1) Things lost at sea or cast up on the shore. Also associated with flooding rivers.
These are alternative spellings of a word which has a long history in Yorkshire, certainly from the early thirteenth century, since the privileges of the church of Ripon in 1228 included wrek, in this sense things lost at sea and whatever was cast up on the shore. It included whales, even as late as the seventeenth century: in 1666 eleven North Riding men were charged at the Quarter Sessions with taking a whale and other wrecke. In the sense of river debris it is noted in a Barkisland lease of 1580 which granted the tenant libertie to skower, clense and empyte the … Streame … from all manner of Sande, wreacke and other noisome things. Similarly, payments were made at the North Riding Quarter Sessions in 1743 to William Bielby ‘for clearing away the wreck from How and Kirby Misperton Bridges’, and the editor noted that in the swift-flowing becks of North Yorkshire he had seen timber and branches of trees carried along by floods of even ‘ordinary dimensions’. In 1782, the minister at Slaithwaite recorded in his diary: a heavy storm of Lightning Thunder and Rain. The little Brook before our House was very rapid … it broke down Part of Daniel Eagland’s Field Wall and left a great Wreck Heap in Horsfall’s Pit. Entries in the court rolls of Wakefield manor record the word in 1339-40, beginning with an inquiry into ‘five acres of Wreke in Pokenale’ deposited by the River Calder. The matter dragged on for some time and the amount had decreased to three acres by July 1340, presumably after efforts had been made to restore the land to normal use. ‘Pokenale’ is the early spelling of Pugneys in Sandal, where an extensive lake is now the focal point of a country park which serves Wakefield. The word occurs as a verb in a report of 1688 about flood damage at Addingham: And soe it was that about a yeare agoe there fell on a sudden such a violent storme and tempest of raine that the said river was soe great that it did most wonderfully overflow the bankes, tooke downe the said bridge, broak the weares in severall places, endangering severall houses and families and spoiled many meadows to the great loss of the inhabitants, being put to great charges in the repairing the weares and making up the bankes againe as also in making the streets and places passable wher the water had soe wrackt and worne . It is not an isolated example. In 1634, Thomas Sandal was paid for work on the paving of Rotherham Bridge, where the water had wreckt up and in c.1685 a Conistone farmer wrote in his accounts of Corrupt ground Which hath been flouded or wrecced. In 1860, when Queen Street in Huddersfield, was flooded, the drains were said to be wrecked up. It is likely that damage occurred in some such cases but that meaning is not necessarily implicit in this use of ‘to wreck’. The emphasis seems to be on the accumulation of wreck or debris by the flooding water. According to Canon Atkinson, ‘wrack’ or ‘wreck’ were words used for sea-weed in all the maritime parts of Cleveland, and he understood them to mean ‘that which is cast ashore’. In 1654, a Brotton yeoman was fined 6d ‘for unjustly taking ten horse load of sea-wreck’. As a place-name element the word has received little attention, although several examples can be noted. In Methley, a pasture of ‘land lying at the water of Kelder’ was called Wrekland in 1465 and subsequent aliases confirm the origin, e.g. 1572 Sandbeddes, Stanilees or Wracklandes. Much earlier, in the court roll of 1365, ‘it was presented that the land at Stanleighs gains by reason of wreck' although by how much they could not say. Tenants were set the task of deciding on the extent of the ‘new’ land and separating it from other holdings, and in 1472 an inquisition looked into ‘dividing a parcel of land lying at the water of Kelder … in Stanleis from land … called Wreckland there’. Other Yorkshire names which almost certainly have a similar origin are: 1236 Wreckeflatte Fylingdales
1576 Wreckeholme, Hampsthwaite.