Pontefract Castle – 19th Century

10/1/1814On 10th January 1814, Irish poet Aubrey de Vere was born. In 1896, his sonnet about Pontefract Castle was published and although a frequent visitor to the Lake District in veneration of Wordsworth, it is not known if he toured Pontefract Castle: ‘PONTEFRACT CASTLE; OR, TREASON’S TWOFOLD REQUEST WIND-WASTED castle without crown of towers! Dread dungeon keep, watching the dying day! A crownless king, great Edward’s grandson, lay Wasting in thee, and counting prisoned hours: A century passed: the Faith’s embattled Powers Thus far advanced; here stood, a stag at bay: The eighth Henry trembled in his blood-stained bowers:- Thou saw’st that’ Pilgrimage of Grace’ decay! Two Woes thou saw’st; the fall of England’s Crown, That drowned in blood her old Nobility; Then, baser plague, the old Temples trampled down I mark of that Red Sea which rolls between England that is, and England that hath been!
24/1/1897‘The Chemist and Druggist’ reported that on 24th January 1897 ‘A fire broke out at Pontefract on Sunday, January 24 (1897), resulting in the complete destruction of a liquorice-factory belonging to Councillor A. Taylor White. A large quantity of machinery for the making of " Pontefract cakes " was destroyed, and also a few tons of finished cakes, as well as a considerable weight of raw material.’
27/1/1893A ‘Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Malton Urban Sanitary District for the Year 1900’ recorded that the first case of smallpox in Malton had been traced to a tramp from Pontefract on 27th January 1893.
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.’
6/3/1896On 6th March 1896, ‘The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review’ noted: ‘Pontefract. —March 6th. The Guardians are inviting estimates for fitting up the new infirmary with electric bells. Particulars on application to Messrs. J. Holmes Greaves & Co., architects, 38, Albion Street, Leeds, and Corn Market, Pontefract.’
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.
15/4/1896On 15th April 1896, the ‘Victoria Daily Times’, British Columbia, reported the death of the last of the pot-wallopers Richard Atkinson, at Pontefract at the age of ninety-seven. ‘The Antiquary’ noted in May that year: ‘A break with the past of a curious kind is announced from Pontefract in Yorkshire. It is the death of the last “ pot-walloper” in that town a short time ago. A “pot-walloper” was another name for a pot-boiler, and signified a person who was entitled to the Parliamentary franchise by virtue of owning a free-hold hearth on which to “ wallop” or boil his pot. The “pot-wallopers” were a numerous class before the passing of the Reform Act of 1832. They claimed to vote for a member of Parliament because they had boiled their own pot in the parish for six months. The Doncaster Chronicle supplements this information with further particulars. “ ‘The pot’,” we are told, “was an iron pan with three legs, and it was suspended by a chain from an iron bar fastened in the chimney. The pot was familiar enough twenty or thirty years ago in remote parts of Yorkshire, where the ‘ pot-walloper’ and his vote would suggest the idea that, in days gone by, it was considered an accomplishment for a man to have a knowledge of the culinary art, since the contents of the pot consisted of  huge pieces of beef and bacon, with carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, and the now almost forgotten dumpling, but erstwhile a favourite dish in Yorkshire.” The “ pot-walloper,” however, was not confined to the North of England, but existed in varying numbers all over the country. The race has now become extinct by the recent death of the last of them at Pontefract..’
18/4/1803On 18th April 1803, 42 magistrates at Pontefract in Session passed the following resolution:’ not to apprentice parish children to the owners of cotton mills where they had to engage in night work, or work for an unreasonable number of hours a day.’
24/4/1885On 24th April 1885, Thomas William Tew JP of Carleton Grange, Pontefract, was installed as Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master for the West Riding of Yorkshire (for the Most Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of England) at the Albert Hall, Leeds. This was by command of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, its Grand Master on 10th January that year.
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.
2/5/1891On 2nd May 1891, 'The Friend; A Religious and Literary Journal' noted: ‘The influenza epidemic is becoming of an alarmingly more severe type in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire……….and deaths are becoming much more frequent. At Pontefract, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, there are 400 serious cases. The garrison of Pontefract has also been attacked, with the result that a large number of the soldiers are on the sick list, and that several deaths have occurred among the military.’
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”.
15/5/1896On 15th May 1896, the ‘Engineering’ magazine reported: ‘Colliery Disputes. —The trouble in the Yorkshire coalfield becomes more acute. The employees at Rylands Main, near Barnsley, have been served with notices by the management, and 400 hands are affected. At the Birley Collieries, near Sheffield, a strike is threatened, and the Kiveton dispute has not yet ended. In addition to these troubles, a dispute has occurred at the Prince of Wales’ Colliery, Pontefract, and 400 men threaten to send in their notices at the time of writing. Taken altogether, the situation in the coal trade appears to be somewhat strained. There is not much hope of better times, for values are declining and competition is on the increase.’
