Community help uncover drawbridge pit at Pontefract Castle Archaeological Dig

The project focuses on excavating the former gatehouse at the castle, which is opposite the Castles cafe entrance.
The project focuses on excavating the former gatehouse at the castle, which is opposite the Castles cafe entrance.

A community dig has helped to unearth a stone drawbridge pit at Pontefract Castle, with a layer that is suspected to date back to the 17th century.

Over the last few days, the community have been helping archaeologists by getting involved with the DigVentures archaeological dig at Pontefract Castle.

Over the last few days, the community have been helping archaeologists by getting involved with the DigVentures archaeological dig at Pontefract Castle.

Over the last few days, the community have been helping archaeologists by getting involved with the DigVentures archaeological dig at Pontefract Castle.

The project focuses on excavating the former gatehouse at the castle, which is opposite the Castle’s cafe entrance, one of the key finds is a drawbridge pit.

Chris Casswell, DigVentures head of fieldwork and site director said: “The gatehouse entrance was realigned in around 14th century so it was more accessible to the people of Pontefract as the town grew. Some of the materials we've found are from that period. You can even see some Mason's marks on the stone.

“We’re running the community excavation to explore what this area is. It’s gone really well - 4 weeks ago, the site was just grass.

“Over the course of the dig, we’ve been working out what’s happened at the gatehouse over time, which is really important.”

Since last Saturday, weve had members of the public coming in getting involved with Pontefract's history, its nice to see everyone getting involved with the dig.

Since last Saturday, weve had members of the public coming in getting involved with Pontefract's history, its nice to see everyone getting involved with the dig.

Other findings from the site date from the medieval ages through to the Victorian era. These include musket balls, pottery, medieval glass and animal bones.

Chris said: “For many years nobody even knew or visited the castle. It wasn't accessible in the past 10 years a huge amount of time, energy and money has gone into improving it so people can come back and enjoy it.

“It’s important for us that people come and engage with their heritage and experience it. Because it’s great, Pontefract had one of the biggest, grandest castles in the country.”

The gatehouse dig follows the unexpected discovery of the remains of a barbican and drawbridge pit during a 2016 project, called the Key to the North.

Ben Swain, archaeologist, said: “The most obvious feature is the stone-lined drawbridge pit in the site. You can imagine at the top there would have been a drawbridge that came over.

“We’ve dug quite a depth down and from what we can tell it keeps on going. We’ve dug to roughly the civil war period, we’d expect there to be more as we dig further.

“Since last Saturday, we’ve had members of the public coming in getting involved with Pontefract's history, it’s nice to see everyone getting involved with the dig.”

“It’s been thought there was a gatehouse here for years but nobody realised the extent of it and in 4 weeks we’ve been able to uncover it, specialists will then come in and identify the finds and date them.”

The first historical record of the castle dates back to 1070, its rich history has fascinated historians for decades. It was taken down by order of Parliament in 1649 - as the town endured a lot of carnage during civil war sieges. Before then it was one of the most well fortified castles in the North.

Visit the castle to see the findings or click here to keep updated on the dig.