Vandals cover historic Pontefract landmark in paint showing 'disrespect' for town's heritage

Vandals who attacked an historic Pontefract landmark showed 'contempt and disrespect' to the town’s rich heritage.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 3:17 pm
Pictured outside the Buttercross: John Turner, of Pontefract Heritage Group, Paul Cartwright, Pontefract Civic Society chair and Phil Cook, Pontefract Civic Society vice chair

The yobs threw purple, green and pink paint across benches and left handprints on the wall of one the town' s best known landmarks, the Buttercross.

And now community groups who have worked hard to preserve and protect the historic building are condemning the attack.

Paul Cartwright, chair of Pontefract Civic Society said: “The incident at the Buttercross shows the utter contempt and disrespect that those involved show not just for this historic structure, but for the community of decent residents and visitors who regularly use it.

Paul Cartwright, chair of Pontefract Civic Society said the vandals showed 'utter contempt and disrespect'

“The culprits who are indeed a minority, need to face justice.

“It is believed that the damaged benches are part of the original structure.

“If the site continues to be abused, then we might call for a higher degree of protection by surrounding it with a fence; is that really what the majority would want, perhaps not?”

Jayne Poppleton, of Pontefract Heritage Group said they had been working hard to promote the historical significance of the Buttercross.

Paint has been strewn all over the benches, thought to be part of the original structure

She said: “What happened to the Buttercross on Monday is a real shame, because it’s such a focal point for the town, and it always has been.

“It has an incredible history to it, so going forward it’s best to concentrate on that positivity rather than actions of a minority, as infuriating as it may be.

“I know that like us, a lot of groups and organisations in Pontefract are trying to get people of all ages and backgrounds involved in projects and tours to understand the significance of the town.

“That way, hopefully, people will be less likely to commit these mindless acts of vandalism.

Phil Cook, Pontefract Civic Society vice chair pictured with the damages to the Buttercross

“I can understand that when you see something every day, for example when walking through town, you see the Buttercross - it’s taken for granted, because everyone’s not aware of the colourful history attached to it.

“What’s happened regarding the vandalism is awful, and we shouldn't minimise it or gloss over it, but let's turn it around and try and act with positivity - we can’t let people like that win!”

The Buttercross was erected in the 18th century as a result of a dying wish of Pontefract man, Solomon Dupeer, who was instrumental in the British fleet taking the rock of Gibraltar during the Spanish succession.

Dupeer waited until the Spanish were at prayer, then he signaled to the British fleet that it was safe to take the rock, as the Spanish were off guard.

The yobs threw purple, green and pink paint across benches and left hand prints on the walls

When he settled in Pontefract, his wife and three daughters contracted smallpox, so Solomon went to the town’s St Oswalds Cross to pray, and he swore that if they survived, he’d build a shelter for dairymaids to help prevent them from catching smallpox.

Solomon Dupeer passed away before he saw the vision come to fruition, but his wife and three daughters recovered from smallpox.

And Solomon left them with £150 when he passed, and with that money, they were able to build the Buttercross, which stands where the St Oswald's Cross used to be.

Records also document that the Buttercross was used as a centre of wife selling, which was a way of ending an unsatisfactory marriage when divorce was a practical impossibility for the poor.

John Nutt sold his wife for 5 shillings at the Buttercross for 5 shillings in 1776 and the final recorded sale took place in the 19th century, within a period of inflation - as the wife in question was sold for 11 shillings.

Anyone with any information should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.