Pontefract is a historic market town in West Yorkshire, England, near the A1 and the M62 motorways and is home to more than 30,000 people. It’s a thriving market town and has been since the middle ages. The town is full of quirky independent retailers and it’s a unique town with a Norman Castle, cobbled streets and the smell of liquorice coming from the local sweet factories. It has a history ranging from horse racing and secret ballots to King Richard II and delicious Pontefract Cakes!
The history of horse racing in Pontefract dates back as far as 1648! Before the local castle was taken by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. The races were originally held in the meadows surrounding the town and during the Second World War, Pontefract was one of only two Northern courses allowed to hold racing. The modern-day race course is a testing 2-mile track with an uphill section in the final furlongs. It is one of the longest continuous flat racing circuits in Europe with one of the longest races in the calendar at 2 miles 5 furlongs 133 yards!
Pontefract Castle dates back to 1070! It was once known as England’s most feared fort which, nowadays is difficult to imagine as the castle lies in ruins but it was a huge structure. Its reputation was that renowned, that the castle was mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. It has a history of conflict, death and destruction! The castle was the location of Richard II’s murder and hundreds were killed in the famous Wars of the Roses. Oliver Cromwell had a hatred of Pontefract Castle, as it caused him no end of trouble in the civil war and plotted to destroy it at the first opportunity, which he did shortly after 1648.
Liquorice, Pontefract Cakes & Haribo!
Pontefract is the liquorice capital of England. Its deep, sandy soil made it one of the few places in which liquorice could be successfully grown. Although the plant is no longer grown there, the town has two major factories where they produce liquorice sweets and the famous Pontefract Cakes. One of the factories is owned by Haribo. Haribo, the world’s biggest manufacturer of fruit gums and liquorice products acquired a majority stake in the English firm Dunhills in Pontefract in 1972 and they kept the traditional lines. The famous round liquorice Pontefract Cakes are still produced today! It is now Haribo Dunhills’ most traditional product amoung their other popular liquorice and fruit gum sweets, yummy! The Pontefract cake (a liquorice lozenge) was once used as a medicine in the 18th century but I’m not sure what it was supposed to cure!
The Rhubarb Triangle!
Not as exciting as the Bermuda Triangle, the Rhubarb triangle is a 9 square mile patch of land that sits between Pontefract, Wakefield and Rothwell. From January to March, fuchsia-pink forced rhubarb is still picked by hand! Rhubarb comes from Siberia and likes the cold and rain, which we have plenty of in Yorkshire!
Once the rhubarb has been picked, it is grown in dark warm barns which forces it to grow towards the light hence the name forced rhubarb. Nowadays, there are only 11 growers left, so get some while you can!
Pontefract, the future
Pontefract has been known as the key to the north. It sits between the M62 & A1 meaning it’s only a short drive to Leeds, Wakefield & Manchester. There are many distribution centres are based in the area with the ‘euro’ connection for road hauliers and there are four International Airports, Leeds Bradford, Robin hood, Manchester and Nottingham East Midlands. (Not that we’re being greedy!)
It’s become a magnet for many people priced out of Leeds and has many exciting new developments and services. A new rail service is already underway from Knottingley to Wakefield, Westgate and Leeds, so quicker to get to work or just go shopping! The local authority has plans for £1m leisure investment, including a new library and a gym, perfect to get ready for the 3 days of summer!
Just a short drive away at junction 32 of the M62 will be the Axiom development, a huge regional shopping centre due to launch in 2021 with 600,000sq ft of retail floorspace and around 75 units. Pre-lets are already secured with Next, Primark (yay!), Marks & Spencer and Boots.
Castleford, which is around 10 minutes’ drive away, is to have a £750m transform creating thousands of new jobs and green spaces and a £15 million leisure hub is planned for the town due to be open by 2020.
In conclusion, Pontefract is a friendly, modern town and offers easy connections to the whole of the UK and beyond. With a house price average of just £149,000 it makes it an affordable alternative to Leeds or even Wakefield. A quality mix of high street and independent shops, good schools and lively cultural events all add up to make Pontefract a highly desirable place to live, love, work and invest!