23/5/1835On 23rd May 1835, The Spectator reported that the electors of Pontefract had presented their MP, John Gully (ex-boxer) with ‘a richly-chased silver salver, as a token of their approbation of the Liberal votes he has uniformly given in the House of Commons.’
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.
28/6/1892On 28th June 1892, ‘The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply and Sanitary Improvement’ recorded: ‘Completion of the New Water Scheme for Pontefract.—The Roall water scheme to supply Pontefract and the district with an improved supply of water was completed yesterday week. The first sod of this undertaking was turned on July 25, 1889, by the then Mayor (Mr. W. Mathers) ; and the work has been satisfactorily carried out under the supervision of Mr. G. Hodson, the Engineer, by Messrs. Vickers and Son, of Nottingham. The mains from the pumping-station at Roall are laid for a distance of nine miles to the storage reservoir on the Park Hill at Pontefract. The cost of the works will amount to close upon £28,000 (£3.64 million in today’s money). Since the completion of the work, the contractors have been encountering serious difficulties. Last Thursday morning, when pumping operations commenced, owing to an accumulation of air in the mains, the pipe burst in Teront Street, Tanshelf, and a large volume of water poured forth, and caused a suspension of traffic. The power required to force the water into the reservoir on the Park Hill is immense, and it is feared other difficulties may arise before the works are a thorough success.’
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.
1/7/1893On 1st July 1893, ‘The Spectator’ magazine reported: ‘Lord Randolph Churchill, speaking at Pontefract on Saturday last, made a very happy point by saying that Mr. Gladstone’s new financial resolutions would condemn Ireland to penal,—he meant, he said, “ financial,”—servitude for six years. This is, indeed, precisely what the Parnellites think of the step taken. They have issued an address to their Irish friends in the United States, imploring their support to resist and defeat this withdrawal of all financial power from the Irish Legislature for this long period, which they regard as fatal to any genuine kind of Home-rule………. The Pontefract by-election ended in the return of the Gladstonian by the narrow majority of 32, Mr. T. W. Nussey receiving 1,191 votes, against 1,159 given for Mr. Elliott Lees, the Conservative.’
16/7/1890On 16th July 1890, the second annual Pontefract tennis tournament, with five events, commenced in the grounds of the castle.
20/7/1859On 20th July 1859, Jeannette Emmett Leatham (Cunard) was born in New York , the daughter of Sir Edward Cunard, 2nd Baronet, and Mary Bachelor McEvers. Part of the Cunard shipping family, Jeannette married Edward Leatham on 28th July 1883 and devoted her time to philanthropic causes, supporting children’s homes and helping to create the pleasure gardens and museum at Pontefract Castle. She died on 12th October 1919.
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.
2/8/1819On 2nd August 1819, Thomas Armitage an American clergyman was born at Pontefract. He died on January 21st 1896. He was an important influence in the Baptist Church in New York City, and the prime mover in the establishment of the American Bible Union in 1850 being president of that body from 1856 to 1875. Among his works were’ Jesus, His Self- Introspection’ and ‘History of the Baptists' (1887).
11/8/1885On 11th August 1885, author Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton died at Vichy, France. From 1837 to 1863, he represented Pontefract in Parliament as a Conservative and latterly as an Independent Liberal, championing oppressed nationalities, liberty of conscience and the rights of women. He helped to secure the passage of a bill for the establishment of reformatories. He was the author of several volumes of poetry and travels, among them: ‘Memorial of a Tour in Greece’ (1833); ‘Poems of Many Years (1838)’; ‘Palm Leaves (1844)’; ‘Good Night and Good Morning’ (1859); and ‘Monographs, Personal and Social’ (1873).
14/8/1805On 14th August 1805, when England feared a Napoleonic invasion, Colonel Walter Stanhope, commander of 600 Yorkshiremen known as the Staincross Volunteers was informed by clergyman and magistrate Mr Dixon from Woolley that the beacon at Pontefract was lighted. Dixon was giving orders for lighting the one standing upon Woolly Edge, a wild, bleak height which dominated the surrounding country for many miles. Instructions had previously been given by the General of the district that upon the lighting of this beacon the regiment was to march to Pontefract immediately, and Stanhope realised that not a moment was to be lost. They commenced their march to Pontefract, in orderly fashion, with their Captain at their head, and they had already got to Hemsworth, a distance of about twelve miles, when they were overtaken by a messenger bearing the following note: — To Colonel Stanhope. Dear Sir, I have sent a Servant to the Beacon at Pomfret this Morning as I could learn nothing here, and find that the Pomfret Beacon was not lighted & that the Woolly People were deceived by the burning of a Brick Kiln placed near the Beacon. You are sure I am truly sorry to have occasioned you all the Trouble you have had. I remain, dear Sir, Very truly yours Jer. Dixon. Although summoned on a false alarm, the troops received an ovation at Hemsworth, where the populace collected to cheer them and they were feted and offered the loan of waggons for their return journey. The readiness of these sturdy Yorkshiremen to devote themselves to the defence of their county, with such excellent leadership which could produce such a prompt muster and perfect organisation, roused popular enthusiasm, while the news sped through the country and the March of the Staincross Volunteers became famous. Stanhope recorded in his journal: ‘A most gallant muster, the whole Regiment turned out; ate at Hemsworth, got home to tea.’
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.
17/9/1898On 17th September 1898, ‘The Builder’ magazine reported: 'WORKHOUSE EXTENSIONS, PONTEFRACT. — The vagrant wards, a new lunacy block, and a new laundry department added to the Pontefract Work- house are now rapidly approaching completion. Altogether the additions will cost something like £10,000 (£1.3 million in today’s money). The new vagrant block contains twenty- seven bed-cells, connected with which are apartments for stone-breaking, and a large shed. Stone- breaking is carried on to a considerable extent in Pontefract Workhouse, owing to the fact that the Corporation takes the material for road- mending. There are also spacious association wards, in which the casuals who remain more than one night in the house may spend their time when their task is done; and the block is fitted with lavatories, baths, disinfector, &c., as well as heated by hot water. The new wards for casual females are pretty much on the same plan, all being roomy, light, and airy. In the newly-erected block there are eight cells. The alterations include a new committee-room for the guardians, for which the old tramp ward has been called into service; an extensive laundry; new porter’s lodge; and new offices for the Master, the latter commanding a view of the entrance-gate and the task sheds.’
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”.
17/10/1892On 17th October 1892, ‘The New York Times’ reported that: ‘The River Aire, in Yorkshire, has overflowed its banks, inundating eighteen square miles in the district of Pontefract. Many families were compelled by the flood on Saturday and Sunday to take refuge in the upper stories of their houses, from which they were afterward rescued by boats. Dozens of houses, undermined by the water, have collapsed. Many of the mines in the district are flooded. The loss of stock is very great.’
28/10/1892On 28th October 1892, ‘The Builder’ reported: ‘MASONIC LODGE FOR PONTEFRACT— Contracts have just been let for the erection of Masonic Lodge buildings in Ropergate, Pontefract. The buildings are to be built of brick, with terra-cotta panels and stone facings. On the upper storey will be a lodge-room, 34 ft. by 2: ft., with ante-rooms adjoining, and downstairs will be a dining-hall, 51 ft. by 21 ft., which may be also used for a ball-room, and will be fitted with movable partitions to make it into three small rooms for other purposes. A caretaker’s house will be attached. Mr. J. H. Greaves, of Pontefract, is the architect. The cost will be £1,000.’
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.
1/12/1855In December 1855 the original plaster casts for Irish sculptor, John Edward Carew’s bronze panel, ‘The Death of Nelson’ decorating the pedestal of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square arrived in Pontefract to be erected in the Town Hall after discussions between the MP for Pontefract, Benjamin Oliveria, a friend of Carew, and the town’s mayor. Unfortunately, the bill for transportation and installation was far higher than had been imagined and although paid, Oliveria was not acknowledged on the accompanying plaque.
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.
9/12/1893On 9th December 1893, ‘The Builder’ printed the tenders for Pontefract Infirmary and the successful applicants: ‘PONTEFRACT – For the erection of Infirmary, at the Workhouse Union, for the Pontefract Union Board. Mr Jno. Holmes Greaves, architect, Leeds and Pontefract. Quantities by the architect:-……..H Arnold & Son, Doncaster £5820 (accepted)…… Wood Block Flooring Nightingale & Co. Grimsby £311 (accepted) Concrete for Fireproof Floors Frankland, Leeds £509 (accepted) (Architect’s estimate for the whole of work £6850)'
14/12/1894On 14th December 1894, ‘The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review’ reported: ‘Proposed Electric Tramway at Pontefract. In consequence of the poor means of communication between Pontefract and Featherstone, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company having no late train, Councillor McGowan the other night, at the Corporation’s meeting, moved that the question of providing an electric tramway between Pontefract and Featherstone be referred to the Markets and Highways Committees. He had made inquiries, and the scheme was quite feasible. The whole question of communication was referred to the committees.’
31/12/1821On 31st December 1821, Messrs Beal and Ashton ran a competitive foot-race under the auspices of the Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire Pedestrians in footmanship of four miles over Pontefract race course for £100 (over £11,000 in today’s money) a side with the first two miles run in eleven minutes. The race was won by Beal who beat Ashton by about five hundred yards, with his winning time of twenty-one minutes, forty- five seconds.