Pontefract Castle – 17th Century

DateEvent
10/1/1649On 10th January 1649, after Oliver Cromwell had written the previous November to the Committee of the Lords and Commons, regarding Pontefract Castle’s situation and request for his besieging forces of further arms and ordnance, ‘six good battering guns, of no less calibre than demi-cannons, with match, powder, bullets and three of the biggest mortars, with shells’ plus other materiel arrived.
15/1/1645In January 1645, Colonel William ‘Blowface’ Forbes of the besieging Parliamentary forces around Pontefract Castle was injured. A Parliamentarian newspaper reported: ‘Pontefract Castle is still closely besieged by the L Fairfax his forces: Sir Thomas Fairfax was lately in great danger of being shot by a canon (sic) bullet from the castle which came between him and the Colonel Forbes; the waft of it feld Sir Thomas to the ground and spoyled one side of the Colonel’s face and eyes. Our forces are in great probability of taking it and will be able no doubt speedily to requite those in the castle for their obstinacy and insolency.’ Soon after recovering, Forbes married Mary, a woman twenty years his junior and the daughter of Pontefract’s former Royalist governor, Sir John Redman.
16/1/1645On 16th January 1645, Nathan Drake's detailed accounts of the siege of Pontefract Castle recorded that when the besieged heard that the besiegers were about to plant their ordnance 'against the Piper Tower and betwixt that and the Round Tower, where there was a hollow place all the way down to the well, the gentlemen and souldyers fell all upon carrying of earth and rubbish, and so filled up the place in a little space, and we rammed up the way that passed through Piper Tower, with earth four or five yards thick. The beseeged playd 1 cannon into the closes below the Towne amongst the cutters up of clothes, but what was killed is not knowne, but they came there no more.'
17/1/1645Cannon Balls found at the castleOn this day in 1645, the first serious action of the first siege at Pontefract Castle began. Parliamentarian gun batteries started an intense bombardment of the castle. Cannon fire lasted five days and in this time 1367 shots were fired at the defenders. Here is a photo of two of the cannon balls found over 360 years later, still lodged in the castle walls!
19/1/1645On 19th January 1645, Nathan Drake recorded that the  Piper Tower was beaten down by the besiegers 'about 9 of the clock, there having beene 71 shott made that morning, before it fell'.
23/1/1600On 23rd January 1600, Alexander Keirincx, a Flemish landscape artist, was born in Antwerp. He was commissioned by Charles I of England (probably to note the king’s visit to Scotland in 1639) to paint a series of ten or more paintings of royal castles and places in England and Scotland and it is believed his depiction of the grandeur of Pontefract Castle was done in 1640. He died in Amsterdam on 7th October 1652.
2/2/1626Charles IOn 2nd February 1626, Charles I was crowned King of England which would ultimately lead to the English Civil War and the besieging of Pontefract Castle in December 1644. The image is a painting of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, 1633.
2/2/1649On 2nd February 1649, after the execution of Charles I on 30th January 1649, the besieged Pontefract garrison immediately declared his son as Charles II with ‘siege coins’ struck in his name and likeness and used to pay its troops, buy and sell food within the castle and reward people gathering food outside. The coins’ legend (the motto of the town) ‘POST MORTEM PATRIS PRO FILIO’ ('After the death of the father for the son') clearly indicates the garrison’s loyalties. The earliest siege coins were made on a flange, cut by hand from silver plate or pewter, bearing the initials of the castle and the Latin legend ‘DUM SPIRO SPERO’ ('Whilst I Live I Hope'); ominous in that Charles I had already been captured and imprisoned at that time.
3/2/1649On 3rd February 1649, after the execution of Charles I and during Pontefract Castle’s last desperate holding-out against reinforced Parliamentary besiegers a heavy bombardment commenced.
19/2/1624In the February Happy Parliament of 1624, the borough of Pontefract was represented by Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford and later Lord Deputy of Ireland, President of the Council of the North and Lieutenant General of Charles I’s forces.
20/2/1676On 20th February 1676, Charles II granted a new charter to the borough of Pontefract which confirmed all the rights, privileges and immunities of former charters excepting the election of Town Clerk and Recorder which he reserved for himself and successors. The town’s mayor could nominate them but only under royal mandate. Two new fairs were also granted within the town; one on the Saturday next following the Thursday next before the purification of the blessed Virgin Mary; the other upon the Saturday next following the Wednesday next after the feast of St Hilary. The buying and selling of all manner of beasts, cattle, wares and merchandizes were authorised.
1/3/1645Marmaduke LangdaleOn 1st March 1645, the first siege of Pontefract Castle ended when Sir Marmaduke Langdale defeated the Parliamentarian army at the Battle of Chequerfield. During this siege, both mining and artillery fire damaged the Piper Tower, resulting in its collapse.
2/3/1605On 2nd March 1605, James I confirmed the corporate charter of Pontefract. This charter sought to remove the uncertainties and disturbances around Henry VII’s charter’s means of electing the town’s mayor by acclamation (by the burgesses). A form of secret ballot of the burgesses was enacted resulting in the annual election of the town’s mayor on the 14th September.
2/3/1648Race Horse Painting by StubbsThe earliest evidence of racing in the Pontefract area was in March 1648 when races took place near Pontefract Castle. Captain Baines, in charge of Cromwell's soldiers which had besieged the Castle, questioned whether he should ride his brother's grey mare in one of the races.
11/3/1645Pontefract castle RuinOn 11th March 1645, the second siege of Pontefract Castle began. The Parliamentary besiegers had a starvation policy and, on 19th July 1645, the Royalist garrison made an honourable surrender to Parliament's Colonel General Poyntz and was allowed to march away to Newark.
16/3/1684On 16th March 1684 (some say May 1684 or 1685), burial records testify that William (or John)) Nevison was hanged at the Knavesmire and interred at St Mary’s Church, Castlegate, York after being captured at the Three Houses Inn in Sandal Magna. His crime was the murder of a constable who had tried to arrest him near Howley Hall, Soothill, Batley. Born in 1639, in 1676 he supposedly rode his horse 200 miles from Rochester to York in a day to establish an alibi for a robbery; citing York’s Lord Mayor as a witness. It was rumoured Charles II nicknamed him Swift Nick on account of this alleged feat, later attributed to Dick Turpin in the 1834 novel Rookwood. Nevison’s Leap, a cutting through Ferrybridge Road, Pontefract, is the legendary place William Nevison spurred his horse to jump over to escape pursuing constables.
21/3/1645On 21st March 1645, the Parliamentary forces besieging Pontefract Castle captured the upper town at Pontefract and entrenched at Baghill, Monkhill and New Hall. The Royalist forces sallied forth to attack these entrenchments.
24/3/1649Pontefract Castle was the last Royalist stronghold and fell on 24th March 1649 when Major General Lambert took possession of the castle.  Ironically, Lambert became the Member of Parliament for Pontefract in early 1659.
27/3/1649After the surrender of Pontefract Castle to Major General Lambert of the Parliamentarian forces, a meeting of the townsfolk of Pontefract was held in the Moot Hall, under the presidency of Edward Field, the Mayor. A petition was drawn up and addressed ''To the supreme authority of England, the Commons assembled in Parliament." It set forth that since the beginning of the wars the town had been greatly impoverished and depopulated. Two hundred dwelling- houses had been '’utterly ruinated." Many persons and families had been totally undone and the place of public worship had been sadly devastated. Altogether, the borough had suffered damage to the extent of over £40,000 (£7.5 million today) . Therefore, so that the true cause of all these troubles might be removed, the petitioners prayed that the castle should be ''wholly razed down and demolished" ; that a certain amount of its lead and timber should be devoted to the repairs of the church and the re-edifying of a house for the minister, and that a sum of £1000 should be handed over to the town. This petition was consigned to Major General Lambert at the Parliamentarian headquarters at Knottingley and by him duly sent forward to Westminster. On the 27th March 1649 the assembled Commons resolved "That the Castle of Pontefract be forthwith totally demolished" The formal order for the demolition was made a week later by the West Riding Justices sitting at Wakefield, and its execution was entrusted to Edward Field, the Mayor, and certain other prominent townsmen.
1/4/1645Sir Thomas Fairfax In the first week of April 1645, Parliament's Sir Thomas Fairfax entrusted the siege of Sandal to Sir John Savile of Lupset. While the Parliamentary besiegers were at prayer one day in April, the castle garrison attacked them killing 42 men, taking more than 50 prisoners and capturing many weapons. Sir John was so dejected by this reverse that he lifted the siege and joined the main Parliamentary force in Yorkshire then engaged in the siege of Pontefract Castle. The picture is of Sir Thomas Fairfax in Cassell's Illustrated History of England published 1865, which was taken from an authentic portrait.
4/4/1645On 4th April 1645, three companies, consisting of thirty Royalist men each, sallied forth from the castle and attacked the besiegers. The Parliamentary besiegers had converted different houses and barns in the town, and the houses of the aldermen, who had fled to the castle, had been occupied. In this successful sally forth, Alderman Rusby's house and barn were assaulted and one captain and three privates were killed. The rest dispersed and the house and barn were set on fire while sentries near the low church were also attacked and compelled to retreat with the loss of one taken prisoner. Following this, the besiegers drew up their forces and lined the hedges from the park to Denwell with infantry. Their standards were erected at the top of Skinner Lane and the castle garrison, seeing this, directed its cannon against them and beat them down.
