Sandal Castle History

Sandal Castle was probably first built in the early 12th century. William de Warenne received the Manor of Wakefield from Henry I in about 1106.

The original earthwork motte and bailey castle was probably completed by about 1130.

The archaeological evidence suggests that the castle's rebuilding in stone started at the very end of the 12th century. It continued throughout much of the 13th century. There are only a few documentary records relating to the building work. They reference materials being supplied for building work in 1270 and 1275. 

The Castle was attacked and captured by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, for a short period in the early 14th century. After this, the Castle continued to develop under the de Warennes until 1361.

A hand painting of sand castle Artist's impression of Sandal Castle.

From 1361 the castle was in the hands of royal owners, who were largely absentee landlords. No further major building work happened at this time.

In 1484/85  Richard III ordered building works to make Sandal Castle suitable as a base for a permanent household in the north. Richard III’s defeat at Bosworth in 1485 brought an end to any further development at Sandal Castle. 

Sandal Castle was involved in the Wars of the Roses. The Battle of Wakefield took place here on 30 December 1460. During this battle, Richard, Duke of York, was mortally wounded. The Battle was fought on Wakefield Green, below the Castle. Sandal Castle suffered no damage. Click here to read a comic book based on the battle

A hand paining from a scene from the battle of Wakefield Artist's Impression of a scene from the battle of Wakefield.​

From then on Sandal Castle was fell into decay. The progress of that decay can be seen in surviving surveys of the Castle. The surveys undertaken in 1538, 1545 and 1565-6 are very detailed. They list parts of the Castle building by building and the extent of the repairs needed. There is an increasing amount of work needed to be done in each survey. This makes it clear that most of the Castle’s stonework was in an advanced state of disrepair. 

A Victorian postcard from Sandal Castle. A Victorian postcard from Sandal Castle, based upon an Elizabethan survey drawing.

Sandal Castle seems to have been completely unoccupied from about 1600. It was later briefly re-fortified by a Royalist garrison in 1645 during the English Civil Wars. The occupation lasted only a few months and the Castle surrendered on 1 October 1645. In 1646 on the orders of Parliament the Castle was stripped of its defences. The heap of stonework that was left quickly became overgrown. The masonry that did survive was revealed during the excavations in 1964 - 1973.

Three pottery vessels one green, another one green and orange and the last one white and blue Artist's impression of a selection of pottery vessels excavated during the digs of the 60s and 70s.​

Wakefield Museum

Sandal Castle was excavated during the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the finds are on display at Wakefield Museum.

Finds include the 500-year-old Sandal Castle love ring with the romantic inscription ‘I’m all yours’ in medieval French, which is on display at Wakefield Museum.

All Press and Media enquiries for Sandal Castle should be made to the Press Office at pressoffice@wakefield.gov.uk 

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