Pontefract Castle is removed from the ‘at risk’ register

Cllr Peter Box at Pontefract Castle.
Cllr Peter Box at Pontefract Castle.

It is nearly one thousand years old, has survived through battles and sieges, and could be the place that Richard II died.

But time was the real enemy for Pontefract Castle as the poor state of the ruins put it on Historic England’s “at risk” register in 2003.

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Now, £5 million and 16 years later the castle has been removed from the list after restoration work was completed last week.

Work included opening up previously inaccessible areas, such as the Sally Port, new paths, steps and a viewing platform were created above the Swillington Tower, and a new visitor centre was built.

Coun Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “One of the key aims of the project was the removal of the castle from the Heritage At Risk register so this is a very exciting day for all of us.

“It is the culmination of years of work by the council and its partners and I am delighted at our achievement.

“However, our work doesn’t stop here. We have agreed a management and maintenance plan to continue to look after the castle going forward and to ensure it remains in a good state of repair.”

The work went so well that representatives from Harrogate Council came down from North Yorkshire on a factfinding mission on how to go about restoring one of their own historic castles.

Mayor of Knaresborough Coun Christine Willoughby led a team of officials on the mission – from their medieval market town to ours – to find out how best to go about work on Knaresborough Castle, which overlooks the River Nidd and the town’s spectacular viaduct.

Coun Willoughby said: “We were told of the excellent work being done by Wakefield at Pontefract Castle. “Being aware of the similarities between Knaresborough Castle and Pontefract Castle, it made good sense to contact the officers behind this work.

“This is a perfect fit for us, to pick over the details of the successful scheme at Pontefract and I’m very grateful for the support from Wakefield officers.”

Funding came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Wakefield Council, the Wolfson Foundation and landfill charity EpaC.