Sunday, 12 August 2018

Pontefract Castle Magazine


In the magazine at Pontefract Castle

When I visited Pontefract Castle on the late May Bank Holiday weekend this year, my primary intention was to revisit the castle magazine to take a set of photos that would replace those from my last trip to Pontefract in 2016, which I had inexplicably deleted from my computer. 

The stairs down to the magazine at Pontefract Castle

At that time, the electrics underground had failed but the temporary contractor’s lighting, together with the tour leader’s torch, had provided enough light to take a few decent photographs – albeit stretching my Canon Powershot G16 camera to its limit. 

A lense of iron rich siltstone in the Newstead Rock

With only 9 people turning up midweek in October, we were able to explore every cavern and – staying behind for a few moments to use flash photography as I did at Chislehurst Caves – I was able to highlight the lenses of fine grained iron rich silt that occur in the Newstead Rock, which are not obvious in the weathered exposures of rock beneath the north curtain wall. 

A general view of the magazine at Pontefract Castle

The “Dungeon Tour” proved very popular on this day, with the maximum of 20 people going underground, and opportunities to further examine the geology were therefore very limited, especially since the fixed permanent lighting was not as bright as I had hoped for. 

A photo with and without the camera flash

For the general visitor, the principal interest of this excavated cavern, originally the cellar to the 11th century Great Hall, is its history, which includes use for storing gunpowder, liquorice and – in the English Civil War – as a prison. 

Steps carved in situ from the Newstead Rock

Pontefract Castle endured three sieges and it was the last one under Royalist control to fall and, although nothing like as elaborate as that seen at the Beauchamp Tower at the Tower of London, the inscriptions provide a record of these turbulent times.

An inscription by John Grant in 1648

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