Pontefract Castle

The castle was first constructed around 1070 by Ilbert de Lacy on land which had been granted to him by William the Conqueror as a reward for his support during the Norman conquests. There is, however, evidence of earlier occupation of the site. Initially the castle was a wooden structure, but this was replaced with stone over time.

Robert de Lacy failed to support King Henry I during his power struggle with his brother and confiscated the castle from the family during the 12th century. Roger de Lacy paid King Richard I 3,000 marks for the Honour of Pontefract, but the king retained possession of the castle. His successor, King John gave Lacy the castle in 1199, the year he ascended the throne. Roger died in 1213 and was succeeded by his eldest son, John. However, the king took possession of Castle Donnington and Pontefract Castle.The de Lacys lived in the castle until the early 14th century.It was under the tenure of the de Lacys that the magnificent keep was built

In 1311 the castle passed by marriage to the estates of the House of Lancaster. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (1278–1322) was beheaded outside the castle walls six days after his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge, a sentence placed on him by King Edward II himself in the great hall. This resulted in the earl becoming a martyr with his tomb at Pontefract Priory becoming a shrine. Later John of Gaunt, a son of King Edward III, as Duke of Lancaster was so fond of the castle that he made it his personal residence, spending vast amounts of money improving it.

In 1536, the castle's guardian, Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy handed over Pontefract Castle to the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace. The Pilgrimage of Grace was a Catholic rebellion from northern England against the rule of King Henry VIII. Lord Darcy was later executed for this alleged "surrender," which the King viewed as an act of treason.

In 1541, during a royal tour of the provinces, it was alleged that King Henry's fifth wife, Queen Catherine Howard, committed her first act of adultery with Sir Thomas Culpeper at Pontefract Castle, a crime for which she was later apprehended and executed without trial. Mary, Queen of Scots was lodged at the castle on 28 January 1569, travelling between Wetherby and Rotherham.The castle has been a ruin since 1644 when it was held as a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War and besieged at least three times by Parliamentarian forces, the latter being responsible for the castle's present dilapidated state and many of its scars. Pontefract Castle was noted by Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Parliamentarians, as "one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom"

Apparently the destruction of the castle at the conclusion of the Second English Civil War had the full support of the surrounding population. They were grateful to destroy the castle and thus stop the fighting in their area. In the view of the locals, the castle was a magnet for trouble.

It is still possible to visit the castle's 11th-century cellars which were used to store military equipment during the civil war.

The most remarkable feature of the current site is the remains of the donjon (keep) Very few examples of this multilobed type exist. One is Clifford's Tower in nearby York. Text from Wikipedia.com
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