Top History Things To Do In Wakefield

Heritage activities and venues for the whole family!

Eleanor Taylor, Experience Wakefield

Heritage buffs big and small will love this list of the top history things to do in Wakefield! From castles to coal mining, museums to mansions, and Lagentium to liquorice, you’ll find a history venue or activity for the whole family to enjoy.

castleford roman festival


Taking place on Join us on Saturday 01 June, Castleford Roman Festival is great for history enthusiasts of all ages. Celebrate Castleford’s Roman heritage with a range of family-friendly activities. Explore a roman-themed market with demonstrations, workshops, street food, Castleford’s original regular market, roman trails, photo opportunities and plenty of street entertainment. Plus, look out for an archaeological dig activity from Pontefract’s Young Archaeologists’ Club, decorate a giant floor art mosaic, and join the festival’s on-site centurion on a tour around the key historical points of Castleford. Ave!


With its fascinating ruins to investigate, Pontefract Castle is a perfect place to learn more about history. Informative interpretation boars sit alongside Civil Wars soldier training activities so even littlest ones can join in the fun.
Explore the restored sally port, climb to the top of the keep, or stand in the recreated bread ovens and imagine the smell of freshly-baked bread.
Heritage fans young and old won’t want to miss the exciting Dungeon Tours – learn about the prisoners who were kept there during the Civil Wars, and see where prisoners carved their names into the rock!


The National Coal Mining Museum tells the history of England’s coal mining heritage. Learn about the people and communities at the heart of the mining industry in the interactive galleries, get up close to massive mining equipment and discover what it was used for, visit the pit ponies at the Pony Discovery Centre, take a stroll around the site’s Nature Trail, and let little miners burn off steam in the adventure playground. Best of all, head 140m below the surface on an Underground Tour, and find out all about life underground from charismatic former miners.
Until October 2023, visit the special exhibition, Rescue!, all about the Mines Rescue Service.

Wakefield Museum


Wakefield Museum is a multi-sensory history experience for the whole family. Imagine life as a nineteenth century prisoner in Wakefield Jail, hear the strange crackle that forced rhubarb makes when it grows, play the tricky “friend or foe” WW2 aircraft identifier, try on historic costumes for size, cook up a storm in the 1950s kitchen and learn all about the people who’ve worked, lived and played in the city stretching back nearly 3,000 years.
The museum’s current special exhibition, Moving Stories, is a vibrant, interactive exhibition looking back at the stories the museum has told over the last 100 years, and invites visitors to add their own story to the museum’s collection, as well as offering a peek behind the scenes to the upcoming new museum currently in development.


Nostell is a splendid 18th-century mansion set in 300 acres of grounds. It’s an excellent place for history lovers of any age, as there are a whole wealth of experiences on offer. Explore the house and learn about the people who built and lived in it (it was designed by famous Georgian architect Robert Adam), see historical treasures on display – adults will appreciate the fine collection of Chippendale furniture, while kids will love the massive Nostell Dolls’ House. Take a stroll around the kitchen garden and see what seasonal crops are growing there, run and play in the adventure playground, or do a little wildlife spotting in the ancient woods.

Pontefract museum


There’s a whole lot of history packed into Pontefract Museum! See the world’s first secret ballot box and discover how it came about. Marvel at the beautiful Ackworth Hoard, and its emotionally-inscribed ring. Find out about the history of glass-making in the area, and see some of the colourful creations in the Bagley’s Glass Room.
Meanwhile, kids can indulge their imaginations with dressing-up, a ride-on rocking horse, Buttercross Market and liquorice-themed soft play!
Sports fans are in for a treat, because the current special exhibition is Women in Rugby League: Life with the Lionesses. Learn about the trail-blazing women pioneers of international Rugby League and follow their ground-breaking journey on and off the field.

Misa Criolla by Ramirez


Wakefield Cathedral aims to be a welcoming and inclusive space for all. The interior of this magnificent 13th century church is filled with beautiful historical artefacts and captivating sights.
Grown-ups will appreciate the 17th century octagonal font, unusual collection of misericords, and the world’s most complete collection of stained glass by Charles Kempe.
Children are sure to enjoy the bright and vibrant blue of the quire ceiling, and the walk-able Labyrinth installation.
During school holidays (or during activity weekends like the Rhubarb Festival), the cathedral hosts a variety of creative workshops and activity sessions aimed at children of all ages.
And keep your eyes in the skies, because peregrines have nested at Wakefield Cathedral since 2015, so you might just spot some!


The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men, he marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again… Did you know that it was Sandal Castle he was marching up to? Sandal was built in the 12th century is best known for the role it played in the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, during the Wars of the Roses, where the (grand old) Duke of York was killed.
Today, the ruins are a great place for little ones to run, play and exercise their imaginations – and while the kids are busy imagining themselves as king or queen of the castle, the interpretation boards will keep the grown-ups entertained.
In its commanding position, with fantastic views across Pugneys Country Park and the Calder Valley, it’s also a wonderful place for a picnic.

Heritage Open Days


If you’ve ever been curious about what’s behind the scenes at your favourite historical property, then you won’t want to miss Heritage Open Days, which takes place every September.
It’s a chance for heritage venues all over England to throw open their doors and let visitors peek behind the curtain, and has proved to be popular with history fans of all ages. Previous years’ events have included a tour of the spire at Wakefield Cathedral, a look inside the Coal Screens building at the National Coal Mining Museum, a special tour beneath the keep at Pontefract Castle, as well as talks, workshops and more – and all for FREE!

Castleford Museum


We’ve finished where we started, right back in Castleford! Castleford Museum is a treasure trove of historical objects. Explore the history of Castleford from the Bronze Age to the present day, including an Iron Age burial chariot, a wide variety of ancient artefacts showing what life was like in Lagentium (as Castleford was known back then) under Roman rule, a display celebrating the town’s rich rugby heritage, items chronicling the town’s mining history and more.
Make sure you head to the second floor of the building to immerse yourself in the life of local sculptor Henry Moore and get up close to his stunning works.