Pontefract Castle – November

15/11/1069In mid-November 1069, William I arrived at the ‘broken bridge’ (Ponte-fract) crossing the River Aire in Yorkshire. William was facing numerous uprisings across the country – including York where 3000 Normans were killed by the Danes, Dorset/Somerset, Exeter, Shrewsbury, Stafford - and reached York in early December to find that the Danes had fled having no intention to meet William in open battle. This was William’s third visit to the north in eighteen months! His strategy of ‘buying off’ the Danes and scorched-earth destruction of homes, herds, chattels, food and crops and slaying of people (‘Harrying of the North’) to ensure that no future army could take arms against him, resulted in over 100,000 deaths through famine.
1/11/1297Thomas of Lancaster, later lord of Pontefract, first saw service on the Flanders campaign of 1297-8 and it was on this expedition that he was knighted at Ghent on All Saints Day 1297. As far as we know, this was the only occasion during his public life when he went overseas. Unlike his father, Thomas held few lands abroad, nor did he serve in France as a diplomat or soldier as his father, Edmund, had done. In contrast, he served in Scotland over a long period: he was at Falkirk in 1298; at Caerlaverock in 1300; at Perth with the Prince in the winter of 1303-4; and with him again in the campaign of 1306-7.
1/11/1298In November 1298, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was rewarded by Edward I for his efforts in the Scottish campaign with the title and lands of James, Steward of Scotland, including the baronry of Renfrew.
4/11/1250On 4th November 1250, Edmund de Lacy, later lord of Pontefract, was awarded a grant for a weekly market to move from Thursday to Sunday in his Bradford manor and two days later was pardoned for misdemeanours committed in the royal forest.
9/11/1215On 9th November 1215, William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle, was Joint Envoy to the Barons and citizens of London concerning King John’s difficulties over Magna Carta.
10/11/1277On 10th November 1277, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, escorted the defeated Welsh 'rebel' leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, to Rhuddlan in order to submit to Edward I.
11/11/1294On 11th November 1294, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, as part of the renewed Welsh campaign of Edward I, was attacked by his own Welsh tenants and compelled to retreat when he tried to relieve Denbigh Castle (which he had been awarded in 1282). The following year, five Welsh hostages were conveyed through de Lacy's territories to Pontefract Castle.
12/11/1287On 12th November 1287, Abbot Hugh of Kirkstall Abbey described in a letter to his convent the tiring journey he had made to Gascony in search of Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, to seek financial help to repay the Abbey’s creditors: “here we found our patron, the Earl of Lincoln, with other great men of the Court, attending upon the King; and to him we explained fully and to the best of our ability the distresses of the House. He was touched with pity at our representation, and promise us all the information and assistance in his power”.
16/11/1295On 16th November 1295, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, obtained a pardon from Edward I for his steward, William de Stopham, who was to travel with him to Gascony, for marrying without the king’s licence.  
22/11/1232On 22nd November 1232, John de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was granted the third penny of the county of Lincolnshire after the death of his wife’s (Margaret) uncle Ranulph, Earl of Lincoln, on 26th October that year. This was the prelude to de Lacy’s formal investiture as Earl. The ‘third penny’ meant that de Lacy would receive one-third of the revenues of justice of the shire (£20 or over £31,000 in today’s money)
23/11/1232On 23rd November 1232, by a charter dated at Northampton, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract and his wife, Margaret (only daughter and heir of Robert de Quincy, Earl of Winchester and Hawyse, youngest sister and co-heir of Ranulph de Mechines, Earl of Chester and Lincoln) were formally invested by Henry III as 2nd Earl and 2nd Countess of Lincoln. John obtained the title by right of his wife who, herself, had inherited the title via her mother and uncle who had died on 26th October that year. Ranulph had formally granted the Earldom of Lincoln to his sister ‘to the end that she might be countess, and that her heirs might also enjoy the earldom’. Margaret had specifically requested the king that her husband, John de Lacy, be created Earl of Lincoln with remainder to the heirs of his body by her. Ranulph’s principal barony, Bolingbroke, was retained by de Lacy’s mother-in-law, Hawyse until her death in 1243. Hawyse, herself, had been granted the title by formal charter in April 1231 and was invested as suo jure 1st Countess of Lincoln on the day after her brother Ranulph’s death, effectively holding it for less than a month.