4/4/1649Pontefract Castle KeepOn 4th April 1649, days after the surrender of the castle, Parliament issued an order for the castle's immediate demolition. John Harrison was paid £80 (over £14,000 in today's money) to demolish the Round Tower and £34 (£6,000) for demolishing the two skreens from the Gate House to the Round Tower, and thence to the Treasurer Tower. The total of all the disbursements for the demolishing of the castle amounted to £777, 4 shilling, 6 pence (nearly £140,000 in today's money).
5/4/1645On 5th April 1645, a party of horse under the command of Washington and Beale, and forty musketeers, under the command of Captain Smith, attacked the Parliamentary forces besieging the castle. The horses compelled the Parliamentarians to retreat into the town and to double the number of their cavalry and return and renew their attack, supported by 100 musketeers lining the hedges. Though the Parliamentary forces kept up heavy fire, the royalist party stood its ground and captured two butchers coming into the town loaded with meat for the market, thus providing the castle with fresh meat.
5/4/1649Pontefract Castle MapOn 5th April 1649, the demolition of Pontefract Castle began. The demolition was undertaken in an orderly manner. First, was the pulling down of the Round Tower, then the Barbican wall and the levelling of Neville's Mount. Attention was then turned to the Queen's Tower and the King's Tower; then went the curtain walls, the chapel, the great hall, the remaining towers in succession. John Harrison having made good progress with the Round Tower, received a further commission to destroy the two screen walls next to the Round Tower leading down by the existing steps to the Gate House. Several contractors were employed, and the amounts paid to them varied. John Harrison had £80 10s. for demolishing the Round Tower; and £34 for demolishing the two screens from the Gate House to the Round Tower; Thomas Thurston; £10 for levelling Neville's Mount; Thomas Tayler; £35 2s. 6d. for taking down the timber in the Constable Tower and the Chapel; Simon Procter received; £104 5s. 6d. for demolishing the King's and Queen's Towers; Edward Handson had £1 10s for taking down a screen and George Rennard got 10s for pulling crooks out of the walls. The various materials were all sold. The lead produced £154 7s. 2d.; the wood £201 7s. 10d.; the iron £37 2s. 4d.; the glass £1; in all, £1779 17s. 4d. (£320,000 today). Out of this the commissioners paid £777 4s. 6d. for demolition; they handed over, £1,000 to the Mayor and Corporation for the purposes specified in the petition (St. Giles's Church was repaired and beautified out of this money, which also provided a new vicarage), and they gave the balance of £2 12s. 10d to the Government. However, there is no doubt that the ''place of public worship" referred to in the town's petition of March 1649, was the old parish church of All Saints, which had been damaged during the sieges, when it was held as an outwork by the garrison and subjected to constant bombardment by the besiegers. But nothing of the thousand pounds appears to have been spent on the ruined building, and though about 1660, a considerable sum was collected in Yorkshire for its repair, no repair was ever made, and, with the exception of the transepts, restored in 1831, the church remains as it was left at the end of the Civil War.
6/4/1645On 6th April 1645, the Royalist garrison, having attended divine service on Easter Sunday, was ordered to arms (Nathan Drake, a contemporary chronicler of the siege, must have used the Julian calendar as in the Gregorian system Easter Sunday would have been 16th April). Strong parties were sent in different directions to make a combined and general attack on the enemy's positions. Captains Washington and Beale commanded the horse attended by fifty musketeers under Captain Munroe. Captain Flood commanded another body of fifty musketeers. To each of these bodies were added twenty-five men, volunteers who served under the four colonels within the castle. The first party sallied forth out of Swillington Tower, up Northgate and made a long and desperate attack upon the enemy's positions which were bravely defended. The other party went out of the lower gate to the Low Church and, having dispersed the guards, it turned up the south side of the town by the Halfpenny House to the enemy's trenches where an attack was made. While these parties were engaged with the enemy they were partly protected and assisted by the fire of their friends in the castle. The principal loss fell to the besiegers, having 130 killed besides the wounded. The besieged had only two men killed and two wounded and took one prisoner, a quantity of muskets and swords and one drum. On the same evening, a party of 100 men sallied forth up Northgate and thence into the market place where they kept up a severe fire, blowing up about twenty men, many of whom were killed and the rest so badly burned that there was little chance of recovery.
7/4/1645On 7th April 1645, the Royalist garrison made another sally to Baghill where it killed one man and took another prisoner plus two horses. The musketeers from the castle protected them and by a vigorous fire killed eight or ten men in the trenches. The following day, the garrison repeated the attack against the Parliamentary works at Baghill, but on the whole were unsuccessful. The besiegers, having reinforced their numbers, compelled the party from the castle to retreat, which they did without loss. Lieutenant Moore was wounded by a shot in the arm. At this time, a body of troops, under the command of Sir John Savile, which had been at Sandal Castle, came to strengthen the besiegers. They were principally stationed at the New Hall and during the remaining part of the siege suffered a great deal from the sallies and the fire of the garrison.
9/4/1617On 9th April 1617, King James I, on his progress to Scotland, rested at Pontefract for two nights at the New Hall, a mansion of Edward, Earl of Shrewsbury. During his stay, he inspected the College of St Clement recently established in the castle, for a Dean and three Prebendaries.
10/4/1645The besieged Royalists at the castle continued their attacks on the besieging forces on the 10th April 1645. About twenty Parliamentarians were killed during the day and in the night the cannon was discharged twice, loaded with grape shot, into the trenches at Baghill where the cries of the besiegers indicated the slaughter inflicted. While standing near the gate of the of the Barbican, Alderman Thomas Wilkinson was killed by a Parliamentarian shot from Baghill.
13/4/1645On 13th April 1645, Parliamentary forces besieging the castle  were observed to have drawn up three or four troops of horse as if they intended to form a body for some important enterprise. In spite of heavy losses, it seems that the besiegers were steadily increasing their strength through reinforcements. Shots were fired killing two men and wounding four others. The besieged were endeavouring to protect their cattle, which they sent out to graze in the adjoining meadows, by firing from the towers while the besiegers shot at the cattle compelling them to be driven back into the castle again for security. The cattle would be a means of fresh meat and milk for the Royalists and so the longer they were kept alive the better. A party of Parliamentarians attacked Swillington Tower but  heavy fire of musketry from the tower compelled it to retreat and  the cattle were secured.
14/4/1645On 14th April 1645, three wagonloads of ammunition were brought to further strengthen the position of the Parliamentary besiegers. At the time, the Treaty of Uxbridge between King and Parliament had failed and it was believed that it was Charles' intention to raise the siege at Chester and to detach a part of his forces to recover his authority in Yorkshire. An army of 3,000 Scots lay at Leeds, thirteen miles away, and a general engagement was expected in this part of the country between the Parliamentary forces and the Royalists under the command of Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I. Parliament had made an alliance with the Scottish covenanters, having accepted the Solemn League and Covenant towards the end of 1643. It was accepted that the Scots at Leeds were prepared to join the other Parliamentary forces, drawn from Knaresborough, York, Cawood, Selby and Pontefract. Also on the 14 April, a party of twenty musketeers without any formal commander, except one of their companions William Wether, attacked a barricade, which the besiegers had erected near the New Hall: driving the men away. The attack began to demolish the structure and continued until the the enemy's cavalry were seen ready to charge. The party retreated to the castle without loss. The same night, William Wether, with six of his companions, fell on the enemy's trenches near Broad Lane end and killed three men and an officer in a black coat and buff scarf, supposed to be Colonel Eden. They dispersed the rest and returned safely to the castle.
15/4/1645On 15th April 1645, various attacks were made by the garrison but without much loss to the Parliamentary besiegers. On this day, the Royalist garrison suffered the loss  of Colonel Tindall, Lieutenant Colonel Middleton and other officers as well as many soldiers of lesser rank.
16/4/1645A vigorous and successful sally was made on the 16th April 1645. Two parties of fifty Royalist musketeers went out; one, under Captain Hemsworth, went out of the lower gate to the trenches near Alderman Lunn's house and the other under Captain Munroe went from Swillington Tower up Northgate to the enemy's upper trenches. Fifty volunteers drawn from four divisions assisted these. A party of horse under Captain Beale and Cornet Speight (a cornet was the lowest commissioned officer in a cavalry regiment) was stationed near Baghill to prevent the horse of the Parliamentarians giving any assistance to their infantry during the attack. The two parties assaulted their enemy's trenches and compelled them to retreat to another trench near the bridge. The loss to the besiegers was about fifty men killed, wounded or taken and the next day the Parliamentarians were seen to carry away seven wagons loaded with wounded men.
