In 1090 King William II (William Rufus) gave the Manor of Wakefield to the second Earl of Warenne. It was not much then, although it had been a Royal Manor since Saxon times and guarded the strategically important crossing of the River Calder. Doomsday Book, three years earlier, had shown that the whole population of the township was only 27 families. During William the Conqueror's "Harrying of the North", Wakefield had suffered terribly, and things fell into disrepair. The first Earl had died of wounds received at the siege of Pevensey Castle in 1089. About five years later his son William gave much of the area, including the Churches of Wakefield and Sandal Magna, to the Priory of Lewes in memory of his parents who had founded it. The Priory continued to draw the income, and to be responsible for the service of the Church for 250 years but the building remained the concern of the local community. Sometime around 1100 the first Norman Church was built. It was cross shaped, much lower that the present building and had a central tower. The transept stretched out as far as the present walls. At the East end of the South Aisle, at the entry to the Lady Chapel, it is possible to touch what was the outside wall of the corner of the South Transept of that church, built 900 years ago. Above is a closed up door: inside the block of masonry is a Norman staircase leading to that door which gave onto a parapet leading along the roof of the transept to the central tower. (At York Minster today the same route is taken to climb the central tower.) The door gives some idea of how low the roof of that Norman church was. That church quickly became too small. England was going through troubled times. Stephen and Matilda were fighting for the Crown. The Earls were absent on the Crusades. The third Earl of Warenne was killed on the second crusade, 1042-3, whilst Wakefield itself was growing. Its strategic position at the river crossing, as the wool trade developed, helped it find a niche as a market place.
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