28/11/1223On 28th November 1223, Henry III and Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent and Chief Justiciar (king’s deputy during his minority), met a group of nobles including John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, in London to try to resolve a declaration by Pope Honorius III on April 23rd that year. The pope, in seeking to increase contributions to his plans for a crusade had declared that Henry was then to be considered of age and should be allowed to retake possession of castles that had been held by others during his minority. Henry had, initially, ordered that Hereford and Gloucester castles be handed over to de Burgh, sparking an outrage amongst the affected and liable nobles. Despite some conciliatory suggestions to Henry by the pope, Archbishop Langton’s threat of excommunication of the barons unless the identified castles were returned, and Henry’s promise that the properties were to be reclaimed in a fair manner, caused the barons to submit.
30/11/1205On 30th November 1205, William de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle, was Joint Envoy and Escort to William, King of Scotland, probably concerning preparation for discussions between William and King John over Northumberland still in English hands.
1/11/1320Edward II now had a new favourite - Hugh Despenser the Younger - and when, in November 1320, he persuaded Edward that the lordship of the Gower should be taken into royal hands following the death of William de Braose, trouble was to follow with Thomas Earl of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract. Lancaster’s huge estates made him a neighbour of Despenser, and with Edward’s indulgence of Despenser aggression, Lancaster’s interests coalesced with those of the Marcher lords into a collective determination to restore the rule of law. The road to Lancaster’s downfall and final execution at Pontefract had begun.
2/11/1355On 2nd November 1355, the forces of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, and his future son-in-law, John of Gaunt, landed at Calais along with Edward III’s army, Prince Lionel of Antwerp and one thousand mercenary soldiers from the Netherlands and Germany. Edward III intended to confront John II of France regarding, amongst other things, full English sovereignty over Aquitaine. Edward, the Black Prince, had belatedly set sail for Aquitaine directly that September.
3/11/1315On 5th October 1315, Sir John Lilburn, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster’s (lord of Pontefract) retainer, seized Knaresborough Castle, which Amory had held for the king since December 1314. Alton Castle in Staffordshire, also in Amory’s custody, was evidently attacked at the same time, for on 3rd November Lancaster was ordered to deliver both the castles to the sheriffs of the respective counties. Knaresborough was held by the Earl’s men until 29th January 1316, having come under siege from William Roos of Helmsley, John Mowbray, John Marmion, Ralph de Bulmer, John Fauconberg, Simon Ward, and other Yorkshire magnates assembled by the sheriff (an interesting reflection of the opposition to Lancaster among a section of the northern baronage). Lilburn himself was pardoned in March. Once again Lancaster’s power had been demonstrated.
3/11/1318On 3rd November 1318, King Edward II issued a Parliamentary writ ordering Thomas of Lancaster to cease attacking the Yorkshire Castles of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. One personal reason for Lancaster’s vendetta against de Warren had been that, in 1317, his wife Alice had been carried off from Cranford in Dorset, to Reigate by a knight of the Earl of Warenne, “not, however, by way of adultery, but in contempt of the Earl”. The king offered to do justice in the dispute towards Lancaster if he would desist. The chronicle of St. Werburgh's, Chester, records the devastation of all Warenne's lands north of the River Trent at this time.
12/11/1355On 12th November 1355, Edward III returned to England, curtailing his French expedition in order to march north to repel Scottish forces led by the Earl of March and William, Lord of Douglas. The Scots had raided as far south as Durham and had slaughtered the Berwick-upon-Tweed garrison. John of Gaunt, later lord of Pontefract Castle, accompanied his elder brother, Lionel. Edward’s eventual march to Edinburgh, burning, pillaging and slaying en route became known as ‘Burnt Candlemas’.
13/11/1362On 13th November 1362, John of Gaunt received the title ‘Duke of Lancaster’ from his father, Edward III. By then, he owned over thirty castles and estates in England (including Pontefract) and France.
20/11/1361On 20th November 1361, The Register of John Thoresby, Archbishop of York, recorded the ordination of the new vicarage of the parish church of Pontefract with the provision of a chantry to sing masses for the soul of Thomas, late Earl of Lancaster, executed for treason at Pontefract in 1322.
20/11/1399On 20th November 1399, Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle (and also Constable at Tickhill Castle and Castle Donnington), was appointed Henry IV’s Master of Horse. This meant that all matters concerning the horses, hounds, stables, coachhouses, the stud, mews and kennels of the monarch came within his jurisdiction.
24/11/1394On 24th November 1394, Charles of Orleans was born in Paris. He became Duke of Orleans in 1407 following the murder of his father, Louis I. In 1406, at the age of eleven, he married his sixteen-year-old cousin, Isabelle (daughter of Charles VI and Queen Isabeau of France) who was the widow of Richard II. Ironically, both Charles and Richard were imprisoned for periods in Pontefract Castle; Richard for a matter of weeks, Charles for two and a half years.
