Wakefield Cathedral

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Wakefield Cathedral
Cathedral Church of All Saints
Wakefield - Cathedral.jpg
Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral is located in West Yorkshire
Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral
Shown within West Yorkshire
53°40′59″N 1°29′49″W / 53.68306°N 1.49694°W / 53.68306; -1.49694Coordinates: 53°40′59″N 1°29′49″W / 53.68306°N 1.49694°W / 53.68306; -1.49694
LocationWakefield, West Yorkshire
CountryUnited Kingdom
DenominationChurch of England
TraditionLiberal Anglo-Catholic
Heritage designationGrade I listed building
Architect(s)George Gilbert Scott
John Loughborough Pearson
Years builtc.1300-1905
Spire height247 feet (75 m)
ParishAll Saints, Wakefield
Episcopal areaWakefield
DioceseLeeds (since 2014)
Bishop(s)Nick Baines
DeanSimon Cowling
Canon(s)Derek Walmsley (DDO)
1 vacancy
Curate(s)Tim Carroll
Director of musicEd Jones
Organist(s)James Bowstead (assistant director of music)

Wakefield Cathedral, or the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, is one of three co-equal Anglican cathedrals for the Diocese of Leeds and a seat of the Bishop of Leeds. Originally the parish church, it has Anglo Saxon origins and after enlargement and rebuilding has the tallest spire in Yorkshire. Its 247-foot (75 m) spire is the tallest structure in the City of Wakefield.

The cathedral was designated a Grade I listed building on 14 July 1953.[1]


Rendering of the cathedral in 1807 before the addition of the south porch and removal of the pinnacles.
Wakefield Cathedral south porch and sundial.

The cathedral, situated in the centre of Wakefield on a hill on Kirkgate,[nb 1] is built on the site of a Saxon church, evidence of which was uncovered in 1900 when extensions to the east end were made.[4] A church in Wakefield is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. In 1090 William II gave the church and land in Wakefield to Lewes Priory in Sussex and shortly after that a Norman church was built.

The Norman church was rebuilt in 1329, and apart from the tower and spire, rebuilt and enlarged in 1469. The church was reconstructed and altered at various times and its spire, damaged in a violent gale, was renewed in 1823.[5] Up to the 16th century the church was known by the Anglo Saxon All Hallows and after the Reformation changed to All Saints.[6]

All Saints' Church was largely rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in the early 15th century and, after years of neglect in the 18th century, owes its current late mediaeval appearance to a Victorian restoration by George Gilbert Scott and his son John Oldrid Scott between 1858 and 1874.[7] In 1888, the Diocese of Wakefield was created and All Saints' Church became the cathedral of the diocese. It still serves as a parish church, meaning that until 2000 the head of the chapter of canons was called the provost, rather than the dean. The Treacy Hall built in memory of Bishop Eric Treacy was completed in 1982.[8]

In January 2000 a parish boundary change brought the chantry chapel, on Wakefield Bridge, into the care of the cathedral.[9]

In 2005 Queen Elizabeth II visited the cathedral to distribute Maundy money.[10]

In 2012 the cathedral, with £1.58 million of Heritage Lottery funding, had raised £2.5 million to restore and reorder the nave which was to be cleared of its oak pews to create an open space for worship, public events and celebrations.[11] A decision to charge VAT on restoration work on historic buildings in the 2012 budget caused concern that the project would be halted or delayed.[12]

Its archives are held at West Yorkshire Archive Service in Wakefield.[13]


The nave looking west

The cathedral walls are clad in ashlar sandstone. On the south wall is a porch, with a wrought iron gate and a sundial over the door arch. The wall of the north aisle is the oldest part of the church dating from about 1150. The nave piers date from the 12th and 13th centuries and the arcade and chancel arches date from the 14th century. The late 15th-century chancel now serves as the choir. The nave's original stone vaulted roof has been replaced with wood.[1] The 15th-century wooden ceilings over the nave and aisles have carved bosses.[7]

The current chancel, a transept and St Mark's Chapel were built at the east end in 1904 to designs by John Loughborough Pearson and completed by his son, Frank L Pearson. The 20th-century chancel has a stone vaulted roof.

The cathedral's large four-stage west tower has angle buttresses and a very tall crocketed spire behind an embattled parapet with crocketed corner pinnacles and at 247 feet (75 m) tall, is the highest spire in Yorkshire.[14][15]

The Treacy hall was added to the cathedral in 1982 and functions as a chapter house. Among other things it contains offices, the cathedral shop and a café.

