Pontefract Castle – 16th Century

10/1/1538A survey of Pontefract Castle was made in 1538 on the 10th and 12th of January by Sir Henry Savell, Sir George Lawson and Robert Chaloner, advised by John Forman (mason), John Tomson (carpenter) and Tomas Jackson (founder). Excerpts included: ‘; lxx (70) foder of newe leed ov’ and besides the old leed of the same Castell woll serve to cov’ newe all such howses within the said Castell as haith been cov’yd with leed of lait….; xx (20) Toone of Tymber wolle serve for the repa’con of tymber worke for the said Castell…’
24/1/1537On 24th January 1537, after Lord Darcy (Constable of Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace) had written to Henry VIII asking to be excused from a summons to attend court because of illness and infirmity, the king wrote to him thanking him for his services and ordered him to victual the castle secretly in case of further uprisings in view of the Beverley ‘disturbances’. Preparations were made for the Lord Admiral to take over Pontefract from Darcy and Sir Richard Tempest to cede Sandal Castle to Sir Henry Saville.
25/1/1537On 25th January 1537, Henry VIII wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury concerning the new Bigod uprising, following the Pilgrimage of Grace, in North Yorkshire, and the Earl’s health. In the letter, he also declared that so long as Lord Darcy did his duty regarding preventing further troubles in and around Pontefract and holding the castle, the king would regard him with as much favour as if the rebellion had never happened.
28/1/1569On 28th January 1569, Mary, Queen of Scots was lodged at Pontefract Castle, travelling between Wetherby and her intermediate prison at Rotherham. She had been forced to abdicate in July 1567 and flee south to seek the protection of her cousin Elizabeth I. After an inconclusive inquiry/conference ordered by Elizabeth into Mary’s guilt/involvement in Lord Darnley’s murder, Mary was placed in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury at Tutbury Castle on the 3rd February 1569 and held in captivity in various locations for the next eighteen years until her execution at Fotheringhay Castle on the 8th February 1587.
29/1/1537On 29th January 1537, on receipt of the king’s orders to hold Pontefract Castle with his two sons (in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion), Lord Darcy, at Templehurst, wrote to his son, Sir George Darcy (in reply to Sir George’s queries), to say that, as ‘all was quiet’ at that time, he would not make preparations until his son had seen the king’s letter and the Duke of Norfolk’s expected arrival in five days’ time.
30/1/1537On 30th January 1537, Sir George Darcy wrote to his father in Templehurst, in reply to his letter of the previous day, stating that the situation in the country, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion, was far from peaceful and he could not afford to await the Duke of Norfolk’s arrival before preparing Pontefract Castle.
4/2/1537On 4th February 1537, the Duke of Norfolk arrived at Pontefract Castle, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Ironically, as the environs around Pontefract were now in good order, Lord Darcy, now at Pontefract, was then in the unenviable position of answering why he had failed to ‘keep the peace’ during the first rising. A family dispute with his son, Sir George Darcy, over controlling and defending the castle was resolved by Norfolk in favour of Lord Darcy but Sir George was to be ready to assist his father with all his forces at an hour’s warning. Norfolk ruefully remarked ‘I pray God the father be as good in heart as the son, which by the proof only I shall believe’.
8/2/1526On 8th February 1526, Dr Magnus wrote to Cardinal Wolsey from Pontefract saying that a servant of James V of Scotland had recently arrived there bringing a letter from his master, another from the queen dowager, the king’s mother  'conteynnyng boothe onn effecte and purpose That I wolde doo so myche as to send to the said kyngges grace three or foure couple of houndes mete for hunting of the haire fox and other gretter game and also a couple of lyam hounds being suche as wolde ride behynde men on horseback’
10/2/1537On 10th February 1537, Lord Darcy wrote to Robert Aske, ex-leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, requiring him to give to the bearer, in secret, all the arrows, bows and spears taken from Pontefract Castle during the uprising. This secretive action by Darcy (constable of the castle during the rebellion), although open to misinterpretation, was necessary in order to refortify Pontefract as per the king’s orders.