28/11/1399On 28th November 1399, Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle (and also Constable at Tickhill Castle and Castle Donnington), was granted the manor of Doubledyke in Gosberton, Lincolnshire, forfeited by Sir John Bushy after his execution for treason by Henry IV.
29/11/1318After the execution of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, petitioned Edward II in 1322 to regain his lands taken from him by the Earl of Lancaster. John de Warenne described how Lancaster had attacked his Yorkshire castles and during a meeting at Pontefract had threatened him with death unless he released all his lands to him. These included not only the Yorkshire lands, such as the Wakefield Manor and Conisborough but also manors in North Wales and estates in Norfolk. De Warenne had been forced to comply on the 29th November 1318 when he signed documents to this effect at Doncaster. De Warenne was also given the impossible task of paying Lancaster £50,000 (approximately £47.5 million in today’s money) by Christmas Day at the house of the Friars Minor in Leicester. It appears that Lancaster was attempting to remove de Warenne's influence in the North of England completely.
29/11/1321On 29th November 1321, Sir Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, who later deposed Edward II and ruled with Queen Isabella during the minority of Edward III, arrived at Pontefract Castle on his travels to the north.
30/11/1318The transfer of estates from John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, to the Earl of Lancaster was completed at Kirk Smeaton on the 30th November 1318 when de Warenne granted all his Welsh lands to Thomas for life. Warenne's lands in Norfolk e.g. Castle Acre, were almost certainly released to Lancaster at this time. In addition to lands, Warenne had to release to Lancaster the valuable wardship of Richard Foliot, who later died in 1325 before he became of age. Most of the land releases were ratified by Edward II in January of 1319. Now Lancaster had no rival in Yorkshire, already holding Pontefract Castle and its honour, he had now secured the castles of Sandal and Conisbrough as well as the manors of Sowerby, Halifax, Dewsbury, Wakefield, Thorne, Fishlake, Hatfield and Braithwell. He seemed unchallengeable in the North.
4/11/1461On 4th November 1461, a nine-years-old Richard, brother of Edward IV, soon to be steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of Trent with official residence at Pontefract Castle, was created Duke of Gloucester. The title was highly significant because of its association with the youngest sons of previous kings (Edward III’s, Henry IV’s) and, in Edward’s eyes bolstered the legitimacy of his claim to the throne by identifying his father (Richard, Duke of York) as a rightful king.
28/11/1483On 28th November 1483, Richard III issued a warrant to the receiver of Pontefract to pay Thomas Langton and William Salley £40 (£27,650 in today's money) for 'bilding and edifieng' the chapel at Towton. Later, he also awarded Sir John Batmane seven marks a year (£3,235 in today's money) from the Honour of Pontefract to sing at Towton Chapel for life with his successors to receive the same sum.
1/11/1541On 1st November 1541, Henry VIII is made aware of Queen Catherine Howard’s supposed infidelity with Thomas Culpepper, a courtier, at Pontefract Castle. A letter to him written by the queen and signed ‘Yours as long as life endures’ was believed to have been sent during this stay at the castle. Not only was the letter interpreted as evidence of an affair but also of Culpepper’s machinations to gain power and control over the queen, with the king in a poor state of health. On 7th November, Archbishop Cranmer led a delegation of councillors to Winchester Palace, Southwark, to question her.
2/11/1536On 2nd November 1536, general pardons to all rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace who lived north of Doncaster, for any offences committed before 1st November, were drafted. These were very similar to the terms offered the Lincolnshire rebels the previous month. However, excepted persons were Robert Aske, Hutton of Snape, Kitchen of Beverley, bailiff William Ombler, shoemaker Henry Coke of Durham, Maunsell, Vicar of Brayton and four unnamed others.
9/11/1530Cardinal_Wolsey On 9th November 1530, ex-Cardinal Wolsey (but still Archbishop of York) arrived at the Cluniac Priory in Pontefract from Cawood Castle, accompanied by Henry Percy, 6th the Earl of Northumberland. Wolsey had earlier been stripped of his government office and property, and arrested on a charge of high treason. It was probable that he was intended for execution and was on his way to Sheffield to be given into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Cavendish notes ‘every thoroughfare was blocked up with a living mass of human beings who…craved his blessing as he rode by them’. He reached Sheffield around the 25th and died at Leicester Abbey on the 29th/ 30th November.
