Wakefield Street Life, 1876

The butter cross, Cross Square, WakefieldCross Square

Richard Knowles of the Rickaro Bookshop in Horbury recently came across these photographs of Victorian Wakefield. They were probably used as business cards by George & John Hall, photographers, who had premises at 26 Westgate.

Someone, presumably George, has dated three of the photographs Saturday, 15 July 1876.
Reverse side of the Chantry Chapel photograph.

The Butter Cross was built in 1707 and, according to some sources, demolished in 1866/67, but that was ten years before the date on the photograph. Wakefield council still have one of those pillars but I’m not sure where it is kept since the old art gallery, where it was displayed in the garden, closed.

The medieval Chantry Chapel now has a mid-twentieth century facade so these photographs are a valuable record of these buildings but it’s the incidental detail that I particularly like.

The shops by the Butter Cross would be a useful reference if I was illustrating Dickens or painting the Paddington Green backdrop for Oliver!

G & J Hall, photographers, were awarded a medal in the highly successful Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition, 1865.
G & J Hall, photographers, were awarded a medal in the highly successful Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition, 1865.

 Six Chimneys

The Six Chimneys

The 6 chimnies, Kirkgate, Wakefield

The Six Chimneys, an Elizabethan house, stood on Kirkgate, on the site of the present roundabout and pedestrian underpass. It collapsed following structural alterations at 7.45 p.m. on 16 May 1941.

To judge by the shadows, this was taken on the Saturday afternoon. Holden’s (the butchers?) has more or less sold out apart from a flitch of bacon and a single sausage (if that’s what it is!). There doesn’t appear to be any glass in the window, unless Mr Holden had gone to the expense of fitting plate glass.

Bell’s the coopers are displaying an impressive array of baskets and barrels, no doubt all made of locally sourced materials, most of them biodegradable.

Parish Church

Cathedral 1876

 The parish church wouldn’t become a cathedral until 1888.

Considering that this is the centre of town at half past eleven on a Saturday morning Wakefield seems uncannily quiet. Where is everybody?

handcartThree boys eyeing the camera and this porter or street-sweeper has stopped to chat to a woman who appears to be carrying a bag.

Street Urchins

Wakefield’s street urchins gathering at the Butter Cross. Was that ladder used by the town’s lamp-lighter?

handcartHandcarts seem to be a common feature around town. It probably wasn’t worth the trouble of loading barrels, baskets and boxes onto a horse drawn cart for delivery around town, so the porter and the delivery boy would have been a familiar sight.

I remember local author Stan Barstow telling me that one of his first jobs was to take a handcart as far as Lupset on the Saturday morning delivery round for one of the Horbury butchers. From a later period, I remember a big black butcher’s bicycle with a large rectangular basket between the handlebars, parked outside one of the High Street butchers in Horbury.

Wakefield Words

on the Chantry bridge

Finally, here are a couple of Saturday morning strollers, stopping for a chat on the Chantry Bridge.

As we’re looking down on them, this must have been taken from the Kings Mill.

What were they chatting about? Wakefield is lucky in that one of my predecessors William Banks who, like me, wrote a book of walks around Wakefield, took the trouble to make a note of the town’s dialect and phrases.

Wakefield Words page 77

So they could well have been saying;

Hah goes it? Owt fresh?’

‘Naah, nowt; what’s t’best news wi’ thee?’

Wakefield WordsSo, if you’d like to know a little about the words these street folk of old Wakefield used for weather, food, childhood and schooldays, the countryside, proverbs and a few supernatural tales, you can order a copy of my book Wakefield Words.

Price £3.99, post free (and as it’s a small paperback, for once I can make that post free outside the UK too).

If they ever invent a time machine and you get whisked back to Victorian Wakefield, it might make a useful phrase book! I was fascinated by William Banks collection of words and phrases and, as you’ll see from the book, I had fun adding cartoon illustrations to bring them to life. I’d always wanted to do a real little paperback book and I’m really pleased with this one. It’s quite jolly and I love the smell of a fresh paperback. Mmm! – you don’t get that with a digital version, do you?

More of my publications can be found at Willow Island Editions or, if you happen to be in Horbury, you can find the full range of titles at the Rickaro Bookshop.

My thanks to Richard Knowles of Rickaro for the loan of these evocative photographs.

Link; Rickaro Bookshop, Horbury

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.