Pontefract Castle


(Yorkshire Historic Buildings)


Castle Garth
WF8 1QH
Pontefract
Yorkshire
England
01977 723440
www.pontefractcastle.co.uk


Discover a place where kings were made – and killed. Explore the remnants of ferocious sieges – and Victorian pleasure grounds. Imagine loyal Royalist soldiers – and unfaithful royal lovers. Visit Pontefract Castle.

 

 

Located in the heart of West Yorkshire, in the historic market town of Pontefract, for centuries this once-fearsome fortress dominated not only the local town, but the politics and power balance of the entire Yorkshire region and beyond.

Situated on a rocky hill, the castle was constructed in approximately 1070 by Ilbert de Lacy, on land granted to him by William the Conqueror as a reward for his support during the Norman Conquest.

Although Pontefract started life as a wooden structure, it didn't remain that way. The castle was extensively rebuilt in stone, and as it passed into ever more powerful hands, grew to a vast size, eventually becoming one of the most strategically important castles in England, earning the nickname, "Key to the North".

Pontefract played a pivotal role throughout the Wars of the Roses. It was to Pontefract that Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV) raced after landing at Ravenspurn, determined to take back his birthright and dethrone his cousin, Richard II. Henry was successful, imprisoning Richard in Pontefract Castle, where he was murdered in 1400.

So great was its fame that Shakespeare included Pontefract Castle in two of his plays, Richard II and Richard III.

Even during calmer times, the castle was steeped in intrigue. In 1541, Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, began her affair with Sir Thomas Culpepper while at Pontefract Castle. The pair were later executed when their relationship was discovered.

During the Civil War, the castle endured three bitter sieges, changing hands from Royalists to Parliamentarians and back again. Even after the death of Charles I, the castle refused to surrender, holding out for two months and proclaiming Charles' son (later Charles II) King. Eventually, the Royalists were forced to concede defeat, marking the end of the castle's power. Cromwell ordered the castle demolished, and it fell into disrepair.

The site was employed for a variety of unusual uses, including as a Victorian pleasure ground, as well as growing and storing Pontefract's most famous crop – liquorice!

Today, the castle still keeps a watchful eye over the town, but it is now a place of family-friendly adventure, with wide open spaces to explore and play, and fascinating ruins to investigate. Discover the captivating stories of the castle – and the people who lived there – in the History of Pontefract Castle displays. Take a chilling tour of the dungeons – see where prisoners left to languish scratched their names into the rock.

Stand in the remains of the bread ovens, and be transported to a time when the castle was equipped for lavish banquets, playing host to some of England's most famous monarchs. And then partake in a mini-banquet of your own – light refreshments (as well as colourful souvenirs!) are available from the gift shop.

2019 is an exciting time to visit! A £3.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund project to preserve the ruins of the castle and improve visitor facilities will be complete in spring this year, opening up parts of the castle not seen for centuries. In addition, the castle is hosting an exciting range of events and activities throughout the year, celebrating the fortress' rich and diverse history.

Entry to the castle is free, with parking available on site and in nearby town centre car parks. The castle is situated only a short walk from Pontefract's historic town centre, where you'll find plenty of reasons to extend your visit, including quirky independent boutiques, excellent local food and drink, and the castle's sister venue, Pontefract Museum.

For more information, visit: www.pontefractcastle.co.uk

Events:

18 April – Dragon Egg Hunt: Join us for our annual Dragon Egg Hunt at Pontefract Castle. There will be fun trails, creative crafts, tempting treats – and you might even spy a dragon!

21 & 22 April – St George's Weekend: Celebrate St George's Day at the castle with a stunning medieval camp, archery, music & more.

1 & 2 June – Civil Wars at Pontefract Castle: Find out about life in Pontefract during the three sieges. With re-enactors, a gun display and family activities including a climbing wall!

22 June – Proms in the Castle: Wakefield Council presents the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra for an orchestral celebration of music a spectacular fireworks finale.

6 July – Picnic in the Castle: Sit down and relax in the castle's beautiful grounds and enjoy live entertainment, street walkers and free workshops.

7 July – Liquorice Festival in the Castle: Take a break from the bustle of the Liquorice Festival and unwind in picturesque surroundings: watch a classic movie, voted for by the public.

1 August – Victorian Garden Party: Step back in time and be transported to the reign of Queen Victoria. Enjoy a summers day surrounded by the sights and sounds of a 19th century garden party.

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