Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for PONTEFRACT or Pomfret

PONTEFRACT or Pomfret, a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in W. R. Yorkshire. The town stands on an eminence, adjacent to Ermine-street and to the North Midland railway, near the confluence of the rivers Aire and Calder, 9 miles E by N of Wakefield; was known to the Romans as Legeolium, to the Saxons as Kirkby; took its present name, signifying a "broken bridge, " from the disastrous breaking of a neighbouring wooden bridge over the Aire, in the time of King Stephen; figures famously in history, in connexion with an ancient castle; was visited by Edward IV., Henry VII., Henry VIII., James I., and Charles I.; had a number of ancient monastic establishments, a Benedictine priory, an Augustinian friary, a white friary, a Dominican house, two colleges, four hospitals, and achantry, which all have disappeared; suffered considerable disaster in the civil wars of Charles I.; numbers Archbishop Bramhall and the poet Lund among its natives, and the antiquary Johnson among its quondamresidents; gives the title of Earl Pomfret to the family of Fermor; enjoys fine environs, with extensive gardens and nurseries; consists of spacious, well-built, well keptstreets; is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and a polling-place; publishes two weekly newspapers; and has a head post-office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, three banking offices, three chief inns, a town hall, a market-hall, public baths, two churches, four dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a neat cemeteryformed in 1859, a free grammar school, a mechanics' institute, a dispensary, seven suites of alms-houses, a work-house, and charities, inclusive of school and alms-houses, £500.

The castle stood on an elevated rock; was built, about 1080, by Hildebert de Lacy, and extended and improvedat later dates; occupied an area of about 7 acres; waslong one of the most celebrated fortresses in England; passed, in 1310, to Thomas Earl of Lancaster; was the scene of that Earl's execution, for rising against Edward II.; passed afterwards to John of Gaunt; was the scene, in 1399, of the tragic death of Richard II.; was the scenealso, in 1405, of the capture and condemnation of Arch-bishop Scrope, afterwards beheaded near Bishopthorpe; was the prison of the Duke of Orleans, taken at Agincourt; was the scene, in 1483, of the summary execution of Earl Rivers, Lord Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, by order of the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III.; was taken, in 1536, by Robert Aske, captain-general of the " Pilgrimage of Grace; " was garrisoned, in 1644, by Col. Lowther, for Charles II.; was besieged, in the sameyear, by Col. Lambert, and relieved by the advance of Sir M. Langdale from Oxford; was besieged again, in 1645, and then given up to Fairfax; was retaken throughstratagem, in 1648, by Col. Morrice, who coined moneyat it in the name of Charles II.; was finally taken and dismantled, in 1649, by Lambert; is now representedchiefly by the fragment of the keep, comprising remains of two massive round towers, with some connecting walls; and commands a beautiful and extensive view, away to the towers of York minster. The castle figures in Shakespeare's dramas of King Richard II. and King Richard III.; and Earl Rivers is introduced in the latter as saying,

O Pomfret, Pomfret ! O thou bloody prison,
Fatal and ominous to noble peers!
Within the guilty closure of-thy walls,
Richard the Second here was hacked to death;
And, for more slander to thy dismal seat,
We give thee up our guiltless blood to drink.

The town hall was built at the joint expense of thecorporation and the county, and is a neat edifice. The market-hall was built in 1859, at a cost of less than £3,000; is of Halifax stone, with a Roman Corinthianfacade; measures about 80 feet by 70; and has a glazedroof. St. Giles' church is ancient and partly Norman, but has been much altered; was only a chapel till 1790; and was then made the parochial church. All Saints'church was built in the time of Henry III.; was cruciform, 159 feet by 81, with large end windows and goodlantern; was almost ruined during the sieges in the civilwar; underwent partial restoration at a comparative recent period; and was mainly rebuilt, at a cost of about £3,000, in 1867. The dissenting chapels are Independent, Quaker, Wesleyan, and Primitive Methodist. The grammar-school was founded in the time of Edward VI.; and has an endowed income of £58 a year, and three exhibitions at University college, Oxford.

