Compiled from the writings of the late Richard H. H. Holmes.
THE NORMAN CONQUEST
A trustworthy record of Pontefract Castle must start with Norman times. It will
be remembered that when the last Saxon King, Harold, had met his doom
from an arrow in the eye on Senlac Hill near Hastings in 1066, the
Norman, William the Conqueror, harried the country by fire and sword
from south to north, killing all who resisted him, and driving the
remainder of the British into the Welsh mountains and across to Ireland.
On his return to London he placed the heads of his army in charge of
large areas of the country, and about 1080 or 1085, Pontefract became
the seat of Ilbert de Lacy, who was probably a native of Lassy, a small
place between Aulnay and Vire in the Department of La Calvados.
Ilbert was made responsible for the good government, and in short, the
civilising, of the land from Hull in the east as far west towards the
Pennines as he was able to subdue its inhabitants.
The first thing he did was to make secure his own personal position and that
of his followers by the erection of a fortress. As a site for this he
could hardly anywhere have found a better than that which he picked at
Pontefract – an oval rock, thirty of forty feet high crowning a steep
mound set in the fork of two deep valleys which unite on its north east
and expand away into the great Plain of York, much of which could
actually be seen from the building which Ilbert and his successors,