeria and Cicchetti, showing the new front added to this c. 15th century building in the 1990s. Before this, it looked like the building next door to the right of the picture but its appearance today is perhaps closer to how it originally looked.

I’m going to go out on a limb here; bear with me.

As President of Wakefield Civic Society, I often find myself being asked to comment on what sort of city Wakefield should aspire to be, particularly given the apparent decline in retail and the empty shops to be seen on the high street (a problem which besets many towns and cities, of course, not just Wakefield). We need to envisage what sort of place Wakefield could be and what it can offer for residents and visitors if it is to retain any sense of vibrancy and vitality.

Creating that vision for Wakefield isn’t quite as easy as it looks. In trying to think about the future, it’s only natural to think about the past. What makes the city unique and distinctive, certainly in terms of the physical fabric of the buildings and street layout, is steeped in its history.

We know that Wakefield has existed as a place of settlement for over a thousand years (it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086). It made its reputation (and much of its money) through the textile industry, quarrying, coalmining and, of course, as a market town. It was a centre for both trade and administration and, in the 19th century, prior to the arrival and eventual dominance of the railways, it was a thriving inland port. In 1472, King Edward IV of England established the Council of the North, an administrative body created not only to maintain the king’s peace in the North but also to stimulate economic growth. The Council of the North was based in Sheriff Hutton and Wakefield (Sandal Castle) before finally moving to York. Later, Wakefield became the administrative capital of the West Riding of Yorkshire

Peter Brears’ book – the front cover features an illustration showing how the bread booths on Bread Street might have looked.

As such an important centre in both commercial and administrative terms, it is perhaps not surprising that the streets and yards were lined with some fairly impressive buildings. A new book, The Buildings of Tudor and Stuart Wakefield, by historian Peter Brears (£19.95, published by Wakefield Historical Publications) reveals just how fine those medieval buildings were. (The book is, incidentally, a really useful resource for anyone interested in the history of the city and one I can wholeheartedly recommend.)

The Black Swan in Silver Street, Wakefield

Sadly, many of those timber-framed buildings are lost to us having been demolished to make way for new properties more suitable to the ‘modern age’. Few examples remain but the Black Swan in Silver Street has managed to hang on, looking more or less as it might have done back in the day, while other survivors are a little less obvious, having been hidden by more recent stone or brick fronts. Such an example is the run of buildings at 53-57 Northgate which at one time would have been one house, according to Brears’ book, but which was subsequently divided into separate properties. No. 53 was given a replica front in the early 1990s to take it back to how it might have looked in the 15th century (plate glass windows notwithstanding) while its neighbours retain the stone fronts (see photo above).

Pastiche? Certainly. But people seem to love it and behind that relatively new front, itself now nearly 30 years old, their lies a genuinely old building, that dates back to at least the fifteenth or early 16th century. The year ‘1596’ moulded into the plaster ceiling of the upper floor is probably the date of an internal re-ordering carried out maybe a hundred years or so after the house was first built.

The former Golden Cock Inn, 31 Westgate, Wakefield. Demolished in 1963.

In Westgate, there stood the Golden Cock Inn. This early 17th century building stood for over 300 years, eventually being demolished in 1963 and some readers may well remember it, not as a pub but as a couple of shops. According to Brears’  book, the building was recorded in photographs as it was taken down and at least some of the timbers were taken into store by Wakefield Museum so that the building could be re-built at some point in the future.

Well, that rebuilding hasn’t happened – and I have no idea whether the timbers have survived. But what if they have? Could the building be recreated? Even if none of the original timbers survive or are usable, would it be viable to build a copy of the Golden Cock Inn and possibly other buildings that have been lost to us?

There is the problem of finding somewhere to erect such buildings. The Golden Cock Inn certainly couldn’t go on the original site – that is now occupied by modern shops – albeit of fairly undistinguished design, typical of the 1960s. So a new site would need to be found – but that shouldn’t be too difficult; there are plenty of empty plots in the city centre, many used as ‘temporary’ car parks.

The site of the Golden Cock Inn as it looks today.

