Pontefract Castle – May

DateEvent
19/5/1152On 19th May 1152, Cistercian monks moved from land given to them by Henry (1) de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, at Barnoldswick to a new site at Kirkstall, Leeds. Henry had vowed to dedicate an abbey to the Virgin Mary should he survive a serious illness. He recovered and agreed to give the Abbot of Fountains Abbey land at Barnoldswick on which to found a daughter abbey. Abbot Alexander with twelve Cistercian monks from Fountains went to Barnoldswick and attempted to build the abbey on Henry de Lacy's land. They stayed for six years but found the place inhospitable. Alexander sought help from de Lacy who was sympathetic and helped acquire the land from William de Poitou. The monks moved from Barnoldswick to Kirkstall. The buildings were mostly completed between 1152 when the monks arrived in Kirkstall and the end of Alexander's abbacy in 1182
29/5/1110On 29th May 1110 (and as far as can be otherwise ascertained, certainly by 1114) it is believed that Robert (1) de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was banished by Henry I to Normandy, probably for having joined earlier rebellions against the king by his elder brother, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. An alternative motive for Henry’s actions was possibly for no other reason than that Robert was by then one of the most powerful barons and a potential threat to the king.
DateEvent
1/5/1207On 1st May 1207, King John stayed at Pontefract Castle on his not infrequent ‘processions’ throughout his realm. The 3rd of the month saw him at Derby, 4th at Hunston, 5th Lichfield, 8th Gloucester, 10th Bristol etc. culminating via nine other venues at Lewes on the 31st. These regular nation-wide itineraries were a feature of John’s reign: some surmising that they were for personal protection i.e. never sleeping in the same place for long, as much as surveying his kingdom.
1/5/1218In May 1218, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, accompanied Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester and 1st Earl of Lincoln, on the Fifth Crusade to Damietta in Egypt, returning in 1220.
1/5/1230In May 1230, Edmund de Lacy, later lord of Pontefract, was born. He succeeded his father, John de Lacy, on his death in 1240 but, being a minor, was raised in the royal household of Henry III as a ward of the crown albeit his sisters initially remained with their/his mother, Margaret, until 1243. Edmund was in the custody of Richard le Norman and John de Barsham, effectively his tutors.
1/5/1247On 1st May 1247, Edmund de Lacy, later lord of Pontefract, married Alasia di Saluzzo in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Alasia (Alice) was the granddaughter of Amadeus, Count of Savoy, the uncle of Queen Eleanor of Provence. The marriage was highly politically motivated: forming part of the Anglo-Savoyard treaty of 1246 which bolstered Henry III’s foreign interests against Louis IX’s encroachments; it strengthened Queen Eleanor’s Savoyard faction at court; and attempted to pre-empt any potentially unfavourable alliances should Edmund’s mother re-marry.
1/5/1248In May 1248, Edmund de Lacy, later lord of Pontefract, and still legally underage, was permitted to inherit all of his estates for a relief of £858 (£626,000 in today's money).
1/5/1278On 1st May 1278, Dominus Petrus de Cestreia (Peter of Chester or Peter of Lascy, illegitimate son of John de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, Constable of Chester and Earl of Lincoln) was the first witness to his nephew Henry de Lacy’s charter to the burgesses of Pontefract, being described as Provost of Beverley.
3/5/1230On the 3rd May 1230, John de Lacy, Lord of Pontefract, landed at St Malo in Brittany in support of Henry III. Henry was leading a mighty force across the Channel to reclaim his inheritance lost by his father King John i.e. his lands in Normandy, Brittany and Poitou.
5/5/1242On 5th May 1242, the Henry III Fine Rolls recorded: ‘To the barons of the Exchequer. The king has committed to the venerable father in Christ Walter (de Gray) archbishop of York, primate of England, all lands, castles and vaccaries (a place for keeping cattle) with all their appurtenances formerly of John de Lacy, formerly earl of Lincoln (and lord of Pontefract) which are in the king’s hands outside the county of Chester, excepting the castle and manor of Donington and the manors of Snaith and Wadenhoe, to hold at farm for the five years next following the Invention of the Holy Cross in the twenty-sixth year, rendering for each manor per annum at the Exchequer the extent at which they have been extended by Nicholas de Molis, Sheriff of Yorkshire, by the king’s order, one moiety (one part) thereof at Michaelmas and the other moiety at Easter, namely £122 19s 10d (“over £218,000 in today’s money) for the manor of Pontefract…….’
