Norman times, Wakefield was held by the
Warennes, the Earls of Surrey. However, by 1157, they had moved to a stronger position
overlooking the River Calder, two miles (about 3km) further south at Sandal
Magna. The original wooden
at Sandal Castle
were replaced by a major stone castle during three generations of the de Warennes
from the late 12th century onwards. Construction work continued for the
next hundred years.
Now only a few stones
and earthworks remain, but, in past times the castle was an impressive
site - although much smaller than the castle at Pontefract. The expansion
and rebuilding of the castle in stone were carried out by John, the 7th
Earl de Warenne from 1240.
His son, also named John, had a disagreement
with the Earl of Lancaster which led to Lancaster laying siege to Sandal
Castle in 1317 and razing it to the ground. Lancaster was executed in
1322 following his capture at Boroughbridge during the revolt of the barons.
One of his judges being John de Warenne to whom the Crown returned the
site of Sandal Castle. De Warenne immediately set about building a new
castle, this time in stone, and it is the ruins of this which remain visible
today. Following de Warenne's death in 1361 the castle reverted to the
Crown and into the hands of Edward III.
In the reign of Edward III, Edward Baliol resided here, while an army
was raised to establish him on the throne of Scotland.
Edward III granted
the Manor of Wakefield, including the castle, to
his fourth son
of Langley, Earl of
Later, when Edward III's grandson was king
(Richard II), Edmund played an important role in the affairs of state.
For his services, Richard II created him Duke of York in 1385. Edmund,
Duke of York died in 1402 but the Manor of Wakefield remained in the House
of York and Richard Plantagenet inherited it in 1415.
The Battle of Wakefield
in 1460 took place on Wakefield
Green between the castle and Wakefield Bridge. The castle was not damaged in the battle.
No major work seems
to have taken place between 1361 until 1484/5 when Richard III ordered
work to commence to make the castle suitable for use as a royal base in
the North. After the death of Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, its importance
began to diminish and it ceased to be a royal residence.
Until the reign of
Henry VIII it was still an administrative centre but this ceased when
the administration of the Manor of Wakefield was moved to Moot Hall.
The castle was leased
to a number of tenants until it ended up with Sir JohnSavile in 1586.
In 1619 the lease passed to Sir Thomas Savile. In 1636, the Crown sold
the castle to Frances Nevile. From 1600 to 1645 the castle was seemingly
unoccupied - not even by a resident constable.
the castle was already in a poor state of repair and was well into decline
before the Civil War once again brought it into service.
This drawing was made circa 1560. 
siege it sustained was in the Civil War when Colonel Bonivant held it
for King Charles I, and surrendered to the Parliamentary forces on 1st
October, 1645, after a few months of occupancy. In keeping with the hard
line adopted by Parliament, it was dismantled in 1646 and has remained
a sad ruin to this day.
the castle passed from the Nevile family to the Pilkingtons - a local
family - when Sir Lionel Pilkington bought the Chevet Estate. The estate
included a chapel in the Church of St Helen in Sandal Magna.
became involved with the Watertons in the nineteenth century when, together, they fought a legal battle
against the pollution caused by Simpson's Soap House in Walton.
the castle was leased to Wakefield Corporation and was subsequently bought
by the City in 1954.
The overgrown ruins
were excavated between 1964 and 1973 to reveal that, although still a
ruin, there was a lot hidden underneath the rubble and soil.
In April 2001, it
was announced that a visitor centre would be built and improvements to
the castle site made. The castle and the Battle of Wakefield could become
a significant tourist attraction for Wakefield. Click here to read the newspaper cutting.
To find out more about Sandal Castle, visit the official website of the City of Wakefield (search for 'sandal').
1. Extract from Sandal Castle, National Archives, MPC 97 (ex. DL 31/116).
2. Other sources:
Sandal Magna, a Yorkshire Parish and its People, Mary Ingham and Barbara
Battle of Wakefield 30th December 1460, P.A. Haigh, Sutton Publishing
City of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, Education, Libraries and Museums Department.