Area, 4,790 acres. Osgoldcross wapentake, U.D. -Population, 9,305 *1; Church-room, 1,400 *2 ; Net value, £313.
Patron, the Lord Chancellor. Impropriators, the Earl of Harewood and Edward Frank, Esq.
The Church of St. Giles (or Saint Mary de Fero) was, at the instance of Archbishop Thurston, granted by Hugh de la Val to the Priory of St. John the Evangelist, in Pontefract. It was subsequently enlarged, and the north-west part given by Ilbert de Lacy to the Canons of St. Oswald, and dedicated to that Saint, and the Church then came to be called St. Oswald's, with St. Giles's Chapel annexed.
In the Parliamentary Survey, vol. xviii. page 393, it is stated : " St. Giles's Chapel is a large building, situate in the market-place and heart of the said town of Pontefract, being now the only convenient place of worship for the whole town ; and therefore think it fit that it be made the parish Church there, and these towns and places to be annexed to it, viz.: Pontefract town, Tanskelfe, Carleton, Pontefract Park, East Hardwick, and - Hardwick, with Bubwith Houses, near Pontefract town end. And we humbly recommend their necessitous condition to the State for maintenance of a minister suitable to the great congregation and market town of Pontefract, consisting of many souls."
During the siege of Pontefract Castle, the Church of All Saints was so much damaged as to become unfit for the performance of divine service therein, and therefore service was performed in the Chapel of St. Giles ; and by the 28th Geo. III., cap. 56, the Chapel of St. Giles was constituted the parish Church, and consequently all the rights belonging to All Saints Vicarage were transferred to St. Giles's.
In 1707, the steeple was rebuilt by Sir John Bland, of Kippax, Knight, one of the members, at his own expense.
Augmented, in 1722, with £200, to meet benefactions of £90 from the Rev. Marmaduke Fothergill and Mr. William Walker, and a legacy and interest of £110 from Mrs. F. Beaumont's trustees.
In the 37th Geo. III. an inclosure took place, and corn rents were substituted for tithes.
21st April 1740, faculty to build two galleries.
10th March 1768, confirmation under seal of court of a resolution of vestry to transact parish business as to Church matters in the Church.
15th June 1771, faculty to erect a gallery.
8th February 1793, faculty to enlarge the Church and to erect galleries.
24th December 1825, faculty to rent or purchase 13 pews.
The glebe house is unfit for residence.
The Register Books commence in 1585. Chasm 1643-1646.
Pontefract is celebrated for its Castle, which was built by Ilbert de Lacy in the time of the Conqueror. Here King Richard II. was murdered, and many nobles put to death in it during the reign of Richard III. It was several times besieged in the civil wars ; and in 1647 it was surrendered to the forces of the Parliament, and dismantled in 1649.
Richard III. incorporated the borough of Pontefract.
Lectureship of St Giles. -Founded by the Rev. Marmaduke Fothergill, of Pontefract, and endowed by a grant, dated January 5th 1716, of Friar Wood Pastures, &c., to Archbishop Dawes and his successors for ever, in trust, for the use of the said Marmaduke Fothergill and Dorothy Fothergill his wife, and of the longer liver of them, and afterwards for the support and maintenance of a Catechist in the Chapel of St. Giles, or the parish Church of Pontefract, which Catechist the said Archbishop and his successors from time to time shall and may always nominate, after the deaths of the said Marmaduke Fothergill and Dorothy his wife, only excepting and reserving the first nomination of such Catechist to the longer liver of them, as shall be expressed in the last will or other writing of such longer liver. Mrs. Fothergill died in 1753, and by her will appointed Francis Drake, D.D. The duty, as fixed by the Archbishop-a lecture every other Sunday in the afternoon. -Abp. Sharp's MS., vol. i. page 366. The annual income of the estate in 1790 was £52.
Royal free and exempt Chapel of St. Clements, within the Castle of Pontefract. -This Chapel was built by Ilbert de Lacy, and was granted by the founder to the Priory of St. John's, and was amply endowed. It was designed as a place of worship for those who dwelt in the Park and St. Nicholas's Hospital. It was Collegiate, and possessed by a Dean and three Prebendaries. Being much dilapidated, the Chapel was repaired by Queen Elizabeth, but was demolished along with the Castle. - Mon. Angl., vol. vi. page 1,474 ; Torre's MS., page 49.
THE CHAPEL OF ST. THOMAS PLANTAGENET, in Pontefract. -This Chapel was built on the summit of the hill where Thomas Earl of Lancaster was beheaded, on the north-east side of the Castle. It was built by one Simeon about 1361. It was a very beautiful Church, and Leland says that in his time it contained several splendid monuments.
