Pontefract Castle was, in its day, the Windsor of the North. Large and seemingly impregnable , it had two massive tapering towers that rose up to over a hundred feet high, a landmark visible from miles away. It was the scene of many historical events–in 1322 Edward II executed his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster here, Richard II was starved to death (probably) in its rancid dungeons, and Anthony Woodville and Sir Richard Grey were executed here for treason in 1483.

Unfortunately the castle was badly damaged in the English Civil War, being the last to hold out against the Parliamentarians. Oliver Cromwell hated it for this reason and petitioned Parliament to see it not just slighted but destroyed. He was given permission after asking the townsfolk who were happy to see it go–it brought too much trouble!

And so it was dismantled at the cost of £800, leaving the ruined bases of massive towers that can still be seen today.

Recently, a new archaeological survey has uncovered a ‘missing’ 15th chapel in the castle. One of three, it had ‘disappeared’, although was noted in older records–which had it in the wrong spot. This chapel was close to the apartments and would be in use for royalty and great lords.

There has also been talking of finding a ‘lost’ secret tunnel or dungeon under the castle, which was seemingly open in the 1960’s, as remembered by several townspeople who went in it. There is thought that this may be the remains of an oubliette, a lightless dungeon, and may have been where Richard II met his demise.

Keirincx, Alexander, 1600-1652; Pontefract Castle


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