11/2/1527On 11th February 1527, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, wrote to King James V of Scotland from Pontefract Castle. Henry and James were cousins (James being the son of Henry VIII’s elder sister, Margaret) with James having inherited the throne at the age of seventeen months after the death of his father at Flodden Field. Henry believed James wanted ‘three or four couple of hounds for hunting the fox’ and sent him 'ten couple that he has tried’ plus Nicholas Eton, Henry’s yeoman of the hunt, who was to remain in Scotland a month ‘to show the mode of hunting’. James thanked his cousin ‘for his honest present’ sending Henry ‘two brace of hounds for deer and smaller beasts…..and some of the best red hawks in the realm’ for hawking.'
13/2/1542Catherine HowardOn 13th February 1542, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded at the Tower of London following her infidelity with Thomas Culpeper, and for other indiscretions. The liaison between Catherine and Thomas was supposedly 'discovered' at Pontefract Castle on 23rd August 1541. The painting could be of Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger. (there is no absolute proof it is Catherine, being the only contemporary painting of her we have that claims this provenance).
25/2/1537On 25th February 1537, Sir Arthur Darcy (Lord Darcy’s son) returned to Pontefract and wrote to Baron Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, informing him that the surrounding area was now quiet after the disturbances of the Pilgrimage of Grace. He stated that his father, Lord Darcy, was in the castle and attendant upon the King’s command but ‘his disease grows upon him and he desires licence to withdraw and live with a small company till he be out of debt’.
15/3/1587On 15th March 1587, Thomas Austwick was baptized at Pontefract. He was Mayor of Pontefract in 1621 and 1640 and was one of the volunteer defenders of the castle during its sieges. He died in March 1648. His son, Alan, was a lieutenant of horse for Charles I and one of the persons excepted for life at the surrender of the castle.
22/3/1537On 22nd March 1537, Lord Darcy wrote to Henry VIII from Pontefract suggesting that as the disturbances of the Pilgrimage of Grace and its aftermath were no more, it would be advised not to keep a full garrison at the castle. He would like to visit the King at Easter albeit only being able to travel ‘but six miles a day’.
7/4/1537On 7th April 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, was committed to the Tower of London, accused of treason.
8/4/1537On 8th April 1537, Henry VIII ordered the Duke of Norfolk to seize the lands and papers of Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace.
15/4/1588On 15th April 1588, the Earl of Huntingdon, Lord-President of the North, wrote to the Justices of the Peace of the West Riding assembled at Pontefract regarding the expected Spanish invasion, requesting the provision of arms and erection of beacons.
16/4/1537On 16th April 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, was examined at the Lord Chancellor’s house regarding accusations of treason for his (in)actions in the rebellion at Pontefract. His opening remarks to his examiners were defiant:’ I am here now at your pleasure; ye may do your pleasure with me. I have read that men that have been in cases like with their prince as ye be now have come at the last to the same end that ye would now bring me unto. And so may ye come to the same.’ He accused Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey and, most probably his father, the Duke of Norfolk, but directed his most bitter challenge to Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal : “ Cromwell, it is thou that art the very original and chief causer of all this rebellion and mischief, and art likewise causer of the apprehension of us that be noble men and dost daily earnestly travail to bring us to our end and to strike off our heads, and I trust that or thou die, though thou wouldst procure all the noblemen’s heads within the realm to be stricken off, yet shall there one head remain that shall strike off thy head”.
1/5/1528In May 1528, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and the illegitimate son of Henry VIII was in residence in Pontefract.  Henry was the result of a 'liaison' between Henry VIII and one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting, perhaps Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount. Henry Fitzroy had spent the greater part of 1527 and all the early part of 1528 at Pontefract and it is known from a letter written by William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and brother of Catherine Parr, to Cardinal Wolsey, that a sweating sickness was reported in Pontefract in May 1528. Henry Fitzroy was in good health  but ‘ there has six persones lately disseased within the lordship of Pontefracte … and that many young children bee sick of the pokkes nere thereabouts”. Henry was moved to Ledston (Ledston Hall), a house that belonged to the Prior of Pontefract.
5/5/1550On the 5th May 1550, Edward VI again issued the Pontefract's Charter. A confirmatory charter was issued by James I in 1606-07.
15/5/1537On 15th May 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, was brought to trial in Westminster Hall on a charge of treason, chiefly drawn up by Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, now one of his judges. Although Darcy pleaded not guilty and was expected by some to be acquitted, he was found guilty and scheduled to be executed four days later. This was postponed, however, as the King was undecided whether it would have a better effect if Darcy was executed in his own county and not London. The King’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk stated:' ……it should be meet to have them executed at Doncaster and thereabouts…..we think it should not be amiss that we should send the said Darcy, Constable and Aske down for that purpose; requiring you, with diligence, to advertise us of your opinion in that behalf.’ Norfolk advised against such.
