Although the 19th century had been a time of wealth and growth for Wakefield it had not developed at the same rate as other nearby towns, Leeds and Bradford for example. Leeds in particular was now beginning to see itself as the dominant town in the area even if Wakefield was still the administrative centre for the West Riding.
An electric tram system was introduced in Wakefield from August 1904 taking over from the horse-drawn bus service. It helped people from the growing suburbs get into and out of the city centre until 1932 when motorised buses became the main means of public transport.
A major extension to the east end of the cathedral was completed in 1905. This was a memorial to its first Bishop, William Walsham How.
A statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in the Bull Ring in 1905. It was moved to Clarence Park in the 1950s before returning to the Bull Ring once again in 1985. Then in 2008 it was removed to be cleaned and, this time, re-sited in the Civic Quarter of the city.
A free library in Drury Lane was opened in 1906 paid for by the Scottish-American millionaire ironmaster, Andrew Carnegie.
In 1912 King George V and Queen Mary undertook a tour of the industrial north. They called in at Wakefield on 10 July visiting Newmillerdam, Cradock's ropeworks, the Seamless Steel Boat Company and the E. Green & Sons factory on Calder Vale Road before moving on to Ossett. Green's was famous for manufacturing the 'Economiser', patented in 1845 by Edward Green. It was a device fitted to a boiler which saves energy by using the exhaust gases from the boiler to pre-heat the cold water used to fill it.
After the First World War a large number of new brick semi-detached housing estates were built. Beginning in 1921 Portobello was the first of these new estates, with Lupset following in 1924, Eastmoor and Thornes Road in 1930 and Peacock and Flanshaw in 1936.
1933 was Wakefield's "Year of Progress". Organised by the Chamber of Trade it included numerous pageants involving schools and local societies to celebrate the history of the town. A new bridge was built across the Calder, parallel to the old medieval one which was no longer suitable for modern vehicles.
The great cattle market, for so long a major factor in the town's prosperity was sold to the council in 1938. It was eventually closed altogether in 1963.
Sun Lane baths was opened in 1938, a more modern facility than the baths in Almshouse Lane built in 1874. Sun Lane also had a stage for theatrical performances. It was demolished in 2006 as part of the regeneration of the market and Marsh Way area. A new Sun Lane Leisure Centre has been built and will open in 2012.
During World War II Wakefield was lucky in that it was not a main target for German bombers. However, there were several air raids on the city. The first was on 28 August 1940 near Belle Vue injuring several people and destroying a number of houses. Others followed on 16 September and 12 December, causing damage to houses but not injuring anyone. The most serious raid was on 14 March 1941 with six people killed when two bombs fell on Thornes Road causing extensive damage to many houses.
In 1946 Wakefield Trinity won the Rugby League Challenge Cup for the second time beating Wigan 13 points to 12. The team paraded the Cup through the streets on the back of a Beverley's brewery lorry before attending a civic reception at the Town Hall. The first win had been in 1909 against Hull (17-0). They went on to win again in 1960 (Hull 38-5), 1962 (Huddersfield 12-6) and 1963 (Wigan 25-10 ).
1952 saw a new bus station open on Union Street.
The first high rise flats in Wakefield, Carr House off George Street, were ready for occupation in 1961. Primrose House, in Kirkgate, followed in 1963. Each of the buildings was 11 floors high.
A new indoor market on Brook Street was opened in 1963 on the site of the old Borough Market that had been there since 1865.
The Ridings shopping centre opened in October 1983. Trinity Walk opened in 2011
Since the 1950s Wakefield has undergone huge changes in many ways. The centre was redeveloped in the mid 1950s and again in the early 1980s. Although no longer the centre of the West Riding the city became a metropolitan borough in 1974 providing services for a diverse collection of towns and villages. The area has also had to recover from the collapse of the mining industry - it has been a long struggle but Wakefield is again looking forward, redeveloping its centre and looking to other industries to maintain its prosperity and character.