Sandal Castle – December

15/12/1286On 15th December 1286, William de Warenne, son of John de Warenne - 6th Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle - was killed at a tournament in Croydon, just 6 months after the birth of his son and heir, John, who would become the seventh and last Earl of Surrey and last of the de Warenne's to own Sandal Castle.
2/12/1307On 2nd December 1307, John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle, opposed Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, and court favourite of Edward II, at a tournament at Wallingford. Later, after Gaveston’s execution, Edward II forbade de Warenne to attend tournaments at Newmarket on the 17th January 1313 and Brackley on the 16th September that same year.
1/12/1450On 1st December 1450, the Duke of Somerset’s lodgings in Blackfriars were attacked by supporters of Richard, Duke of York, lord of Sandal, and the Duke of Norfolk. York had been at odds with Somerset for some time, having accused him of military incompetence in France, financial corruption and mismanagement and of giving poor advice to Henry VI. Unfortunately for York, Somerset was a Queen’s favourite.
1/12/1459On 1st December 1459, after Richard, Duke of York’s (lord of Sandal Castle) open rebellion against Henry VI at Ludford Bridge in October, the Master of the King’s Ordnance was ordered to survey the Neville and York castles and towns, ensuring their forts were kept in good repair for royal use. Twenty-six men had been attainted of treason including: York; the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick (and two of their sons); the Earls of March and Rutland. John de la Pole had his dukedom of Suffolk downgraded to earl. One woman was also attainted: Alice, Countess of Salisbury.
2/12/1450On 2nd December 1450, Richard, Duke of York (lord of Sandal Castle), and John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, assembled their forces in London and rounded up looters following the chaos ensuing the list of ‘improper persons’ the Commons wanted removed from Henry VI’s presence and court. Prominent amongst these persons were, the Duke of Somerset, Alice Chaucer, dowager Duchess of Suffolk, Sir Thomas Hoo, Chancellor of Normandy and Alice’s henchman Thomas Tuddenham. York and Norfolk issued proclamations against robbery and beheaded one thief on the Strand as a warning. Henry VI saw York’s actions as a usurpation of royal authority and suspected his responsibility for the unrest in the first place!
3/12/1450On 3rd December 1450, a grand royal procession occurred in London just days after men from the households of Richard, Duke of York, lord of Sandal, and the Duke of Norfolk had attacked the Duke of Somerset causing rioting around Blackfriars. Somerset had been sent to the Tower of London and to all intents and purposes York now seemed to be enforcer of the King’s peace. Benet’s Chronicle stated: ‘On Thursday 3rd December the King, accompanied by his dukes, earls, barons, knights and squires and others, all in full armour and about 1000 in number, marched in solemn procession through London. The Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Devon, with 3000 men, provided the vanguard; the King, the Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Arundel, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Earl of Worcester and others with 4000 men followed….’
4/12/1453On 4th December 1453, Henry VI’s mental incapacity was officially acknowledged for the first-time allowing Richard, Duke of York (lord of Sandal Castle), and his allies in council more latitude to legitimize York’s ‘agenda’ and authority against Queen Margaret and her allies including Viscount Beaumont and Cardinal Kempe. York’s faction was dominated by the Duke of Norfolk, York’s Neville in-laws (Earls of Salisbury and Warwick), and the Bourchier brothers (Thomas, later Archbishop of Canterbury and Henry, Earl of Essex)
7/12/1484On 7th December 1484, Richard III, lord of Sandal, issued a royal proclamation forewarning of an expected invasion by Henry Tudor. This was re-issued in June 1485, instructing citizens to resist such and to array when commanded. Tudor had failed to land forces once already and the build-up of disaffected nobles in exile indicated invasion was imminent. Richard appointed Captains to take charge of various coastal areas with Viscount Lovell responsible for England’s south coast. The Earl of Pembroke and Rhys ap Thomas were to secure South Wales. Sufficient warning of answering a call to array meant that men could plan for the management of their lands or trades in their absence, or death, on campaign and prepare enfeoffments (a deed giving land in exchange for a pledge of service), pay/collect debts, provide for their families and get ready for war.
14/12/1450On 14th December 1450, Richard, Duke of York, lord of Sandal, and his brother-in-law Bishop Bourchier were appointed by Henry VI to lead a commission of oyer and terminer (judges of assize inquiring into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanours in specified counties) in Kent and Sussex. This year had seen two revolts (by Thomas Cheyne and Jack Cade) by these communities and Henry VI was anxious to identify the agitators and mete out punishment. This astute move by the king placed York in an invidious position as his failure to fulfil the role would undermine him at court but exacting the full force of the law against riotous perpetrators would lose York significant support in areas which had called for him to be more fully involved in state affairs.
18/12/1484On 18th December 1484, a message from Thomas Wrangwysh, Mayor of York, addressed to the Earl of Lincoln, Lord President of the Council of the North, arrived at Sandal Castle. John Stafford and his son, Richard had been arrested (and confessed) on charges of counterfeiting French crowns and ‘uttering’ (passing) them within the city. Under a statute of Edward III, false coining was high treason punishable by a gruesome death. Wrangwysh requested the Earl ‘to show your commandment by our servant this bearer how I shall deal with the said John and with his son’. Lincoln requested Stafford to be sent to him to be examined with his son kept at York. However, York’s city council baulked at its authority being questioned and requested Stafford, ‘after your high pleasure and wisdom’ to be remitted to York ‘to be punished after his demerits, according to the rights of the said city’. Albeit Stafford’s (and son’s) fate is not known, it is likely his defence of finding coining irons in Derbyshire and counterfeiting foreign coins and not English ones was not a felony and would not become so until the reign of Henry VII!
