Liquorice & Allsorts | Travel Blog
Published: October 9th 2020
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I wasn’t really planning on being here. A number of decades previously, I had set off on the adventure, otherwise known as a University education and a group of us had decided to meet up in Manctopia to reminisce about our youth for a couple of days. Alas, COVID 19 got in the way of the plan (and just about everything else). The North West is pretty much in local lockdown, so it seemed pointless to expose ourselves to infection rates way above the national average. The 10 pm pub curfew wasn’t exactly going to get the party started either. The 2020 intake of students had already hit the headlines. In the national press, it was billed as an illegal gathering in the grounds of Owen’s Park. A visit from the local Constabulary, fines and musical equipment confiscation ensued. Fake news, as Donald would say. The real story of the location was that it was in the grounds of the adjacent Oak House. Beech Court, no less. Our former 1st Year home. Beech Court was always prty central! The place where we all met and launched ourselves headlong into the student existence. Fortunately, our first week wasn’t punctuated
by a Police visit or hitting the national press. We put the plan “on hold” and the ode to south Manchester, M14 and Fallowfield in particular, will hopefully appear at some point in the future. Good times! There is a Manchester connection in my blog from today, but we’ll come back to that later.
Pontefract sits at the junction of the A1M and M62 motorways. Today, that affords easy access to the employment options in the West Yorkshire conurbation. However, it has been a hub for centuries and was once at the centre of the struggle between Royalists and Parliamentarians as Britain tore itself apart in the Civil War. I arrived late afternoon with just enough time to get inside the Castle. The parking was free, as was the entry. The Old Guardhouse at the entrance was reputedly used as the first Debtor’s Prison in the country in 1649. The Castle started life in 1070 and sits atop of a commanding position overlooking the hinterland. In centuries past, the enemy would have been visible for miles. Today, it affords a great view of the power station at Ferrybridge! The history of the Castle includes Richard II being imprisoned and
dying here in the 14th Century, Queen Catherine Howard using the Castle as her base for adultery which gave Henry VIII the opportunity to move on to wife number 6 and Mary Queen of Scots paying a visit in 1569. The Civil War saw Pontefract at the centre of military operations, as the forces of Cromwell besieged those of King Charles I. The victorious Parliamentary forces gave the order for the Castle to be raised to the ground and the materials sold off. As a result today, there is not a significant amount of the original building remaining. The site had attracted just 2 visitors on this cool, autumn afternoon. The Liquorice Cafe and toilets were closed for additional COVID cleaning. I walked back down the hill, where the remains of an Anglo Saxon church went largely unnoticed by those passing. The All Saints Church below the Castle looks at first glance to be a total ruin. It was also the scene of Civil War fighting. The Royalist deployed 11 cannons to hold off the forces of Cromwell. They in turn fired 60 cannon balls into the structure, so it did well to survive at all. On closer inspection, a
modern Church exists within the ruin – added in 1967 and still in use.
The Castle and environs explored, I set off in the direction of the town centre. The medieval feel of the immediate area soon gave way to a less appealing area. A 1970s block of flats flanked one side of the road with a pub, spared the wreckers ball, by becoming a Domino Pizza outlet. The opposite side housed a Farm Foods, the Pontefract Bus Station and a Spoons. In normal circumstances, I would have sneaked in for a cheap feed later on. I exercised caution and stayed out in the fresh air. The scenery took a turn for the better by the Town Hall. The building is described on the local authority web pages as an architectural jewel. The building seemed to be split into the old and new. The original section dates from 1785 and holds a commanding position, looking towards the Market Place. The first secret ballot in the UK was held here to elect a Mayor in 1872. The newer 1882 section is very red brick Victorian and was originally used as the Assembly Rooms. I wandered towards the Market Place. The
stalls were all in place, but there was no Market today or due to low footfall, they had long since departed. The road was lined with a series of impressive buildings. The indoor Market Hall was open for business. I noted from a blue plaque that the Red Lion Hotel facade was designed by Robert Adam in 1776 for the wealthy owners of Nostell Priory. The Liquorice Bush pub was next door. Yards ran off the main Market Place street, which opened out into a larger square by the covered Butter Market. The Parish Church of St Giles loomed over. I turned on to Beastfair and the Corn Market, where a few late afternoon drinkers had started early to beat the Boris early closing directive. After a turbulent few months, the directive would be of no good to Big Fellas Nightclub. Pontefract and the local area has by all accounts a lively pub and nightlife scene. It is known in certain circles as Ponte Carlo. The neighbouring town of Castleford is Cas Vegas. The locals obviously identify with Ponte title. I had only been in town for a hour or so and had already spotted Ponte Cars, Ponte Fashion Outlet
and the Ponte Tavern.
