Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle

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 open up parts of the castle not seen by the public since 1649.

The new pathways around the ruins are now open, improving access opening up the Sally Port, a secure gateway which was once used as the castle’s emergency exit. While you explore the grounds, look out for our new information panels to discover some of the fascinating stories about this once fearsome fortress and the people who lived worked and fought here.

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 its 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.

 
Visitor Centre
Stone Masonry
Civil Wars

During the Civil War, Pontefract Castle was the site of no less than three bitter sieges. At the start of the second war, John Morris, and a few of his supporters, snuck into the castle by pretending to bring in beds for the garrison. These Royalists then held the castle for 9 months. However when the King was executed, they had to surrender, and Morris was executed for treason.

Step back in time to the bloody 17th century, and find out what life was like during that turbulent, tumultuous time: brother against brother, neighbour against neighbour - and a castle under attack!

Our historic re-enactors will bring the experience of being besieged vividly to life. Be amazed by their explosive gun displays, and marvel at the mighty siege engines.

Think you'd make a fine Civil War soldier? Then you and your family can put yourselves to the test with our climbing wall - will you make it to the top?

This event is FREE, and there is no need to book. Just come along and join in the fun!

Saturday 1 - Sunday 2 June

11am - 4pm

Project Update

Pontefract Castle is now fully open!

Work on the Heritage Lottery Fund's £3.5 million Key to the North project has been taking place since 2015 and as it nears completion, new areas of the site will be open to visitors. These include the Sally Port, not seen for hundreds of years, along with new paths and walkways and the opportunity to admire the imposing stonework close by.

Benches have been dotted around the site and handrails and new fences added to improve safety. For disabled visitors, the site is so much more accesible than before and allows them to visit almost all of the areas of the castle.

The huge amount of conservation work that has taken place across the site has helped conserve the heritage for current and future generations. An exciting conservation project involving the discovery of the Castle's Gatehouse will take place later this year, watch this space for details...

But it doesn’t stop there! During the course of the project, additional work was identified to stabilise the King’s Tower. This is taking place on the exterior of the castle and the scaffold can be seen from the car park. That work is due to be completed in summer.

Other work taking place in coming weeks includes landscaping and planting when the weather improves!

Pontefract Castle

The herb garden that we planted in April 2018 has really taken root and it flowered beautifully throughout the summer. Anyone who visited over the summer months commented on the spectacular blooms and rich, heady fragrances emanating from our herbs.

It also proved to be a real haven for minibeasts of all types: our intrepid band of bug-hunters spent many hours here during the holidays discovering and cataloguing dozens of fascinating insects.

We're hopeful that this will continue this year - the herbs are already beginning to flower and if you look closely, you can see some minibeasts crawling about.

Herb Garden, Visitor Centre and Bug Hunters

In September 2018, we were very pleased to welcome our new stonemason contractor to our Key to the North project. Stone Edge North East Ltd began their vital conservation works on 1st October, starting at the famous Constable Tower. Once Constable was completed, they moved around the site area by area. Lucky visitors during this time were able to see their expertise in action!

Stonework Pontefract Castle

Our partners, Engie, were hard at work on site from May 2018, carrying out various work to help us complete this important project. In addition to their work on the Sally Port, they completed the paths from the Royal Apartments to the Kitchen, installed a viewing platform above the Swillington Tower and demolished the veterans’ shelter, which is the site for the new bandstand.

Pontefract Castle Paths
To keep up with all the latest news and developments, remember to check back here regularly. Or better yet, sign up to our regular e-newsletter, and never miss a thing!

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