Pontefract Castle – 19th Century

DateEvent
18/2/1881On 18th February 1881, the ‘Bradford Daily Telegraph’ reported that: ‘On Wednesday morning, about twenty-four yards of the south boundary wall of Pontefract Castle grounds fell bringing down along with it some scores of tons of soil.’
10/3/1842On 10th March 1842, Robert Gully, son of John Gully of Ackworth Park (MP for Pontefract 1832-37), was shipwrecked on the island of Formosa (now Taiwan) in the brig ‘Ann’. He was taken prisoner by the Chinese authorities and along with 300 other British subjects was executed around the 15th August in the town of Ty-wan-foo.
25/3/1825On 25th March 1825, the remains of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, executed in March 1322, were presumed to have been unearthed by two labourers in Paper Mill Field near St Thomas’s Hill in Pontefract. In 1942, it was reported that some of Thomas’s bones had been found in a box at Paskell’s auctioneers in Colchester, having been taken from Pontefract Castle in 1885.
29/4/1892Pontefract Castle 1900-1910On 29th April 1892, a display of artefacts and antiquities was opened after the construction of a small museum at Pontefract Castle. A similar collection is now in the castle's visitor centre.
13/5/1899On 13th May 1899, the ‘Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer’ reported that on Whit Monday and Tuesday, Professor Charles Horace Fleet, renowned parachutist and balloonist, would be at Pontefract Castle with the largest balloon in the world, standing 115 feet high with a circumference of 200 feet.
15/5/1880On 15th May 1880, the Barnsley Chronicle reported that “considerable damage was done to one of the round towers of Pontefract Castle by the fall of an apple tree in bloom, that had grown on the summit of the mound, having its roots embedded in the rubble”.
22/6/1897Pontefract Market Place 1897On Tuesday 22nd June 1897,  celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee commenced with ‘Dinner to the Aged Poor’. 275 people attended dinner in the Assembly Room. The dinner consisted of roast beef and plum pudding, with bread and cheese washed down with ale or aerated waters. At 2pm, school children and teachers of the town, numbering about 2000, marched from their schools to the Corn Market. Each child had received a medal at school before setting off. Groups taking part in the procession included: The Borough Band; The Pontefract Volunteers; The Fire Brigade; The St George Lodge of Oddfellows; The Pontefract Miners Association; The Old Tradesmen’s Association and ‘The Cyclists of the Town and District in Cycling Costume, on plain or decorated machines. The procession finished at Pontefract Castle where entertainments were provided for the children. At 5 o'clock, the children and teachers marched back to their schools where they were provided with tea, buns and sweet cake. At 10 o'clock that night, rockets were set off from Park Hill to signal the lighting of The Beacon Fire. Four local dignitaries each lit a corner of the Beacon and the crowd sang ‘God Save the Queen’. Around the main streets of Pontefract, crowds walked to see the beacon and rockets, accompanied by outbursts of national music. The celebrations continued well past midnight.
1/7/1879On 1st July 1879, public passenger train services began at Baghill railway station (on the Sheffield to York line) greatly increasing access to Pontefract town and castle for Victorian visitors. The castle, by this time, was often viewed as a romantic ruin and pleasure garden with tennis courts and ornamental rose gardens. Tanshelf railway station near the centre of the town had opened eight years earlier giving easy access to Pontefract Racecourse. This station had closed in 1967 but was opened on 11th May 1992 when the line between Wakefield Kirkgate and Pontefract Monkhill was re-opened. Pontefract’s other railway station, Monkhill was opened by the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole Railway in April 1848.
16/7/1890On 16th July 1890, the second annual Pontefract tennis tournament, with five events, commenced in the grounds of the castle.
28/7/1884On 28th July 1884, Pontefract Castle was officially re-opened to the public following extensive renovation works to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the town's incorporation as a municipality under the charter of Richard III.
15/8/1872On 15th August 1872, the Pontefract by-election was the first UK Parliamentary election held by secret ballot. Hugh Childers was re-elected following his appointment as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The ballot box seal was made with a liquorice stamp from Frank Dunhill’s factory showing a representation of the castle gates with a raven on the top bar. The castle lodge emblem is reputed to date from 1612.
19/8/1898On 19th August 1898, ‘The Globe’ reported: ‘The recent complaint of correspondents to the weekly paper about the lack of information afforded to visitors to Pontefract Castle will find an echo in the mind of many a traveller in our country.’
10/9/1887On 10th September 1887, the ‘Sheffield Independent’ reported that: ‘On Saturday, an assault-at-arms (display of skills performed as public entertainment) was given at Pontefract Castle grounds by a number of men from the Pontefract Regimental District by permission of Colonel W Byram CB’.
10/9/1889On 10th September 1889, the Historical Museum at the Old Guard House at Pontefract Castle was finally closed.
3/10/1830On 3rd October 1830, a cow belonging to Mr Sudbury, of Pontefract, gave birth to a full-grown calf with two heads, two breasts, two necks, four fore-legs, two hearts, two livers and lights, two back bones separated as far as the sixth rib then joining into one back, two tails and only two hind legs, with each body possessing perfect and distinct intestines.
14/10/1871On 14th October 1871, the Leeds Times reported that “portions of Pontefract Castle are now being restored in the Tudor style of architecture, by order of the Duchy”.
19/11/1826On 19th November 1826, George Dunhill, inventor of the sweet liquorice Pontefract Cake, died aged 72. The plant had been grown in and around the castle.
27/11/1861On 27th November 1861, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, the American Minister to the Court of St. James’s, was examining the ruins of Pontefract Castle with Mr Fronde, an historian, when he received a telegram from his Legation. The telegram informed him that Captain Wilkes, commanding the American war sloop San Jacinto, had stopped the Trent, a British mail steamer, on the 8th November, just off Havana and had forcibly removed Messrs. Mason and Slidell, two supposed “envoys” from the Southern States. His father and his grandfather, both of them former Presidents of the United States, had always protested against England’s claim to the “right of search.” The practice of boarding American vessels on the high seas and searching them for British seamen had been one of the issues in the War of 1812. After the removal of the envoys the Trent was permitted to continue on her course. Adams helped resolve the Trent Affair’s potential risk of war between Britain and America with the help of President Lincoln and the envoys were released after several weeks.
5/12/1863On 5th December 1863, the ‘London Evening Standard’ ran an article stating: ‘How dare the profane public pry into the mysteries of Lincoln’s Inn where Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln (and lord of Pontefract) cultivated nuts and cherries, beans and leeks and roses in his garden in Holborn.’ De Lacy died at Lincoln’s Inn, his City of London townhouse, in February 1311.