West Yorkshire

Pontefract is a market town in the Wakefield metropolitan district of West Yorkshire.

Pontefract is one of the so-called "Five towns" situated in the east of the Wakefield metropolitan district, the others being Castleford, Normanton, Knottingley and Featherstone.

As the crow flies, the town is 3 miles south-east of Castleford, 8 miles east of Wakefield, 11 miles south-west of Selby, 12 miles south-east of Leeds and 14 miles north-north-west of Doncaster.

The historic town once had Yorkshire's most dominant castle, but this has been in ruins for nearly 400 years, but these are free to visit today. It is believed likely to be the place where King Richard II died in 1400 and was later referred to as Pomfret in William Shakespeare's play Richard III. In the Civil War the castle was a royalist stronghold and withstood three sieges between 1644 and 1649. Its final siege by Oliver Cromwell did not come to an end until a surrender almost two months after the execution in January 1949 of King Charles I. After the years of problems from the sieges, the Pontefract townspeople supported the demolition of the castle.

Pontefract has been a market town since the Middle Ages and its town centre has several historic listed buildings around its Market Place, including its market buttercross with pump, which dates from 1734, while the Old Town Hall, dating from 1785, was originally a market building with a jail at the back and assembly room above. The market history continues with the frontage of its nearby Market Hall, dating from around 1860, although this building's interior was rebuilt around 100 years later.

Pontefract has become well known for sweet-making and particularly its sweets known as Pontefract Cakes, originally made from liquorice grown in the area. There is still a sweet smell in the air of the town from the large sweet-making factory close to the town centre.

Pontefract racecourse is one of the longest continuous flat horse-racing circuits in Europe since being converted in the 1980s from a horse-shoe shape to a continuous oval of around two miles with its famous uphill run towards the end.

The town has three railway stations - Tanshelf, Monkhill and Baghill - serving different lines and sides of the town centre.

 Town features

Pontefract has a castle.
Pontefract has an old parish church.
The town has a historic market, town hall and site of friary.
Pontefract has one of Yorkshire's nine horse racecourses.
Pontefract has town centre and out-of-town shopping.
Pontefract has an indoor and an outdoor market(Wed, Sat) (Fri - farmers' market)
The town has a Post Office.
Pontefract has bank and building society branches.
The town has pharmacies.
The town has pubs and social clubs.
Restaurant dining and cafes can be found in Pontefract.
A wide range of takeaway food outlets can be found in Pontefract.
The town has a library.
Pontefract has a museum.
The town has a leisure centre with swimming pool.
Pontefract has a community centre.
Places of worship: Anglican, Catholic, Methodist.


Pontefract Tanshelf station

Station managed by: NORTHERN.
Operator/s: NORTHERN.

NORTHERN - Departure and station info
Link to Northern - external website providing information on all services at this station.

Pontefract Monkhill station

Station managed by: NORTHERN.

NORTHERN - Departure and station info
Link to Northern - external website providing information on all services at this station.

Pontefract Baghill station

Station managed by: NORTHERN.
Operator/s: NORTHERN.

NORTHERN - Departure and station info
Link to Northern - external website providing information on all services at this station.

Bus travel

The town has a bus station.

Road travel

Pontefract can be reached via the (M62) A639 A645

Places to Visit

Sandal Castle

Sandal Castle

Manygates Lane, Sandal Magna, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire
About two miles south of the city centre, the ruins of the medieval motte and bailey castle are freely open to the public and overlook the River Calder and the city. Some walkways at the castle, including steps to the keep, have recently been undergoing renovation and repairs following a £700,000 investment by Wakefield Council. The castle stood just above the site of the War of the Roses Battle of Wakefield in December 1460. Its damage, however, was ordered by Parliamentarians after the surrender of a Royalist garrison there in October 1645 during the English Civil Wars.

More information at the  Wakefield Council - Sandal Castle web pages.
Find on map:  Sandal Castle

The Hepworth, Wakefield

The Hepworth, Wakefield

Gallery Walk, Wakefield
A modern building next to the River Calder in Wakefield provides purpose-built gallery space for a collection donated by the family of Wakefield-born artist and sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth, who died in 1975, together with visiting contemporary art exhibitions.
Find out more at  The Hepworth website.
Find on map:  The Hepworth, Wakefield

National Coal Mining Museum for England

National Coal Mining Museum for England Wakefield Road, Overton
The National Coal Mining Museum for England is mid-way between Wakefield and Huddersfield, about 6 miles from each, on the main A642 road at Overton. It is also around 10 miles from Barnsley and just under 5 miles from Dewsbury. The former Caphouse Colliery has exhibits showing the history of mining in the Yorkshire coalfield and beyond. The museum also offers the chance to don a miner's helmet to take an underground tour down the mine. The tour takes about an hour and shows the changes in mining and conditions in the pit through its history. There's also chance to meet pit ponies, to take a trip on a colliery railway, to walk its nature trail or relax with food or a drink in its cafe.
More details at the  National Coal Mining Museum website.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

