Pontefract Museum


Important Information

Following recent guidance from the Government on reopening, all Council museums plan to reopen in May.

Pontefract Castle grounds and toilets are open as normal and the Liquorice Café is serving takeaway food and drink. Please see www.pontefractcastle.co.uk for details of opening hours

Sandal Castle grounds remain open as normal and the Castle Café is open Friday to Monday 9:30am to 2:30pm.

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​Opening times ​Location
​Monday to Friday​10am - 3.30pm​5 Salter Row
WF8 1BA​
01977 722740 ​
​10:30am - 3.30pm
​ ​museums@wakefield.gov.uk


The museum is Covid-19 Secure and is re-opening on 20 July.

This means that it uses social distancing and other guidelines to protect the health of everyone. Staff will greet each visitor to explain viewing arrangements.

Key things to note:

  • There is a one-way system in effect.
  • The maximum number of visitors is either up to three family groups or 15 people at any one time.
  • Informational signs are installed to assist visitors navigate the museum.
  • Hand-sanitiser is available in the foyer for use by visitors.
  • All events and activities have been temporarily suspended. This includes workshops, talks, and drop-in craft sessions.
  • All interactive resources have been temporarily removed from public spaces.
  • Some of the activity tables have been temporarily removed to allow additional space for staff and visitors.

Visit our newly redeveloped displays.

Following over £120K worth of gallery redevelopment and upgrades since 2015, the museum invites visitors to discover Pontefract’s fascinating history, from medieval pottery, to Georgian wealth and the production of liquorice.

See amazing objects such as the first secret ballot box and the Ackworth Hoard. With interactive displays and remarkable stories to tell Pontefract Museum will entertain all visitors.

New displays

The new displays tell the story of Pontefract from the Georgian period up to the present day. The ballot box used in the first secret ballot to elect an MP in 1872 takes prominent position, with new comic book style interpretation. There are also new interactive and family friendly elements.

Free entry

Located in the town centre, Pontefract Museum offers a warm and friendly welcome. Here you can discover the history of Pontefract told with fascinating objects housed in a beautiful art nouveau building. Built in 1904 as the town's original library, the building still contains many of its original fittings. There are intricate door handles and matching chairs, and beautiful tiles that decorate the entrance and staircase.

Highlights to explore

The Pontefract Gallery tells the story of Pontefract and its people, revealing the area's outstanding history and bringing to life an exciting and often surprising past. Charting the history of Pontefract and the people that have lived, worked and played here, this exhibition boasts the world's first secret ballot box and a unique display of objects related to Liquorice.

The Ackworth Hoard was found recently buried in a garden in Ackworth inside a pot made locally in Wrenthorpe. The hoard is made up of 52 gold and 539 silver coins and a single gold ring, and some of these treasures are on display here. Dating from the Civil War, it is the only hoard known from the Wakefield District and has a distinct Royalist association.

The Bagley's Glass Room tells the remarkable story of the area's rich and important glass industry. The exhibition explores the history of glass-making in the area from Roman times to the present day, with many items from the museum's large collection of Bagley's Glass on display.

The Special Exhibition Gallery showcases a varied programme of displays inspired by the museum's collections along with loans from other people and places, and is a space to share our work with local groups.

The Reference Room can be visited in order to explore Pontefract's fascinating history. Our excellent collection of reference material includes books, articles, photographs and maps.

More information

See Pontefract Museum for information about exhibitions and events that are on now or coming up. Our 'What's on' leaflet contains details of events in all the District's museums, and our Wakefield Museums & Libraries Blog has all the latest news.

See our special Museum collections and find details of our Learning and activities at museums and castles.

New comic highlights Pontefract’s role in first secret ballot

A comic about Britain’s first secret ballot – held in Pontefract in 1872 has been created thanks to a collaboration between Wakefield Council and artist Jade Sarson.

Potwallopers tells the story of the town’s historic role in UK democracy, when for the first time voters in a Parliamentary by-election were able to make their choice in private using an ‘X’ on a ballot paper. 

The Comic has been funded by the Speaker’s Art Fund, a charitable trust which aims to spread knowledge about the UK’s system of Government.

Download the comic (60mb)

Contact us

Museums and Libraries

Wakefield Council
Wakefield One
PO Box 700
Burton Street

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01924 302 104