Pontefract is one of the so-called "Five towns" situated in the east of the Wakefield metropolitan district, the others being
As the crow flies, the town is 3 miles south-east of
The historic town once had Yorkshire's most dominant castle, but this has been in ruins for nearly 400 years, but these are free to visit today. It is believed likely to be the place where King Richard II died in 1400 and was later referred to as Pomfret in William Shakespeare's play Richard III. In the Civil War the castle was a royalist stronghold and withstood three sieges between 1644 and 1649. Its final siege by Oliver Cromwell did not come to an end until a surrender almost two months after the execution in January 1949 of King Charles I. After the years of problems from the sieges, the Pontefract townspeople supported the demolition of the castle.
Pontefract has been a market town since the Middle Ages and its town centre has several historic listed buildings around its Market Place, including its market buttercross with pump, which dates from 1734, while the Old Town Hall, dating from 1785, was originally a market building with a jail at the back and assembly room above. The market history continues with the frontage of its nearby Market Hall, dating from around 1860, although this building's interior was rebuilt around 100 years later.
Pontefract has become well known for sweet-making and particularly its sweets known as Pontefract Cakes, originally made from liquorice grown in the area. There is still a sweet smell in the air of the town from the large sweet-making factory close to the town centre.
Pontefract racecourse is one of the longest continuous flat horse-racing circuits in Europe since being converted in the 1980s from a horse-shoe shape to a continuous oval of around two miles with its famous uphill run towards the end.
The town has three railway stations - Tanshelf, Monkhill and Baghill - serving different lines and sides of the town centre.
Pontefract has a castle.
Pontefract has an old parish church.
The town has a historic market, town hall and site of friary.
Pontefract has one of Yorkshire's nine horse racecourses.
Pontefract has town centre and out-of-town shopping.
Pontefract has an indoor and an outdoor market(Wed, Sat) (Fri - farmers' market)
The town has a Post Office.
Pontefract has bank and building society branches.
The town has pharmacies.
The town has pubs and social clubs.
Restaurant dining and cafes can be found in Pontefract.
A wide range of takeaway food outlets can be found in Pontefract.
The town has a library.
Pontefract has a museum.
The town has a leisure centre with swimming pool.
Pontefract has a community centre.
Places of worship: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist.
Pontefract Tanshelf stationManaged by: Northern
Operator/s: Northern -
Northern - Pontefract Tanshelf Station and departure information at Northern website.
Pontefract Monkhill stationManaged by: Northern
Operator/s: Grand Central - Northern -
Northern - Pontefract Monkhill Station and departure information at Northern website.
Pontefract Baghill stationManaged by: Northern
Operator/s: Northern -
Northern - Pontefract Baghill Station and departure information at Northern website.
Bus travelThe town has a bus station.
Road travelPontefract can be reached via the (M62) A639 A645
Places to Visit
Sandal CastleManygates Lane, Sandal Magna, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire
About two miles south of the city centre, the ruins of the medieval motte and bailey castle are freely open to the public and overlook the River Calder and the city. Some walkways at the castle, including steps to the keep, have recently been undergoing renovation and repairs following a £700,000 investment by Wakefield Council. The castle stood just above the site of the War of the Roses Battle of Wakefield in December 1460. Its damage, however, was ordered by Parliamentarians after the surrender of a Royalist garrison there in October 1645 during the English Civil Wars.
More information at the
Find on map:
The Hepworth, WakefieldGallery Walk, Wakefield
A modern building next to the River Calder in Wakefield provides purpose-built gallery space for a collection donated by the family of Wakefield-born artist and sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, who died in 1975, together with visiting contemporary art exhibitions.
National Coal Mining Museum for EnglandWakefield Road, Overton
The National Coal Mining Museum for England is mid-way between
More details at the
Yorkshire Sculpture ParkWest Bretton
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is at West Bretton about 6 miles south-west of the city centre. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an an international centre for contemporary art set in beautiful parkland surroundings. Click
Nostell PrioryDoncaster Road, Nostell
The 1733 house built on the site of a medieval priory and now looked after by The National Trust has been described as an architectural masterpiece. It includes interiors added by Robert Adam and furniture by Yorkshire-born furniture designer Thomas Chippendale. The house, six miles south-east of the city centre, is set in more than 120 hectares of parkland, including lakeside walks. More information can be found at The National Trust.
Pontefract CastleCastle Garth, Pontefract
Once the most impressive castle in Yorkshire, Pontefract Castle has been a ruin for around 380 years. It is believed to be the place where King Richard II died in 1400, the king having been imprisoned there in 1399. The castle was referred to (as Pomfret) in William Shakespeare's play Richard III as the place where Richard II was 'hack'd to death', although many historians put starvation as the likely cause. Mystery still surrounds the death as there were also stories of Richard's escape to Stirling in Scotland. The castle was visited in August 1541 by King Henry VIII with his queen of the past year, Catherine Howard, and also Thomas Culpeper. Culpeper was at the end of that year beheaded in London for his alleged adultery with the queen, who was herself executed a few weeks later. Pontefract Castle was a royalist stronghold in the English Civil War and was beseiged several times by Parliamentarian forces before its remains were destroyed in 1649. Low and excavated walls and the cellars of the castle are all that remain today. The castle remains have in recent times been clad in huge amounts of scaffolding during a £3.5m lottery-funded refurbishment project. After problems involving the main contractor of the scheme, a new visitor centre is expected to finally open in 2017.
Fairburn IngsNear Fairburn
Situated 2 miles north-east of Castleford (3.5 miles by road), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Fairburn Ings offers hides, trails and a visitor centre. It has a variety of birdlife habitats, including lakes, woodland and wet grassland with resident and migrating birds depending on the season. The visitor centre is open each day except Christmas Day. The reserve holds events and discovery days through the year and there are also opportunities for pond-dipping.
Emergency servicesWest Yorkshire Police
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust
Metropolitan district councilWakefield Council
Wakefield Council covers an area extending many miles beyond the city of
The council is made up of 63 councillors elected 3 per ward across 21 wards. Elections held in 3 in every 4 years elect one councillor per ward for 4-year terms.
Link to council website
The political composition after the May 2018 election was:
The political composition after the May 2019 election is:
County strategic authorityWest Yorkshire Combined Authority
Covers some combined services of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield - which were at one time provided by a West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, with the addition of the non-contiguous City of York council and unelected Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.
Police and Crime CommissionerThe Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire
National government regionYorkshire and the Humber
Fire AuthorityWest Yorkshire Fire Authority
The fire authority is made up of elected members of each of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield.