Artist Richard Bell visits Pontefract Castle

Pontefract Castle - An Artist's View

Welcome to this anti-clockwise tour of the Inner Bailey of Pontefract Castle. Take a closer look at the ruins and you'll find dungeons, bread ovens, a medieval toilet and the tower where a king was murdered!

The coat of arms of the House of Lancaster are built into the wall of the house which stands opposite the modern entrance to the castle grounds. This section of the right of way known as the Castle Chain was once the Barbican, a strongly fortified outer gateway to the castle.

Thomas of Lancaster (1278-1322) was beheaded at Pontefract six days after his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Edward II's execution of 20 of the leading rebels was shocking even by the brutal standards of the day. Held prisoner in his own castle, Thomas was sentenced to public execution by the king himself. Thomas became a cult figure for a short while, an unlikely candidate for sainthood. His tomb at Pontefract Priory became a shrine.

Robin Hood

Meanwhile one of the men that Thomas called to arms, Robert Hode of Wakefield, was apparently punished for his part in the rebellion by having his house and possessions confiscated. For a while he lived as an outlaw. He is often put forward as a real life original for the Robin Hood legend. In the oldest versions of the ballads the action takes place in Wakefield and the Forest of Barnsdale (east of Pontefract) rather than in Nottingham and Sherwood.

When you stand on the landscaped mound at the end of the inner bailey and look back at this view of the Motte (the mound on which the keep, the strongest part of the castle is built) you are standing on the un-excavated remains of the castle's Great Hall.

Look out for three distinct types of stonework in what is left of the Great Hall;

Ashlar is the term for stones cut to size with such precision that no mortar shows in the joints. At Pontefract this is an indication of original medieval work.

Irregular work, using fragments and pebbles is medieval infill, originally hidden by masonry.

Victorian restoration typically includes a variety of blocks, mostly worn or broken, which have been re-built in fairly regular layers.


From left to right, ashlar, irregular and Victorian masonry.

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The Inner Bailey

Overview And Inner Bailey

The House of Lancaster Arms

A carving of these arms can be found on the private house, close to the entrance of the castle.

Example Of A Portcullis Grove

The portcullis groove is carved in the stonework of what was a narrow gateway between the inner and outer bailey.