Castle heritage boost

Photocall to announce the next stage of consservation to Pontefract Castle's famous tower. L-R Richard Jacques (English Heritage) and Clr David Dagger
Photocall to announce the next stage of consservation to Pontefract Castle's famous tower. L-R Richard Jacques (English Heritage) and Clr David Dagger

CONSERVATION plans at Pontefract Castle took a leap forward this week as specialists began working to protect the historic monument’s famous tower.

Builders have moved in to preserve the Gascoigne Tower – where King Richard II was famously imprisoned – as part of Wakefield Council’s pledge to protect the town’s heritage.

Contractors will spend the next ten weeks preserving the cellar of the tower and the project’s stonemasons will help to retain the authentic medieval appearance.

This phase of work will cost £100,000.

Coun Dave Dagger, cabinet member for culture, said: “We are working hard to fully conserve Pontefract Castle for future generations to enjoy and by funding this phase of the work we hope to demonstrate our vision for the rest of the site.”

The work is being funded by not-for-profit business, WREN, the council and English Heritage. The contributions from the council and English Heritage form part of a wider commitment of £280,000 from each organisation towards conservation works at the castle and to develop the site as a sustainable tourist destination.

Dr Janet McNaught, secretary of the Friends of Pontefract Castle, said the work was an important phase in the project.

She said: “We’re pleased that everything is going according to plan because the work needs doing before the first frost.

“They use a special kind of mortar between the stonework and they can’t use it once the cold weather starts.

“It’s a very important phase in the work because there’s a lot of stone work crumbling, especially at the huge arched recess which is quite a big feature. After work on the Keep, this was the most important phase of the work.”

Funding of £100,000 paid for ten new visitor information boards around the site in April, in addition to a new flight of steps to give access to the keep and other conservation work to stabilise the remains of the castle, parts of which are 800 years old.

Access to parts of the site will be limited while work is taking place but the majority of the castle will be open as normal.