PONTEFRACT: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1829.


"PONTEFRACT, a market town and borough, in the liberty of the honour and parish of its name, in the wapentake of Osgoldcross, west riding, is 173 miles from London, 49 from Manchester, 24 from York, 13 from Leeds, and nine from Wakefield. The town stands on a beautiful eminence, and ii approached on every side by a considerable ascent, and a little below the conflux of the rivers Aire & Calder. Authors disagree greatly respecting the derivation of its name; by some it is stated to have obtained the appellation 'Pomfret' from Porho ferre, on account of its fertile soil, but Camden asserts that it was changed by the Romans to 'Pontefract.' This town is famous in the annals of historical events belonging to the county of York, from being the place in which King Richard II. was murdered or starved to death, and where the earls Rivers and Grey, Sir Thos, Vaughan and Sir Richard Hawse were, by the machinations of the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. basely murdered, in order to render his title to the-British throne more substantially secure. The scene of this bloodshed was the celebrated castle of Pontefract, which was built about the year 1078 or 1080; it was situated on an elevated rock, commanding extensive views of the surrounding scenery, and affording to the town, from its strength, every protection during the time of the civil wars. This immense castle occupied a space of more than six acres, and was considered the largest in England, few remains of it are now to be seen.

Pontefract was a burgh in the time of Edward the Confessor, from which period it, has sent two members to parliament. The franchise is in the inhabitant householders; of whom there are about 700 the present members are Thomas Houldsworth, Esq. of Manchester, and L. G. N. Starkie, Esq. of Huntroyd Hall Lancashire. The government of the town is in the body corporate, consisting of a mayor; recorder and twelve aldermen (all of whom are in the commission of the peace) with a common council consisting of twenty four burgesses. The quarter sessions for the borough are held In the court house of the townhall, a handsome modern building, erected at the joint expense of the corporation and the riding; in this building is the savings bank and also the rotation office, where the magistrates hold their weekly sittings for the dispatch of magisterial business of the borough. At the top of the Beast-market is a stately courthouse, erected a few years since by the riding; in this building the principal general sessions of the peace, for the west riding, are held annually in Easter week. The parish church, dedicated to St. Giles, is of high antiquity, being known as early as the reign of Henry I. in the charter of Hugh Delaval; it is small and with few exterior beauties, but the interior yields to none in neatness; then living is a vicarage in the patronage of the king, and incumbency of the Rev. F. H. Marshall. Besides the parish church, the other places of worship area chapel each belonging to the Methodists, Calvinists, Roman Catholics and Quakers. There are various charity hospitals, and the king's free grammar school, founded and endowed by Edward VI. and a charity school, founded by the Earl of Strafford in 1695. The places of amusement here are the assembly room in the town-hall, a neat theatre, and an excellent race-ground, about a mile from the town, where races take place annually, and which are most respectably and numerously attended. Pontefract never has been noted as a manufacturing town, but it possesses an excellent local trade, which is much advanced by the highly respectable neighbourhood, being studded with many fine seats of nobles, and numerous mansions of opulent individuals. The vicinage of the town is also famed for its gardens and nurseries, which are very extensive, and great quantities of vegetables, &c. are carried hence for the supply of the Leeds, Wakefield, and other markets. The healing root, liquorice, is also grown about here to a considerable extent. The well supplied market is held on Saturday, and the fairs are St. Andrew's day, the first Saturday in December, Saturday before February 2, Saturday after February 13, Saturday before Palm Sunday, Low Sunday and Trinity Sunday Saturday after September 12, and every Saturday after York fortnight fairs. By the census for 1821 the entire parish of Pontefract contained 8,824 inhabitants, of which number 4,447 were of the borough and township."

"CARLETON, is a village and township, in the parish of Pontefract, containing 132 inhabitants."
Note: The directory entry for Carleton in Pigot's 1829 Directory is included with Pontefract.

"FERRYBRIDGE, is a village in the parishes of Pontefract and Ferry Fryston, about 2 miles and a half from Pontefract. At this place is a beautiful bridge over the river Aire, and here are three excellent inns, affording accommodation to travellers equal to any on the north road. The population of the parish is about 800."
Note: The directory entry for Ferrybridge in Pigot's 1829 Directory is included with Pontefract.

"KNOTTINGLEY, a chapelry, in the parish of Pontefract, three miles therefrom, and one east of Ferrybridge, is an extensive and populous village, situated on the banks of the Aire, and has been long noted for its great production of lime-stone. Here is a chapel of ease to Pontefract, dedicated to St. Botolph, and one each for the Methodists and Calvinists. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the vicar of Pontefract, and curacy of the Rev. Charles Smith. By the last returns the population amounted to 3,753 persons."
Note: The directory entry for Knottingley in Pigot's 1829 Directory is included with Pontefract.

[Transcribed from Pigot's National Commericial Directory for 1828-29 ]
by Colin Hinson ©2007