On the 4th of July, we decided to go and explore two castles around the West Yorkshire area.
I would like to preface by saying that we found out on the first weekend we were here that you can get a Family Day Rover pass to go on all the busses and trains throughout West Yorkshire for only £12! I seriously am in love with the ease of public transit here. This has made us plan several trips around the area.
The castles we decided to see on this trip included the Pontefract Castle and the Sandal Castle. The Pontefract Castle has a very bloody past. The castle was built out of timber in the late 1000s and rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. One of the most notable deaths here was that of King Richard II in 1399. The castle was a cause of such horror to the town that after the English Civil Wars, the townspeople were happy to see the castle demolished. There are remains today and these are now being restored. Because of the restoration, we were not able to explore the castle as we hoped. There is only one tour a day to the keep, which we did not want to stick around a couple more hours to see. The rest of the site is off limits for the most part because of the reconstruction going on through next year. I’m sure it’d be cool to see, but if you are thinking of going, I would definitely wait until the work is finished. Here is what we could see with all the scaffolding.
We also stopped by All Saints’ Church in town and walked through the ruins there. You can tell from the ruins that this used to be an amazing place! This was destroyed in the English Civil Wars as well. However, after the destruction, a new church was built within and is still used for services today.
From here, we caught a bus and ventured on to Wakefield and Sandal Castle. Sandal Castle is also in ruins. It was built in early 1100s. The most well-known happening here was the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 in which the Duke of York was killed not far from the castle walls. This is one of the suspected origins for the nursery rhyme “The Grand Old Duke of York.” It was in decline until the end of it’s time when it was left in ruins from sieges in 1645 during the English Civil War.
The bridge was closed to go to the center, but it was obvious that many people before us found work arounds for that and went on up anyway. So we did as well! It was a lot of fun climbing down into the old moat (it’s dry…no alligators) and then back up to the center. Then we went down again into the center where an old bread oven stands before climbing on the remains of the keep and then up to the summit. What a view of the surrounding area!
The kids loved it and it made me feel like a kid again, too! Alex loved leading and finding fun paths. He really loved climbing the old walls.
As with the history that played out in these castles, both are mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Pontefract was then known as Pomfret and is in King Richard III. Sandal Castle is one of the settings in Henry VI, Part 3.
We had such a fun time, especially at Sandal Castle, that we have been talking about it all week. We are looking forward to exploring another castle this weekend. This time, it’ll be an intact and preserved castle. More fun ahead!!