18/4/1645Scots and English armies embraceOn 18th April 1645, Parliamentarian reinforcements of 600 Scottish troops, under the command of Colonel Montgomery, arrived at Pontefract Castle to assist with the ongoing siege. The garrison kept up heavy fire from the castle; several were killed including Captain Hamilton and several officers. The day was market day and the besiegers drew out a considerable body of cavalry and musketeers on Baghill to protect the butchers and others coming into the town and also to prevent the garrison obtaining a supply of fresh provisions. The  besieged Royalists, however, by  well-directed fire from the towers dispersed these men who quit their station The same day, a party of Scots from Monkhill was unsuccessful in driving away a party of musketeers sent from the castle to protect the grazing cattle. The besieged discovered about forty oxen and cows belonging to the enemy, grazing in the fields. A body of men under Captain Beale and Cornet Speight and another infantry under Majors Bland and Dinnis sallied forth, seizing all the cattle and returning to the castle without any loss. The picture is of unknown source but was published in The Story Of Scotland, First Press and Scottish Daily Record Group, 1999-2000.
19/4/1603On 19th April 1603, according to the historian Richard Holmes in his book 'Pontefract: its Name, its Lords, its Castles', King James I, on his journey from Edinburgh to London to claim his throne, came to Pontefract. The castle was included in jointure property (reverting to a wife after her husband's death) of his wife, Anne of Denmark.' Anne, unfortunately, did not survive James. Holmes remarks: 'As was the case in other places where he stayed, the dirty habits of his followers seem to have brought upon the town a visitation of the plague, which broke out on September 2nd 1603, as is marked by an entry in the church books "Plague begonne" . The plague gradually increased in virulence during September (10 deaths/vs 11 in same month the previous year), raged violently during October (57/11), November (67/7) and December (32/8), then somewhat abating in January (18/7) and February (10/6) and nearly died out in March (13/9).' 
19/4/1645On 19th April 1645, the besieged Royalists set fire to the lower side of Monkhill and at three different times compelled the Parliamentarians to retreat from their positions.
20/4/1645On Sunday 20th April, the Scots supporting the besieging Parliamentary forces set fire to the upper part of Monkhill and began entrenchments from Bondgate Mill towards their barricades at Cherry Orchard Head and from thence raised several strong works to the top of Monkhill. The besieged, in order to annoy the enemy on Baghill, began to raise a mount within the Barbican which became known as Neville's Mount. On this they intended to plant the only large cannon they possessed. The besiegers, seeing this structure, continued a steady fire against the men but the work continued and was completed without suffering any damage on this and the following day. The besieged fired several cannon on this day, one of which shot through the Parliamentary barricade behind the School House where it was supposed to have done much damage. By mistake, the Scots took a party of their own men to be Royalists and fired upon them, killing a major before realising their mistake.
22/4/1645On 22nd April, the Scottish troops aiding the Parliamentarians marched away through the Park and were replaced by troops commanded by Sir John Savile. From this time, the besiegers regularly brought up parties to Baghill putting them behind hedges and in trenches. Keeping a constant watch on the garrison they poured in their shot and opened fire at every available opportunity, which the besieged in like manner returned. In these attacks, lives were lost on both sides but it does not appear that the besieged  Royalists were ever able to sally beyond the enemy's positions as from this time they were completely surrounded.
25/4/1645In late April 1645, on receiving information that the King had raised the siege at Chester and obtained some advantage over his enemies, the besieged Royalists began to hope that they would  be speedily relieved. What bolstered this hope was the information from a woman who had been taken to William Wether. She said that the besiegers would remain only two or three more days before the castle and that the troops of Parliament would be collected together to watch the approach of the royal army. It seems unlikely that a woman would have information on the plans of the besiegers but the besieged were eager to believe her and had high hopes that the siege of Pontefract Castle would be raised in the near future. This information was true as regards Chester but the conclusions drawn from it were never realised and the besiegers continued to surround the castle.
26/4/1645The Parliamentary besiegers received a reinforcement of 150 men on 26th April 1645. They came by way of Ferrybridge to the New Hall where they kept up a strong guard. During the night, they sent 100 men from the upper town to Baghill where they 'threw up' a trench. While the besiegers were employed in preparing for their own security, the besieged sallied forth in large parties to prevent them. About sixty men, commanded by Captain Smith and Lieutenant Savile, sallied forth out of Swillington Tower, up Northgate where they greatly alarmed the Parliamentarians who took to arms, both in the town and through all their trenches. A brisk fire was kept up on both sides for half an hour and the besieged retreated without any loss. At the same time, another party sallied out of the east gate and drove the besiegers from their sentries to their works near the New Hall. The besiegers carried on their works on Baghill and kept a hundred musketeers stationed there; they were regularly relieved by the same number from the upper town. The fire of the besiegers was so vigorous and constant that the besieged were closely confined. They could not send their cattle to graze without extreme danger. The garrison now began to suffer and fresh meat was a luxury. Some of the besieged seeing three hogs, which had strayed from Broad Lane, rushed out of the garrison and drove them into the castle. Men were willing to risk their own lives to gain a little fresh meat. During the night, the Parliamentarians worked in completing the trenches. A hundred men were replaced by a hundred and fifty from the town the following morning and they continued with the same work the whole of the day.
27/4/1645On 27th April 1645, a party of the Parliamentary besiegers horse assembled about noon and marched through the Park to Ferrybridge. On seeing this, a party of brave men led by a soldier called Lowder rushed out of the castle without a formal commander and assaulted the Parliamentary troops  under the command of Sir John Savile. Having killed or wounded as many of the enemy as equalled their own number of men they retreated safely back to the castle.
28/4/1645During the night of 28th April 1645, the Parliamentary besiegers employed at least 300 men on their entrenchments at Baghill. The next morning, the Royalist garrison, hoping to keep some of their cattle alive, put them out to graze but were compelled to drive them back in with the loss of one cow and two horses. The governor of the castle hearing nothing satisfactory of the King's affairs, and seeing the increasing force of the enemy, decided to send four of his officers to Newark to inform his majesty of the state of the garrison and to obtain, if possible, some relief.
29/4/1645During the night of 29th April 1645, four  Royalist officers departed from the castle, accompanied by twenty musketeers, and attacked the enemy up Northgate while their friends pushed forward and cleared the lines.
30/4/1645On 30th April 1645, the Parliamentary besiegers relieved the guard at Baghill with at least 150 men and through the day a heavy fire was kept up on both sides. The besieged Royalists had one horse killed in the Barbican and the enemy had several men killed and wounded by the musketry from the Round Tower. During the night, the besiegers burnt two houses; one at Monkhill and a smaller one by the castle walls.
30/4/1646On 30th April 1646, it was resolved by the House of Commons that Royalist Sandal Castle should be made untenable as a military garrison having being besieged three times in 1645 by Parliamentary forces.
1/5/1645Civil War cannon ballOn 1st May 1645, the Parliamentary besiegers, having  relieved their guard at Baghill,  began to erect a strong triangular work which they walled with stone and filled with earth. The besieged Royalists planted their cannon against this work and, by well-directed shot, greatly annoyed the Parliamentarians. Several sallies were made by small parties against the besiegers at Monkhill and the troops of Sir John Savile were driven from their positions several times during the day, with the loss of some killed and more wounded. In the afternoon, three of the garrison (without orders) sallied forth against the Parliamentarians and continued their assault until the enemy began to retaliate and they retreated. One of them, Nathaniel Sutton, a barber, was shot dead, another received a fracture to the skull but recovered and a ball entered the doublet of a third who had stooped to avoid the fire of the enemy. The photo below is of a 3kg cannon ball fired from a medium sized cannon used during the Civil War.
2/5/1645On 2nd May 1645, at night, the Parliamentary  besiegers cut down branches of trees and made blinds at the end of their works on Baghill, where they placed a long drake (small piece of artillery) belonging to Sir John Savile's troops. The following morning, they opened fire upon the castle but having fired eight times the drake was moved again. The besiegers had twenty men, either killed or wounded; the besieged Royalists had one man killed and one of their oxen shot by the enemy but they managed to retrieve it.
3/5/1645On 3rd May 1645, there was firing on both sides. The Parliamentary besiegers kept close in their trenches and the besieged in the castle. A deserter fled into the castle  the following day and gave the besieged Royalists information as to the state and numbers of the enemy. A number of Royalists who had been taken prisoners at Newark and brought to Pontefract were exchanged for an equal number of Parliamentarians who had been kept as prisoners in Pontefract Castle.
5/5/1645On 5th May 1645, and the following days there was little firing on both the Royalist and Parliamentarian sides. There were not more than thirty or forty Parliamentarians on guard at Baghill.
9/5/1645On 9th May 1645, each party recommenced fire. The besieged Royalists shot an officer and one soldier at the works at the top of Broad Lane. About four o'clock, the besieging Parliamentarians set fire to several houses and barns in different parts of the town.
10/5/1645Swillington Tower, Pontefract CastleOn 10th May 1645, the besieging Parliamentarians made a new work on Monkhill. The work was in the form of a half moon or crescent shape and afforded protection to the besiegers but constantly annoyed the besieged Royalists. If they made a sally up Northgate, they were exposed to the fire from the Parliamentary forces from Monkhill. The following day, a strong fire was kept up on both sides. The besieged observed the enemy send three or four wagons loaded with goods in the direction of Ferrybridge. This led them to believe the besiegers were getting ready to depart. Strengthening their belief was the sight of sheep and cattle being driven along the same road the following day. It was found afterwards that the wagons and animals were being sent to York to supply the troops there. The besiegers received on the same day a reinforcement of a troop of horse from Doncaster, which joined the main guard at the New Hall.
15/5/1645At midnight on 15th May 1645, William Wether, who had been sent to Newark seven days before, returned and brought letters back to the castle  from His Majesty containing joyful news to the besieged Royalists. Boothroyd is of the opinion that the letters had reference to the fact that the king now had a respectable army and was pushing forward into the southern counties where it was believed he would possess a distinct superiority.
16/5/1645Pikeman's HelmetThe good news of the king's impending 'superior' forces seems to have inspired the  Royalist garrison with fresh courage for on 16th May 1645 a vigorous sally was made to Monkhill and the Parliamentarians were driven from their works to their main guard at the New Hall. Another party attacked the works below the church and, seeing the enemy draw about thirty men from the barn, commenced a brisk fire upon them. The party from the castle retired to a dense orchard close by, returning the fire for half an hour and then retreating to the castle. In the night, another party went from the castle intending to destroy a new works at the bottom of the abbey close. However, the Parliamentary besiegers had received information about their intentions and had lined the hedge with infantry. From the moment the party sallied out of the garrison they were met by brisk fire, which they returned for some time and then retreated to the castle with two of their men wounded. It was believed that a woman going out of the castle had passed the information to the besiegers.
17/5/1645A report, issued on this day in 1645, said the number of Parliamentarian troops besieging Pontefract Castle now numbered 8000 men.
18/5/1645On Sunday 18th May 1645, after prayers and sermon all men in the Royalist garrison were ordered to arms. Major Warde was ordered to stand on Neville's Mount to see that no one gave any type of signal from the towers informing the besiegers of the proceedings in the castle. Meanwhile, Captain Smith with thirty men went out of the castle, up Denwell Lane to the outskirts of the back of Monkhill. They beat the enemy from there and cleared the trenches as far as the lowest works. Captain Flood and Ensign Killingbeck charged up to the top of Monkhill where they fired the houses and demolished the works of the enemy, being joined by Captain Smith and his men. Another party under Captain Munroe, consisting of seventy men, sallied out to the lowest works of the enemy and beat them from there. They next proceeded towards Monkhill, after having killed some of the enemy, and joined the other parties at Cherry Orchard Head near the New Hall. Lieutenant Gilbreth and seventy men were stationed at the Low Church and Major Warde and forty men lined the walls in the low barbican. These men were prepared to assist their friends in case the besiegers from the town and Baghill made an attack. The different parties succeeded in every direction and drove the enemy from all their trenches over St. Thomas' Hill towards Ferrybridge. In this attack, the Parliamentarians lost about sixty men and as many wounded. By their return to the castle, the party had seized the hats and arms of those they had slain. They rifled their pockets and brought to the castle a quantity of swords, muskets, halberts, drums, saddles, spades etc. and in every trench was found a bag of powder and some match left by those who had fled. Although about sixty men were killed and the same number wounded on the side of the besiegers, there was only one dead and one taken prisoner on the side of the besieged. That night, the besiegers were observed to send two wagon loads of wounded men to Ferrybridge. The besiegers had their losses soon repaired by the arrival of considerable reinforcements both of foot and horse.
18/5/1648Royalist Colonel John Morris (he served on both sides during the Civil War)  made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the castle by means of a scaling ladder on 18th May 1648. This 'reckless' endeavour failed, however, as Morris's confederate, Corporal Floyd, had not, as promised, put a friendly guard on duty. The castle governor, Cotterell, subsequently pulled in those of the garrison who were sleeping in the town, and issued warrants for beds for a hundred men. Morris and Captain William Paulden then came up with a plan to disguise themselves and eight other soldiers as bed delivery-men and gain access and control of the castle . It worked and the castle guard were shut in the dungeon on 3rd June. The only casualty was a wounded Governor Cotterell. A force of 300 men quickly garrisoned the castle.
21/5/1645The 21st May 1645 remained quiet until the afternoon. A party from the Royalist garrison was fired upon whilst collecting wood and had to retreat. Five hundred men marching to the New Hall from the Park with drums beating and colours flying relieved Sir John Savile's Parliamentary troops.
22/5/1645The governor of the castle received letters on 22nd May 1645 conveying information that a royal army was advancing for the relief of the Pontefract Castle. The same night a man arrived from Sandal Castle confirming this information.
24/5/1645Pontefract All Saints ChurchOn 24th May 1645, a  Parliamentary gun battery opened up against the Castle keep. Colonel General Poyntz took command of the attack and in a few days the church tower of the neighbouring All Saints Church was battered down and the post abandoned. At three o'clock in the morning the besiegers commenced fire against the Round Tower, this fire continued for most of the day. The besieged Royalists were in suspense not knowing whether the enemy were preparing to take the castle by storm before the army of the king came to their assistance. However they resolved to defend the castle as long as possible and to surrender it only with their lives. The besiegers received letters the same day stating that the army of the King consisting of 15,000 men was divided and that half, under Prince Maurice, was marching to relieve Carlisle and the other half was coming to relieve Pontefract. The enemy continued their fire all night and the next morning blasted in whole volleys of shot from every quarter against the castle and cried “a Cromwell, a Cromwell" They had received information that Cromwell was marching to the King's rear and so the hopes of both parties were alternately encouraged and depressed. The great gun in the castle was removed from the mount before the gates and placed on the platform where it discharged against the sentry house near Alderman Rusby's. The shot struck the house with great force and forty to sixty men ran out. A drake  (small artillery piece) was placed by the besieged on Swillington Tower and played against the enemy's guard at Paradise Orchard. Also on this day, a man called Will Tubb and a boy, along with others, went out of the castle to cut grass for the cattle and ventured too near the enemy. The boy was wounded with a ball and the man was taken prisoner. The enemy seeing that he was a simple man gave him ale until he was nearly drunk and then tried to obtain from him an account of the numbers at the garrison, the quantity of their ammunition, provisions etc. Tubb either gave an exaggerated account or evaded the questions and as the enemy were taking him to the guardhouse at the New Hall he slipped away and got back to the castle.
27/5/1645The besieged Royalists played their cannon against the enemy on 27th May 1645 and on the same night, about twelve o'clock, Lieutenant Wheatley arrived. He had been sent with Captain Worthington a few days before, to Sandal Castle. He had brought with him forty or fifty horses and on the way had taken two enemy scouts prisoners. They had also met with one hundred and twenty or thirty head of cattle, which they had driven before them. They had to get them into the castle which was no easy task because of the Parliamentarians' strong works and guards with which the castle was surrounded. Captain Wheatley had left the cattle at some distance while he went on to the castle and it was agreed that the cattle should be brought from the Chequer Field by way of Carleton and on to the public road to Baghill, and that when he came near he would cry out“ a prince! A prince! To arms! To arms!” All was ready in the castle an hour before the cattle arrived. On arrival of the cattle, a cannon was played against the besiegers' works and different parties sallied out aid in bringing in the cattle. The different parties reached their stations and fully succeeded in checking the Parliamentary forces. Captain Joshua Walker with about twenty men went to Baghill to collect the cattle. Anxious to place the cattle in safety and before the Parliamentarians could  collect together in large numbers to prevent this, they drove the cattle down the hill with such force that they lost thirty or forty into the hands of the besiegers. However, the garrison managed to get ninety-seven cattle safely into the castle. Once the cattle were in the castle, the drums beat a retreat and all the different parties of the garrison returned without loss of life and only one man wounded. The besieged Royalists now gave vent to their joy; they lit bonfires on the tops of all the towers of the castle and commenced a heavy fire against their enemy works in all directions. Heavy fire against the castle was commenced the next day by the besiegers. They told their commander that five hundred men had escorted the cattle into the castle as an excuse for their failure in not stopping the cattle going into the castle.
28/5/1645On 28th May 1645, Overton the commander of the Parliamentary besiegers sent a drum and three women, who were owners of part of the herd of cattle taken by the Royalists, with a letter to Governor Lowther in the castle asking him to either give back the cattle or to pay for them. Governor Lowther replied to Overton "if he could take the castle, he should have the cattle, otherwise he should not have the worst beast brought in, under forty pounds” . In the night, the men who had come from Sandal attempted to return but were unable to get past the besiegers. Also the besiegers had raised a strong barricade across the lane leading to Baghill to prevent the garrison sallying forth in that direction. The garrison was no longer able to send its cattle out to graze without great risks. The governor allowed four pence to each man who cut and brought into the castle a load of grass. One of the garrison was killed while collecting his seventh load. The enemy relieved their guard at New Hall with 300 men from the town. During the night, they erected a new triangular work in the upper closes above Denwell and near to Swillington Tower. This was to check the garrison from sallying forth from that quarter. On the following day, the besieged fired their cannon against the works and forced the Parliamentarians to flee to their trenches. They returned in the night to repair the damage done to their works.
31/5/1645Musket BallsOn 31st May 1645, a woman was unfortunately killed in Pontefract Market Place by a musket ball that was fired from the Round Tower at the castle. A musket ball in the Civil War had a lethal range of 300- 400 yards.
31/5/1668On 31st May 1668, Sir Thomas Beaumont of Whitley Hall, Kirkheaton, died. He had been a commissioned major in the Royalist infantry regiment commanded by Sir William Saville, Deputy Governor of Sheffield until he surrendered the town in August 1644, and wounded at the 1645 siege of Pontefract Castle. On the Restoration of Charles II, he was knighted.
1/6/1645The 1st June 1645 was a joyful day for the garrison. The governor informed it that he had received letters which contained information that Sir Marmaduke Langdale had summoned the enemy at Derby to surrender and that the King and his friends were successful everywhere.
2/6/1645On 2nd June 1645, Royalist Governor Lowther sent a messenger, Mr Massey, into the town to Governor Overton to propose and agree concerning the exchange of prisoners who had been taken at Hull and other places. Overton granted all that was demanded and sent for them at great speed. In the night, the Parliamentarians threw up another work in the closes below Baghill, against the Low Church in the shape of a half moon. They had now formed double lines around the castle and were kept on such constant duty that a spirit of disaffection prevailed and many deserted.
3/6/1645The governor of the castle received letters on 3rd June 1645 conveying information of the king's success at Leicester. An immense booty had fallen into the Royalist hands and the loss of the enemy had been great, many prisoners having been taken. The hopes of the garrison at Pontefract were highly raised at news of this splendid victory.
3/6/1648Pontefract Castle dungeonOn 3rd June 1648, Colonel Morris and Captain Paulden tricked the Parliamentarian guard at Pontefract Castle by posing as delivering mattresses, in which they had hidden weapons. Once inside, they gained control of the castle, imprisoning the Parliamentary defenders and, thereby, leading to the third and final siege. Roger Preston, a gunsmith, not a soldier, was captured with the rest of the Parliamentary Pontefract garrison . There is a letter about him that has survived and is now kept at the British Library in London. The letter is to Parliament's Colonel Thomas Fairfax from Nicholas Walton, the minister of Kirkley. Walton informed Colonel Fairfax that Preston's wife was pregnant and asked Thomas to do his best to arrange Preston's release.
4/6/1645On the night of 4th June 1645, the Parliamentary besiegers began another work at a little distance from the former. It was at the top of Mr Stable's orchard, which may have been behind the houses to the south of the church. This was the 27th work of the besiegers. Also on that night, the besieged Royalists , seeing a fire on Sandal Castle, answered it by another from the Round Tower assuming that the King's forces had obtained another victory.
5/6/1645On 5th June 1645, there was heavy fire on both Royalist and Parliamentarian sides and a boy from the garrison was wounded while cutting grass.
6/6/1645The Parliamentary besiegers received reinforcements on 6th June 1645 from Doncaster. The Royalist garrison discovered four of the enemy stealing iron from a mill under the castle. Three men fled and one was taken prisoner. The prisoner told the garrison that a body of the king's troops had already reached Tuxford and that the troops of Parliament were retreating and would probably assemble in the neighbourhood where a general engagement was expected.
8/6/1645On 8th June 1645, about four hundred Parliamentary horse quartered at Tickhill, Rossington and other places beyond Doncaster, had moved to Pontefract. Some troops of these horse were stationed at Cridling Stubbs and Knottingley and a part went over Methley Bridge towards Leeds.
9/6/1645On 9th June 1645, the besieged Royalists heard the firing of cannon, which they supposed to be near Sheffield, and concluded that their friends were drawing near. The besieging Parliamentarians kept a strong guard at New Hall which they relieved in the evening. At the same time, two horsemen brought letters to Parliament's Governor Overton and a drum reported that the King and his troops had taken Derby.
10/6/1645The Parliamentarians began another work on 10th June 1645 in a close near Baghill, called Moody's Close. This was designed to check the  Royalist garrison and prevent any relief being afforded. They began another work nearer Swillington Tower but the fire of the besieged compelled them to flee to their other works. The besiegers also received a reinforcement of eight troops of horse from Doncaster. These drew up in a body at Carleton, one troop marched to South Hardwick, another came from Darrington and marched into the town and a third came from Ferrybridge and marched into the Park.
11/6/1645Pontefract All Saints ChurchOn 11th June 1645, about two o'clock, all the men in the Royalist castle were ordered to arms by the governor. After receiving their orders, they sallied forth in different directions. Their attack was centred mainly on the work around the church. Captain Joshua Walker and twenty men sallied with the first party into the church where they were to remain for twenty-four hours. They took with them sufficient match powder and ammunition. Entering the steeple they kept up fire against the enemy at every opportunity. All Saints Church (Low Church) was still held by the besieged because no major Parliamentary works separated it from the castle. After Captain Flood had taken the works, a party of the Parliamentary forces came down to reoccupy it, whereupon they were fired on from the steeple, killing twelve men among whom were three officers, and wounded several others. The sally was supported by cannon shots from the castle and the besiegers lost forty men killed, eleven taken prisoner and a considerable number wounded. A quantity of muskets, pikes, powder, match and ammunition were taken into the castle. The siege of Pontefract Castle had now been carried on for several months and there did not appear to be any prospect of it being taken by storm or surrendered by capitulation. The Parliamentary high command was dissatisfied with the commanding officer and the way in which the siege had been conducted. An order came to Lord Fairfax to remove Sands and to appoint Colonel General Poyntz to the command.
12/6/1645General PoyntzOn 12th June 1645, Parliament's  Lord Fairfax and Colonel General Poyntz came from York with a guard of four troops of horse but returned back to York in the evening. The besieged Royalists kept possession of the Low Church, regularly relieving the guard. The next day, Colonel General Poyntz came to Pontefract again and took command. The besieged Royalists, in order to relieve their guards at the Low Church without danger, began a trench from the East gate and continued it down the churchyard. They also made blinds of boughs and sods from the church to Mr Kelham's house to the south of the church. Under cover of this, they cut grass for their cattle bringing in a hundred burdens into the castle. The besiegers relieved their guard at the New Hall the next day with three hundred and twenty men from the town.  Poyntz  would eventually accept the garrison's surrender.
14/6/1645Charles_Landseer_Cromwell_Battle_of_NasebyOn 14th June 1645, at the Battle of Naseby the Royalist forces were defeated. Following this battle, an offer of surrender terms was put to the Royalists at Pontefract Castle but was refused. The garrison continued to receive letters that a Royal army was coming to relieve them.
16/6/1645On 16th June 1645, there was great rejoicing among the besiegers on hearing the news of the Parliamentary victory at the Battle of Naseby. A letter was sent from Parliament's Colonel General Poyntz to Governor Lowther at the garrison  to inform him of this event and to summon him to surrender the castle, whilst there was yet time for mercy. The governor of the castle replied that he neither feared Colonel General Poyntz's forces nor valued his mercy.
17/6/1645On 17th June 1645, the Parliamentary besiegers of the castle enlarged the works, begun on 10th June, which were east of Baghill in the closes, south of the church where they had lost many men. This work was designed to check the Royalist garrison and prevent any relief being afforded. The Royalists had already received information that the king was at Melton Mowbray and intended marching north, and in the space of ten days, if all went well, would relieve the castle of Pontefract. In the afternoon, the besiegers received a considerable body of forces and continued a brisk fire against the castle. The besieged sent Captain Smith with twenty musketeers to relieve their guard in the church.
17/6/1648On 17th June 1648, having taken Pontefract Castle by deceit earlier that month and consigned Parliamentary Governor Cotterell to the makeshift dungeon, Colonel John Morris appointed a Council of War with himself as president, albeit nominally, congenial but ineffective, Sir John Digby, Colonel General, was in charge. Eight Articles of War were agreed and officers were appointed to command infantry and horse soldiers within the castle and in the town itself where Royalist troops were to be garrisoned. The articles ended with a warning: ‘If any officer, gentleman, or soldier be negligent upon any duty…or go from guard without order, he shall forfeit a day’s pay, and be disarmed at the head of the troops, or company wherein he serves, and shall be imprisoned twenty-four hours, and the day’s pay be disposed to his fellow soldiers.’
18/6/1645On 18th June 1645, two letters were received by the besieged Royalist garrison. They were dated the 15th June from Newark  and stated that the king, at the head of his army, was at Melton Mowbray, as mentioned before and that he intended to be at Newark the following Tuesday and then to march forward to the relief of Pontefract. Boothroyd suggests that this might have been a trick by the castle's governor to keep up the spirit of the garrison but some letters must have arrived from Newark because they brought information about the dissension in Parliament and in the City of London.
19/6/1645On 19th June 1645,  Colonel General Poyntz and Colonel Overton, Governor of Pontefract, returned from Doncaster and drew up their Parliamentary forces  in the Marketplace. Captain Washington and Lieutenant Empson went out of the castle to Newark, most probably to obtain correct information and ascertain whether anything could be done for the relief of Pontefract Castle.
20/6/1645Parliament's Colonel General Poyntz called a council of law on 20th June 1645 in the town. In the afternoon, there arrived several loaded wagons at the New Hall in which in one of these there was a cannon. A party of infantry played their cannon without doing any damage. On the following day, Parliamentary forces began to form a platform at Monkhill for the cannon. Efforts by the Royalist garrison in firing at them were unsuccessful for the works they had already raised protected the opposing forces. The following night, the cannon was brought from New Hall and placed against the church. The guard was relieved at the church and a deserter came into the castle and informed the besieged Royalists that the Parliamentary troops, unsuccessful against His Majesty, had since been routed.
