This Day in History: 1726-08-09
On 9th August 1726, Volume III of Daniel Defoe’s travelogue A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain: Divided into Circuits or Journies was released (and later on 13th October 1738, the second, revised edition), having been published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727. Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe in 1719), novelist and pamphleteer wrote about Sandal and Pontefract:
‘From Wakefield, we went to see the ancient Town of Pontefract. …. In Pontefract, and the Castle, much Blood has been spilt, in different Ages. Here, Henry (sic), the great Earl of Lancaster, who was Lord of the Castle, and whose Ancestors had beautified, inlarged, and fortified it, was beheaded by his Nephew, King Edward II with three or four more of the English Barons. Here Richard II was murder’d, and, if History may be credited, in a most cruel manner: and here Antony Earl of Rivers, and Sir Richard Gray, the former Uncle, and the other Brother-in-law to King Edward V were beheaded by King Richard III. In the late Civil Wars, a small Party of brave Fellows took this Castle by Surprize for the King, and desperately defended it to the last Extremity; but being at length obliged to yield, five of them attempted to break thro’ the Besiegers Camp, three of whom perished in the Attempt.
The Town is large and well built, but much smaller than it has been. The Castle lies in Ruins, though not demolished…..in the year 1735, the old (market) Cross was pulled down, and a handsome Dome, supported by a Colonnade of Doric Pillars (the charge whereof was defrayed by a Legacy left by one Dupere, an Inhabitant of the Town) was erected for that Purpose. The Ruins of The Castle shew it to have been a Noble Pile. A round Tower, yet standing, is intire, in or near which, the Tradition is, King Richard II was slain. Adjoining to this Tower are Winding airs, which descend into several Vaults, and subterraneous Passages.’