We are a group of volunteers and researchers looking into the varied and diverse stories of the two castles and specific historical events linked to the two sites and their environs, or people closely associated with them.
Pontefract Castle was originally built in 1070 by the de Lacy family who had journeyed to England with William the Conqueror. The castle was first built of timber but, over time, a stone fortress was constructed and added to.
The first castle at Sandal started to be built in 1107 at Lowe Hill by the de Warenne family, who also arrived with the Norman Conquest. In the early 13th century, a more defendable castle was built at the Sandal Castle site we see today. The castle has a compact but very secure design.
The histories of the two castles are inextricably linked. With their initial development as motte and bailey castles built on lands granted to Norman barons who had supported William of Normandy in his conquest of England, through Magna Carta, the local and baronial wars of Thomas of Lancaster, the Wars of the Roses, the English Civil War, and their destruction in its immediate aftermath, their story is the story of medieval England. In terms of the events relating to the Civil War at Pontefract, we have drawn upon various sources including extracts and/or summaries from the diaries of the Royalist Nathan Drake, which would explain the perspective of some of the entries.
However, this is a story that has often been overlooked, and through this website, we hope to bring the histories of these two great castles to a wholly new audience. With Pontefract being the ‘Key to the North’ and Sandal being the site of the death of the ‘heir’ to the throne, Richard Duke of York, this is a fascinating narrative that deserves to be more widely known.
We welcome and would encourage your feedback and comments through the ‘contact us’ button on this page and we will endeavour to reply as soon as we can.
Get ready to take a journey through a thousand years of history.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Asa Stewart who sadly died in November 2020. Asa developed this site and it is in remembrance of Asa that we will carry on his work. We hope that you will find this historical site both interesting and educational.
Over the past weeks, we have added over 30 new events to the history of both Pontefract and Sandal Castles, which means we have now over 660 entries in total, covering over a thousand years, including some for the 21st century. We also now have a link to this site from the Wakefield Museums and Castles blog at http://wakefieldmuseumsandlibraries.blogspot.co
On 24th May we met historian Sharon Bennett-Connolly. Sharon’s new book – ‘Defenders of the Norman Crown – Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey’ – was published on 31st May 2021. This is an enthralling insight into the owners of Sandal Castle from the 11th to the 14th centuries.
We have recently received the following feedback from Dr J L Laynesmith, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Reading and Richard III Society Research Officer: “ so much fascinating information and so many interesting links with key events”. For anyone with a specific interest in the Wars of the Roses and/or Richard III, please click on the following links.
Thanks to historian Sharon Bennett-Connolly who has recently provided us with a synopsis of the de Warennes’ family history. Please click the Key Families icon to the right of this home page to access this engrossing insight.