In Norman times, Wakefield was held by the De Warenne Earls of Surrey. However, by 1157, they had abandoned their castle there for a strong position above the River Calder, two miles further south at Sandal Magna. The original wooden motte and bailey at Sandal Castle was replaced in stone by three generations of the De Warennes from the late 12th century onwards.
Construction work continued for the next hundred or so years and was just coming to an end at the time when a Robert Hood appears, in the Wakefield Court Rolls, as the son of a forester in the service of John De Warenne, Earl of Surrey. Robert must have visited the castle often when called upon so to do by his Lord or the castle bailiff. Was he the man who later turned to a life of crime in the nearby woods of Barnsdale?
Sandal Castle stands in a commanding position overlooking the River Calder. It is best known for the famous Battle of Wakefield which was fought nearby in 1460 at the time of the Wars of the Roses. Richard, Duke of York was killed in the battle.
The children's nursery rhyme 'The Grand Old Duke of York', is based on the based on the battle and the Duke of York's indecisiveness.
Oh, the grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.
During the English Civil War in the 1640's Sandal Castle was besieged twice by Parliamentary forces. Afterwards, it was stripped of its defences.
For many years, it was thought that little remained here except some very large grassy bumps, but extensive excavations in the 1960s revealed the well-preserved footings that we see today.
It was certainly a strong building and quite unusual too. The shell keep-topped motte was defended by an elaborate defensive system consisting of a high walled passage guarded by twin turrets, a drawbridge and massive D-shaped barbican.
An aerial view of Sandal castle