16/5/1528In May 1528, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was staying at Pontefract Castle when outbreaks of sweating sickness were recorded in the town. William Parr wrote to Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, that Henry was in good health but ‘there bee six persons lately disseassed within the lordship of Pountfrete…and that many young children bee sicke of the pokes nere thereabouts.’. Henry was moved to Ledestone, a house belonging to the Prior of Pontefract, three miles from the castle. The place was Ledston Hall or the manor that stood on the present site of the later hall.
9/6/1588On 9th June 1588, a survey was made of Pontefract Park. In pre-Norman times, this land had been mainly waste moorland, forest and fenny marshes. The survey stated: ‘the said park is distant from Pontefract Castle half a quarter of a mile….the whole circuit of the pales include 700 acres, whereof we think there is none may be employed for meadow, 100 acres for arable ground, and all the rest for pasture……… (with) every of the 100 acres of arable land, and every acre of pasture.. worth by the year 12d….. in the pales of the said park (are) 1370 timber trees…(over one thousand) fuel trees. .and 400 saplings…595 deer….and three lodges or houses whereof two are in good reparation, and the third partly in decay….also there is a barn builded in the said park to lye hay in that is gotten for the deer, the reparation whereof is at the queen’s charges’.
30/6/1537On 30th June 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, was beheaded on Tower Hill and his head exposed on London Bridge. Contrary to his wishes that his whole body be buried by that of his second wife, Edith Sandys, Lady Neville, in the Friary at Greenwich, his headless body was buried at the Crossed Friars beside the Tower of London.
3/7/1557A survey report of Pontefract Castle dated 3rd July 1557 recorded: ‘ That our Tower called the Gyllot Tower, or the great Round Tower, both within, & without the Walls of our Castell of Pountfret, p’cel of our said Duchy, in our said County, is in great ruine & decay, as well in tymber-work as in Stonework & is likely shortly to fall down, unless some speedy Remedy be had & provided for the same…….We authorize you…to take such Stone 7 tymber meet, & necessary for the Repair of our said Tower in such places hereafter recited. That is to say the said Stone, as well of the late dissolved Abbey of Pountf’t aforesd, as of the decayed Chappell called St Thomas Hill being distant one quartr of a Mile or thereabouts from our said Castell; And the said Timber Tress to be taken in our Woods of Creedling Sowewood & Ackworth…….’
5/7/1561On 5th July 1561, Edward Rusby (or Rustbie) was married to Grace Alline in Ackworth Parish Church. Rusby was later to be Mayor of Pontefract in 1582 having resided at Hundhill in the 1570s.
12/7/1537On 12th July 1537, Robert Aske, one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, who had besieged Pontefract Castle the previous year, was drawn through the main streets of York on a hurdle prior to execution on a special scaffold erected outside Clifford’s Tower. Rather than experience a traditional hanging, Aske was reputedly hanged alive in chains being slowly suffocated to death, taking several days to die.
14/7/1503On 14th July 1503, Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII, arrived at Pontefract on her way from Richmond Palace to Scotland to meet her husband, James IV. The marriage had been completed by proxy on 25th January that year at Richmond Palace with the Earl of Bothwell as proxy for the Scottish king. She was met by deputations seven, four and two miles from Pontefract and escorted to the town to be received by its mayor, burgesses, inhabitants and ‘the abbot in pontifical and all the convent’. She left on the 15th for York.
19/7/1529On 19th July 1529, the ‘Beverley Sanctuary Register’ noted that Richard Dawson of Pontefract, a minstrel from the county of York, sought the liberty and protection of St John of Beverley for the murder of Brian Routch, lately of Skipton, also a minstrel.
22/7/1537On 22nd July 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, who had been beheaded for treason three weeks before, was posthumously degraded from his rank as Knight of the Garter and his vacant stall bestowed upon Thomas Cromwell, who had drawn up the charges against him and had then been one of his judges.
28/7/1540On 28th July 1540, Catherine Howard married Henry VIII, nineteen days after Anne of Cleves' marriage was annulled and on the same day as the execution of Thomas Cromwell for high treason. Catherine was first cousin to Anne Boleyn and had been a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves. Later in the marriage, Henry found out about Catherine's purported infidelity while the court was staying at Pontefract Castle.
