Town tourism boost from unused sites?

Coun Geoff Walsh wants to see Pontefract's lesser known heritage spots gain more recognition to boost tourism in the town.
Coun Geoff Walsh wants to see Pontefract's lesser known heritage spots gain more recognition to boost tourism in the town.
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UNTAPPED sources of historical interest could give Pontefract’s tourism a boost, according to one of the town’s councillors.

Coun Geoff Walsh, speaking at a full meeting of Wakefield Council last week, said more could be done to raise the profile of overlooked sites such as St John’s Priory near Monkhill.

At the meeting Coun Walsh said: “The Townscape Heritage Initiative talks about seeing heritage as one of the ways of moving Pontefract forward and we’ve seen that from work at the castle.

“But Pontefract also has St John’s Priory, which was one of the largest monasteries in the UK and we know from work at St Richard’s Friary that teams are finding real structures and artefacts.

“Isn’t there a way we can support these bits of heritage too, to bring more people into Pontefract?”

Members of Pontefract and District Archaeological Society are currently excavating at St Richard’s Dominican Friary, near Pontefract’s Valley Gardens.

Speaking to the Express after the meeting, Coun Walsh said overlooked sites had the potential to capture the public’s imagination.

He said: “St John’s was a huge medieval order. On the surface of it, it’s a field and we don’t acknowledge it or make anything of it.

“But if you look at Google Earth, you can actually see the outline of a large church. The foundations are still there – we could mark it out.

“About ten years ago, a group cut the grass to the outline to get a sense of the scale of it and it was as big as Selby Abbey or Wakefield Cathedral.”

He added: “There are real bits of building left at St Richard’s Friary. The former Pontefract General Infirmary dispensary has got the makings of being a great heritage centre. If you factor in the friary and the castle and St John’s, you’ve got something that potentially could become much more special from the point of heritage.

“There’s history there if we can capture people’s imaginations. If we can attract more people into the town it would be good for the community and certainly would be good for the district.”