Work to start on unearthing history of Wakefield Castle

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 29/01/15 - Press - Wakefield Castle Archaology - Clarence Park, Wakefield, England - Friends of CHaT Parks' Ian Deighton with Kevin Swift, Hilary Mitchell, Chris Welch, Ian Sanderson & Brian Else.
Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 29/01/15 - Press - Wakefield Castle Archaology - Clarence Park, Wakefield, England - Friends of CHaT Parks' Ian Deighton with Kevin Swift, Hilary Mitchell, Chris Welch, Ian Sanderson & Brian Else.
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The secrets of the city’s hidden castle could be uncovered by archaeologists.

Wakefield has two castles, Sandal Castle and Wakefield Castle.

Sandal, Wakefield, 9th July 1972''Excavation work goes on at Sandal Castle - the intention is to unravel its changes and developments from its early 12th century beginnings to its mid 17th century end.

Sandal, Wakefield, 9th July 1972''Excavation work goes on at Sandal Castle - the intention is to unravel its changes and developments from its early 12th century beginnings to its mid 17th century end.

And while Sandal Castle is the most well known, only the earth works of Wakefield Castle remain – buried beneath undergrowth of Lowe Hill in Clarence Park.

However, the Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT) are ready to start work with archeologists to carry out a Time Team-style survey of the site.

They will use ultrasound equipment to try and rediscover the medieval fortress, in a project that starts next month and will last until the summer.

Ian Deighton, chairman of CHaT Parks, said: “This is fantastic news for the park and for Wakefield.

“By the summer we should understand a lot more about the history of this prominent site which thousands of people pass every day along the Denby Dale Road on their way into Wakefield and they know nothing about.

“At the end of the day it’s about telling people about their heritage.”

The group has been given £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to involve schools and volunteers with the project.

They are planning to run guided tours and teach schoolchildren about the history of the castle.

The project will be led by a steering group, made up of representatives from the friends group, Wakefield Civic Society and Wakefield Historical Society.

Ian Sanderson, principal archaeologist at West Yorkshire Archaeologist Service, said: “Lowe Hill is an important scheduled ancient monument which is afforded statutory protection and permission has been granted to carry out this non-intrusive survey work.

“It’s fantastic how with help from the steering group, friends of the park and the Heritage Lottery Fund we are now able to involve so many people in their history.”

If the survey is successful, the archaeologists could apply to excavate the site.

The project will be filmed by Wakefield film company One to One Productions.

Mr Deighton added: “If we are going to tell the story of the castle, we don’t just want a written archeological report, we want to capture it on film too.”

The film will be shown in the summer once the project has been completed.

It is believed that William de Warenne, the third Earl of Surrey, commissioned the castle’s build in the middle of the 12th century – during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.

The castle was a motte-and-bailey – a keep made of either wood or stone, built on a raised earthwork with an enclosed courtyard which is surrounded by a ditch.

Archaeologists carried out an excavation of the site during the 1950s and found a number of 12th century pottery fragments.

The excavation also indicated that the castle may have been an adulterine castle – built without permission and possibly abandoned before it was finished.

Some historians believe that Wakefield Castle and Sandal Castle were both given to Thomas, the Earl of Lancaster, in 1318 and in 1324 King Edward II granted them to Richard de Moseley.

It is not known when Wakefield Castle was destroyed but a ‘great gale’ in 1330 damaged parts of Wakefield and may have been the cause.