West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Local History

PONTEFRACT CASTLE
AND ITS HISTORY

PONTEFRACT CASTLE INDEX

RICHARD H. H. HOLMES.


FOREWORD

Mr. Richard Hind Hedger Holmes (1826-1900), who began his career as a schoolmaster at Worcester, came to Pontefract, Yorkshire, in 1862, when he took over the printing and stationery business with Government stamp agency, which is believed to have been established about 1787. One of its early holders was Benjamin Boothroyd, who published in 1807 a history of Pontefract, and after him was George Fox, who issued another history of Pontefract in 1827.

Mr. Holmes had not been long settled in Pontefract before he turned his attention to its history. He was, however, an extraordinarily patient, enthusiastic and scholarly investigator, with a vigorous contempt for ignorance and inaccuracy and his own copies of both Boothroyd and Fox are strewn with corrections and amplifications as well as many scathing criticisms.

Taking one feature or subject at a time he wrote numerous articles and booklets on local history, but he soon came to declare that it was beyond the power of any man in one lifetime to cover the whole history of Pontefract accurately and completely.

He had passed twenty years in Pontefract therefore, before he published in 1882, what he described on its title-page as "No.1 in a Collection towards the History of Pontefract." This was a most copiously annotated transcription of the Book of Entries of the Pontefract Corporation in other words, the Minute Book, in which are recorded the decisions and proceedings of the Corporation from 1648 the year of the last siege of the Castle until 1726.

Another five years passed before the publication in 1887, of No. 2 in his "Collection" "The Sieges of Pontefract Castle." For the greater part of his life, essays, articles and treatises had flowed steadily from his pen, and most of them gained the permanence of print in his own works in the yard behind his house, where his eight sons in turn learned the trade. Perhaps one of his greatest undertakings was his transcription, translation and annotation of The Cartulary of St. John of Pontefract, which under Mr. Holmes editorship, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society published in 1899 in their Record Series.

The appeal of these several works was generally local rather than universal, so the editions were small, and almost all of them are therefore now out of print. Since Mr. Holmes day, other have endeavoured with varied ability, to sum up the story of Pontefract, which nevertheless still awaits a master to study and summarise it with the skill, accuracy and sense of historical perspective which is essential to its adequate treatment.


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