The discovery of seven cannon balls embedded in the wall of Pontefract Castle has opened a vivid window on an episode from the West Yorkshire fortifications past.
.Described by Oliver Cromwell as one of England’s strongest inland garrisons, Pontefract Castle was besieged three times during the English Civil War, but never fell to military force and was one of the last castles to surrender during this turbulent period.
The cannonballs- which were recovered from a stretch of curtain wall during the 3.5 million pound Heritage Lottery Fund – supported.’Keys to the North’ project – were fired during the first of these sieges, in January 1644. Analysis has revealed that they came from a demi-cannon petro, three basilisks, and two culverin
Two of the cannonballs found at Pontefract Castle.
Further research has allowed the team to pin down precisely when the shots may have been fired, however, as Nathan Drake,’ a gentleman volunteer’ of the castle garrison, kept a diary during the war. Between the 17th and 21st of January 1644, he records, l,363 shots were fired at the castle’s Piper Tower, from cannon placed within the back garden of Mr Lumne.
As the cannonballs were discovered in a section of wall just to the side of where this tower stood, and as Drake records no other instance of a cannon firing in this direction, it seems likely that the recently found. cannon balls were fired from this spot. the.team argues.
From other entries in Drake’s diary it can be calculated that Lumne’s house stood along the route of the siegeworks somewhere around the top of Horsefair and the bottom of Salter Row, said Ian Downes, a member of the team working for Wakefield Council
All of this means we have the location of the gun, the probable date it was fired, the size of the shot fired, and the location the shots ended up. From this we get a very real impression of the power of these guns. ‘said Ian. ‘It had been previously calculated that as much as 18lbs of black powder would be used to fire a 32lb shot ( the demi-cannon we have weighs roughly 32lbs ), and that the effective range of such a gun would be around 490m. The distance from the probable location of Mr Lumne’s house to the castle wall is about 480m. This means that the gun was placed as far as possible from the castle to avoid being shot at by musket, but close enough for the weapon to be effective. The cannon balls ended up nearly 1m into the solid castle wall, a terrifying prospect for the besieged soldiers.