7/5/1285From 7th May 1285 until 28th June, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was at Edward I’s court witnessing forty-one royal charters (from 5th May – 20th June 1289 he witnessed fifty-four). As on numerous past occasions when Henry had undertaken this function, this was an indication of his favoured standing in royal circles.
13/5/1286On 13th May 1286, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, accompanied Edward I on his journey to France to pay homage to the new French king, Philip IV, for the dukedom of Gascony and to attempt to broker a peace between Aragon and France (agreed in July 1286). Other notable royal members of this entourage included Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, the king’s brother and the Earl of Gloucester. Henry spent three years abroad, returning in 1289.
23/5/1261JoustOn 23rd May 1261, knights met at Pontefract and tourneyed against a prohibition order by Henry III, who was fearful of potential anti-royal activities. The Sheriff arrested the knights and confiscated their lands but the King remitted the punishment a few days later. The knights included Peter de Ros, William de Percy, Robert Fitz-Brian, Robert Pikot, and Hugh de Neville.
24/5/1213On 24th May 1213, Peter of Pontefract (or Wakefield) who had foretold that King John would no longer be king by Ascension Day that year was removed from Corfe Castle and dragged by horses to Wareham where he was hanged with his son.
27/5/1205On 27th May 1205, Roger de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was awarded the manor of Snaith and allied soke (a minor administrative district) by King John for the service of one knight’s fee. Snaith was worth approximately £30 pa to Roger (about £63, 000 in today's money).
29/5/1258On 29th May 1258, only days before his death and suggestive of a chronic life-threatening illness or injury, Sir Edmund de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was assured by Henry III (and confirmed by letters patent sought by the queen) that the testament he had made would be honoured, with his executors having free administration, and any debts would be sought from Edmund’s heirs. Edmund died on the 2nd June and was buried at Stanlow Abbey, Cheshire. His wife, Alice, had been told by Henry III, the day before her husband’s death, that the wardship of Edmund’s lands would be sold to her first if agreed at the king’s imminent council at Oxford. Alice was eventually confirmed as possessor of two parts of Edmund’s lands in February 1259 for an annual payment of £362 3s 8d ( £457,000 in today's money) with the remaining lands held by the Crown during her son’s, Henry de Lacy, minority; he was seven years old at the time of his father’s death.
DateEvent
1/5/1315On 1st May 1315, the Constable of Barnard Castle was ordered to allow Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, and his men, who were going north on the king’s business, to use the castle whenever they liked and on 8th June his envoys, on their way north on Scottish affairs, were given safe-conducts.
1/5/1360On 1st May 1360, after advice from Henry, Duke of Lancaster and lord of Pontefract, negotiations with the French to seek a permanent peace took place at Bretigny. Edward III agreed in principle to relinquish his claim on the French throne in return for sovereignty of all the territories he had inherited as a vassal and those gained by conquest. Henry (according to Froissart) cautioned Edward: ‘You can press on with your struggle and pass the rest of your life fighting or you can make terms with your enemy and end the war now with honour’. Further, and dubiously attributable remarks by Henry warned: ‘’we might lose in a single day all that we have gained in twenty years’.
2/5/1381On 2nd May 1381, the treaty for the impending marriage of Richard II (who died at Pontefract Castle nineteen years later) to Anne of Bohemia was signed. The treaty also confirmed an Anglo-Imperial alliance in favour of Pope Urban VI against rival Pope Clement VII.
4/5/1312On 4th May 1312,  Thomas, Earl of Lancaster,  lord of Pontefract, came close to capturing Piers Gaveston and King Edward II at Tynemouth Priory. The two men escaped, however, in a small boat and sailed down the coast to Scarborough.