Many miracles were reported to have occurred at the tomb of Thomas Earl of Lancaster. Blood was said to have flowed from it in 1359, and his girdle was said to assist women in travail, and his hat to cure all pains in the head. This Chapel is now entirely demolished. -Torre's MS., page 53.
HERMITAGE, at Pontefract. -This was founded near the Church of St. Thomas, about 1368, by Adam de Laythorpe and Robert, his son. The grot is hewn out of the solid rock.
WHITE FRIARS COLLEGE, in Pontefract. -Founded by Edmund de Lacy, and surrendered 31st Henry VIII. -Mon. Angl., vol. vi. page 1,581.
AUSTIN FRIAR, in Pontefract. -An hospital and oratory of this order was founded in the reign of King Edward I. by William de Tabouriere for a Chaplain and eight poor people. -Mon. Angl., vol. vi., page 149.
LAZAR Holum-Founded by Henry de Lacy 14th Edward I. -Mon. Angl., vol. vi. page 781.
PRIORY OF DOMINICAN FRIARS. Founded before 1266 by Edmund de Lacy.
PRIORY OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST. -A Cell to La Charite sur Loire, founded about the year 1390 by Robert de Pontefract, son of Ilbert de Lacy, for Cluniac Monks. It was richly endowed. -Mon. Angl., vol. v. page 118.
COLLEGE AND HOSPITAL OF ST. NICHOLAS. -Founded about the reign of William II. Given 17th Henry VI. to the Priory of Nostell, which maintained a Chaplain and thirteen poor persons. -Mon. Angl., vol. vi. page 781.
2nd March, 4th Jac. I., the King, by charter, conferred the nomination of the Reader and poor persons upon the corporation.
About the year 1673, this Hospital was nearly rebuilt, partly by aid of £100 left by Mr. Thomas Sayle. Income : rent of 5a. 0r. 16p. and of moiety of two houses, and rents-charge of £23. 13s. 4d. and £3. 10s. The overseers receive the income, and pay the poor persons 1s. per week, and supply them with coals. -Torre's MS., page 54.
Corporation Poor's Land. Rent of fourteen acres of land given annually to the poor by the mayor and three senior aldermen.
John Akister's gift, by will, dated 27th March 1733. Three bushels of wheat at Christmas to poor widows living in Micklegate.
Ann Hirst's charity, given in April 1781. £50 to be lent out by the mayor, recorder, and Vicar, in sums of £25 each, for seven years, without interest.
Richard Thompson's charity, by deed, dated 13th December 1823. £100 to be lent out in a similar manner, in sums of £50 each. He also left the interest of £50 to the Dispensary, and in failure thereof, to be laid out in bread.
Robert Moore's dole, by will, 1662.
Rent-charge of £1 per annum to the poor. William Oates's dole. £2 per annum. Leonard Healeigh's dole, by will, in 1600. Rent-charge of £1 per annum. John Eastwood's dole, by will, 1628. £2 per annum.
Robert Frank's dole, by will, in 1737. Rent-charge of £2. 10s. per annum.
Tanskelfe Charities. -John Akister's gift, by will, dated 27th March 1733. Two bushels of wheat at Christmas amongst poor widows.
Richard Bannister's gift, by will, in 1762. Interest of £10 for teaching a poor child.
Robert Franks' dole. 17s. 3d. per annum.
Ward's Hospital, foundation unknown. Two poor widows have each a cottage and a small income of about £8. 12s. per annum, arising from the rent of four cottages and a plot of land. -Vide 16th Report, page 422.
Torre's MS., page 51. Abp. Sharp's MS., vol. i. pages 157. 335. Gent's Ripon, page 8. Hutton, page 21. Boothroyd's Pontefract. Gent's Pontefract. Hargrove's Knaresborough, page 206. Fox's History of Pontefract.
*1 Viz: Carlton, 155; East Hardwick, 139; Knottingley, 3,666 ; Monk Hill, 39 ; Pontefract, 4,832; Tanskelf, 423; and Pontefract Park (extra-parochial) 51. In 1834, the Population, exclusive of Knottingley, was returned at 5,859. The apparent decrease of Population (87 persons) in the Chapelry of Knottingley is attributable to a number of labourers being employed there in 1821 in excavating a canal. The quarries in this Chapelry afford employment to 62 men, and 39 men in Pontefract are employed in coal mines.
*2 Estimated, in 1818, at 2,000. 1,200 additional sittings, of which 552 are free, have been procured, towards which the Society made a grant of £600.