From brutal battleground to serene Sandal ruins

Today, Sandal Castle is open to visitors, despite some areas being closed to the public.
Today, Sandal Castle is open to visitors, despite some areas being closed to the public.

The ruins of Sandal Castle are now a serene spot overlooking the Calder Valley and popular with dog walkers and picnickers but its history is far from peaceful.

Located in Sandal Magna, these riverside ruins stand on of what remains of a highly prestigious home for medieval aristocrats built in the 12th Century which became a location for one of the key events of the War of the Roses.

In 1460, the Battle of Wakefield was fought on the green below the castle resulting in a decisive Lancastrian victory and hundreds of deaths, including that of Richard, Duke of York, whose head was subsequently displayed at the gates of his home city as a warning to the Yorkist forces.

While the castle was not damaged in the battle, it was allowed to fall into decay. But in 1485, the Duke of York’s son Richard III ordered building works to make Sandal suitable as a base for a permanent household in the North.

However, his defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth that same year brought an end hopes of any further development at Sandal.

Historians believe the castle was completely unoccupied from about 1600 until it was briefly re-fortified by a Royalist garrison in 1645 during the Civil Wars before being surrendered after a few months.

The following year, Parliament ordered the castle to be stripped of its defences.

The castle remained abandoned for centuries until Wakefield Council funded clearance and excavations for the site in 1964.

Today, Sandal Castle is open to visitors, despite some areas being closed to the public.

Councillors recently approved plans for more than £700,000 to be invested in repairs and conservation work which is currently under way. And the site’s extraordinary history has not been forgotten – in recent years The Friends of Sandal Castle group have marked the Battle of Wakefield with a parade following with a memorial procession involving medieval re-enactors.