New Yorkshire Gazetteer (1828) page 195
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the town is governed by a mayor, re-
corder, twelve aldermen, and a council
of twenty-four burgesses. Here is a free
grammar school, founded by Edward
VI.; and also various charitable endow-
ments. The origin of the town of Pon-
tefract, and the etymology of its name,
are alike unknown: a monkish story re-
lates, that a multitude of persons hav-
ing assembled on the wooden bridge
over the Aire, to crave the blessing of
St. William, Archbishop of York, were
precipitated into the river, from the
breaking of the bridge, but were pre-
served from a watery grave by the
prayers of the pious prelate; a char-
ter, however, is extant, of a date
fifty years previous to his death, in
1154, in which the place is called
Pontefract : a more probable explana-
tion is, that Ilbert de Lacy, to whom
the manor was given by William the
Conqueror, changed its Saxon ap-
pellation, 'Kirkby, to Pontfrete, from
affection to his native village of the
same name in Normandy. Pontefract
is pleasantly situated, crowning a fine
eminence, approached on all sides by a
considerable ascent; the houses are
handsome, chiefly of brick, the streets
open, spacious, and clean; and as there
are no manufactures requiring the use
of steam engines, the air is particularly
pure and salubrious. St. Giles’s church
was made parochial in the reign of
George III., being heretofore only a
chapel of ease to Alhallows, the mother
church, originally a spacious and hand-
some structure, of the age of Henry

III., but which received so much injury
during the siege of the castle, in the
reign of Charles I., that it has ever
since remained in ruins. The present
church of St. Giles does not exhibit an
agreeable exterior, but within it is ex-
tremely neat, and is adorned with an
altar-piece of the crucifixion, painted
by John Standish, a self-taught artist
of this place. Few vestiges remain of
the numerous religious edifices which
once existed in Pomfret. A chantry was
erected on the spot on which Thomas
Earl of Lancaster was beheaded, in the
reign of Edward II. Here was a Be-
nedictine priory for monks, founded in
1090, of which Monk Hill was the site;
the Dominicans, or Black Friars, had
a house nearly in the centre of the gar-
den, called Friars Wood; there was
also a monastery of Carmelites, or
White Friars; and another of Austin
Friars ; but the situation of these con-
vents is now not even known. Thus
Pontefract possessed a great variety of
the brotherhood, “ white, black, and
grey, with all their trumpery.” The
castle of Pontefract, of which only the
solid mound on which it stood, and a
small round tower, remain, is perhaps
more distinguished by tragical events
than any fortress in England, except
the Tower of London : it was built by
Ilbert de Lacey, soon after the con-
quest, and till the time of its demo-
lition in the parliamentary civil wars,
from its vast strength and grandeur,
remained the terror and ornament of
the surrounding district. From the
family of Lacy the castle came into
possession of Thomas Earl of Lan-
caster, who was here beheaded for
conspiring, with other barons, against
his nephew, Edward II.; this turbulent
noble has been injudiciously raised by
some writers into a martyr for the
cause of liberty; whereas, pique and
ambition, not the good of his country,
seem to have been solely his actuating
motives ; the catastrophe, indeed, was
remarkable, as affording the first ex-
ample of an English baron suffering
death by the hand of the public execu-
tioner. A still more melancholy scene
was presented in this fortress; for here
was Richard II. imprisoned, and after
suffering the extremity of thirst, hunger,
and cold, was left to perish. In the suc-
ceeding reign, Richard Scrope, Arch-
bishop of York, being insidiously taken
prisoner, in his ill-concerted rebellion


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