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.

The tumbled masonry hereabouts includes an apartment known as King Richard’s Chamber, and also the general stables; whilst clearly to be seen are the footings and foundations of sundry other buildings, amongst them the Bakehouse, with its two roofless old beehive ovens showing plain signs of the fires which once burned within them leaving the stones sufficiently heated to cook the viands which were set upon them when the embers had been withdrawn.

With sections of the Norman wall to its north and a stout stone wall still some 8ft high on the south side (all in the north west corner of the Castle Yard), stood the Kitchen – naturally alongside the Bakehouse; and adjoining this may have been the site of a hall, not yet excavated, but probably the Chamber of Presence referred to by the visitors of 1634, and the Great Hall of the Castle in which in 1322 took place the trial of Earl Thomas of Lancaster.

Mention should be made at this point of Swillington Tower, a detached building due north of the centre of the Yard, the northern half of the remains of which was cut away when the highway was laid out in the vicinity of its present junction with Monkhill Station approach road. This tower was 46ft square with walls 10ft 6ins thick, and it must have been a place of considerable importance to the Castle, with which it is believed to have been connected by a walked stairway. Existing accounts, though contradictory, may be reconciled by reading from them that the Tower was built a little before 1322 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster and was very largely developed half a century later by Sir Robert Swillington.


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