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.