If you follow the conversations about Wakefield that take place on social media, you will be aware that there is huge interest in the history of the city and its built heritage – both in the buildings that are extant and the ones now extinct. Many people, it seems, would like to go back to the past, at least for a poke around. Some very much regret the passing of the buildings that we have lost. Photos are poured over and memories shared. All too often, the developers, planners and councillors who presided over this post-war destruction of our city centre get the blame – sometimes a little harshly: the Victorians probably demolished as much of the city centre as did the planners and developers of the post-war period (although the Victorians replaced the buildings they destroyed with new edifices that are aesthetically pleasing and which have stood the test of time in contrast to much of our 1960s’ ‘cookie-cutter’ architecture.

Now, I don’t really want to suggest that Wakefield’s future lies entirely in the past. We need to be a thoroughly modern, digitally connected city that is outward looking and facing up to the challenges ahead. But we also need to create the sort of city centre that is attractive to residents and appealing to visitors. We should be looking to create, or more accurately, recreate, the local distinctiveness we have been in danger of losing in recent years: let’s make something which people will take to their hearts and be proud of; something in fact that they will not only want to see for themselves but will want to show off to their friends and family who have the bad luck to live somewhere else!

One way of doing this would be to rebuild perhaps just one street with replicas or reconstructions of some of the timber-framed houses and shops that would have once been so evident across the city. Whether they be used as museum pieces for people to explore or as premises for people to live in and work from I leave for future discussion. Done well (and avoiding what I sometimes call ‘the Disneyfication of heritage’ – none of this ‘Ye Olde Worlde’ nonsense please!), the project could have great potential to stimulate interest not only in our own history but in history and architecture more generally. There could be school projects linked to the enterprise; community workshops, writing and art classes and so on. Heavens, there might even be a TV series in it. Visitors would come a-flocking, I’m sure.

Now, I’m not usually one for suggesting we build old stuff (and if I was, I’d be recommending we go for something in Art Deco rather than medieval style), but horses for courses and as a learning and research project that could involve the community, I’m in.

If there’s anyone out there with the resources and enthusiasm to make this happen and the clout to make it a reality, I’ll be right behind you….

Wakefield – My Favourite Things

In June 2018, I was approached by The Wakefield Express weekly newspaper to write a column describing my favourite things about my home city of Wakefield. Bearing in mind that the column is a regular feature written by guest writers from around the city, I wanted to say something which, though personal to me, wasn’t just a repeat of what others had written.

Here’s what I wrote – it was published on Friday, 22nd June 2018.

Wakefield – a city to be proud of!

I have lived in and around Wakefield all my life. I grew up in Newton Hill and now live just a ten-minute walk from the city centre.

I’ve been interested in architecture and history since I was at school but I have developed that interest considerably in recent years through my involvement with Wakefield Civic Society. When I became president of the Society, I found myself receiving requests from community groups asking for talks about the city, its history and its buildings. These requests were quickly followed by people asking for guided walks around the city centre so that they could see something of the history and architecture I spoke about in my talks. I very quickly had to start doing some research to make sure I had my facts right!

Showing off my city to others has really helped me to understand the story of how the city has evolved. Wakefield may have only had city status for the last 130 years, but our history goes back much further, at least to Anglo-Saxon times. While some of our buildings can trace their origins back to the late middle ages, we have a wealth of Georgian and Victorian architecture right on our doorsteps – yet people don’t always recognise or appreciate the diversity of our architectural heritage until someone points it out to them.

In this article, I realise that I’m supposed to say what my favourite places in the city are, but that’s really difficult for me – I have so many favourites! However, one street I have grown increasingly fond of is Wood Street. Not only is it the heart of the city’s civic area but it formed the subject for a research project I undertook on behalf of the Society when we joined with Wakefield Council, Wakefield Historical Society and Leeds Beckett University recently to uncover the history of the street. This led to me writing my first book – Wood Street: The Heart of Wakefield – which the Society published last year. I now have a much deeper understanding of the history of the street and surrounding area – but I’m still learning! As I lead guided walks around Wood Street, people will sometimes recount their memories of the street and its buildings.

One of the surprising things about Wood Street is that it is only just over 200 years old, having first been laid in out in 1806 by the Reverend William Wood, who was the second vicar at St John’s Church and a bit of a property developer on the side!

