West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Local History

PONTEFRACT CASTLE

Compiled from the writings of the late Richard H. H. Holmes.

PONTEFRACT CASTLE IN ITS PRIME

Until 1965 it was felt to be a matter for regret that although several pictorial representations of Pontefract Castle still exist, not one of them was made until some time after the place had been demolished, but at least two are now known which were very probably made before the demolition – though with a good deal of artistic licence. A reproduction of one at Hampton Court and one in Pontefract Public Library where it was installed in mid-1965 when the Corporation had acquired it for 1,000 guineas. The Hampton Court one was at about the same period recognised as being of Pontefract.

One or two interesting verbal descriptions of the Castle have come down the long lanes of history to the present day.

One of the most intriguing of these was written in 1634, when the Castle would be in its very prime. It is number 213 in the Landsdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum, and is by "a Captain, a Lieutenant, and an Ancient", who, in a seven weeks journey, made a short survey of twenty-six counties. It is a lively account and tells how, having passed through Doncaster, the writers paid a visit to Robin Hoods Well, sitting in his chair and paying the usual fee of fourpence, and then proceeded to Pontefract, which they reached on Market Day. Of the town and its castle they thus discourse: -

"This town of Pomfret is an ancient Corporation, consisting of a Mayor, twelve Alderman and a Recorder, and hath two churches therein : to lighten o’rselves we lighted at the Star, and took a fayre re-past, to enable us the better to scale that high and stately, famous and princely impregnable Castle and Cittadell, built by a Norman vpon a Rocke : which for the situation, strength and largenesse, amy compare with any in the Kingdome."

"In the circuit of the Castle there is 7 famous towers of that amplitude & receit, as may entraine so many Princes, as sometimes have commanded this Island. The highest of them is called the Round Tower, in which that unfortunate Prince was enforced to flee round a poste till his barbarous Butchers inhumanely depriu’d him of life. Vpon that poste the cruel hackings & fierce blowes doe still remain : we view’d the spacious Hall which the Gyants kept, the large faire Kitchen wch is long, with many wide Chimneys in it : then went we up and saw the Chamber of Presence, the King and Queenes Chambers, the Chapell and many other Roomes, all fit and suitable for Princes. As we walked on the Leads wch couers that famous Castle, we took a large and faire prospect of the Country twenty miles about : Yorke we then easily saw & plainly discoured, to wch place (after we had pleased the She Keeper, our Guide), we thought fit to hasten."

Much of what this trio recorded fits in well with what is known to us, though the writers leave in other ways a good deal of room for conjecture.


PONTEFRACT CASTLE INDEX


 

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