22/6/1645Leather CannonOn 22nd June 1645, as soon as the day dawned, Parliamentary forces made a strong attack upon the guard in the Low Church, which they entered with a hundred men. Another party went up the trenches of the besieged Royalists and so to the castle. The guard in the church compelled those who entered to retreat and those in the steeple gave the alarm to the Royalist garrison by ringing the bell. A continuous fire from the steeple and from the East Tower of the castle rendered the attempt of those who had entered the trenches useless and so they retreated to their works, carrying their dead and wounded with them. After some time, the cannon planted at Monkhill, and carrying a ball of eighteen pounds in weight, began to aim against the lantern of the steeple. In about an hour and a half, they aimed thirteen times but did no damage. The besieged Royalists, in order to preserve the church and to protect their guard, played their cannon from King's Tower against the enemy's works at Monkhill and at the fifth discharge dismounted the cannon of the Parliamentary forces. The remainder of the day was spent by the Parliamentarians remounting their cannon and throwing up works for its security. In the afternoon, the besieging Parliamentarians relieved all their guards and in the evening the besiegers conversed freely with the besieged and informed them of Cromwell's success and the almost final destruction of the forces belonging to His Majesty. The besiegedRoyalists considered this information as designed to induce them to surrender and still hoped that they should soon be relieved.
23/6/1643On 23rd June 1643, Queen Henrietta, wife of Charles I, left Pontefract Castle having landed at Bridlington with troops and arms on her return from Europe raising money for the Royalist cause. She met her husband at Kineton, near Edgehill, on her way to Oxford. Henrietta was the last royal figure to be entertained at the castle.
23/6/1645On 23rd June 1645, the besieging Parliamentary forces played their cannon against the church as early as 2 o'clock in the morning and continued fire against the lantern of the steeple until 6 o'clock, when a breach was made and a part of it fell down. Fire was discontinued until the afternoon when the steeple was so badly damaged that the besieged Royalists considered it no longer tenable. However, they sent twenty musketeers to relieve the guard but only two or three men were allowed in the church; the rest were ordered to occupy the houses around the church. The Royalists concluded that their opponents would make an attempt in the night to gain possession of the church and had loaded their cannon with grapeshot. As expected, at one o'clock, the enemy made an attack on the churc;, the besieged fired upon them and the enemy were forced to retreat to their works.
24/6/1645Few shots were fired on 24th June 1645 until the evening when the different guards were relieved. It was expected that the besiegers (Parliament) would make another attack in the night and the governor ordered Lieutenant Otway and two files of musketeers, who had been sent down to relieve the guard, to return to the castle at the beating of the tattoo. The Parliamentarians, as was expected, entered the church and the lower part of the town at about one o'clock. Finding nobody to resist them, they remained in possession. They were greatly annoyed by fire from the garrison and the besieged Royalists played their cannon from the King's Tower against the steeple of the church and fired five shots from the garden into the body of the church. It appears that the body of the church was damaged and the interior wholly destroyed.
26/6/1645The besieged Royalist garrison suffered the loss of Sir Jarvis Cutler, who died from a fever. The Parliamentarians would not let fresh provisions to be brought to him from the town and his wife was allowed to visit him only once, bringing a chicken and a joint of meat. When dead, he was not allowed by the enemy to be buried in the church or among his ancestors. On 26th June 1645, he was buried in the chapel in the castle and after the funeral his wife was not permitted to leave the castle. The besieged began to suffer severely from lack of fresh provisions and desertions became frequent. In the night of 26th June, a man, named Metcalf, deserted and informed General Poyntz that the surgeon who attended the wounded in the castle, communicated information to the garrison and supplied them with tobacco and other articles, in consequence of which the man was imprisoned.
27/6/1645On 27th June 1645, the besieging Parliamentary forces had a day of thanksgiving for the late success and victory over the king at the Battle of Naseby. They then fired volleys and played their cannon on the besieged Royalists.
28/6/1645On 28th June 1645, news was received by the castle garrison of a Royalist success at Newark. On this day, permission was given to Lady Cutler to leave the castle, after being trapped there attending the funeral of her husband, Sir Jarvis Cutler. However, the besieging Parliamentary forces seized her and  along with her maid, chaplain, and accompanying  tenant they were searched to see if they were carrying any letters. She was kept till the following day when she returned to the castle. Here she was refused admission and remained in the street until 10 o'clock with her maid and chaplain. They were then permitted to go into the town where they remained until the next day and then departed.
30/6/1645On 30th June 1645, the besieging Parliamentary forces had a general rendezvous on Brotherton Marsh of all their horse in the area, which amounted to a thousand. They departed then in companies to different villages. The besiegers relieved their guard at New Hall with at least 600 men and different bodies of infantry moving in all directions. This led to the governor of the castle to conclude that the enemy seriously intended to assault the castle and he gave orders that the guard should be doubled and strict watch kept.
1/7/1645On 1st July 1645,  the besieged Royalist garrison saw the Parliamentarians  carrying faggots and scaling ladders down to the church which raised their suspicion of an intended assault. The guards were then doubled and at about 12 o'clock most of the troops were under arms, ready to receive any attack made by the Parliamentary forces. However the opposition remained in their works during the night. The number and strength of the besiegers rendered any sally by the garrison more dangerous to themselves than to the Parliamentary forces and from this period the besieged made no sallies against the enemy's works. On the other hand,  Parliament's Colonel  General Poyntz did not wish to expose his men to danger and so each party watched the other rather than carry on any vigorous enterprises.
2/7/1644Battle_of_Marston_Moor,_1644On 2nd July 1644, Cromwell was victorious at the Battle of Marston Moor at Tockwith, near York. Some of the Royalist survivors escaped the battlefield and took refuge at Pontefract Castle where they joined the garrison under the command of Sir Richard Lowther.
3/7/1645On 3rd and 4th July 1645, and at different times, a brisk fire of musketry was maintained on both Parliamentary and Royalist sides. Towards evening, the  Parliamentary forces' horse, which had been drawn up in the West Field for most of the day, began to depart to their quarters. However a considerable body remained all night and kept up considerable fire.
8/7/1645On 8th July 1645, Parliament's  Colonel General Poyntz went down to the Barbican and asked to speak to the governor of the garrison. The governor's son said his father was not there. General Poyntz demanded the surrender of the castle and said that if they did this within three days they would obtain honourable terms. If they delayed eleven or fourteen days, they might expect nothing but to walk with a white rod in their hands as soldiers did in the Low Countries. The governor's son replied 'that the castle be kept for the King and that if they stayed 14 days and 14 after that, there were as many gentleman in the castle as would make many a bloody head before they parted with it'. Soon after this, General Poyntz said goodnight and went away.
9/7/1645On 9th July 1645, the besieging Parliamentary forces began a fence from their works opposite Swillington Tower, along the hedge to Denwell Lane and from this position they greatly annoyed anyone coming from the castle to cut grass.
10/7/1645On 10th July 1645, the besieged Royalist garrison received an account of the engagement between Sir Thomas Fairfax and General Goring, when it was said that Goring routed Sir Thomas and that Taunton was taken. A drum came from Newark to know whether the castle had surrendered as the Parliamentary forces had spread the rumour that Pontefract Castle had yielded to them. The drum had been kept a prisoner overnight in the house of a Mrs Washington whose husband was in the castle. The drum and Mrs Washington went to the castle where the message was passed on and Mrs Washington, while pretending to shake hands with an acquaintance, gave him two letters. These letters named the day and hour when Sir Marmaduke Langdale intended to come to the garrison's relief and confirmed the account of Goring's victory over Sir Thomas Fairfax. Thus the garrison was encouraged and still continued to annoy the Parliamentary forces as much as possible.
11/7/1656On 11th July 1656, Mary Fisher of Pontefract, and another preacher, Ann Austin, were the first Quakers to visit the English North American colonies arriving in Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Colony on board the Swallow. Having already converted the island of Barbados’s Lieutenant Governor to Quakerism, their reception by the New England Puritans was decidedly more hostile and they were imprisoned for five weeks, undressed in public and examined for signs of witchcraft with their books and pamphlets burned, then deported back to Barbados. A 1658 mission ‘testifying to the Universal Light’ (her words) to the Ottoman Empire to explain Quakerism to Sultan Mehmed IV was received attentively and ‘he was very noble unto me and so were all that were about him’.
12/7/1645On 12th July 1645, Royalist troops received a letter that Sir Marmaduke Langdale had set off with his own forces and 4,000 Irish to raise the siege of Pontefract Castle. The letter was designed to raise spirits and produced the effect intended and the castle agreed to suffer any privations rather than submit to disgraceful terms. If relief did not come, they would consume all food in the castle, set it on fire and either cut their way out through the enemy or nobly fall. After this, two flags of defiance were flown, one from the King's Tower and one from the Round Tower.
