Picturing Pontefract Castle


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First built after the Norman Conquest, Pontefract Castle grew substantially and lasted until the end of the Civil War. Though it largely survived the fighting, it was thoroughly demolished in 1649 at the request of the local residents.

Since then it has been very difficult to picture what it had been like as over 90% of the site has never been excavated. Only a few pictures were painted "from life". These precious few have spawned groups of prints which gradually altered and became less accurate over the years (as in the game "Chinese whispers"). Many views were also apparently done by artists who did not visit Pontefract first and did not know its particular topography (an example being the Victorian illustrations for Shakespeare's play "Richard II" where the king is murdered in front of a generic castle backdrop).

Official emblems with Pontefract Castle have also been included in this collection, as have products by commercial firms who used the association with an ancient royal castle to give an air of high standing or company longevity.

We have gathered together all the evidence that we are permitted to put on the site (two or three other important pictures need to be accessed via the National Archive and the Queen's Picture Collection).

Search our database to see our collection of Pontefract Castle pictures.​


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