Much as I love my home city, I’m not blind to its problems. Yes, there are empty shops and offices and this is very true of Wood Street, but I remain optimistic that things will change. What I’d love to see happen is for a new hotel and a new art gallery opening in Wood Street. I think the former police station and court house would lend themselves rather well to such uses. Why an art gallery? Well, the Hepworth Wakefield has proved without doubt that there is huge interest in art and it attracts people from all over the country but the focus at the Hepworth is very much on sculpture. I think there is room in Wakefield for an art gallery that concentrates on paintings and having another gallery at the Wood Street end of the city would be one way of enticing people who visit the Hepworth to come and explore the city centre.

Wakefield is changing as we ourselves change. We might be shopping less, but we do seem to be drinking more coffee and eating out more. There are lots of interesting new restaurants and cafés in the Northgate/Wood Street area and even the night life is changing as some of the bars refashion themselves to cater for a more mature and discerning public.

In closing, I must mention that one of my very favourite buildings in the city centre has to be the Theatre Royal. I am really proud that my home city boasts such an attractive (and intimate) Frank Matcham designed Victorian theatre and I’m really excited by the opening of the new Centre for Creativity, an extension built very much in the modern style of the 21st Century.

So that’s it: great architecture, a fascinating history, a developing centre for culture and art, and a burgeoning reputation for dining out. Add in the various festivals and other attractions and there’s no wonder that I still regard Wakefield as my favourite city!

Art Deco – a design style with enduring appeal

I was asked to contribute an article on an ‘art’ theme to the January 2018 edition of TopicUK magazine for Wakefield. With a deadline to meet and a free rein, it was an ideal opportunity to write about one of my personal interests – Art Deco – while also giving it a local flavour with a link to Wakefield’s history!

The term ‘Art Deco’ is something of a catch-all. It refers to a design style that really came to the fore in the 1920s, although its origins can be traced further back in time. It remains hugely popular today and there continues to be big demand for authentic pieces of the period. The Art Deco term can be applied to just about anything from architecture and decorative arts through to fashions in clothes and furniture and household wares. There were even fonts and a colour palette used in printing that came to typify the style (think of railway posters advertising streamline trains and glamourous destinations). The style persisted well into the 1930s and was revived again in the 1950s, albeit in updated forms

But I’m getting ahead of myself. World War I had changed everything and people were ready to break from the rather fusty traditions of the Edwardian era. Women had begun to find freedom, going out into the workplace and becoming self-supporting. Their skirts and hairstyles became shorter (material was expensive and the bustle didn’t really lend itself to working either in offices or on the factory floor). Corsets and stays were unfastened and discarded. Men’s fashions were changing too – the very formal tailoring (and tailcoats) of the Victorian and Edwardian periods were exchanged for a more modern line that still forms the basis of men’s suits and jackets today.

People wanted to put the memories of war behind them and those who had survived wanted to celebrate! This was the age of jazz, the age of swing: the beat grew faster, the rhythm was syncopated and folk were in the mood to party! Think Flappers, Gatsby, Josephine Baker and the Roaring Twenties!

Art Deco was originally about expensive objets, created for the very wealthy, in precious woods, metals and jewels. The name Art Deco was actually coined (although not until the 1960s) from an abbreviation of the title of the 1925 Paris exhibition, the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, intended to showcase the best of modern decorative art and international design. Art Deco took its cues from African, South American Aztec and European influences. In the USA and Western Europe, the style was developed further – the organic and naturalistic designs of the Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements were simplified and streamlined; unnecessary curls and twirls were replaced by more geometric motifs.

Meanwhile, Hollywood films such as the Busby Berkeley musicals were helping to spread this new style moderne around the globe, creating a demand from cinema audiences wanting to have some of the Art Deco magic in their own homes. That demand was met by mass manufacturers whose factories had turned from producing weapons and the machinery of war to creating household wares and goods for the popular market. They used chrome, glass and new materials such as Bakelite plastic to produce less expensive artefacts intended for everyday use.

I guess I fell in love with Art Deco long before I knew what the term meant: indeed, I can trace my fascination with the design style back to when I was a child in the 1950s. On my mother’s dressing table sat a dish, made in amber coloured glass, about 12 inches across and in the shape of a butterfly. There was something about the shape, the style and the colour that just appealed to me. I don’t know how my mother came by it but I later inherited it and for nearly 30 years it sat on a chest of drawers in my guest bedroom. Remarkably, although it must be somewhere approaching 70 years old, if not older, it’s still in perfect condition.