13/7/1645On 13th July 1645, letters were received from Sandal Castle, which gave news of Marmaduke Langdale's approach. The Parliamentary forces had raised some fortifications near Ferrybridge, on Brotherton Marsh and some cannon were taken there to secure the pass. The Parliamentary forces  had an alarm in the night and both horse and foot remained under arms till morning. About four o'clock, they were seen in the West Field drawn up as though ready for an attack. This was the direction in which Langdale had come before to relieve the castle and it was hoped that he was approaching. At this time, the plague prevailed in the town and, as a result of this, Parliament's  General Poyntz withdrew his troops from the town and formed a camp in the West Field, where the general himself henceforth always slept. News that the Skipton horse had pushed through Wakefield and by Sandal in order to join Sir Marmaduke Langdale gave alarm to the Parliamentary forces.
15/7/1645On 15th July 1645, rumours of impending relief reached the Royalist castle and some of the garrison ventured into the orchard obtaining a considerable supply of apples. Two were killed and others wounded on this venture. In the afternoon, a drum was sent to the castle saying that General Goring and Langdale were routed, and that Cromwell, Fairfax and Rossiter were coming to the besiegers' assistance. The last hope of the garrison was now destroyed and they found themselves surrounded by enemies it was impossible to vanquish.
16/7/1645

On 16th July 1645,  Parliament's Colonel General Poyntz sent a letter to the governor of the castle, again summoning him to surrender the castle, and that if he did he might gain honourable terms. The honourable terms were to this effect “That whereas they had heretofore sent to summons the castle which was still rejected, but now taking into consideration the great care and love so many gentlemen soldiers in the castle, and the misery they lived in, the effusion of so much innocent blood which was likely to be made, and many a sackless man in it, they thought once more to summons them, and give them to understand that if they pleased to come to a treaty about surrendering the same they would treat them upon honourable terms with conditions fitting for such a garrison and would give hostages for the same" To this, the governor replied “That it was a matter of too great consequence to treat or give answer at first but he would confer with the knights and the gentlemen of the castle and return an answer as speedily as possible”

17/7/1645On 17th July 1645, Royalist Colonel Lowther sent a letter to Colonel General Poyntz that they were ready to discuss surrender as soon as the place and time was appointed. The besieging Parliamentary forces decided to take their time about discussions as they heard from a garrison captain that the castle had provisions for only 5 days or slightly more. The besiegers intended to starve out the garrison, then to strip the soldiers and pillage the castle.
19/7/1645On 19th July 1645,  Parliament's Colonel  General Poyntz, Colonel Overton and nine officers came to the Barbican Gate and the committee from the castle (including Sir Richard Hutton, Sir Thomas Bland and Sir John Ramsden) went with them to a tent located at a close under Baghill, a little above Broad Lane End. At length, the committee of the besieged Royalist garrison  declared that they were determined to fight it out rose and departed. The besieging Parliamentary forces hoped that an adjustment would be made the next day.
20/7/1645On 20th July 1645, the Royalists and Parliamentarians met and a treaty was made and signed for the surrender of Pontefract Castle. The siege had lasted nearly five months and the besieged Royalists had shown great courage. The treaty stated that 'the castle is to be delivered up to the parliament tomorrow at 8 o'clock with everything therein, save that the officers are allowed to carry away what is properly their own, so that it exceeds not what a cloak bag will contain, and the garrison are to march to Newark'. Thus ended the second siege of Pontefract Castle during which the Parliamentarians lost 469 soldiers whilst the besieged lost 99 persons. The local gentry who had assisted in the defence of the castle obtained permission to return to their homes, but continued to be closely watched by the Parliamentarians and were all heavily fined for their obstinate adherence to the Royalist cause.
21/7/1627On 21st July 1627, John Savile was created 1st Baron Savile of Pontefract. He had been MP for Lincoln, Sheriff of Lincolnshire, Knight of the Shire for Yorkshire, custos rotulorum of the West Riding of Yorkshire (principal justice of the peace in an English county), Privy Councillor, Comptroller of The Household and receiver of the revenues from recusants in the north. He had a long-standing feud with Thomas Wentworth (later Earl of Strafford) which included a famous dispute in Parliament. Savile built Howley Hall in Batley (he was buried in Batley Church in September 1630) and tradition says that Rubens stayed there and painted a view of Pontefract for him.
22/7/1679On 22nd July 1679, after the passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662) against popish recusants intent on re-establishing Roman Catholicism and conspiring against the life of Charles II, an affidavit was presented to the Sessions at Pontefract: ‘As for Mr Thomas Hippon and Alis Hippon, they become bound before Mr Whyte to appear at this Session, as popish recusants. As for Mr John Hippon, Margaret Thimbleby and Alis the wife of John Spinke, they are non est Inuentus’ i.e. not yet found in this jurisdiction.
24/7/1645Thomas Fairfax On 24th July 1645, there was the first mention of Pontefract Castle in the Journals of the House of Commons when Colonel General Poyntz's letter was read announcing its capture. A debate followed, concluding with Sir Thomas Fairfax being ordered by the House to be made military governor.
28/7/1645On 28th July 1645, Pontefract was mentioned in Parliament when papers and letters taken at the castle were referred to the Committee for the King's Cabinet letters.
10/8/1618On 10th August 1618, Ben Jonson, poet and dramatist, visited Pontefract on his accompanied walk from London to Edinburgh. After feasting on venison with the Pontefract Aldermen, on walking home, he was mobbed by ‘dancing giants’ (this may have been arranged to welcome Johnson though it may just have been that his arrival coincided with feast day of St Lawrence) . Processional giants, built on wicker frames and covered with cloth were sometimes carried in medieval English towns and cities in midsummer festivities and often represented religious figures. It is suggested that these giants were stored at the castle. Over four hundred years later, in September 2021, artists Matthew Rosier and James Bulley created the Pontefract Giants’ immersive experience’ at the castle exploring the history of the site.
15/8/1645On 15th August 1645, Royalist Colonel Sir Richard Lowther, ex-Governor of Pontefract Castle, who had surrendered it only three weeks before, died of consumption at Newark.
16/8/1649On 16th August 1649, Colonel John Morris, who in June 1648 had taken control of Pontefract Castle from Parliamentary forces, with men pretending to deliver mattresses and bedding, was put on trial at York, indicted under the Treason Act 1351 for ‘levying war against the late king and the parliament.’ Morris, like Charles I, questioned the authority of the judging body: ‘My lords, under correction, I conceive this court hath not the power to try me in this case; I being a martial man, I ought to be tried by a council of war.’
17/8/1654On 17th August 1654, John Evelyn FRS, writer, gardener and diarist whose works encompassed art, culture and politics including the execution of Charles I, rise and death of Oliver Cromwell and the Great Plague and later Great Fire of London, visited Pontefract. He noted: ‘the castle, famous for many sieges both of late and ancient times, and the death of that unhappy King murdered in it (Richard II), was now demolishing by the rebels: it stands on a mount and makes a goodly show at a distance. The Queen has a house here, and there are many fair seats near it, especially Mr Pierrepont’s, built at the foot of a hill out of the castle ruins. We all alighted in the highway to drink at a crystal spring, which they call Robin Hood’s Well; near it, is a stone chair, and an iron ladle to drink out of, chained to the seat.’ (The reference is to the one-time Robin Hood’s Well just south of Barnsdale).
23/8/1649Colonel John Morris, who in June 1648 had taken control of the castle with men pretending to deliver mattresses and bedding, was hung drawn and quartered, as a traitor by Parliament, at York on 23rd August 1649, having been on-the-run for ten days. He was buried, at his request at Wentworth near the grave of Lord Strafford who had been executed on Tower Hill in May 1641.
25/8/1645Around St Bartholomew’s Day, on 25th August 1645, the rump of the Long Parliament which had begun in 1640, passed an ordinance meaning a year’s imprisonment would befall anyone using the Book of Common Prayer at any time, including private or family prayers. Up to eight thousand Church of England clergy were expelled from their homes including Dr Bradley, Rector of Ackworth
29/8/1637On 29th August 1637, Sir Thomas Yarborough, High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1673 and MP for Pontefract 1685-86 was baptised in Snaith, Yorkshire. He had been born on the 19th of the month and died on 8th January 1709. He was also Receiver of Rents and Revenues for Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II.
31/8/1624On 31st August 1624, James I of England issued a proclamation to the inhabitants of Pontefract prohibiting them from conveniently grinding their corn at the mills at Pontefract to the detriment of the revenue derived from the royal mills at Knottingley. In 1623, the Duchy of Lancaster had complained about this practice of by-passing the Royal Duchy Mills (formerly the ancient Soke Mills).
7/9/1619On 7th September 1619, Parliamentarian Major General John Lambert was born at Calton Hall, near Kirkby Malham, Yorkshire. He was promoted Commissary General of the Northern Association in January 1645, effectively deputy to Thomas Fairfax, Captain-General and commander of the New Model Army. Lambert was wounded during the first siege of Pontefract Castle when Marmaduke Langdale’s Royalist relief force made the Parliamentarians retreat. He was a leading figure in the compilation of the Instrument of Government, the ‘constitution’ of Cromwell’s Protectorate in England, and on Charles II’s Restoration was exempted from execution as he had not participated in Charles I’s trial due to his absence at the third siege of Pontefract Castle.
26/9/1644On 26th September 1644, Royalists billeted infantry and cavalry troops in Pontefract. The cost on the town can be deduced from contemporary records to be around £21. 13s. 4d. (£2547 in today's money) for one day and night. This would be a huge expense for the town if troops were there for extended periods.
