On Saturday, Christine and I went to Wakefield, to visit the Hepworth Gallery, a new art gallery and museum built to house the collections of Barbara Hepworth, along with some works by other artists and sculptors inspired by her. The gallery is located next to the River Calder and is in easy walking distance from Wakefield Kirkgate station. Despite costing £35million to build, entry is free, and you can easily spend a couple of hours here.
The architecture of the building is interesting – it’s a thick concrete shell in the 1960s brutalist style, but with a clever use of windows to let in a reasonable amount of light. Of course, the thick concrete walls mean that you probably won’t have a working mobile phone in here.
I didn’t take any pictures inside as photography isn’t allowed (being modern art, most of the works are still under copyright restrictions) but I did take plenty out and around the gallery. It’s sited in an area of Wakefield that is in need of regeneration, so hopefully this will act as a catalyst to get people and businesses into the area.
Across the road is Wakefield Bridge and the Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin, a 14th century chapel on the bridge itself – one of only four in such a location and the oldest surviving example. Although it’s around 650 years old, it is still regularly used for church services. Certainly worth a look if you’re about.
Although I’ve lived in Yorkshire all my life, this is the first time I’ve been to Wakefield, bar passing through on the train, and so we went into the town to have a look around. Parts of the city centre are very run down, although work is going on to regenerate it, including the new Trinity Walk shopping plaza which, like the Hepworth Gallery, opened a few weeks ago. It ties in with a refurbished market, with a striking overall roof.
The city, which is the smallest of the three in West Yorkshire, still has some way to go before it’s looking as nice as Leeds city centre. In particular, the smallest of its two railway stations, Wakefield Kirkgate, was described by the previous secretary of state for transport Lord Adonis as
probably the worst ‘medium-large’ station I have seen in Britain[source], and having seen it for myself I can see why – those buildings that are still standing are boarded up, it’s dirty, there’s no staff around, there’s paint peeling off the walls and just looks generally dilapidated. Not a nice welcome to the city. The other station, Wakefield Westgate, whilst not the most pleasant of stations, at least has some amenities and a staff presence.
It’ll be interesting to go back to Wakefield again in a couple of years, once some of the regeneration projects have progressed further. We also didn’t visit the cathedral or the Wakefield Museum, so they’re there for a future visit.