It was a trip to the opening of a new exhibition at Pontefract Museum a few years ago that made me re-evaluate the dish. The museum had a new display dedicated to Bagley Glass, a Knottingley bottle works originally established in 1871 by cousins William Bagley (1842-1924) and John William Bagley (1838-1897) and whose fathers were also glass makers from Yorkshire. The company used coal to fire the furnaces in which their glass was produced – following in the footsteps of an emerging glass-making industry: there had been a glass works in the Knottingley area since the 17th century and so much glass was produced in the area that the nearby village of Houghton acquired the name of Glasshoughton!

Bagleys, as Bagley Glass was to be known, went on to make decorative household glassware and, by the middle of the 20th century, they had become the biggest manufacturer of pressed glass in England, exporting their products all over the world, adapting their styles to meet the demands and expectations of their customers.* (Glass making continues in Knottingley to this day although the company is now part of Stölzle Flaconnage Ltd. under whose name the factory now trades.)

Anyway, back to the museum. On display that day was a butterfly dish, identical to mine but in green glass. My interest was kindled! In fact, on closer examination back home, quite a few pieces of glassware that I’d inherited from my parents turned out to be Bagley glassware; none of it particularly valuable (sadly): you can pick pieces up for around £12-£15 at antiques shops without trying too hard simply because it was so mass-produced and just about every home in the area would probably have had some in everyday use. Nonetheless, my butterfly dish has now been moved to the relative safety of a display cabinet!

A quick internet search revealed that other companies such as Davidson’s and Sowerby’s, both of Gateshead, and Jobling, of Sunderland, as well as European manufacturers such as Walther and Sohne of Germany were also turning out pressed glassware for the domestic market, again keeping up to date with the trend for Art Deco designs. There products have the style, and the look, of the 1920s and 30s but without the price tag of more illustrious names such as René Lalique and they provide a much cheaper starting point for anyone interested in acquiring a few pieces of their own. Of course, you can buy modern Art Deco glassware; manufacturers today are still producing goods that reflect the public interest in the style and I have purchased some 21st century examples myself. Perhaps, one day, they will be the sought-after antiques of the future?

(*) There is an excellent book detailing the history of Bagley glass and from which some of my notes above have been taken. If you’d like to learn more, do try to get hold of a copy of Bagley Glass, by Angela Bowey with Derek and Betty Parsons. Mine is the third edition published in 2010 but a fourth edition is now available.

A Brief History of Business in Wakefield

In 2015, I was asked to write a short history of Wakefield’s business-life for TopicUK magazine – which made sense given that the magazine is aimed at Wakefield’s businesses today. However, the word limit I was asked to work to – just 400 words, would barely scratch the surface, so it was agreed that I should write a series of articles. These are reproduced together here for the first time. I make no claim to be an historian – but I have read a lot of books and articles about Wakefield written by others including JW Walker, John Goodchild and Kate Taylor.

A Brief History

Look up in Cheapside, or Thompsons and Woolpack Yards, and you will see the vestiges of numerous hoists jutting out from the top of buildings; buildings that are now often smart offices but which were originally built as warehouses for storing grain and wool.

While Wakefield may be known today for its association with rhubarb, its early commercial activity was centred on textiles, agriculture and mining. Raw wool from the surrounding area was brought into Wakefield to be sold at market or to be processed – there were fulling mills (where wool is treated with detergents to remove the oil) along the banks of the River Calder and local weavers could use the treated wool to produce cloth. The Tammy Hall (between Wood Street and King Street) was built for the trade in cloths (a tammy is a type of worsted cloth), and opened in 1778. Unfortunately, the trade was relatively short lived in Wakefield as business moved to Leeds, Bradford and other places in the West Riding. The building was acquired by Wakefield Corporation who demolished part of it to create a site for the current town hall and converted what was left into a police and fire station.

Wakefield was, nonetheless, an important market town and administrative centre by the turn of the 19th Century. With good links by turnpike (toll) roads and, later, canals (the River Calder had been made navigable to Wakefield from around 1702), traders converged on the town to buy and sell raw materials, finished goods, grain and livestock: some readers will no doubt remember, for example, the cattle market that stood on Market Street (where the Royal Mail building is now) and which closed for business as recently as 1963, after nearly 200 years of operation. The Graziers pub on George Street takes its name from the men who grazed their cattle to get them ready for market.

What is perhaps less well known is that, before the coming of the railways in 1840, Wakefield had become a busy inland port: it was, of course, easier to carry large bulky loads by water than by road and the canals gave access to both the east and west coast ports so goods and materials were brought to Wakefield for onward transport, something which is still happening today, although nowadays principally by rail and road: witness Wakefield Europort and the many distribution warehouses located adjacent to the district’s motorway network.

Although by the 19th Century, Wakefield was a successful market town and inland port, by the middle of that century, it had started to lose ground to others as some of its traditional textile markets declined.
Fortunately, new businesses emerged in both the manufacturing and service sectors: yarn spinning, coal mining, brewing, brickmaking, soap-making, printing, glass-making and market gardening all flourished. The waterfront was busy with boat building and repair yards and the coming of the railways saw new markets developing as it became possible to bring more goods and raw materials into and out of the town.

Chemical works, engineering and rope making businesses were established or expanded. Joseph Aspdin’s cement works in Kirkgate invented Portland Cement. Some Wakefield businesses were successful enough to exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in London in the Crystal Palace. In August 1865, Wakefield staged its own Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition in a purpose built exhibition hall in Wood Street, attracting up to 10,000 visitors a day during the seven weeks of its opening.

These industries required people, creating job opportunities that led to an influx of working men and their families. Many of the people who moved here in search of work came from outlying rural areas and even further afield with many coming from Ireland. This incoming population had to be housed and catered for, in turn creating further commercial and job opportunities.

Meanwhile, the business of money – not just making it but keeping it safe and encouraging people to save – was ever more important and a number of independent banks were established. Some of these failed, merged or were taken over, yet they often leave their mark on the buildings we see around the city today. On the corner of Westgate and Bank Street are the former premises (now a night club) of banking firm Ingram and Kennet. They were taken over by Leatham, Tew and Company who had premises on the corner of Wood Street – look at the sun dial on the Marygate façade and you’ll see their initials. This building later became home to Barclays Bank after Leatham and Tew were amalgamated with that company. Meanwhile, the former Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank had premises a little further up Westgate. The building may be yet another night club but the bank’s initials can still be seen in the arched pediment over the door. Other examples of former bank buildings include Bank House in Burton Street, now the offices of a firm of solicitors, but formerly the premises of the Wakefield Savings Bank.

A brief history of Wakefield as a centre for administration

No one knows for certain when people first started to live in what we now call Wakefield. There is some evidence of Stone Age activity in the area around Wakefield and a Roman road from Pontefract to Manchester came through Wakefield – fording the River Calder at the bottom of what is now Kirkgate, before branching off to the north and the west, roughly along the lines of the present day Northgate and Ings Road. We do know that the first written record of Wakefield (recorded as Wachfeld) appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 by which time it was already one of the largest manors in the country.

It is thought that the area was first settled by the Angles in the 5th and 6th centuries and that the name Wakefield is derived from the name of a prominent Anglo-Saxon chieftan by the name of Waca (literally meaning Waca’s field). After the Viking invasions of the 9th century, the land under Viking control (known as the Danelaw) was divided into administrative areas called shires. The county shire of York was further divided into three ridings (literally meaning a thirding) and these ridings, were subdivided into wapentakes which took their names from the principal places that were used for village meetings (or moots). Wakefield was part of the Wapentake of Agbrigg and Morley (which was later split into two). This indicates that the main meeting place of the wapentake in Wakefield was actually at Agbrigg, rather than in what we would regard as today’s city centre.

Following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror (himself of Viking descent) set about bringing the country under Norman control. It was he who commissioned the creation of the Domesday Book, actually a great survey that would be used by the crown to calculate taxes. Although not completed until after the king’s death in 1085, the book records the ownership of all lands, buildings, livestock, meadows and woodlands, as well as details of the people whether they be landowners or tenants, free men or slaves.

The Manor of Wakefield was granted by William II to William de Warrenne, created first Earl of Surrey, probably in 1088. The Earl, who died later that year, had supported William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and had been loyal to the king’s son, William II. Possession of the Manor, and responsibility for its administration, passed down the de Warrenne line and it was they who built Sandal Castle in the 12th century, originally in wood but later consolidated in stone. (They also built another castle at Lowe Hill, now in Wakefield park, but this was abandoned shortly afterwards).

