Work to Begin on Pontefract Castle

27 August 2015

Work on the £3.5 million Key to the North project will start on site at Pontefract Castle at the beginning of September.

William Anelay Ltd., one of the country’s oldest construction companies which specialises in the restoration and conservation of listed and historic buildings, has been appointed contractor for the works.

These include carrying out conservation work to the monument that will take the castle off Historic England’s `At Risk` register and restore and extend the Arts and Crafts barn to provide improved learning facilities, a shop, exhibition space and a café.

There will also be improved access to parts of the site not seen by the public for many years, including the Sally Port.

Cllr Les Shaw, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said:

“We are pleased to announce the appointment of William Anelay Ltd as the contractor to carry out the capital part of this exciting project that will secure the future of the castle for future generations.

“They are well known for their work on historic sites and I’m sure they will carry out a first class job at Pontefract Castle. I am really looking forward to seeing the work get underway after the many months of hard work it has taken to get to this point.”

The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) which has awarded it £3.04 million, with other funding from Historic England, the Council, the Wolfson Foundation and landfill charity EPaC.

Charles Anelay, Company Chairman at William Anelay Ltd, said:

"We are thrilled to have been awarded this important project, especially those of our guys who live nearby! The Castle contains so much history and we are looking forward to making our contribution to securing its future. Our workmen will be using a mixture of modern conservation methods, and traditional repairs to keep the feel of the Castle intact, and completely transforming the Barn as a new, modern visitor centre. There is a lot to do.”

Tammy Whitaker, Planning and Conservation Director Historic England Yorkshire said:

"We are very pleased to be supporting this project and to see how the site will be transformed over the coming year."

“This is the start of a new chapter in the life of Pontefract Castle with works to repair the castle ruins as well as providing a new and exciting visitor experience.
“Once the repairs have been completed, the Castle will no longer be at risk and it's hoped we can remove the site from our Heritage at Risk register next year."

Work to remove trees from parts of the castle was carried out earlier this year in preparation for the main works and during the summer there has been a programme of events funded by the project.

Cllr Shaw added:

“These improvements will drive more local, regional and national visits to the castle, to Pontefract and to the Wakefield district and boost the visitor economy, raise the profile of the town and create jobs.”

The four key aims of the project are:
• Removal of Pontefract Castle from the Historic England At Risk register
• Increasing participation and involvement
• Increased opportunities for learning
• Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the site.

Pontefract Castle lies within the historic heart of Pontefract in West Yorkshire.

It has a long and colourful history and has frequently been at the centre of national events, acting as a Royal residence, centre of local administration and prison. There are many key stories to tell, from the building of the first timber castle in the 11th century, to its deliberate destruction in the 17th century. Edward I called Pontefract “The Key to the North” and Richard II was imprisoned and later murdered in the castle, inspiring Shakespeare to immortalise the castle as a “bloody prison, fatal and ominous to noble peers”.

During the Wars of the Roses (1454-85) Pontefract Castle was used as a Lancastrian stronghold, in the 16th century Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard was reportedly found with her lover in the castle’s Royal Apartments, and during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) the Royalist castle underwent three Parliamentarian sieges before being demolished on the request of the townspeople of Pontefract in 1649.

Since then, Pontefract Castle has been used as a place for liquorice cultivation and later as a romantic ruin and pleasure garden, complete with tennis courts and ornamental rose gardens.
The castle is now managed by Wakefield Council on behalf of the Duchy of Lancaster and is open to visitors free of charge, throughout the year.