This Day in History: 1648-11-30

In 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”