11/11/1536On 11th November 1536, Lord Darcy called the Archbishop of York and Archdeacon Magnus to witness that the defence of Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace had been impossible due to no powder, ordnance nor artillery stationed there and the king having sent no reply to his pleas for help.
23/11/1539cluniac_prioryOn 23rd November 1539, the Cluniac Priory of St John the Evangelist in Pontefract, which had been founded by Robert de Lacy in around 1090, was surrendered to Henry VIII's commissioners. The commissioners' report said that they had 'quietly takine the surrenders and dissolvyed the monasterie of Pountfrette, wher we perceyved no murmure ore gruge in any behalfe bot wer thankefully receyvede.' Pensions were granted to the prior (£50, nearly £50,000 in today's money) and twelve brethren. The prior, James Thwaytes, was then appointed Dean of St. Clement's for life.
26/11/1538St Richards friaryOn 26th November 1538, The Dominican Friary of Our Lady, Saint Dominic, and Saint Richard, which had been founded in about 1256 by Edmund de Lacy, was surrendered to the Crown Commissioners of Henry VIII. The two bells and roof lead were stripped and sold, as was the entire site. The buildings were demolished for their stone, wood, glass and fittings, which were also sold. The site reverted to agricultural use as pasture land and later became liquorice fields.  Pontefract hospital eventually 'spread' over the site after the foundation of the Dispensary in the late 1890’s.
28/11/1536On 28th November 1536, after various alleged transgressions of the truce brokered at Pontefract in the Pilgrimage of Grace, rebels began to assemble at the castle with Lord Darcy (returning from his home at Templehurst) and Robert Aske arriving by the 2nd December.
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”.
10/11/1649On 10th November 1649, Lieutenant-General Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief of the New Model Army during the English Civil War, appealed to the Committee of the West Riding of York on behalf of a Mr Stringer for losses occasioned by the ‘Forces’ in the third siege of Pontefract Castle.
11/11/1633On 11th November 1633, George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax, was born in Thornhill, West Riding of Yorkshire. His father, Sir William Savile, 3rd Baronet of Thornhill, had distinguished himself for the Royalists in the Civil War, killed in action near York. George Savile was elected as MP for Pontefract in 1660 in the Convention Parliament and in the same year made Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Yorkshire and Colonel of a foot regiment in the Yorkshire Militia.
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. ‘For the Right Honourable the Committee of Lords and Commons sitting at Derby House Knottingley, near Pontefract So soon as I came into these parts, I met with an earnest desire ……to take upon me the charge here, for the reducing of the Garrison of Pontefract……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; as also the condition of the country….. My Lords, the Castle hath been victualled with Two-hundred and twenty or forty fat cattle, within these three weeks; and they have also gotten in…..salt enough for them and more. So that I apprehended 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 very thick and high, with strong towers; and if battered, very difficult of access……The County is exceedingly impoverished…..nor well able to furnish provisions….my duty to represent unto you…. That moneys be provided for Three complete regiments of Foot and Two of Horse……..Five-hundred Barrels of powder…Six good Battering-guns, with Three-hundred shot to each Gun, be speedily sent down to Hull…We desire also some match and bullet….and two or three of the biggest Mortar-pieces with shells. …this place hath cost the Kingdom some hundred-thousands of pounds already…….And indeed I would not satisfy myself nor my duty to you and them, To put the poor men, at this season of the year, to lie in the field: before we be furnished with shoes, stockings and clothes, for them to cover their nakedness…’ On 18th November 1648, an order of the House, in reply to Cromwell’s 15th November request for money, materiel and provisions to continue the siege of Pontefract Castle, gave not Five-hundred Barrels of powder but Two-hundred and fifty. The lack of provisions for the Parliamentary besiegers was one reason for the castle holding out for another four months!
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”
28/11/1753On 28th November 1753, George Dunhill, inventor of the commercial, sweet liquorice Pontefract (Pomfret) Cake when only 7 years old, was born in Pontefract. Liquorice had been grown in Pontefract for many years – probably from the 14th century but certainly in the town in 1562 - and a 1648 siege map (of Pontefract Castle) showed its being cultivated in ‘garths’ either side of Micklegate running from the Market Place to the castle. Parts of the castle yard/bailey and magazine were given over to liquorice cultivation and storage after the Civil War with the Dunhill family renting land inside the castle by 1720. An Order of the Corporation in 1701 prohibited inhabitants of Pontefract from selling any liquorice buds or setts to persons residing outside the limits of the borough.
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.