9/5/1308The formal grant of the Lord High Stewardship of England to Thomas of Lancaster, later lord of Pontefract, and his heirs was given on 9th May 1308. It is an important indication of Lancaster’s position at this time, of his influence with Edward II, and perhaps of the king’s feckless generosity, that he was able to obtain for himself an honour which Edward I had been unwilling to grant even to his own brother, Edmund, 1st Earl of Lancaster and Thomas’ father.
9/5/1384Probably on 9th May 1384, a Carmelite friar, John Latimer, warned Richard II that his uncle, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, was plotting to kill him. Gaunt, summoned to a public meeting to answer the accusation, stated to Richard: ‘Oh why, my Lord, do you trust such informers? Am I not your uncle? Am I not your protector? Am I not the chief man in the realm after you? What could influence me to betray or even kill you, when I would gain nothing from your death?’ Latimer was imprisoned at Salisbury Castle and then tortured to death before his corpse was dragged through Salisbury on a hurdle, before burial.
11/5/1392On 11th May 1392, John of Gaunt’s, lord of Pontefract, party arrived at Calais en route to Gaunt meeting Charles VI of France at Amiens. Negotiations surrounded the Duchy of Aquitaine with agreement that it should contain Agenais, Perigord, Quercy and Rouerge, and Angouleme which had all been re-conquered by Charles V. The French were to retain Poitou and the Limousin. Gaunt would hold the territories as a hereditary appanage (perquisite) with direct homage by him as duke to the King of France thereby obviating the King of England having to perform ‘liege homage’ to another sovereign and so diminishing his authority.
12/5/1393At the beginning of May 1393, John of Gaunt invited Thomas Swynford to become one of his chamber knights. On the 12th May, this role was recognised by Richard II who agreed to grant Thomas and his wife, Jane Crophill, an annuity of 100 marks (over £15,000 in today’s money). It is ironic that Thomas would become the gaoler at Pontefract Castle who would be directly attributed with the starvation and murder of Richard II at Pontefract Castle. Thomas would also serve as the constable of the castle.
16/5/1300In May 1300, Edward I, on passing through Pontefract, gave St Richard’s Dominican Friary 20s (nearly £1150 in today’s money) as a gift.
16/5/1386On 16th May 1386, an Anglo-Portuguese treaty of military and naval alliance was ratified at Westminster. Portugal was to provide John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, with a squadron of galleys for the invasion of Castile. Due to difficulties in hiring other ships, Gaunt’s departure was delayed and he did not sail from Plymouth until the 9th July that year.
19/5/1359Marriage_of_Blanche_of_Lancaster_and_John_of_Gaunt_1359On 19th May 1359 (some sources say the 20th), eighteen-years-old John of Gaunt married thirteen-years-old Blanche of Lancaster, leading to his inheriting various titles: including Earl of Lancaster, Earl of Derby, Lincoln and Leicester. Not all of these titles were inherited at the time of the marriage; some were received on the death of Blanche's older sister Maude in 1362. Edward III gave lavish presents to Blanche totalling almost £400 (£199,165 in today's money) including a large brooch with an eagle and huge diamond in its breast, garnished with rubies, diamonds and pearls; this alone valued at £120 (nearly £60,000 today). Shortly before Gaunt’s marriage, he had an affair with a Flemish woman, Marie de Sainte-Hilaire, one of the queen’s ladies. Marie gave birth to a girl, called Blanche in 1359 and Gaunt acknowledged her throughout his life arranging a good marriage to Thomas Morieux, Constable of the Tower of London, around her twenty-first birthday.
20/5/1381On 20th May 1381, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, was made Lieutenant and Vicar-General in the Marches towards Scotland, by Richard II.
21/5/1327On 21st May 1327, Letters Patent were issued at Pontefract by Edward III regarding William, Abbot of Grestein (Normandy) who, living overseas, nominated Richard de Milleward and William Conreye his attorneys for three years.