Fixtures and fittings[edit]

The rood screen
The choir

The cathedral's windows have some panel tracery.[1] None of the medieval stained glass survives and most of the cathedral's glass was created by Charles Eamer Kempe who created many windows over 50 years.[7] His windows are reminiscent in colour of those of the late Middle Ages, darker on the north wall with Old Testament themes and lighter on the south side where he placed New Testament figures.[16]

The cathedral has a 17th-century rood screen and above it a rood by Ninian Comper completed in 1950.[17] The font dates from the mid 17th-century and the pulpit from 1708.[1] Eleven of the 15th-century choir stalls, the gift of Thomas Savile, have misericords and other carvings including a green man and mythical beasts.[18]

The reredos is the work of John Oldrid Scott and possibly incorporates earlier works while the high altar is by Frank Pearson.[19] Some furniture in St Mark's Chapel is by Robert Thompson, the 'Mouseman'. The cathedral has a fine collection of church plate. A monument to Lyon Pilkington dates from about 1700 and other memorial tablets are from the 18th and early 19th centuries.[1]

The organ built by Abbott and Smith in 1902, has a case made in 1743. It was rebuilt by John Compton in London in 1951-52 and rebuilt and restored by Phillip Wood and Sons of Huddersfield in 1985.[20]

The cathedral tower has a ring of 14 bells including a 35-1-0 cwt, (note C) tenor, a flat 6th (note B flat), and extra treble (note A), to give a light 10 in (note F) (tenor 14 cwt). No more than 12 bells are usually rung at any one time. Practices range from rounds and call changes on six up to "Surprise Maximus". The bells are rung on Sundays, and to mark special occasions such as weddings and national events such as the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.[21]

Dean and chapter[edit]

As of 1 January 2021:[22]

  • Dean — Simon Cowling (since 29 September 2018 installation)
  • Canon Precentor — Leah Vasey-Saunders (since 5 June 2016 installation)[23]
  • Diocesan Director of Ordinands & Vocations, and Diocesan Canon — Derek Walmsley (since 15 November 2015 installation)[24]
  • Canon for Congregational Development[25] — canonry vacant since 11 September 2019[26]
  • Canon Missioner - Peter Farley-Moore (since 24 March 2021 installation)


The choir organ

Wakefield Cathedral Choir, directed by Ed Jones (Director of Music), consists of boys, girls and adults who perform at the cathedral and have appeared on BBC One's Songs of Praise and BBC Radio 3's Choral Evensong.[27] In 1992 Wakefield Cathedral became only the second cathedral in Britain to accept female choristers.[citation needed]

The cathedral has had six organists since 1888,[28] of which Jonathan Bielby, MBE[29] was the longest serving organist in an English cathedral.[30] Previous organists have included composer Newell Smith Wallbank. Assistant organists have included William Frederick Dunnill and John Scott.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The "gate" suffix derives from Old Norse gata meaning road[2] and kirk, from kirkja indicating there was a church."[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e Historic England, "Cathedral Church of All Saints, Kirkgate (1258237)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 3 June 2012
  2. ^ Mills 1998, p. 403
  3. ^ Mills 1998, p. 405
  4. ^ Walker 1966, p. 172
  5. ^ Lewis, Samuel (1848), "Wakefield", A Topographical Dictionary of England, British History Online, pp. 432–436, retrieved 3 June 2012
  6. ^ Walker 1966, p. 169
  7. ^ a b c Faith Trail (PDF), Treasures Revealed, retrieved 3 June 2012
  8. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 24
  9. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 21
  10. ^ Royal Maundy Service, royal.gov.uk, archived from the original on 10 May 2012, retrieved 3 June 2012
  11. ^ Wakefield Cathedral restoration work begins, The BBC, retrieved 3 June 2012
  12. ^ "Wakefield Cathedral dean's wife takes on George Osborne in YouTube song", The Guardian, 5 April 2012, retrieved 3 June 2012
  13. ^ West Yorkshire Archives, WYJS, ISBN 1-870453-11-5, retrieved 15 March 2010
  14. ^ Wakefield Cathedral, History & Architecture, Wakefield Catheppearance to a dral, retrieved 4 September 2010
  15. ^ Wakefield Council - Wakefield Cathedral, Wakefield Council, retrieved 4 September 2010
  16. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 114
  17. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 8
  18. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 11
  19. ^ Warburton & Taylor 2006, p. 12
  20. ^ National Pipe Organ Register, NPOR, retrieved 15 March 2010
  21. ^ Bell Ringing, Wakefield Cathedral, retrieved 3 June 2012
  22. ^ Wakefield Cathedral — The Clergy, retrieved 8 February 2019
  23. ^ Diocese of Leeds — New Canon Precentor finds her way home as team grows at Wakefield Cathedral announced, retrieved 22 January 2018
  24. ^ Wakefield Cathedral — weekly sheet (PDF), 8 November 2015, retrieved 22 January 2018
  25. ^ "Residentiary Canon for Congregational Development". Pathways.
  26. ^ "Big wrench for Canon Tony as he moves on from Wakefield Cathedral". www.leeds.anglican.org.
  27. ^ "Cathedral choir". wakefieldcathedral.org.uk. Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
  28. ^ The Organ, Wakefield Cathedral, retrieved 4 June 2012
  29. ^ "Jonathan Bielby awarded MBE". Wakefield Diocese. Retrieved 3 June 2012.
  30. ^ Songs of Praise factsheet for Sunday 20 January 2008, The BBC, retrieved 3 June 2012


External links[edit]