Work in progress
Work in progress

Pontefract Castle Key to the North Project

What does the project involve?

The Key to the North Project is a £3.5 million project at Pontefract Castle which includes conservation work to the monument, a new visitor centre, café, gift shop and museum, and site developments that will allow parts of the castle not seen by the public since 1649 to be opened up.

Work on site is progressing well and visitors are already commenting on what a difference it has made to the castle.  If you haven't visited for a while why not come along and see what's going on?

The project also funds a programme of events and activities including living history events, workshops, talks, tours and family activity days which help to attract more visitors to the castle.

People can get involved in the project as a volunteer.  If you have anything from a few hours a month to a few hours each day and a passion for Pontefract and it's Castle then read the Volunteer With Us page to find out how you could be involved.

This project is possible thanks to the following supporters: Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England, Wakefield Council, The Wolfson Foundation, Epac and the Friends of Pontefract Castle.


Project Update

Works on site are still continuing with the final stages of conservation work taking place on the keep and curtain wall. Once the works are complete, all the scaffolding will come down and the keep will be revealed once more. It’s already looking fantastic especially when it glows in the winter sunshine!

Our contractors have also moved onto creating the new paths around the site including one which goes up to the castle’s Royal Apartments. This used to be an inaccessible area for visitors, but with the new ramp in place more people will be able to view the ruins from this historical location, famous for being the place where Henry VIII’s fifth wife Kathryn Howard started her love affair with Thomas Culpeper!

New path

A new stairway is also being installed to allow visitors to take a circular route from the bakehouse / brewhouse over the curtain wall and past the sally port entrance. It's here that we found the remains of the Piper Tower and a Civil Wars seige trench during excavation works.

Our Volunteer Scheme is going from strength to strength and seven off them recently went on an Exceeding Visitor Expectations training course alongside the castle staff. The course is recognised by Visit England and is also accredited by City and Guilds and results in a Level 2 qualification in Customer Care. 

All our volunteers are doing a fantastic job supporting the work we do at the castle, whether it’s helping with events, dungeon tours, site maintenance or school visits in our new activity zone. If you are interested in becoming one of our volunteers please look at our Volunteer With Us page.

Please note that due to the project taking place some areas of the castle are currently closed, and other areas are quite wet and muddy due to a combination of the weather and lots of earth movement around site. However, the visitor centre, shop, café and activity zone are open for visitors and are lovely and toasty inside! Why not try our new comfy sofa and reading area in the café?     

Bakehouse Stairway