24/5/1315On 24th May 1315, in the chapter house of Pontefract Priory, at Thomas of Lancaster’s (lord of Pontefract) mandate and in his presence, fifteen northern lords assembled: Thomas de Multon, Thomas Furnival, Edmund Deyncourt, Henry Fitzhugh, Ralph de Greystoke, Gilbert de Atton, Marmaduke de Twenge, Nicholas de Menill, Henry Percy, John Marmion, Philip Darcy, William Fitzwilliam, John de Fauconberg, John Deyncourt, and Robert Constable of Flamborough. Most of these men were Yorkshire barons: Furnival’s lands lay around Sheffield; Twenge, Menill, and Marmion had extensive holdings in Cleveland; and most of Percy’s estates were in the North Riding. Of those who held little land in Yorkshire, only Multon, whose estates were mainly in Cumberland and Westmorland, could be considered entirely outside the range of Lancaster’s territorial influence. Unfortunately for Lancaster, this was not a body which the earl could bend to his will. Those present agreed that the current disturbances threatened the peace of the land and the well-being of the king and kingdom, and to counter this they came together in a league for their mutual defence, so that if any man rose against the earl or any other, the rest would come to his aid. This agreement was set down in writing and confirmed by seal, but because it was thought necessary to obtain the advice of a greater number, and especially of the prelates, Lancaster wrote to the Archbishop of York and summoned him and the other prelates to Sherburn-in-Elmet, one of the Archbishop’s own manors, a few miles north of Pontefract, on 28th June.
24/5/1321Hugh le DespenserOn 24th May 1321, at Pontefract Castle, Thomas Earl of Lancaster held the first of two meetings to gather support of  barons and clergy to remove the Despensers from power. The Despensers had become royal favourites of Edward II and had undue influence on the king. A second meeting happened at Sherburn-in Elmet on 28th June. The picture above is of Hugh le Despenser the Younger from the Founders' and benefactors' book“ of Tewkesbury Abbey, early 16th century.
24/5/1328On 24th May 1328, Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, brother of the executed Thomas of Lancaster, and now restored to the earldom and control of Pontefract Castle, hosted Edward III at Warwick Castle to discuss plans to attack France.
24/5/1343On 24th May 1343, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster and later lord of Pontefract, was made Chief Ambassador to Pope Clement VI by Edward III.
27/5/1311The immediate product of Thomas of Lancaster’s de Lacy inheritance (including Pontefract) in February 1311, was a worsening of his relations with the king. The Lanercost chronicler tells how he came north to do homage for his new earldoms, but refused to leave the kingdom to meet Edward II, while Edward similarly refused to come to him over the Tweed. Civil war was feared, for Lancaster threatened to return with a hundred knights and enter his new lands by force. Eventually, however, the king gave way, crossed the Tweed and came to the earl near Berwick, where an apparently amicable meeting took place; though Lancaster still refused to greet Gaveston, who accompanied the king. The Chronicle of Lanercost records that on 27th May 1311 Edward II ordered the escheators (legal officers dealing with a deceased’s property) to deliver the bulk of the former de Lacy lands to Lancaster and his wife, ‘Thomas having done fealty and the king having respited his homage . . . until he be lawfully warned to do the same’. Lancaster did not perform homage until 26th August.
27/5/1359From the 27th to the 29th May 1359, the ‘Rogation Days’, Edward III and his older sons – Edward, Lionel and John of Gaunt, future lord of Pontefract, - appeared in disguise at the royal tournament at Smithfield, London.
27/5/1384On 27th May 1384, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, led a second round of Anglo-French talks in Flanders but could only secure a year’s truce not a treaty. The April Parliament that year had agreed to the idea of doing homage to Charles VI of France by oath for Aquitaine but not Calais, with some historians suggesting a Ricardian/Gaunt plan to hand over Aquitaine to Gaunt as a hereditary appanage so he, not Richard II, would do homage for it. Despite French envoys encouraging the Scots to enter into their truce with England, Archibald Douglas raided Northumberland the following month.
