This Day in History: 1648-11-15
On 15th November 1648, during the third siege of Pontefract Castle, Oliver 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!