When battle lines were drawn for Wars of Roses clash at Sandal Castle

Dark Clouds gather over Sandal Castle, Wakefield. Photo: Simon Hulme
Dark Clouds gather over Sandal Castle, Wakefield. Photo: Simon Hulme

The dark clouds that draw in over the ruins of Wakefield’s Sandal Castle in this winter shot build an atmosphere of doom and gloom.

And that is certainly what was felt 560 years ago when the Battle of Wakefield took place on land beneath the historic fortification.

A ruined fortress's reputation is rebuilt
A significant event of the Wars of the Roses - a series of English Civil Wars that were fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York for the control of the throne, the battle was held nearby on December 30, 1460.

One of Richard, Duke of York’s primary centres was Sandal Castle. But for his army and supporters, the day of the battle, at least in metaphorical terms, was a dark one, for he was killed amid the fighting.

In 1484, one of his son’s, Richard III, ordered building works to make Sandal Castle suitable as a base for a permanent household in the north. But after his death the following year, the building fell into decay.

The ruins of the motte and bailey castle are Grade II*-Listed by Historic England today. “The earliest castle buildings were of timber and were replaced in stone during the thirteenth century,” the public body says.

The Battle of Wakefield: How the slaughter of a would-be king changed the course of history
“The original wooden tower on the motte was rebuilt as a stone shell keep with circular towers. This would have contained service and garrison buildings.”

In recent years Wakefield Council has been working with Historic England to preserve the monument. The programme of work has seen debris cleared and repairs made to bridges and walkways and also to the stonework.

As well as offering views of Pugneys Country Park and across large swathes of Wakefield district, today the castle site also has an independently-run cafe and is supported by a Friends group, who arrange events and activities throughout the year.

On December 29, the eve of the anniversary of the Battle of Wakefield, the group led a memorial march from the city’s cathedral to the castle. That gloomy day for the Yorkists is still remembered.

Technical details: Nikon D3s Camera, 12-24mm lens, exposure 250th at F11, ISO 200.