DateEvent
1/5/1484On 1st May 1484, a German Silesian knight and traveller, Niclas Von Popplau, passed or visited  Pontefract on a visit to King Richard III who was in residence at York. This visit may have been a diplomatic mission on behalf of Maximillian Duke of Burgundy, who was in conflict with the French king Louis XI who also claimed the Burgundian title.  This is a translation of the 15th century text of his visit by Niclas; “Ten miles from Doncaster as we travel towards York, there is a castle. In there the king keeps his treasure and all great gentlemen, also the kings children and the sons of princes, which are kept like prisoners. And the castle is called Pons Fractus as the king himself by the name of Richard King of England .... told me and explained to me. I arrived on the day Phillip and Jacobi, that is the first of May (1484) on Saturday, and graciously granted me audience on the next day.” It is interesting to speculate who the 'children and sons of princes' may have been. Much controversy has surrounded the deaths of the two princes in the Tower in 1483, but it worth noting what Popplau then goes on to say; 'And King Richard who reigns now, had put to death the sons of King Edward, they say, so that not they but he was crowned. But many say (and I count myself amongst them) they still live and are kept in a very dark cellar'. Readers are invited to share their thoughts and comments and any evidence they have on this world - famous 'murder mystery', with us via the 'Contact Us' button on the right hand side of this page.
2/5/1483On 2nd May 1483, at the command of Richard IIISir Thomas Vaughan, the personal chamberlain to the young Edward V, was dispatched as a prisoner to Pontefract Castle where he was executed later that year. On the same day, Edward’s uncle, Anthony Woodville (Earl Rivers), and Sir Richard Grey were dispatched to Sheriff Hutton Castle and Middleham Castle respectively. All three, along with Richard Haute (the latter is open to question), were executed in June at Pontefract Castle. The picture above is of Edward V from Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, Lambeth Palace.
2/5/1484On 2nd May 1484, Niclas Von Popplau was granted an audience with Richard III, ‘in the presence of the princes, earls, councillors and all his nobility, in front of which I spoke Latin'. This meeting was held at York and Popplau delivered to Richard letters from His Imperial Majesty the King and the Duke of Burgundy. We do not know the content of these letters but, after Popplau left the king's court on that day, he was conducted to a nearby inn by a gentleman of the Royal Chamber, quickly finding they were not alone as they were followed by many women and maidens. It is at this meeting that Richard III mentioned to Popplau that the castle he had passed or visited on his way from Doncaster to York, 'is called in Latin pons fractus, which was confirmed to me later by the word of the king himself, whose name is Richard King of England.....'  Again, as per our entry for the 1st May 1484 it is intriguing to consider the possibility that Popplau's travel-diary comment 'the king's children and sons to the princes just like you keep prisoners'  may refer to the two ‘Princes in the Tower’ supposedly murdered in 1483. We would invite any comments, evidence or discussion upon this fascinating mystery through the 'Contact Us' button to the right of this page.
3/5/1484On 3rd May 1484 Richard III asked Niclas Von Popplau to join him at mass at a nearby church in York. Popplau, who on the previous day had discussed with Richard  the 'stronghold castle ....... called in Latin pons fractus',  wrote that he would hear ‘the most delightful music that I heard in all my life … with voices compared to angels’. Richard had had a tent erected near the church and this is interesting for the fact that it is one of the few insights we get to see the majesty of Richard’s court during his short reign. Popplau was struck by the lavish nature of the tent - ‘I saw the king’s bed covered in red velvet and a cloth of gold. And in the king’s tent there was also a table covered all around with cloths of silk embroidered with gold set up next to the bed". At the king's table, where Richard wore a collar of gold with many pearls the ‘size of peas’, were Richard’s princes and lords. According to Popplau, Richard continually talked to him and hardly ate, asking him about His Imperial Majesty (Frederick III) and the kings and princes of the empire. Popplau’s account of Richard’s court at York shows a king who was kind, learned and very passionate about events and people, a stark contrast to the Richard portrayed by Shakespeare.
6/5/1471On 6th May 1471, two days after the Battle of Tewkesbury, a court of chivalry under Richard, High Constable of England, Duke of Gloucester and steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of Trent with official residence at Pontefract Castle, convened to try various opponents for treason. Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset, Hugh Courtenay, cousin of the Earls of Devon, and Sir John Langstrother, prior of the military order of St John were amongst the Lancastrians executed after makeshift trials.
