On a recent visit to some friends in Pontefract (do you like liquorice ?) I took the opportunity to have a walk around Pontefract Castle, the last Royalist stronghold to fall to the Parliamentarians.
The Castle is in the midst of a major restoration / redevelopment so unfortunately a lot of where I wanted to venture was not accessible however that did not lessen my enjoyment as I had the good fortune to get to speak to a very informative guide (thank you Tina if you read this) about the ongoing restoration project.
The castle played a major role in the war being besieged no less than three times and was still holding out even after Charles was executed, what I was really interested to hear was that three cannon balls had been found embedded in the stonework of the walls during the restoration work, and that these would be on display in the visitor centre later in the year.
Cromwell described the castle thus –
“Pontefract castle is well watered; situated on rock in every part of it; and therefore difficult to mine; the walls are very thick and high, with strong towers; and if battered very difficult to access, by reason of the depth and steepness of the graft”.
The dates of the sieges were –
First siege began on Christmas day 1644 –
Fairfax laid siege to the Castle during which it was bombarded for five days. Apart from attempting to breach the castles defences by bombardment mining was also used, or more accurately undermining, a technique whereby digging underneath the walls was undertaken in an attempt to bring about collapse.
This first siege ended on 1st march 1645 when the defenders were relieved by the arrival of Royalist forces lead by Sir Marmaduke Langdale.
Second siege began March 1645 -
By the 11th march 1645 another Parliamentarian siege was underway,
This siege took the form of trying to starve the occupants of the castle by completely encircling it and thus preventing them from being able to forage for food, it was ultimately successful when on July 9th 1945 the Royalist garrison surrendered to General Poyntz and were allowed to leave.
Third siege – October 1648
After the second siege the castle was occupied by a Parliamentarian garrison and repairs were undertaken, three years later the castle was recaptured by the Royalists.
There was a strange twist to this third siege which I will write about at a later date.
Apart from its associations with the Civil War the castle has lots of other very interesting history, Kings and Queens having won and lost their thrones through events at the castle.
On this day in 1651 a certain Thomas Pendleton and 12 other shoemakers petitioned the House of Commons for monies owed.
Firstly some background information on this story.
Northampton has a long history of boot and shoemaking which dates right back to the 15t century and continues right up to the present day with high quality shoes being produced and exported worldwide, historically the presence of a local cattle Market gave easy access to the raw materials needed for this trade, allied with the towns proximity to water and its central location.
By the year 1642 there were enough shoemakers in the Town to secure a large order of 600 pairs of boots and 4,000 pairs of shoes for the New Model Army; these were to be used by the soldiers of Lord Essex’s Army in Ireland..
These were dangerous times times however and Pendleton wisely arranged for a Troop of armed horse to guard the consignment on its way to London.
Northampton was a staunch supporter of the parliamentarian cause during the war, and there were many actions in the county between the two sides over the course of the war, the most famous of which is of course Naseby.
Pendleton became involved in local politics and the non-payment for his and his fellow shoemakers work became somewhat of an embarrassment for him, even more so as by this time he was running for the mayoralty of Northampton.
Pendleton and his fellow shoemakers had by 1647 still not been paid hence the need to petition the House of Commons.
And then on Monday, January 17, 1647
House of Commons Journal reports, “An ordinance for Payment of a Debt of Eight hundred Pounds to a certain Shoemaker of Northampton, out of the Estate of Wm. Baud, a Recusant, was this Day read; and, upon the Question, rejected.” But fear not, for it was recorded a little later that the same William Baud, of Walgrave, “a Popish Recusant, that hath adhered to the Enemy against the Parliament” should have his estate seized and, from the money raised, “Thomas Pendleton, and other Shoemakers of Northampton, be paid and satisfied”.
I was travelling behind another vehicle a few days ago and on the rear windscreen was a sticker “Help for Heroes”, and this started a train of thought about how the soldiers and indeed the civilians who were the victims of the war would have managed in a world without all the safety nets and help available to today’s soldiers who have been maimed and their families who have lost a breadwinner.
I have to admit to a relative lack of knowledge on this particular aspect of the war but I believe petitions were made for relief and assistance by both soldiers and the widows of soldiers killed during the conflict, these petitions would have been made to the petitioner’s local parish.
I have contacted my local records office which should hopefully be able to furnish me with more information so as and when I get this I hope to be able to post details of local men and women who made requests for assistance and some background information on these people and their individual stories.
On this day in 1645 a second version of the Self-Denying Ordinance Bill was passed by both Houses after the House of Lords threw it out in January 1645.
An extremely rare Parliamentarian flag has been put on display for the first time in 350 years, many flags were used during the war but very few survived intact to this day and this particular flag has an incredible history.
The flag has been kept by no less than 11 generations of the same family and has been kept in many different locations during its lifetime, the man behind the flags creation and the Parliamentarian regiment he founded is even more interesting.
Sir John Gell was a successful Derbyshire man who had divided loylaties, at one time supporting the King and giving financial aid to the Royalist cause but later becoming a staunch Parliamentarian who founded a regiment to fight against the Cavaliers.
It was Gell's financial assistance that helped the King rule without reference to Parliament, but it was religion that was the cause of his switch of allegiance to Parliament.
However Gell later and again in the name of religion swapped sides and fought for the King, and again he helped the King with the donation of money.
He was subsequently arrested and incarcerated for 3 years in the Tower of London by the Parliamentarian authorities, however on the restoration he was pardoned by the new King Charles 11.
Other objects to be displayed are a Parliamentarian sword with and insulting image of Charles 1st upon it, but being man of Northamptonshire for me the most interesting is the Iron cannon ball apparently retrieved by a local farmer after the Battle of Naseby and kept in the same family right up till the mid-20th century.