• 1726-08-09

    On 9th August 1726, Volume III of Daniel Defoe’s travelogue A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain: Divided into Circuits or Journies was released (and later on 13th October 1738, the second, revised edition), having been published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727. Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe in 1719), novelist and pamphleteer wrote about Sandal and Pontefract:
    ‘From Wakefield, we went to see the ancient Town of Pontefract. …. In Pontefract, and the Castle, much Blood has been spilt, in different Ages. Here, Henry (sic), the great Earl of Lancaster, who was Lord of the Castle, and whose Ancestors had beautified, inlarged, and fortified it, was beheaded by his Nephew, King Edward II with three or four more of the English Barons. Here Richard II was murder’d, and, if History may be credited, in a most cruel manner: and here Antony Earl of Rivers, and Sir Richard Gray, the former Uncle, and the other Brother-in-law to King Edward V were beheaded by King Richard III. In the late Civil Wars, a small Party of brave Fellows took this Castle by Surprize for the King, and desperately defended it to the last Extremity; but being at length obliged to yield, five of them attempted to break thro’ the Besiegers Camp, three of whom perished in the Attempt.
    The Town is large and well built, but much smaller than it has been. The Castle lies in Ruins, though not demolished…..in the year 1735, the old (market) Cross was pulled down, and a handsome Dome, supported by a Colonnade of Doric Pillars (the charge whereof was defrayed by a Legacy left by one Dupere, an Inhabitant of the Town) was erected for that Purpose. The Ruins of The Castle shew it to have been a Noble Pile. A round Tower, yet standing, is intire, in or near which, the Tradition is, King Richard II was slain. Adjoining to this Tower are Winding airs, which descend into several Vaults, and subterraneous Passages.’ 

  • 1783-08-21

    On 21st August 1783, John Gully, an English prize-fighter, horse-race owner (won The Derby in 1832, 1846 and 1854, St Leger in 1832, 2,000 Guineas in 1844 and 1854) and politician was born. He was MP for Pontefract from 1832-37. He was portrayed by boxer, Henry Cooper, in the 1975 film, Royal Flash.

  • 1746-03-18

    On 18th March 1746, John Wesley, Methodist leader, made his first visit to Pontefract as mentioned in his journal. The ‘Stations’ of the Methodist Preachers were first published in 1765 with Pontefract included in the Leeds Circuit. He also preached in the town in March two years later.

  • 1721-12-27

    On 27th December 1721, Thomas Fermor KB, 2nd Baron of Lemster (or Leominster) was made Earl of Pomfret. His grandfather, Sir William Fermor had distinguished himself during the Civil War in the Royalist cause and subsequently suffered severe financial hardship albeit Thomas’s father was elevated to the peerage in 1692. In 1727, he was made Master of the Horse to Caroline, queen consort of George II. He was one of the lords of the bedchamber and ranger of the little park at Windsor. He died on 8th July 1753.

  • 1753-11-28

    On 28th November 1753, George Dunhill, inventor of the commercial, sweet liquorice Pontefract (Pomfret) Cake when only 7 years old, was born in Pontefract. Liquorice had been grown in Pontefract for many years – probably from the 14th century but certainly in the town in 1562 – and a 1648 siege map (of Pontefract Castle) showed its being cultivated in ‘garths’ either side of Micklegate running from the Market Place to the castle. Parts of the castle yard/bailey and magazine were given over to liquorice cultivation and storage after the Civil War with the Dunhill family renting land inside the castle by 1720. An Order of the Corporation in 1701 prohibited inhabitants of Pontefract from selling any liquorice buds or setts to persons residing outside the limits of the borough.

  • 1786-10-17

    On 17th October 1786, the first mail-coach from London to York set out on its journey by the Great North Road. The first change of horses was at Doncaster, the next at Ferrybridge. In the following century, many renowned coaches passed directly through Pontefract: 1816, the True Briton; 1821, the Royal Forester; 1829, the George the Fourth; 1833, The Emerald; 1843, The Perseverance.

  • 1797-08-01

    In summer 1797, (most probably late July, early August), Joseph Mallord William Turner sketched ‘Pontefract: The South Side of All Saints’ Church, with the Porch and South Transept 1797’ during his stay in Yorkshire as a guest of landowner Walter Ramsden Fawkes at Otley. The church, in the shadow of Pontefract castle, had been severely damaged in 1645 (its Tower being used as a lookout), hit by cannonballs.

  • 1772-07-29

    On 29th July 1772, around noon, John Wesley opened a meeting room in Pontefract which had been established by his followers. Castle Chain House was taken by John Shepherd, partly as his accommodation and for use by travelling preachers with the rest used as a place of worship. The first Methodist chapel was built in Pontefract in 1789 and, in 1796, the town was made the head of a considerable circuit of twenty-four preaching places with two stationed preachers, covering an area from Barnsdale to Wetherby.