12/5/1423On 12th May 1423, it was determined that James I of Scotland should be allowed to meet at Pontefract Castle with Scottish ambassadors and those of Henry VI to negotiate his release from captivity and return to Scotland. Safe passage was granted to the Scottish ambassadors on this date also. The first treaty was concluded in London (10th September) with the Bishop and Archdeacon of Glasgow and Abbot of Balmerinoch amongst the Scots’ delegation and the Bishop of Worcester and Stafford, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle amongst the English commissaries.
15/5/1401Whilst the exact cause of the death of Richard II will remain a point of conjecture, what is certain is that Thomas Swynford, Richard II's gaoler at Pontefract Castle, prospered under Henry IV, being made the Sheriff of Lincolnshire and on 15th May 1401, being granted the stewardship of the Lancastrian honour of Tickhill. In 1402, Henry would choose Thomas as one of his chamber knights.
18/5/1407On 18th May 1407, Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle (and also Constable at Tickhill Castle and Castle Donington), was appointed by Henry IV as Chief Steward of the northern parts of the Duchy of Lancaster. Unfortunately for Waterton, this appointment was not renewed on the accession of Henry V.
18/5/1471On 18th May 1471, Richard, brother of Edward IV, Duke of Gloucester, steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of Trent and later Richard III, with official residence at Pontefract Castle, was granted the office of Great Chamberlain of England, previously held by the Earl of Warwick. This office was superior to that of Constable given to Richard in 1469.
21/5/1424On 21st May 1424, David Menzies, hostage for James I of Scotland was sent from Pontefract Castle to the Tower of London under the following order in the name of Henry VI: ‘The K(ing) orders Robert Waterton, Esq., Constable of Pontefract Castle, to deliver David, eldest son and heir of the Earl of Athol; Alexander, Earl of Crawford; Alexander of Gordoune, John Lindesay; Patrick, eldest son and heir of Sir John of Lyon, knight; Andrew Gray of Foullys; David of Ogilvy, Sir William of Rothvane, knight; David MEIGNEZ (Menzies), and William Olyfaunt, Lord of Abirdalgy — hostages under the treaty with the K(ing) of Scots. To Robert Scot, Lieutenant of the Constable of the Tower of London.’
28/5/1405On 28th May 1405, Henry IV arrived at Derby after dashing from Hereford and informed his council of a revolt in the name of Edmund Mortimer against his rule, being called a usurper. By the previous day, 8000-9000 people had gathered on Shipton Moor outside York under the incitement of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, and Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk, intending to link up with Henry Percy’s, Earl of Northumberland rebellious forces against the king. Henry IV asked for a rendezvous at Pontefract. The Earl of Westmorland and Henry’s son Prince John, arrived in Yorkshire from the North with their Border forces and Henry reached Pontefract on 3rd June.
28/5/1463In late May 1463 (possibly 28th/29th), John, Lord Montagu, brother of the Earl of Warwick, presented Henry VI’s bycoket (style of hat fashionable in 15th century Europe turned up at the back and pointed at the front like a bird’s beak and commonly associated with depictions of Robin Hood) to Edward IV at Pontefract. This had been left behind at Bywell Castle by Henry in his rushed departure after the defeat of Lancastrian forces, led by the Duke of Somerset, at Hexham on 14th May.
30/5/1472On 30th May 1472, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford, Countess Rivers, died. She was the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen Consort of Edward IV, and Anthony Woodville executed at Pontefract Castle in 1483 by Richard III. Having previously been wife to the Duke of Bedford, brother of Henry V, she had been allied to both the Lancastrian and Yorkist dynasties. Her second husband, Sir Richard Woodville had been executed by the Earl of Warwick in 1469 and her eventful life saw her accused of witchcraft shortly afterwards albeit she was exonerated in January 1470. After her death, Richard III, without proof, revived this claim in the Act of Titulus Regius stating she had procured her daughter’s marriage to Edward IV through witchcraft.