West Bretton
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the UK's leading open-air sculpture gallery, situated at West Bretton, between Barnsley, Huddersfield and Wakefield. Set in around 500 acres of beautiful parkland within the Bretton Estate adjoining Bretton Hall, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park offers what is probably the finest outdoor exhibition space in the country for modern and contemporary sculpture, attracting regional, national and international exhibits. The museum also has indoor exhibition spaces, cafes and shops. The museum car parks are accessed off the A637 Huddersfield Road between West Bretton and junction 38 of the M1. From 2020, the Yorkshire Sculpture Pak has introduced an admission charge with advance booking required. Parking is included in the admission fee.

More information at the  Yorkshire Sculpture Park website.
Find on map:  Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Doncaster Road, Nostell
The site of a medieval priory, Nostell features a mid-18th century Palladian-style house which has been described as an architectural masterpiece. It includes interiors added by Robert Adam and furniture by Yorkshire-born furniture designer Thomas Chippendale. The house, 6 miles south-east of Wakefield and 5 miles south-west of Pontefract, is set in more than 120 hectares of parkland, including lakeside walks. Feature gardens include a kitchen garden with many varieties of rhubarb and vegetables typical of those grown in the 18th and 19th centuries and also the Menagerie Garden, created in 1743 and once the home of several exotic species. Nostell is managed by the National Trust.
More information can be found on the  National Trust - Nostell web pages.

Pontefract Castle

Pontefract Castle

Castle Garth, Pontefract
Once the most impressive castle in Yorkshire, Pontefract Castle has been a ruin for around 380 years. It is believed to be the place where King Richard II died in 1400, the king having been imprisoned there in 1399. The castle was referred to (as Pomfret) in William Shakespeare's play Richard III as the place where Richard II was 'hack'd to death', although many historians put starvation as the likely cause. Mystery still surrounds the death as there were also stories of Richard's escape to Stirling in Scotland. The castle was visited in August 1541 by King Henry VIII with his queen of the past year, Catherine Howard, and also Thomas Culpeper. Culpeper was at the end of that year beheaded in London for his alleged adultery with the queen, who was herself executed a few weeks later. Pontefract Castle was a royalist stronghold in the English Civil War and was beseiged several times by Parliamentarian forces before its remains were destroyed in 1649. Low and excavated walls and the cellars of the castle are all that remain today.

More information at the  Wakefield Museums and Castles - Pontefract Castle website.
Find on map:  Pontefract Castle

Fairburn Ings

Near Fairburn
Situated 2 miles north-east of Castleford (3.5 miles by road), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Fairburn Ings offers hides, trails and a visitor centre. It has a variety of birdlife habitats, including lakes, woodland and wet grassland with resident and migrating birds depending on the season. The visitor centre is open each day except Christmas Day. The reserve holds events and discovery days through the year and there are also opportunities for pond-dipping.

Emergency services

West Yorkshire Police  West Yorkshire Police website.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service  West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust  Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust website.

Local government

Metropolitan district council

Wakefield Council
Wakefield Council covers an area extending many miles beyond the city of Wakefield itself. The area includes many separate small towns and villages, among them Castleford, Featherstone, Hemsworth, Horbury, Knottingley, Normanton , Ossett, Pontefract, South Elmsall and Stanley.

The council is made up of 63 councillors elected 3 per ward across 21 wards. Elections held in 3 in every 4 years elect one councillor per ward for 4-year terms. An election of one-third of the council due to be held in 2020 has been postponed to 2021.

Link to  Wakefield Council website .

Political composition after the May 2021 election:

43 17 2 1
63 members

County strategic authority

West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Covers some combined services of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire -  Bradford,  Calderdale,  Leeds,  Kirklees and  Wakefield - which were at one time provided by a West Yorkshire metropolitan county council, with the addition of the non-contiguous unitary authority area of the City of  York council as well as the unelected Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.

Operates with elected mayor Tracy Brabin as chairman and as decision-maker for some responsibilities after May 2021 election.

 West Yorkshire Combined Authority website.

Police and Crime Commissioner

The Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire
This role has become one of the many responsibilities of the West Yorkshire elected mayor since May 2021.

 West Yorkshire Combined Authority website.

National government region

Yorkshire and the Humber

Fire Authority

West Yorkshire Fire Authority
The fire authority is made up of elected members of each of the five metropolitan district councils of West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Leeds, Kirklees and Wakefield.
 West Yorkshire Fire Authority web pages.

Ceremonial county

West Yorkshire


-1974 Within the West Riding of Yorkshire

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