Wakefield Museums and Castles Collections

Since 1923, Wakefield Museums and Castles has collected over 111,000 fascinating objects. They tell the story of the Wakefield district from the distant past to today. We look after lots of treasures! They include the UK’s first secret ballot box, locally made 1966 World Cup footballs, and much more.

100 Years of Collecting

Wakefield Museums and Castles are celebrating 100 years of our collection throughout 2023 with new displays, digital content and events.

To launch the celebrations, our team have been searching through our treasure trove to pick 100 objects that represent our 100 years of collecting.

We’ve whittled it down to a selection that we hope tells lots of different stories and reflects the diverse and fascinating character of places across Wakefield District.

View our 100 Years of Collecting Online Exhibition.

Collections Online

At any one time, we are only able to display a small percentage of the objects at our venues across the Wakefield district.

The online collections below are a way for you to see the objects that may not currently be on display.

We hope you enjoy searching the collections.

Donate to our collections or ask a question

Do you have an object that tells an interesting story about the Wakefield district?

Here’s how to offer an item for donation:

Please note that we are guided by a Collections Development Policy. This means we are not able to accept every offer of donation. We are unable to accept donations brought into our sites or sent by post without this being discussed with our Collections Team in advance.

Use the email above to ask any questions you may have about our collections.

We will be in touch to discuss your enquiry or donation offer within 20 working days.

Requesting images

Copies of some of our photographs are available to request as a digital file or print. If you would like to enquire about an image, please email museums@wakefield.gov.uk. We aim to respond to image enquiries within 10 working days.

Photography Collection

This collection contains over 20,000 photographs of the Wakefield district.

It features unique snapshots of local places, people, events and offers a small window into our shared past.

Our collection features the work of some great photographers:

  • Jack Hulme’s revealing record of Fryston’s mining community in the 20th century
  • Richard Clarkson’s arresting images of the Miners’ Strikes of 1984-85.

Castleford Potteries

Pottery manufacture probably began in Castleford in the early 1700s. Local coal fired the kilns.

The best-known pottery in Castleford was David Dunderdale & Co. They made high quality products for to sell abroad from 1790 – 1821. Other smaller potteries made cheaper kitchen items.

The last company to close in 1961 was Clokie & Co Ltd.

Bagley’s Glass

Knottingley became a centre of glassmaking in Victorian times. Glass is still made there today.

Bagley’s was one of the best-known companies, especially between the World Wars (1918-1939). It made a wide range of affordable pressed glass in different colours.

Selected items from the collection are on display at Pontefract Museum.

Picturing Pontefract Castle

Pontefract Castle is a famous landmark. It was built after the Norman Conquest in 1066. It was attacked many times during the English Civil Wars. It survived until 1649 when local people asked for it to be destroyed. They were fed up with it being attacked so often!

Only a few pictures were painted of the castle before it was destroyed.  Many prints were produced afterwards but they weren’t all accurate! The castle is also often used a symbol for the town. Local businesses use it as a logo.  This collection shows different pictures of the castle over the years.

Toys and Games

From teddy bears to Teletubbies, explore a selection of toys and games through time. The collection includes marbles from the 1500s, Victorian dolls, and 1970s Dinky toys.

A selection of toys are on display in the Front Room at Wakefield Museum.


Liquorice was growing in Pontefract from as early as the 14th century. The local soil is ideal for the liquorice roots. In 1760 a Pontefract apothecary called Richard Dunhill first added sugar to liquorice. An apothecary was a person who made and sold medicines. The sweet Pontefract Cakes we know and love (or hate!) today were born!  Within a few years, Pontefract was famous for liquorice around the world.

We have over 1550 objects relating to liquorice companies in Pontefract and Castleford. These include items about growing liquorice, turning it into sweets, and selling them.

A selection of the liquorice collection is on display at Pontefract Museum.

Textile heritage

This collection contains 300 objects about the textile industry in the Wakefield district.

The local textile industry expanded in the 19th century. A range of manufacturing (mass production) processes started happening in mills and warehouses. Companies like George Lee & Sons and Paton & Baldwin made knitting yarn in Wakefield. Ossett became one of the country’s largest traders in reclaimed wool or ‘shoddy’.

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