Wakefield Cathedral – The Parish Church

At its heart Wakefield Cathedral is a parish church. It was known as All Hallows Church until the 16th century when it was renamed All Saints. It gained Cathedral status in 1888 when the Diocese of Wakefield was formed.

Baptisms, marriages and burials of local inhabitants have been taking place here for hundreds of years. These rites of passage have become a valuable source of information for family historians researching their ancestors and creating their family trees.

Baptisms, marriages and funerals still take place in the cathedral to this day, but burials in the accompanying graveyard ended in 1866. The graveyard was larger than it appears today due to the widening of Kirkgate in 1905.

Many of Wakefield Cathedral’s early registers have been digitised. These are available on Ancestry.com, making them accessible to genealogists all over the world. By far these are the most utilised records within the collection and show the life cycle of Christian families in the Wakefield parish, from the 17th century to the modern day.

Baptisms, marriages and burials register 1613-1641 (WDP3/1/1)
This is Wakefield Cathedral’s earliest surviving baptism, marriage and burial register. It began during the reign of King James I. It ended in the reign of his son King Charles I in 1641. Parish registers were written in Latin during this period, and the first recorded baptism is for “Ester, daughter of John Rodley, baptised 4th day of April”.
Register of baptisms 1903-1925 (WDP3/2/12)
A famous face appears in this baptism register from 1903.

Can you spot it?

Entry No. 46 is the baptism entry of Wakefield legend Barbara Hepworth. She was born on the 10th January 1903, and baptised at Wakefield Cathedral on the 28th February 1903. Hepworth would go on to become a famous artist with many of her works available to view at The Hepworth Wakefield.

Register of marriages 1754-1760 (WDP3/3/1)
The first recorded marriage at Wakefield Cathedral took place on the 26th March 1754 between William Lupton and Elizabeth Spink, who were married by the curate John Coppendale.
Register of Burials 1678-1729 (WDP3/4/1)
On the first page there is the following inscription, “A register book for the parish Wakefield according to a late act of parliament for burying woollen in force Aug 18th 1678”.

As you can see on the following page, it is noted when the deceased were buried in woollen as proof of adherence to this act. The reason for the creation of this act was to support the domestic wool trade.
Plan of Wakefield Cathedral’s Graveyard c1898 (WDP3/21/5)
This plan from 1898 shows Wakefield Cathedral’s surrounding graveyard which closed for burials in 1866. The graves are numbered although sadly an accompanying grave register does not survive. You can still see some of the gravestones whilst walking around the cathedral’s precinct today.
Copy citation to obtain a faculty authorising the appropriation of a portion of the churchyard for the widening of Kirkgate 24 May 1905 (WDP3/14/7)
Wakefield as a city has grown and changed over time, and in 1905 a request was made for the widening of Kirkgate which would require changes to the churchyard.

An extract reads:
“That in order to carry out such widening of the said street it will be necessary to take up all the tombstones and monuments on the south of the present footpath and also to remove the ancient earth of the said churchyard down to six inches below the level of the present street pavement such earth to be carefully sifted and all human remains found therein to be reverently removed and reinterred without delay in the Vicarage Croft. The flat tombstones being buried face upwards as nearly as possible in the positions they now occupy and the monuments being replaced as nearly as possible in their foresaid positions.”