A look at the £1.5m restoration work in town’s Market Place

Market Place, Pontefract
Market Place, Pontefract

As a seven year scheme to restore historic buildings in Pontefract’s Market Place Conservation Area draws to an end, The Express looks at the work that has been done to preserve the area and why it is an important part of the town’s history.

In the seven years since the Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative began, around £1.5m has been spent on restoring historic buildings in the town.

The focus of the scheme, funded by Wakefield Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been to preserve and improve the environment of the Pontefract Market Place Conservation area, which takes in Market Place, as well as Ropergate, Gillygate Cornmarket, Beastfair, Salter Row and Liquorice Way.

More than 35 buildings in the area are listed, meaning they are nationally protected and of historical significance.

The Grade II-Listed Liquorice Bush Pub on Market Place will be the latest to be restored under the heritage scheme.

Planning permission to carry out repairs at the historic building was granted last week.

Documents submitted to planners at Wakefield Council by pub operator Ei Group PLC state: “The works retain as much historic fabric as possible in its original form, aim to prolong the overall life of the building and enhance the listed building and its historic townscape setting.”

The building, which dates back to the 18th century, was formerly a house but was converted to a pub in the mid 19th century, the documents state.

It was previously called The Tankard Public House and is believed to have been renamed in the late 1970s or early 1980s during a redevelopment.

Its name today pays tribute to the town’s liquorice heritage. The plant was first introduced to Pontefract for medicinal purposes during the 16th century and since 1995, the Liquorice Festival has taken place in the town every year.

The restoration project aims to make The Liquorice Bush weathertight and structurally sound so it can survive for future generations.

Planning documents produced by architect Britt Harwood explore the history of the street and surrounding area.

They state: “In Pontefract, as in many other medieval towns, there were separate markets for corn and livestock (Cornmarket, Beastfair and Horsefair), as well as the main Market Place. Around these commercial centres were smaller, more specialised street markets serving groups of trades and crafts which in some parts of the town gave their names to the associated streets (Salters Row, Tanners Row).”

The Pontefract Market Place Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan was adopted by the council in 2010 to protect and enhance the architectural and historic character of the area.

It states: “The Market Place conservation area is the commercial centre of the medieval town of Pontefract. Having developed from the 12th century onwards, the area displays over 800 years of development. The town was particularly significant in the Middle Ages, when it was the fourth largest town in Yorkshire, behind York, Hull and Beverley.”

Since it started in 2011, the Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative has seen restoration work carried out at 17 key historic buildings in Pontefract’s town centre on Gillygate, Ropergate and Market Place.

The scheme has also included training events and the creation of the Pontefract Spotters Guide leaflet, an architectural treasure hunt around the centre.

Coun Pat Garbutt , Chair of the Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative and Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “We are delighted with the success of the Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative. The seven year programme has helped to invest grants of £1.5m, and more than £300k of private contributions, on improving and conserving the important historical buildings in the town centre.

“To date, works have already been completed on 17 buildings in the town at Gillygate, Ropergate, Cornmarket and the Market Place. A further four projects are currently in progress and a further seven more buildings are applying for funding.

“Pontefract has a wonderful heritage and these works are preserving important buildings to improve the town centre for businesses, residents and visitors, for many years to come.”