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1/5/1528In May 1528, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and the illegitimate son of Henry VIII was in residence in Pontefract.  Henry was the result of a 'liaison' between Henry VIII and one of Catherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting, perhaps Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount. Henry Fitzroy had spent the greater part of 1527 and all the early part of 1528 at Pontefract and it is known from a letter written by William Parr, 1st Marquess of Northampton and brother of Catherine Parr, to Cardinal Wolsey, that a sweating sickness was reported in Pontefract in May 1528. Henry Fitzroy was in good health  but ‘ there has six persones lately disseased within the lordship of Pontefracte … and that many young children bee sick of the pokkes nere thereabouts”. Henry was moved to Ledston (Ledston Hall), a house that belonged to the Prior of Pontefract.
5/5/1550On the 5th May 1550, Edward VI again issued the Pontefract's Charter. A confirmatory charter was issued by James I in 1606-07.
15/5/1537On 15th May 1537, Lord Darcy, Constable of Pontefract Castle during the previous year’s Pilgrimage of Grace, was brought to trial in Westminster Hall on a charge of treason, chiefly drawn up by Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, now one of his judges. Although Darcy pleaded not guilty and was expected by some to be acquitted, he was found guilty and scheduled to be executed four days later. This was postponed, however, as the King was undecided whether it would have a better effect if Darcy was executed in his own county and not London. The King’s letter to the Duke of Norfolk stated:' ……it should be meet to have them executed at Doncaster and thereabouts…..we think it should not be amiss that we should send the said Darcy, Constable and Aske down for that purpose; requiring you, with diligence, to advertise us of your opinion in that behalf.’ Norfolk advised against such.
16/5/1528In May 1528, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was staying at Pontefract Castle when outbreaks of sweating sickness were recorded in the town. William Parr wrote to Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, that Henry was in good health but ‘there bee six persons lately disseassed within the lordship of Pountfrete…and that many young children bee sicke of the pokes nere thereabouts.’. Henry was moved to Ledestone, a house belonging to the Prior of Pontefract, three miles from the castle. The place was Ledston Hall or the manor that stood on the present site of the later hall.
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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 above 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 in Pontefract Castle 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.
14/5/1666In May 1666, controversial Archbishop of St Andrews, James Sharp, Primate of Scotland, stopped at Pontefract on his way to London from Edinburgh. His secretary, George Martin, recorded his travels in some detail stating the Edinburgh to Pontefract journey of 210 miles on horseback took six days with charges of £140 11s 4d (nearly £34,000 in today’s money). The Pontefract to London ‘leg’ of 185 miles by ‘coatch’ (sic) took five days at a cost of £179 7s (£43,000).
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, 17th May, 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 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 was 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 its 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" The besiegers 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 was taking him to the guardhouse at the New Hall he slipped away and got back to the castle.
27/5/1643On 27th May 1643, Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I, wrote to Charles: ‘…I have consulted with the Earl of Newcastle and General King upon the state of this army, and the means there were for me to come to you. The conclusion has been that the Earl of Newcastle should give me two thousand foot men, twelve companies of cavalry and two hundred dragoons. For arms you must not expect them at present, for I have been constrained to give them, to arm the new men. I shall set out the 31st of this month, and that it may not be hindered, I keep it very secret. I pretend only to go to Pontefract, during the time they are besieging Leeds, which will not be, being impossible, bringing you the forces which I do.’
27/5/1645The besieged Royalists (at Pontefract Castle) 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 Parliamentarians 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.
DateEvent
8/5/1756On 8th May 1756, markets for horned cattle at Pontefract were opened having not been allowed for several years on account of ‘a distemper which had so long raged amongst them……The distemper continued for many years, and many were very great sufferers…..notwithstanding so many died yet beef was not dear…’
DateEvent
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.’
DateEvent
12/5/1913On 12th May 1913, during a balloon ascent and parachute descent at Pontefract Castle for its Whitsuntide gala, the balloon burst injuring a man and young girl.
27/5/1954On 27th May 1954, at the annual meeting of the Council (Wakefield), the assurance of the Duchy of Lancaster by letter was accepted: ‘as occasion arises should require to do such repairs to the castle ruins to ensure that they are not a danger to the public'.