Although the de Warrennes did not spend much time at Sandal castle, they did install Constables to keep the peace (the castle also housed a gaol) and to administer the area on their behalf.

The Manor returned to the control of the crown in 1347 with the death of the seventh Earl of Surrey who had no legitimate heirs but the castle retained its function as an administrative headquarters until Tudor times. However, with the rebuilding in the Moot Hall in upper Kirkgate in the first half of the 16th century (during the reign of Henry VIII) as a place for the Steward of the Manor to live, and the building of a new prison in Wakefield in the 1590s, administrative matters moved away from the castle and into the town centre.

Wakefield – A regional centre for over five hundred years

As well as being an established centre for local administration and commerce, Wakefield has a long history as a centre for regional administration. Indeed, Wakefield can claim to have played its part in regional government for over five hundred years.

In 1472, King Edward IV, England’s first Yorkist king, established the Council of the North to implement better government control and administration of the north of England and to bring about economic growth within the area. The Council of the North was firmly rooted in Yorkshire. Originally based at Sheriff Hutton Castle and Sandal Castle (just over a mile from today’s city centre) and later at King’s Manor in York, it had jurisdiction over all six of the northern counties that existed in England at that time, viz. Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmorland, Durham and Northumberland. One of its principle functions was to restore law and order and impose the impartial justice of the crown in the northern regions. In fact, the Council’s main purpose over time was to evolve into being that of a recognised court, with social and local administration being left to the church, local councils, guilds and JPs. The Council was abolished in 1641 but Wakefield was to continue its involvement in regional matters.

As we saw in my last article, following the Viking invasion of the 9th Century, Yorkshire had been divided into three parts, or Ridings, for administrative purposes. However, until the 1832 Reform Act, it was the County of Yorkshire that was represented in Parliament (by just two MPs). The 1832 Act divided the county into three parliamentary constituencies for the first time and these were based on the North, East and West Ridings with each of the three resulting constituencies being represented by two MPs from in the years between 1832 and 1865.
In 1865, the constituency of the West Riding was further divided into those of the Northern West Riding of Yorkshire and the Southern West Riding of Yorkshire, each with two MPs. Further changes introduced by the Local Government Act of 1888 established an administrative boundary centred on the West Riding and led to the creation of the West Riding County Council (WRCC) to administer it. The new County Council came into being in 1889.

To begin with, the WRCC met at the recently opened Wakefield Town Hall in Wood Street at the invitation of the then Wakefield Council, but it was not long before the WRCC started looking for accommodation of its own. The WRCC already owned Rishworth House, a Georgian house built in 1812 with a large garden, situated on the corner of Cliff Parade and Bond Street. Although there was a debate at the time that could have led to the new headquarters being sited in Leeds, it was decided to erect the new council building in Wakefield, cementing Wakefield’s reputation as a regional centre for another hundred years.

Rishworth House was demolished and in its place rose the building that we now know as the County Hall. Built in the Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decorative treatments, construction of County Hall commenced in 1894 with the building officially opened in 1898. It was the first of Wakefield’s civic buildings to be wired for electricity. The building was extended between 1912 and 1915.

The WRCC continued in operation until local government reorganisation saw county councils being abolished. It was replaced by the newly created West Yorkshire County Council in 1974 (with a different geographical area). When that organisation was itself swept away following yet more local government reorganisation in 1986, County Hall was put up for sale. It was subsequently acquired by Wakefield Metropolitan District Council in 1987. Wakefield Council now uses the council chamber in County Hall for meetings of the District Council, as it is a larger space than the former council chamber in the Town Hall (the Kingswood Suite).

As the above potted history demonstrates, when it comes to regional government, nothing seems fixed for long. Politics, economics and population growth drive constant change. Although the West Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986, it seems as if we might be coming full circle in some respects. There is now a West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), established in April 2014, which brings together the councils of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York as well as the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to create a united force for economic growth. It is currently chaired by Councillor Peter Box CBE, leader of Wakefield Council.

And with the possibility of elected mayors for city regions also under discussion, it seems we may have not yet seen the end of the changes in our regional government. It would be nice to think that Wakefield will continue to play its part in whatever political and administrative structures emerge.