27 March 2015

Pontefract

Pontefract Castle in its heyday.
On Thursday an English king was re-buried - but in the wrong city. His remains were found two years ago beneath a car park in Leicester. He had been killed in battle not far from Leicester at Bosworth Field in the summer of 1485 but Richard III is mostly associated with Yorkshire and should have been buried in York Minster. He was the last Yorkist king and Lord of the North. He spent much of his life in and around two Yorkshire castles - at Middleham and Pontefract.

Yesterday I visited Pontefract for the first time before another long countryside ramble. There was a windy chill in the air as I walked up to the castle - where I was the only visitor. It had stood for seven hundred years, playing a key role in the defence and development of the north of England. Battles and executions, love affairs and feasts, political discussions and imprisonments. Pontefract Castle saw it all. And when its time had passed, it was reduced to ruins. Local people came to take away stones for their own building projects and today what remains is but a tantalising shadow of the castle's glorious and formidable past.
Left - Richard II 1377 to 1399. Right - Richard III 1452 to 1485
A previous Richard, King Richard II died within the precincts of Pontefract Castle in 1399 or possibly 1400 having been ousted from the nation's throne by Henry Bolingbroke (Henry IV). It is believed that Richard II was starved to death - not hacked - and his tragic passing is referred to by Shakespeare in his play "Richard 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.
Pomfret is simply another name for Pontefract.

The castle was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War of the mid-seventeeth century and it was during this period that the castle was finally disabled forever. As a building complex it saw many changes during its seven centuries as a working castle and today just enough of it remains to absorb a sense of how it must have been.

As I wandered about the ruins with my fleece jacket zipped up to my chin, I noticed that high on the keep, the flag of Richard III had been attached to the flagpole where it was flying at half mast in his memory. He was the very last English king to die in battle.
Richard III's flag flying over the ruins of Pontefract Castle.
In the distance - Ferrybridge power station.

13 comments:

  1. I agree.

    Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by this son of York;
    And all the clouds that low'r'd upon our house
    In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

    ---Richard III, Act 1, scene 1, 1–4

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    1. A lovely piece of poetry. There is of course a character called Robert in "The Merry Wives of Windsor".

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  2. I've recently been reading the series about the Wars of the Roses by Philippa Gregory. Great stories which help to explain those turbulent, complicated times in England's history. Just have to remember that they are not history but stories set in those times - easy to forget as they are very believable.

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    1. I am not very knowledgeable about that complicated period in our history. You probably know more than I do. Sometimes a fiction based on research brings out more truths than a pure book of history based solely on facts.

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  3. Thank you sir, for the informative history lesson on King Richard of Yorkshire.

    Ms Soup

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    1. Madam, thy gratitude doth warm my heart and maketh my ocular orbs moist as the dew that clingeth to yon grass sward at break of day.

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  4. It's a lot of fuss about our obsession with privilege as a right of birth. Do we really want a man who killed his wife and was guilty of infanticide buried in Yorkshire? They should have popped him in landfill and the Bishops, princes and princesses could have paid their respects at the local tip.

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    1. You are always pussyfooting around Adrian. Why don't you just come out and say it as you feel?

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    2. Precisely Graham. "Lord Adrian's words are oft the voice of treason that echoeth in the dank dungeons of discourtesy. Guards! Take him to Pomfret! There to cleave him upon yon deathly gallows!" - Richard III

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  5. I've never been to Pontefract, I've only ever seen it announced on train time tables etc. and didn't know it is a place of such historic interest. Do you have more pictures of the castle ruins?

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    1. Miss A...Pontefract is a very historic place but it was overtaken by industry - coal mines and confectionery factories and roads. Sadly, when I was up at the castle the skies were gloomy though they cleared later for my walk. Consequently the pictures I snapped are not as good as I would have liked them to be. Why not go to Google Images and type in Pontefract Castle?

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  6. Forget the political party - you should stand for King of Yorkshire!
    Eagerly awaiting a post on Pontefract's real claim to fame - the cakes!

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    1. Brian - If I were to become King of Yorkshire you would be my court jester! I bought a bag of Pontefract cakes/ Liquorice tasting and they cling to your teeth!

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.