1/8/1513By 1st August 1513, an English army of Henry VIII, under Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, had arrived at Pontefract Castle setting up camp and recruiting additional troops prior to the impending Battle of Flodden Field on 9th September against James IV of Scotland. Surrey had sent Sir William Bullmer to round up a troop of mounted archers to patrol the border region. On 3rd August, Bullmer’s one thousand archers ambushed a Scots’ raiding party at Millfield of between seven to eight thousand men, led by the Earl of Home, sustaining only sixty men lost to the Scots’ five hundred slain and four hundred taken prisoner. James IV was killed at Flodden Field (the last monarch from the British Isles to die in battle) along with eleven to twelve thousand of his compatriots with twelve hundred captured in less than two hours. The English lost about four thousand men with 120 taken prisoner.
23/8/1541Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the youngerKing Henry VIII stayed at Pontefract Castle for several days in August 1541, whilst he was on a ‘northern progress’ seeking to ‘pacify’ the northern counties after the disturbances of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Leaving the Queen, Catherine Howard, at the castle on the 23rd August the king went to Wressle Castle and Hull, arriving at York on the 15th September, on his way back to Windsor. It was not until 1st November 1541 that the king became aware of the queen's alleged misconduct with one of her old lovers  (Thomas Culpeper, a distant cousin) at Pontefract Castle and earlier in the Spring of that year. Catherine was interrogated by Archbishop Cranmer and a delegation of councillors at Winchester Palace on 7th November and formally stripped of her royal title on 15th November (but her marriage to Henry was never formally annulled). A True Bill was found against her by the Justices of Doncaster on Tuesday 24th November. The Grand Jury at Doncaster condemned the Queen and after a bill of attainder was passed by Parliament on 7th February 1542,  she was executed at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542.  
24/8/1578On 24th August 1578, John Taylor, who dubbed himself ‘The Water Poet’ was born. He visited Pontefract in 1622, describing the castle as then ‘a strong, faire and ancient edifice’ having been restored and edified by the Prince of Wales, later Charles I. Ten years later, three military men journeying for pleasure through twenty-six counties found, at Pontefract ‘a high, stately, famous and princely impregnable castle…..having seven famous towers…ample enough to receive as many princes.’ Charles I was at Pontefract in 1625.
25/8/1513On 25th August 1513, Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey and 2nd Duke of Norfolk, reached Pontefract on his progress north where he heard about the Scottish invasion under James IV. James had invaded as part of the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France in an attempt to get Henry VIII to desist from his own invasion of France. Despite his age (he was nearly seventy), he would hasten to Newcastle the following day.
25/8/1541On 25th August 1541, Francis Dereham - a Tudor courtier - arrived at Pontefract Castle having been thrown out of the household of Agnes Howard, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Dereham arrived at Pontefract seeking employment within Queen Catherine's household, and he was later made the Queen's Private Secretary and then a Gentleman Usher of the Queen's chamber. The significance of this appointment is that Dereham had begun sexual relations with Catherine when she was fifteen, whilst living in the household of the Dowager Duchess in Norfolk House, Lambeth. There was no obvious vacancy within her household, but after speaking with Dereham in her private quarters at Pontefract, Catherine introduced him to the rest of her staff. Rumours of a pre-contract of marriage between Dereham and Catherine would have invalidated Catherine's future marriage to King Henry VIII. On December 1st 1541, Dereham and Thomas Culpeper were arraigned at Guildhall for treason and were executed on  December 10th 1541 - Dereham being hanged, drawn and quartered, Culpeper's  sentenced commuted to beheading.
27/8/1541On 27th August 1541, Francis Dereham was appointed Queen Catherine’s (Howard) Private Secretary at Pontefract Castle; an act that was to have severe repercussions for them both.
29/8/1541At the trial of Thomas Culpeper, which began on December 1st 1541, an indictment was made that Queen Catherine had ' on 29th August 1541, with Henry VIII, at Pomfret, and at other times and places before and after with Thomas Culpeper, late of London, one of the gentlemen of the king's privy chamber, falsely and traitorously held illicit meeting and conference to incite the said Culpeper to have carnal intercourse with her; and insinuated to him that she loved him above the king and all others. Similarly the said Culpeper incited the Queen.'
7/9/1533On 7th Sept 1533, Elizabeth I was born. Elizabeth, towards the close of her reign, repaired Pontefract Castle, and rebuilt the Chapel of St Clement within it.
5/10/1536On 5th October 1536, Lord Thomas Darcy sent his son, Sir Arthur to Henry VIII warning of risings in Northumberland, Dent, Sedbergh and Wensleydale and that ‘greater rebellions were to be feared’ in the impending (as it was to be called) Pilgrimage of Grace. He left his family seat at Templehurst (near Selby) for Pontefract Castle finding, on his arrival, that fewer than one third of its 300-strong garrison could be trusted as many favoured the rebels.
6/10/1536On 6th October 1536, Lord Thomas Darcy wrote to Henry VIII for guns and powder in order to defend the garrison at Pontefract. Darcy’s efforts to provision the castle were being hampered by lukewarm local support and the king himself had little money or arms to spare being preoccupied with Robert Aske’s Lincolnshire rebellion against the establishment of the Church of England, dissolution of the monasteries and other Crown policies closely identified with Thomas Cromwell. .
8/10/1536On 8th October 1536, Lord Darcy wrote to his son from Pontefract Castle urging him to go rapidly to the king requesting that his son be allowed to help his father (Darcy was nearly seventy-years-old at the time) and, again, warning Henry VIII that Yorkshire was now on the point of rebellion against the king’s religious, political and economic policies. The king’s letters summoning the northern counties to send help to George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, were received at Pontefract this day.
9/10/1536On 9th October 1536, Henry VIII received Lord Darcy’s letters from Pontefract warning of impending religious revolt but replied to Darcy that he was confident there was no danger and instructed him to arrest fugitives and anyone spreading rumours.
10/10/1536On 10th October 1536, the Archbishop of York, Edward Lee, fearing that he was about to be abducted by rebellious ‘commons’ from the Marshland in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the impending rising (as it was to be called) Pilgrimage of Grace, fled to Pontefract Castle with thirty servants to join Dr Magnus from York and Lord Darcy. On this day also, Darcy wrote to the Lord Mayor of York informing him that the commons of the East Riding were likely to invade York and seize the king’s treasure.
11/10/1536On 11th October 1536, having received Sir Brian Hastings’ letter from Hatfield advising Lord Darcy, in Pontefract, to send a force immediately to York ‘ to overawe their faction in that city’ (rebels from Howdenshire and Marshland intending to march on York in the Pilgrimage of Grace), Darcy replied: ‘I am putting all the gentlemen within my room in readiness at an hour’s warning, when I shall know the King’s pleasure…If you have any certainty from above let me share it’.
13/10/1536On 13th October 1536, with the remaining Lincolnshire insurgents (precursor to the Pilgrimage of Grace) having dispersed, the Earl of Shrewsbury wrote to Lord Darcy in Pontefract stating that the rebels ‘now mind themselves to be the King’s true and faithful subjects at all times and from time to time accordingly’ and as they would give no further help to the Yorkshiremen (even stopping boats on the Humber, Ouse and Trent so ‘that none shall come over but be glad to return homewards like fools’), he trusted any disturbances near Darcy would cease. On the same day, Darcy wrote to the king expecting the rebels to encounter him shortly but ‘there was not one gun in Pontefract Castle ready to shoot. There is no powder, arrows and bows are few and bad, money and gunners none, the well, the bridge, houses of office etc for defence, much out of frame’.
15/10/1536On 15th October 1536, the gentlemen in Pontefract Castle wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury and other lords at Nottingham stating that following their advice of the 13th, they were ‘lying still’, doubting very much if they could safely venture out as the commons before York numbered 20,000 men and the whole county seemed in turmoil during the Pilgrimage of Grace. They expected the rebels to reach Pontefract on the 17th October and as the king had ignored their letters concerning the weakness of the castle, urgent help was needed. They begged that the Yorkshire rebels were offered the same conciliatory terms as those in Lincolnshire.
16/10/1536On 16th October 1536, Lord Darcy wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury from Pontefract complaining bitterly that although the king had commanded him ‘to stay or distress the commons who are up in the north and commit the heads to sure ward’, he had already checked the (Pilgrimage of Grace) rising in his own locality for fourteen days, had prevented the rebels from joining the Lincolnshire men but their forces in the north and west surpassed his power to deal with them as he had no weapons or money. He signed off his letter ‘from the King’s strong castle of Pontefract, even the most simply furnished that ever I think was any to defend’.
17/10/1536On 17th October 1536, the garrison at Pontefract Castle was cut off by a rising in the town during the Pilgrimage of Grace. Sir Arthur Darcy, Lord Darcy’s son, hurried south with his father’s letter to the king informing him that ‘we in the castle must in a few days either yield or lose our lives….there is no likelihood of vanquishing the commons with any power here’. The castle was now totally isolated regarding receiving provisions and news of possible relief.
18/10/1536On 18th October 1536, the Vicar of Brayton, a leading zealot of the Pilgrimage of Grace, set out to York from Pontefract to inform Robert Aske that Pontefract Castle could no longer hold out
19/10/1536On 19th October 1536, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle, Edward Lee, Archbishop of York, Dr Magnus of the King’s Council, Sir Robert Constable of Flamborough and all the knights and gentlemen in the castle, including Sir George Darcy, Sir Robert Neville and Sir John Wentworth assembled in the state chamber to meet Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, who ‘required those present to join them and deliver the castle’ with refusal meaning no mercy would be shown. Darcy replied that ‘I neither could nor would deliver the King’s castle’ and that he would consult others regarding the commons’ grievances. Aske agreed to a truce until the following night although Darcy asked for a day longer. Later that day, the garrison’s council decided that if no rescue came, the only course was to yield: ‘Out of 300 men, not 140 remained and these were not all sound; there was only victual for eight or ten days…..Every day, the captain (Aske) wrote to me charging me on my life to yield the castle or they would burn my house (Templehurst) and kill my son’s children’. Darcy’s request for an extension of the truce until 9 o’clock on the 20th for payment of £20 (£17,000 in today’s money) was agreed.
21/10/1536Pilgrimage_of_GraceOn 21st October 1536, 40,0000 protesters under Robert Aske marched on Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace. On the same day, Sir Thomas Percy, Recorder of Lincoln and a leading figure in the Pilgrimage of Grace, arrived at Pontefract Castle with nearly ten thousand men from the north-east (Percy was also a participant in the Bigod Rebellion the following year and was to be hanged, drawn and quartered as a traitor at Tyburn on 2nd June 1537).  Lord Darcy, who was sheltering the Archbishop of York, Sir Robert Constable and some forty other gentlemen, later surrendered the castle without a fight. He later claimed that there was not enough gunpowder to fill a walnut shell and no firewood for cooking for his men. The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising that began in Yorkshire in October 1536 (but was pre-dated by a Lincolnshire rebellion), before spreading to other parts of Northern England including Cumberland, Northumberland and north Lancashire, under the leadership of lawyer, Robert Aske. The "most serious of all Tudor rebellions", it was a protest against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the policies of the king's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, as well as other specific political, social and economic grievances. A list of "24 Articles", sometimes called "The Commons' Petition", was given to the Duke of Norfolk at Doncaster on December 6th. The rebels agreed to disband if the king reviewed the demands: a freely elected parliament at York acting on the same, and if the rebels received parliamentary pardon for taking part in the rebellion and for all acts committed during such. Norfolk received the articles with promises to present them to the king. He also promised a parliament at York and a general pardon to the rebels. Robert Aske announced these promises to the Pilgrims, and the rebels disbanded. Aske visited the king in London, but returned to York in January with nothing more than vague promises. In January 1537, rebels under Sir Francis Bigod, who had realized the king had no intention of respecting either the Pilgrims' demands, or the promises made to them, started a new uprising. This gave the king an excuse to violently stamp out the rebellion in the North and to renege on the promises made on his behalf by Norfolk.
22/10/1536On 22nd October 1536, William Stapleton, a lawyer and compatriot of Robert Aske in the Pilgrimage of Grace, brought his East Riding (Beverley) forces to Pontefract Castle, having taken Hull for the rebels.
28/10/1536On 28th October 1536, Lord Darcy and Robert Aske, at Pontefract Castle, proclaimed a truce to the besieging ‘commons’ of the Pilgrimage of Grace and ordered the rebels to return home. Albeit their captains, Lord John Scrope, 8th Baron Scrope of Bolton, Sir Christopher Danby and others were willing to accept the truce, the rebels were reluctant to go home empty-handed but did eventually comply.
29/10/1536On 29th October 1536, Henry VIII’s heralds (Chester and Carlisle) saw the last rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace ‘disparple’ (disperse) at Pontefract Castle and make their way home over Ferrybridge. The heralds returned to Doncaster the same day where the Royalist Earl of Shrewsbury’s army was similarly disbanding.
1/11/1541On 1st November 1541, Henry VIII was made aware of Queen Catherine Howard’s supposed infidelity with Thomas Culpepper, a courtier, at Pontefract Castle. A letter to him written by the queen and signed ‘Yours as long as life endures’ was believed to have been sent during this stay at the castle. Not only was the letter interpreted as evidence of an affair but also of Culpepper’s machinations to gain power and control over the queen, with the king in a poor state of health. On 7th November, Archbishop Cranmer led a delegation of councillors to Winchester Palace, Southwark, to question her.
2/11/1536On 2nd November 1536, general pardons to all rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace who lived north of Doncaster, for any offences committed before 1st November, were drafted. These were very similar to the terms offered the Lincolnshire rebels the previous month. However, excepted persons were Robert Aske, Hutton of Snape, Kitchen of Beverley, bailiff William Ombler, shoemaker Henry Coke of Durham, Maunsell, Vicar of Brayton and four unnamed others.
9/11/1530Cardinal_Wolsey On 9th November 1530, ex-Cardinal Wolsey (but still Archbishop of York) arrived at the Cluniac Priory in Pontefract from Cawood Castle, accompanied by Henry Percy, 6th the Earl of Northumberland. Wolsey had earlier been stripped of his government office and property, and arrested on a charge of high treason. It was probable that he was intended for execution and was on his way to Sheffield to be given into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Cavendish notes ‘every thoroughfare was blocked up with a living mass of human beings who…craved his blessing as he rode by them’. He reached Sheffield around the 25th and died at Leicester Abbey on the 29th/ 30th November.
11/11/1536On 11th November 1536, Lord Darcy called the Archbishop of York and Archdeacon Magnus to witness that the defence of Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace had been impossible due to no powder, ordnance nor artillery stationed there and the king having sent no reply to his pleas for help.
18/11/1594On 18th November 1594, John Bramall, later archbishop of Armagh, was baptised at Pontefract. Bramhall was at school in the town and was admitted to Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, graduating in 1612.
23/11/1539cluniac_prioryOn 23rd November 1539, the Cluniac Priory of St John the Evangelist in Pontefract, which had been founded by Robert de Lacy in around 1090, was surrendered to Henry VIII's commissioners. The commissioners' report said that they had 'quietly takine the surrenders and dissolvyed the monasterie of Pountfrette, wher we perceyved no murmure ore gruge in any behalfe bot wer thankefully receyvede.' Pensions were granted to the prior (£50, nearly £50,000 in today's money) and twelve brethren. The prior, James Thwaytes, was then appointed Dean of St. Clement's for life.
26/11/1538St Richards friaryOn 26th November 1538, The Dominican Friary of Our Lady, Saint Dominic, and Saint Richard, which had been founded in about 1256 by Edmund de Lacy, was surrendered to the Crown Commissioners of Henry VIII. The two bells and roof lead were stripped and sold, as was the entire site. The buildings were demolished for their stone, wood, glass and fittings, which were also sold. The site reverted to agricultural use as pasture land and later became liquorice fields.  Pontefract hospital eventually 'spread' over the site after the foundation of the Dispensary in the late 1890’s.
28/11/1536On 28th November 1536, after various alleged transgressions of the truce brokered at Pontefract in the Pilgrimage of Grace, rebels began to assemble at the castle with Lord Darcy (returning from his home at Templehurst) and Robert Aske arriving by the 2nd December.
2/12/1536On 2nd December 1536 (to 4th December), a Pilgrims’ Council was convened at Pontefract (probably at the Priory) to draw up articles to lay before Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to resolve the demands of the Pilgrims of Grace. These included a return to papal obedience and the summoning of a parliament free from royal influence. Norfolk was to make vague promises to the rebels and offer a full pardon on 6th December.
5/12/1503On 5th December 1503, George Stanley, 9th Baron Strange, died at St Paul’s Wharf, London, allegedly of poison following a banquet. In 1485, he held the offices of Constables of Pontefract and Knaresborough Castles. He was the eldest son of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and his first wife Eleanor, sister of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; thereby, related maternally to both Anne Neville and Richard III. George Stanley was held as surety by Richard III for his father’s behaviour before/during the Battle of Bosworth and Thomas Stanley is reputed to have exclaimed “I have other sons” and was not of a mind to join the king during the battle. Richard is also claimed to have ordered George Stanley’s murder on the field at Bosworth but relented. By his father’s second marriage to Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, George became stepbrother to her son, Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, helping him win the effective last battle of the Wars of The Roses at Stoke Field on the 16th June 1487.
7/12/1536On 7th December 1536, Robert Aske addressed about three thousand rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace at the market cross in Pontefract stating that terms had been agreed to their demands and free pardons granted. Unfortunately, later whilst at the Doncaster meeting with the Duke of Norfolk, Aske was informed that Lord Lumley (now in command at Pontefract) warned that the rebels were suspicious of the terms of the agreement and demanded to see the King’s pardon under seal. Aske returned immediately to Pontefract to assure his fellow Pilgrims that the terms were authentic and perfectly satisfactory.
8/12/1536On 8th December 1536, about three thousand rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace assembled at St Thomas’s Hill, Pontefract, to hear the King’s pardon, brought by Lancaster Herald, read out, after which they dispersed to their homes and Aske and the other captains of the Pilgrimage rode to Doncaster to the Duke of Norfolk to relate the latest situation. This assembly concluded the following day.
9/12/1595On 9th December 1595, the earliest recorded performance of Shakespeare’s ‘the Tragedie of King Richard the Second’ (Pontefract Castle’s most famous prisoner) was made in Canon Row, London, at the home of Sir Edward Hoby. The play was performed at the Globe on 12th June 1631. Richard’s (dubiously violent) death is described in Act V, Scene V after Exton had presaged his murder on Henry IV’s orders: “And speaking it, he wistly look’d on me, And who should say, ‘I would thou wert the man That would divorce this terror from my heart;’ Meaning the king at Pomfret. Come, let’s go: I am the king’s friend, and will rid his foe.”
15/12/1527In December 1527, the Earl of Northumberland wrote to Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, after visiting Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, at Pontefract Castle that ‘he was well received that his dulled wit cannot disclose how much he was gratified with the Duke’s good qualities.’
16/12/1570On 16th December 1570, Francis Mallett, Dean of Lincoln, died at Normanton (6 miles from Pontefract). During Edward VI’s reign, Mallett was principal chaplain and almoner of Princess Mary (from 1544), the future Mary I. To take this position, he had left the employment of Queen Consort, Katherine Parr. He had also been chaplain to Thomas Cranmer in the mid-1530s and to Thomas Cromwell in 1538. He had been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1536 and 1540 and was appointed to the seventh stall in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in 1543, holding it until 1570. Mallett was imprisoned in the Tower of London for celebrating Mass for Mary at Beaulieu in May 1551. Mary, as queen, made him Dean of Lincoln in 1554 and also Lord High Almoner.
17/12/1587On 17th December 1587, Nathan Drake, Royalist diarist of Pontefract Castle’s first two sieges, was baptised at Halifax.
22/12/1550On 22nd December 1550, Richard of Eastwell, possible illegitimate son of Richard III (or Duke of Gloucester at the child’s conception) and half-brother of Richard’s other known illegitimate children, John of Pontefract, and Katherine Plantagenet, was buried at St Mary’s Church, Eastwell in Kent. Parish records note: ‘Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22. daye of December, anno ut supra. Ex registro de Eastwell, sub anno 1550.’ Eastwell was said to have been boarded with a schoolmaster when growing up and visited four times a year by an unknown gentleman who paid for his upkeep. He claimed that on the evening before the Battle of Bosworth he had been taken to Richard III’s tent, informed that he was the king’s son and told to watch the battle from a safe vantage point. The king then told the boy that, if he won, he would acknowledge him as his son. If he lost, he told the boy to conceal his identity permanently. Eastwell was employed by Sir Thomas Moyle, the lord of the manor at Eastwell, as a gardener and bricklayer; in the rest hour, whilst the other workers talked and threw dice, he would sit apart and read a book in Latin. He was given a house on the grounds, a building called "Plantagenet Cottage" which still stands on the site and a well in Eastwell Park still bears his name.
25/12/1526On 25th December 1526, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was with his household at Pontefract Castle. The Council informed Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, that henry had ‘kept a right honourable Christmas…..with numbers of worshipful persons have come to visit him.’