1/10/1674On 1st October 1674, Lieutenant-General George FitzRoy, was created Earl of Northumberland, Baron of Pontefract and Viscount Falmouth. He was the third and youngest illegitimate son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers (and Charles’ fifth of eight illegitimate sons).
4/10/1648Parliamentarian Robert Brier was a prisoner at Pontefract Castle in early October 1648. Brier was released on parole in November, but refused to surrender himself again.
4/10/1683On 4th October 1683, George Shillitoe was buried in Pontefract. He had been besieged in Royalist Pontefract Castle in 1644-45, Alderman of the town in 1662, Mayor in 1662 and 1680 and by deed dated 12th September 1654 had acquired forfeited Royalist estates in Purston, Featherstone, Pontefract and Ackworth. His will, dated 31st July 1683, left to his son, Richard, tenants’ right in the Lease of the Lands and Tenements belonging to University College, Oxford.
5/10/1671On 5th October 1671, an order of sessions fixed the fees payable to the gaoler by the prisoners (debtors) kept at Pontefract Castle’s Main Guard (outside the present main entrance) according to their status: Knight, Esquire, Yeoman or Artificer. The Main Guard was a century later, from 1763, used as a place of detention for French prisoners of war.
9/10/1648On 9th October 1648, Parliamentary troops, under Sir Henry Cholmley, (JP for the West Riding of Yorkshire, commissioner for the militia in Yorkshire and colonel of foot in the Parliamentary army) entered Pontefract, having previously occupied the villages of Ackworth, Featherstone and Ferrybridge.
15/10/1645On 15th October 1645, the King sent his forces, under Marmaduke Langdale and Lord Digby, to join Royalists from Scotland. They went to cross at Ferrybridge and encountered the Parliamentarian forces sallying forth from Pontefract Castle.
23/10/1648Robert Greathead carvingIn late October 1648, Parliamentarian Captain Greathead was taken prisoner by Captain William Paulden and put in the dungeon (magazine) at Pontefract Castle. Once in captivity, however, he managed to hide the fact that he was an officer. He may well have been from Nottinghamshire and when Colonel Morris ransomed him in January 1649 he was still under the impression that Greathead was still a trooper.
29/10/1648Thomas Rainsborough On 29th October 1648, Parliamentarian Vice Admiral Thomas Rainsborough died. In October 1648, Rainsborough was sent by his commander, Sir Thomas Fairfax, to the siege at Pontefract Castle. Whilst he was in nearby Doncaster, he was killed by four Royalists during a bungled kidnap attempt. Some historians dispute this, favouring  Cromwellian complicity in his death as, at the time, Rainsborough was at odds with certain sections of Parliament. The site is still marked today by a plaque outside of the House of Fraser. A quote by Rainsborough, which is an excerpt from the Putney Debates of autumn 1647, is in St Mary's Church in Putney  The full quote arguing for universal suffrage states: 'I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.' Rainsborough was a Leveller, which was a political movement campaigning for people's equal rights.
1/11/1648John GrantParliamentarian John Grant was in charge of the artillery at Pontefract Castle. He was described as an 'expert siege gunner', who was in charge of a 'great iron gunne' at the battle of Chequerfield in March 1645. When the castle and the artillery were seized by Colonel Morris, Grant was imprisoned in the dungeon and could have been there for months. Grant's wife was allowed in twice to see him in November 1648.
3/11/1648On 3rd November 1648, Oliver Cromwell Came back to Pontefract (where he had been around the 10th of August) during its third siege, fresh from his victory at Preston (17th-19th August) over Royalist and Scots’ forces commanded by the Duke of Hamilton. His main aim was to prevent any more sallies from the garrison by Royalist forces. He spent about two weeks there before being called south on matters concerning the king’s trial.
4/11/1648Byram HallOn 4th November 1648, during the third siege of Pontefract Castle, Cromwell took up headquarters at Byram Hall at Brotherton. (The hall is now mostly demolished apart from a service wing which is grade II listed)
9/11/1648On 9th November 1648, Oliver Cromwell sent a summons to Colonel John Morris, leader of the besieged Royalist forces within Pontefract Castle, to surrender or see the castle stormed: “Being come hither for the reduction of this place, I thought fit to summon you to deliver your garrison to me, for the use of the Parliament. Those gentlemen and soldiers with you may have better terms than if you should hold it to extremity. I expect your answer this day”.
11/11/1648On 11th November 1648, during the third siege of Pontefract Castle, Cromwell wrote a letter to Colonel Morris asking permission for a Mrs Gray to enter the castle to visit her sick brother: 'Sir - the bearer Mrs Gray is desirous to goe into ye castle to see a brother of hers who lyes sick in ye castle; I desire you would give her your pass to returne within a limited time, I rest, Sr. yr. very humble servt.. O. Cromwell'.
15/11/1648On 15th November 1648, during the third siege of Pontefract Castle, Cromwell wrote to the House of Commons describing the detailed situation at Pontefract.
16/11/1633On 16th November 1633, there was the earliest record of a performance, at court, of Shakespeare’s Richard III during the reign of Charles I. The play had been written sometime between 1591-93 and had received regular performances by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men into the 1600s. The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers’ Company on 20th October 1597. Earl Rivers’ makes a memorable reference to Pontefract’s historic role in his impending execution and in English history in Act III, Scene III: “O Pomfret, Pomfret! O thou bloody prison, Fatal and ominous to noble peers! Within the guilty closure of thy walls Richard the second here was hack’d to death; And, for more slander to thy dismal seat, We give thee up our guiltless blood to drink.”
30/11/1648In late November 1648, Oliver Cromwell reported to Parliament on the status and defensive capabilities of Pontefract Castle: “My Lords and Gentlemen I have had sight of a letter to the House of Commons wherein things are so represented, as if the siege were at such a pass that the prize were already gained….I thought fit to let you know, what the true state of this garrison is, … My lords, the Castle has been victualled with 220 or 240 fat cattle, within these three weeks; and they have also gotten in, as I am credibly informed, salt enough for them and more. So that I apprehend they are victualled for a twelvemonth. The men within are resolved to endure to the utmost extremity; expecting no mercy, as indeed they deserve none. The place is very well known to be one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom; well watered; situated upon a 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 of access, by reason of the depth and steepness of the graft.” Cromwell quickly ordered that monies be made available for three full regiments of foot and two of horse and that 500 barrels of gunpowder and six ‘good battering guns’ be speedily sent by sea to Hull, which must all be at least ‘demi-cannons’. Also, that ‘match and bullet’ and three of the biggest mortar pieces be supplied.. Finally, Cromwell asked that the Parliamentary forces at Pontefract be provided with shoes, stockings and clothes, for them to cover their nakedness… and remarked that anyone under-estimating the castle’s importance and significance should bear in mind that “ place hath cost the kingdom some £100,000 (£10.4m in today’s money) already, and for all I know it may cost you more, it be trifled with”
4/12/1648Major John LambertOn 4th December 1648, Major General Lambert was appointed to the chief command of the besieging Parliamentary forces (at Pontefract Castle), which numbered about 5,000 men.
8/12/1658On 8th December 1658, Nathan Drake, diarist of the sieges of Pontefract Castle during the Civil War, died at Pontefract and was buried in the parish church the following day.
14/12/1648On 14th December 1648, lines of encirclement were drawn around the castle by the Parliamentary forces and were around 3,300 yards in length. These consisted of two earthen ramparts and a ditch, and there were also 14 redoubts with guards commanding every approach to the castle.
15/12/1642In December 1642, after Charles I had raised the royal standard at Nottingham on 22nd August that year, effectively starting the English Civil War, Colonel Sir Richard Lowther, a former MP from Ingleton in North Yorkshire, seized Pontefract Castle for the Royalists. This followed Royalist general’s, Marquess of Newcastle, driving out of Parliamentary forces from Tadcaster, less than twenty miles away. Pontefract was a strategic location from which to control the surrounding countryside and Lowther sallied forth during the early stages of the war to attack Leeds and Bradford.
20/12/1648The third siege of Pontefract Castle progressed slowly but, on 20th December 1648, £2,000 (£351,000 in today's money) was ordered to be raised 'for the relief of the forces of Pontefract and Scarborough'. On January 2nd 1649, £2,500 (£449,000 in today's money)was particularly ordered to be levied 'upon the county of Lincoln, for the relief of the forces before Pontefract'.
25/12/1644On 25th December 1644, the first siege of Pontefract Castle began. Nathan Drake, a diarist and gentleman volunteer, wrote: 'Uppon Christmas Day 25th December 1644, Pontefract Castle was besieged and the towne taken that day by the beseegers, and the beseeged played 3 cannon against them.'
28/12/1645Pontefract All Saints ChurchOn 28th December 1645, the Parliamentarians stormed and took the nearby Church of All Saints, which had been incorporated into  Pontefract Castle's defences. Eleven men and boys from the garrison were inside and escaped into the bell tower but were trapped for five days. Eventually, they cut the bell ropes, crept along the church roof at night, scrambled down the wall and escaped back to the castle, but the Parliamentarians spotted them, shooting one Royalist dead and wounding another.