Pontefract Castle shares secrets of its success

29/07/2019, PR-9141

Officials from Knaresborough visited Pontefract Castle to learn more about how it went about successfully conserving the fortress.

Knaresborough Castle ruins
Knaresborough Castle ruins

Cllr Christine Willoughby of Harrogate Council and Mayor of Knaresborough led a team of officials on the fact-finding mission. The town is at the start of their journey to undertake conservation work on Knaresborough Castle.

Cllr Jacquie Speight, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sports, said: “We are very pleased to share our experience with colleagues in Harrogate. Over the last eight years we have mapped out the journey from applications for funding to delivery of the project and can provide insights and learning experience.”

Cllr Willoughby said: “We were told of the excellent work being done by Wakefield at Pontefract Castle. Being aware of the similarities between Knaresborough Castle and Pontefract Castle, it made good sense to contact the officers behind this work. We want to find out the processes involved in bidding for substantial amounts of funding, so that eventually we can make a case for similar work at Knaresborough Castle. This is a perfect fit for us, to pick over the details of the successful scheme at Pontefract and I'm very grateful for the support from Wakefield officers.”

Cllr Jacquie Speight
Cllr Jacquie Speight

As a result of being placed on the Heritage At Risk register in 2003, Pontefract Castle has carried out substantial conservation work which has opened sections of the site not seen for hundreds of years and protected the heritage for current and future generations.

The Key to the North project, financed through funding totalling £5 million, has:

  • Had extensive conservation work to the monument across the site, including the removal of masses of vegetation, which has revealed much more of the castle ruins than previously.
  • Opened up of previously inaccessible areas such as the Sally Port.
  • New paths, steps and a viewing platform above the Swillington Tower.
  • A new visitor centre that includes an activity zone, museum displays, café, toilets and shop.
  • A new bandstand which is the venue for several performances this summer.
  • New interpretation across the site telling the story of Pontefract Castle.
  • Delivered a programme of events and activities over four years until the end of August 2019.
  • Resulted in a substantial increase in visitors and increased engagement with the heritage.

Funding came from a variety of sources including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Wakefield Council, the Wolfson Foundation and landfill charity EpaC.

Knaresborough Castle, dating back to the 12th century, is classified as a ‘scheduled monument’ of national importance.

It has been extensively studied and evidence of significant developments in military architecture are preserved. What remains of the keep provides important evidence of the development of castle design as well as the history of a major royal castle in the north of England.