I walked further down the Corn Market to the imposing old Magistrates Court. It now housed an antiques centre. The litter bins at this point started to show the signs of one of the largest employers in town. The German owned confectionery giant, Haribo, took over the local firm Dunhill and maintains the huge factory that falls away down the hill from the town centre. The signs all pointed towards the Haribo Factory Shop, which lies at the end of the road. Liquorice came to Ponte in 1760. Local chemist and apothecary, George Dunhill, rented land at Pontefract Castle to grow the plant – liquorice it seems like the local soil – and then came up with the bright idea of adding sugar to his liquorice extract. He had created a chewable lozenge and the modern day sweet as we know it. He called his sweet, Pomfret Cakes, after the old Norman name for the town. The cakes are about the size of a £2 coin and soon became known as Pontefract Cakes, with a Crest of the Castle stamped in the centre. The name seems one of the few things not corrupted to Ponte.
…. old seats from Maine Road, Manchester
The Dunhill success prompted others to enter the sweet business and factories opened in Ponte and the surrounding towns produced over 25,000 cakes a day. The other big player in Ponte was a firm called Tangerine, which opened in 1884. The name might be unfamiliar, but this is the company that gave us Refreshers and the Sherbert Fountain – both fondly remembered by kids of the 1960s and 70s. I read a few modern day small time liquorice growers have rejuvenated it as a local crop, but the main producers are all overseas. Ironically, Pontefract is not the home of the most famous liquorice sweet in the UK. A certain Charlie Thompson, salesman for George Bassett & Co in Sheffield, knocked over his samples box during a pitch to a shop owner and thus the Liquorice Allsort was born.
I wandered off down the hill, basically to time the walk to my evening entertainment. The former Queen’s Hotel sat looking over at the Haribo Factory. The listed building is now apartments. I crossed the ring road. The night club on the corner was boarded up – a victim of COVID 19. The blackboard still advertised £1 drinks,
but not tonight or anytime in the near future. Who knows when it could reopen? The local MP is Yvette Cooper, so her hubby the former Labour politician Ed Balls and Strictly Come Dancing novelty might have one less dance floor on which to show his moves. The underpass beneath the railway line brought me out near the old Prince of Wales Colliery site. The pit closed in 2002, thus ending the town association with the other black stuff – coal. The old colliery site was being redeveloped into suburbia. Dozens of executive detached houses were springing up, all those on the front row with a fab view of ….. Pontefract Collieries FC!
The G & R Construction Stadium is on the edge of the old Colliery and approached across a cinder car park and an unmade lane. The heavy rain of the previous few days left a multitude of puddles in the craters. I weaved my way down towards the entrance. The gate was wide open, so I wandered in for a few day light photographs. The two groundsmen in situ were not that impressed. I mentioned earlier in the blog, that there was a connection
with Manchester to be revealed. The Main Stand seats are actually some of those taken from Manchester City’sold Maine Road Ground on demolition in 2004. The seats that once graced the famous old ground on the edge of Moss Side still have a purpose in deepest West Yorkshire. Memories of wandering across Platt Fields to watch on the Kippax in student days came flooding back. I later discovered a few of the trashed seats piled up at the end of the Main Stand, that had been classed as beyond use by even Pontefract Colleries. In the world of skint football clubs, they could even be a saleable commodity for the former City diehards.
I headed back into town to relocate the car, having decided that parking in the immediate vicinity on the car park was more trouble than it was worth. The football itself was disappointing. Marske dominated the 2nd half with the breeze at their backs, but missed their opportunities. The inevitable sucker punch followed. As the 90 minutes ticked down, Pontefract seemed happy with their point from the stalemate. The goalkeeper did his level best to wind the clock down by taking an eternity with every goal
kick. However a swift Pontefract break upfield, a soft tackle and the man in black was pointing towards the penalty spot. It was coolly converted. 1-0 to the home team and very little time to salvage the situation. The goalkeeper time wasting antics now cam into play, as Matty Tymon swivelled to hit a strange overhead flick into the far corner for the equaliser. The unbeaten Marske run continued. I headed back up the hill into town to be reunited with car,- the odour of the Haribo Factory wafted over my nostrils.
Pitching In North West Division
Pontefract Collieries FC 1 Marske United FC 1
Venue: G & R Construction Stadium , Beechnut Lane, Pontefract, West Yorkshire. WF8 4QE
Date: Tuesday 6th October 2020 @ 1945 Hours
Scorers: 1-0 Ibrahimi 86 Pen Mins (Pontefract),1-1 Tymon 96 Mins (Marske)
Pontefract Collieries: Emery, Nebard, Gordon, Tingle, Walmsley, Clare, Smith, Bailey, Keane, Reeves, Modeste Subs: Ibrahimi, McKenna, Cable, Awty, Starcenko
Marske United: Catterick, May, O’Sullivan, Maloney, Burgess, Butterworth, Wheatley, Smith, Boyes, Gott, Tymon, Round Subs: Blackford, Johnson, Hood, Blackford, Garbutt, McTiernan
Tot: 1.257s; Tpl: 0.023s; cc: 14; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0097s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb