Pontefract Castle (or Pomfret Castle, as it was known) is located just half a mile North East of the town centre, near All Saints Church. The Castle was originally constructed in 1070 by Illbert De Lacy on land which was granted to him by William the Conqueror as a reward for his support during the Norman Conquest.
The castle has been in ruin since 1644, and was dismantled to remove its dominance in the area, and to help restore peace. Today the ruins still stand, and are visited my many hundreds of tourists each year. One of the most remarkable features of the castle is said to be the magazine (dungeons!), as very few exist today.
It has recently been included as part of the Channel 5 programme Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty, due to its colourful past and the fact that it was the most important castle in the North of England. It was even mentioned in the works of Shakespeare in the play Richard III;
Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of thy walls
Richard the second here was hack’d to death;
And, for more slander to thy dismal seat,
We give thee up our guiltless blood to drink
It was undoubtedly the most important castle in the whole of Yorkshire, England, and is well-worth your time for a visit. Recently (August 2014) the Castle was awarded £3m lottery funding alongside additional funding from Wakefield Council and English Heritage of £3.5m. Work has already been undertaken on restoring paths, providing picnic benches and work is planned on improving platforms which will allow visitors to reach the Sally Port and Swillington Tower areas of the site.
The castle car park is located on Beech Hill, opposite All Saints Church. There are two disabled persons’ spaces outside the main gates, however, these cannot be reserved. Although the Castle is only a short walk from the town centre and located between the bus station and Monkhill Train station for easy access.
Why not visit the Castle?
Open 7 days a week, with free entry, the Castle is a lovely place to visit. It’s a great place to take a walk around, with lots of interesting information boards explaining each of the ruins around the castle. Improvements to the paths make is accessible to wheelchair and pushchair users to most areas and they have added picnic benches and a small souvenir shop where you can buy gifts and an ice cream. Please see the YouTube Video below.
The stone cut cellars of the castle were used as a magazine (military store) and prison for English Civil War soldiers. You can visit the underground magazine on one of the staff led tours.
Picnic in Pontefract Castle
This event is held on the Saturday before the Liquorice Festival, usually held in July each year and has been growing in popularity each year.
The Picnic in the Castle is a free event held during the day. There are lots of entertainment planned from Viking re-enactments, dancing dogs, acrobats and dancers. There are also lots of other things to see and do; birds of prey, exotic animals, craft activities and even a bouncy castle (also charges do apply for these activities). See picnic in the castle blog and YouTube.
Proms in the castle
This is held on the evening of the Picnic in the Castle. In 2014 music was provided by The West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra who performed popular classics from Carmen and Swan Lake followed by a spectacular fireworks finale. See our Proms in the castle event.
Pontefract Castle Ghost Walks
The Ghost Walks of Pontefract Castle, which are organised by the Pontefract Heritage Group, take you back in time to meet the ghosts and revisit the bloody history of some of the famous characters that resided and died within its walls.
The castle grounds are lit up by hundreds of oil lamps and looked spectacular. You are walked around the castle and stop at several places where different re-enactments take place.
This event is on three days per year with the first one on the 31st October. There are two shows each day, a family show and an adult one.
Read our blog ‘I Survived a Ghost Walk of Pontefract Castle’.
Other Pontefract Castle Events
– numerous events are held throughout the year at the Castle. Please check out our Castle Events section for an up to date list of events. We have listed some of the events that are usually run below;
During holidays and half terms, the castle runs workshops for children, these are usually free, although some require you to book your space. We’ve been on them and they are a great way to entertain your children in the holidays.
Outdoor Theatre shows throughout the year
Annual Latern Festival growing in popularity each year, not only can you attend this event, you can also make your own latern so you can join in on this event (see blog)
Easter Egg Hunts
The day was a lot of fun for all the family. Please click here for future Pontefract Castle Events.