From Academic Kids

Missing image
Pontefract Castle in its heyday

Pontefract (its name comes from the Latin for "Broken Bridge") is a town in the county of West Yorkshire, England, near the A1, or Great North Road, the M62 motorway and Castleford.

Pontefract Castle dates from Norman times, when it was known as Pomfret. It was destroyed in the English Civil War but its ruins can still be visited. Richard II was killed there. Pomfret is mentioned in the Shakespeare play "Richard III".

Pontefract is one of the few places in Britain where liquorice can be grown, due to the sandy nature of its soil. The town has a liquorice sweet industry, including the famous Pontefract cakes (liquorice sweets), but the plant is no longer grown there. There are two liquorice factories in the town: Haribo (formerly known as Dunhills) and Monkhill Confectionery (formerly known as Wilkinson's).

Pontefract does not appear in the Domesday Book, but an area of the town, known as Tanshelf, does.

Pontefract has been a market town at least since the Middle Ages, and the main market days are Wednesday and Saturday, with a smaller market on Fridays. There is also a covered market which is open all week, except Thursday afternoons and Sundays. Thursday afternoon is "half day closing in Pontefract".

Pontefract has a public library and a museum. It is locally renowned for its large number of pubs. One of the oldest buildings in the town was turned into a pub in the eighties, and is called the Counting House. The building itself dates back to the 1500s, and was used as shop premises previously.

Pontefract has a large general hospital, known as Pontefract General Infirmary. Beneath this there is an old hermitage, which is open to the public on certain days, (which can be found out in the museum). Pontefract Museum is in the town centre and is well worth a visit. It is housed in the old building that used to be the library. There is now a modern library building.

Pontefract has three railway stations: Baghill (on the York-Sheffield line), Monkhill and Tanshelf (which connect with Leeds and Wakefield).

Pontefract has a park with a racecourse on the outskirts of town, and nearer to the town centre is the very pretty Valley Gardens which has an aviary, and a fine avenue of flowering cherry trees that are well worth a visit in the springtime.

Life in Pontefract was satirised by J.S. Fletcher in his book "The Town of Crooked Ways", which may either have been a reference to the medieval layout of the town, or the behaviour of its inhabitants. In more recent times Pontefract has seen its share of scandal in the form of the Poulson affair in the 1960's.


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