Medieval Castles in West Yorkshire

Medieval Castles in West Yorkshire

Yorkshire has some of the UK’s oldest and most unspoilt historic attractions. The castles of Yorkshire give a unique picture of what life was like in earlier centuries.

West Yorkshire is well known for its industrial heritage and became a famous and wealthy region during the Industrial Revolution. 


However, this area of Yorkshire has a rich history and had thriving medieval towns long before the textile mills of Leeds and Bradford were in operation and people drove by cars.


Here are three interesting medieval castles with some quite turbulent histories.

Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire

There has been a castle in Pontefract for almost one thousand years. The town of Pontefract is often viewed as an industrial community, best known for mining and the production of licorice sweets. However, in medieval times, the town was an important center of power.


Pontefract was on the Great North Road, a route from London to the North of England and as such, received many important visitors. King Richard II died as a prisoner at the castle and it is reputed that Catherine Howard was first unfaithful to King Henry VIII here.

Pontefract Castle

photo of Pontefract Castle from geograph via CC BY-SA 2.0

The current castle was constructed in the fourteenth century and was a favorite home of John of Gaunt, one of the sons of Edward III. It is a motte and bailey castle, with two wards and extensive underground buildings.


The townspeople of Pontefract have not always appreciated the castle and after the English Civil War, petitioned to Parliament to have it demolished, as they felt that it attracted trouble. The building was duly destroyed and has remained as a ruin ever since.


details to visit:

Pontefract Castle, Castle Chain, Pontefract, WF8 1QH

Open: Mon-Fri 8:30am to dusk, Sat-Sun 10:30am to dusk

Sandal Castle, West Yorkshire

Sandal Castle is a motte and bailey fortress founded in 1180. It overlooks the site of the 1460 Battle of Wakefield, one of the battle-grounds of the War of the Roses.


The castle fell into disrepair during the sixteenth century, but was an important fortification during the English Civil War and was besieged twice by Parliamentary forces.

Sandal Castle

photo of Sandal Castle from wikimedia via CC BY 2.0

Archaeological finds have been discovered at the castle and some of these are on display at the nearby Wakefield Museum.


details to visit:

Sandal Castle, Manygates Lane, Sandal, Wakefield, WF2 7DG

Open from dawn to dusk.

Wakefield Castle, West Yorkshire

Wakefield Castle was built in the twelfth century and may never have been completed. It was founded during the uncertainty of the reign of King Stephen, when many titles and landholdings were disputed.


The castle was designed as a motte and bailey fortress but its original design has been altered by later building work.


details to visit:

Wakefield Castle, Thornes Park, Wakefield, WF2 8QE

Open from dawn to dusk.