Advantages Lots of history
Disadvantages Mainly ruins
|Is it worth visiting?|
Pontefract Castle lies high above the West Yorkshire Town of Pontefract. Today it is a popular tourist attraction in the area and it is a place that I recently visited with my Brother, who lives nearby.There is not a great deal that remains of this Castle above ground but what sets this place apart from many other similar places that I have visited are its underground tunnels and its incredibly well preserved central Tower, known as the Keep, which once formed the main central structure of the Castle.
It is completely free to visit Pontefract Castle and you can also visit the maze of underground tunnels which have been carved out of the rocks. This was a truly fascinating experience, wandering around the narrow tunnels and seeing the names of Civil War Prisoners that had been carved into the solid rock walls.This Castle was built around the year 1070 by a Knight called Ilbert de Lacy. The de Lacy's were a prominent noble Norman family and the land that the Castle was built on had been granted to the family by William the Conqueror for their support during the Norman Conquest.
The de Lacy's lived at Pontefract Castle until around 1120 when Robert de Lacy (Ilbert's Grandson) failed to support King Henry 1 during his battle with his Brother. King Henry 1 ordered that the Castle be confiscated from the de Lacy's for this act of treason.The Castle eventually fell into the hands of the House of Lancaster. Thomas, earl of Lancaster was famously beheaded outside the Castle gates in 1322 following his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge. King Richard 11 was also murdered at Pontefract castle in 1399, and reference to this is made in Shakespear's Play, Richard 111.
During the English Civil War this place was a Royalist stronghold. It was besieged three times and following its last assault in 1644 it fell into a state of disrepair.There is a Visitors Centre and small Gift Shop located at the front of the Castle and the Castle is open daily. It can be visited between the following hours:
Monday to Friday - from 8.30am to dusk.
Saturday and Sunday - from 10.30am to dusk
As I mentioned earlier it is free to visit the Castle but there is a charge for the magazine tour. This costs £1 for Adults and 50p for Children and is highly recommended.The magazine tour is a guided tour through the underground tunnels that exist beneath the Castle. This tour takes about half an hour and the guide points out all of the interesting features along the way. Including the prison cells, where the prisoners were held during the English Civil War. It is quite eerie to see the names of some of these Prisoners scratched onto these cell walls like a sort of medieval graffiti. I was surprised by this as I assumed that most of the Soldiers would have been illiterate.
Brochures and leaflets are available with directions to the Castle. These will be posted out to you if you telephone the number above. These leaflets are also available in several Foreign languages.Thank you for reading.
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