A weekly market is held on Saturday; fairs are heldon the Saturday before Palm-Sunday, 5 May, 5 Oct., and the first Saturday of Dec.; races are held in July; thegrowing of liquorice in extensive neighbouring grounds, and the refining and manufacturing of it, into the famous" Pomfret cakes, " are largely carried on; a great quantity of vegetables is sent to the markets of Wakefield, Leeds, and other towns; and there are extensive maltings, a brewery, a tannery, an iron-foundry, a sack and hearth-rug manufactory, machine-works, and corn mills. The town was chartered by Richard III.; is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors; sent membersto parliament twice in the time of Edward I.; and hasalways sent two since the time of James I. The municipal borough is conterminate with the township, and comprises 1,860 acres; and the parliamentary borough include salso the townships of Carleton, Knottingley, and Tanshelf, the parish of Ferry-Frystone, and the extra-parochial tract of Pontefract-Park. Real property of the m.borough, in 1860, £18, 521; of which £35 were in quarries, and £251 in gas-works. Amount of property and income tax charged in the p. borough, in 1863, £2, 919-Electors in 1833, 956; in 1863, 674. Pop., of the m.borough, in 1851, 5, 106; in 1861, 5, 346. Houses, 1, 122-Pop., of the p. borough, in 1851, 11, 515; in 1861, 11, 736, Houses, 2, 596.

The parish contains the townships of Pontefract, Carleton, Knottingley, Tanshelf, Monkhill, and . East Hardwick. Acres, 4, 598. Real property, £36, 548; of which £861 are in quarries, £135 in railways, and £418 in gas-works. Pop. in 1851, 10, 675; in 1861, 10, 971. Houses, 2, 417. The living of St. Giles is a vicarage, and that of All Saints is a p. curacy, in the diocese of York. Value of the former, £300; * of the latter, £200.* Patron of the former, the Lord Chancellor; of the latter, the Archbishop of York. The p. curacies of Knottingley, East Knottingley, and East Hardwick are separate benefices. The sub-district excludes Knottingley township, but includes Castleford, Darrington, and Featherstone parishes, and Pontefract-Park extra-parochial tract. Acres, 15, 687. Pop. in 1851, 10, 691; in 1861, 14, 181. Houses, 2, 935. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Knottingley, containing the parishes of Monk-Frystone, Ferry-Frystone, and Brotherton, and the townships of Knottingley, Cridling-Stubbs, Beaghall, Kellington, Birkin, South Milford, and Huddleston and Lumby; the sub-district of Whitley, containing the townships of Whitley, Eggbrough, Hensall, Heck, Balne, and Womersley; and the sub-district of Kippax, containing the parishes of Kippax, Methley, Garforth, and Ledsham, and the townships of Micklefield and Newthorpe. Acres, 66, 135. Poor-rates in 1863, £14, 122. Pop. in 1851, 29, 937; in 1861, 34, 794. Houses, 7, 375. Marriages in 1863, 273; births, 1, 433, of which 88 were illegitimate; deaths, 844, of which 398 were at ages under 5 years, and 17 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 2, 366; births, 12, 216; deaths, 7, 188. The places of worship, in 1851, were 18 of the Church of England, with 7, 460 sittings; 3 of Independents, with 1, 760 s.; 1of Quakers, with 250 s.; 27 of Wesleyans, with 6, 812 s.; 9 of Primitive Methodists, with 1, 244 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 180 s. The schools were 26 public day-schools, with 2, 280 scholars; 51 private day-schools, with1, 224 s.; 50 Sunday schools, with 4, 264 s.; and 2 evening schools for adults, with 70 s. The district comprisesnot only Pontefract poor-law union, but parts of the poor-law unions of Great Preston, and Barwick-in-Elmet; and it has three workhouses in respectively Pontefract, Great Preston, and Knottingley.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a township, a parish, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Pontefract CP/AP       Pontefract SubD       Pontefract PLU/RegD       Yorkshire AncC
Place names: KIRKBY     |     LEGEOLIUM     |     POMFRET     |     PONTEFRACT     |     PONTEFRACT OR POMFRET
Place: Pontefract

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