19/12/1483On 19th December 1483, Richard III, lord of Sandal, issued orders relating to the Duchess of Buckingham. After going into hiding with some of her children when her husband’s revolt against the king had failed and he had been executed, she was discovered at Weobley by Christopher Wellesbourne. Richard ordered Wellesbourne to convey her and her children to London but with no attainder (forfeiture of land and civil rights), stripping of her title or any reprisals at all for her husband’s treason. This leniency contrasts markedly with the treatment of men who dared to cross a medieval monarch.
21/12/1460Between 21st -24th December 1460, Richard Duke of York arrived at his castle at Sandal with an army of approximately 5,000 men. Richard had initially intended to confront the Lancastrian armies based at Pontefract but, on realising he would be significantly outnumbered (the Lancastrians had approx. 15,000 troops), Richard decided he would have to spend Christmas at Sandal awaiting reinforcements from his son Edward Earl of March (later Edward IV); Edward had headed to the Welsh Marches to suppress a Lancastrian uprising in that area. Some contemporaries have the issue of the ravaging of the Yorkist properties in Yorkshire, especially by the Earls of Northumberland and Clifford, as the reason why York travelled north from London. However, what should not be forgotten is that it was the recovery of the Lancastrian strongholds such as Pontefract Castle that were key reasons for York's  venture. Disappointingly, for York, he found Sandal Castle poorly provisioned with only £4 6s 7d (just over £4700 in today's money) spent on the household during the feasting period between Christmas and the beginning of January.
25/12/1454On 25th December 1454, Henry VI awoke from his stupor and his senses quickly returned. He was introduced to his son Edward who had been born the previous year, and he quickly began to reverse all of the policies of the Duke of York that had been pursued over the last year. Richard would retire quietly to his castle at Sandal.
29/12/1460On 29th December 1460, both the Lancastrian and Yorkist forces were in position in readiness for battle (see the Pontefract posting on 28th December). Throughout the whole of the 29th, the Lancastrian forces taunted Richard, who was securely in his castle, trying to draw him from his stronghold as the Lancastrians had no siege equipment with them. The Lancastrians realised that, without any siege equipment, the longer Richard could maintain his position in the castle then the greater would be the likelihood that his forces would be reinforced. Consequently, the Lancastrians were desperate to draw him into battle.
30/12/1454On 30th December 1454, with Henry VI regaining his ‘sanity’ and acknowledging his young son, Prince Edward, for the first time, Richard, Duke of York’s regency effectively came to an end and he retired quietly to his castle at Sandal.
30/12/1460Margaret of AnjouFollowing the Battle of Wakefield, bonfires were lighted on 30th - 31st December 1460 to enable the conquerors to bury the bodies of the slain on the field of battle. A letter written at the time by a son who visited the battlefield in search of the dead body of his father said 'that at midnight the kindly snow fell like a mantle on the dead and covered the rueful faces staring to directly up to heaven'. After the battle, the Lancastrians set off towards York with the intention of reuniting with Margaret of Anjou who had remained in Scotland throughout the whole of the Wakefield campaign to gather further support and an army of mercenaries.
30/12/1460Richard_of_York_MemorialOn 30th December 1460, the Battle of Wakefield was fought on the plain ground between Sandal Castle and the town of Wakefield i.e. to the north of Sandal Castle. This battle has often been overlooked in history mainly due to its short duration (one to two hours) and the number of combatants, about 30,000, when compared against some of the great battles of the era at St Albans, Towton and Barnet. However, this battle changed the course of English history as the Yorkists were routed, losing 2,500 men, and Richard Duke of York, himself, who was killed and his head subsequently displayed on Micklegate Bar in York. There are many theories why Richard engaged the Lancastrians in battle when significantly outnumbered: the Yorkists had approximately 5,000 troops against the Lancastrians' 15,000-22,000 troops. These theories include York's underestimating the Lancastrian force and not realising that the Lancastrians had been split and hidden in woods to the west, east and north of the castle, meaning that  when Richard charged down the hill he was quickly surrounded. Also, Lord John Neville, on his long march North, had purportedly got word to Richard that he would raise troops to support his cause and arrive on the battlefield with 8,000 men, but he quickly changed sides, leading to the Yorkist army being encircled by enemy forces. Following the battle, Richard's second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland was captured close to Chantry Bridge by Lord Clifford and subsequently slain. The Earl of Salisbury was captured and taken to Pontefract where on the following day he was executed and his head removed and placed on Micklegate Bar along with Edmund's and his father's.
3/12/1887On 3rd December 1887, it was reported that the Sandal Local Board had taken in hand the works of laying out Sandal Castle hill to render it an attractive recreation ground for visitors.
17/12/1955On 17th December 1955, the ‘Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer’ reported: ‘Tenders are invited for the supply and erection of 500 yards of hardwood fencing to the grounds of Sandal Castle.’