Pontefract Castle is a castle in the town of Pontefract, in West Yorkshire, England. It was the site of the demise of Richard II of England, and later the place of a series of famous sieges during the English Civil War
Robert de Lacy failed to support Henry I of England during his power struggle with his brother and confiscated the castle from the family during the 1100s. The de Lacys lived in the castle until the early 14th century. It was under the tenure of the de Lacys that the magnificent multilobate donjon was built.
In 1311 the castle passed by marriage to the estates of the House of Lancaster. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (1278–1322) was beheaded outside the castle walls six days after his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge, a sentence placed on him by the King himself in the great hall. This resulted in the earl becoming a martyr with his tomb at Pontefract Priory becoming a shrine. Later John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III of England, as Duke of Lancaster was so fond of the castle that he made it his personal residence, spending vast amounts of money improving it. Richard II of England (1367–1399) was probably murdered within the castle walls, in the Gascoigne Tower. William Shakespeare's play Richard III mentions this incident:
The castle has been a ruin since 1644 when it held as a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War and besieged at least three times by Parliamentarian forces, the latter being responsible for the castle's present dilapidated state and many of its scars. Pontefract Castle was noted by Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Parliamentarians, as "[...] one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom".
Apparently the destruction of the castle at the conclusion of the Second English Civil War had the full support of the surrounding population. They were grateful to destroy the castle and thus stop the fighting in their area. In the view of the locals, the castle was a magnet for trouble.
It is still possible to visit the castle's 11th century cellars which were used to store military equipment during the civil war.
The most remarkable feature of the current site is the remains of the donjon. Very few examples of this multilobed type exist. One is Clifford's Tower in nearby York. An identical example to York can be found at Étampes, France.