Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Sandal Castle: From noble beginnings to picturesque ruins

In recent years, over £700,000 has been invested in Sandal Castle as part of a project to share and preserve its fascinating heritage for current and future visitors. Essential conservation work on the ruins has helped to stabilise the stonework and protect it from the elements, whilst maintenance on the wooden walkways and bridges has improved access. Last year, we also installed new interpretation panels. Vibrant illustrations commissioned from Yorkshire based artists bring the castle's turbulent past and picturesque present to life. 

A brief history by Nick Ellwood

First built in the early 12th century, Sandal Castle has a long history. Award-winning York based illustrator, Nick Ellwood, introduces the key eras in this comic book style panel. The art work takes us from noble beginnings under the de Warenne family, when the castle developed from a wooden motte and bailey style to a stone keep and courtyard design; through trouble in both the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil Wars; to a space for exploring and relaxing today. 

Nick's other work can be seen in newspapers, on book jackets and across the museum and heritage sector. In his work Nick celebrates and explores both stories from today and from the past, observing and questioning people’s behaviour, actions, characteristics and quirks. Clients include The Guardian, English Heritage, Random House Publishing, The National Coal Mining Museum England, The Thackray Medical Museum Leeds, Arts Council England and the BBC.  Nick currently teaches illustration at York St John University and regularly exhibits across the UK.

The Battle of Wakefield by Tomekah George

This board looks out towards the scene of the Battle of Wakefield, a crucial part of the War of the Roses. Whilst today the scene is peaceful, on 30th December 1460, this was the site of a brutal battle in which Richard Duke of York was defeated and killed by the Lancastrians. Illustrator, designer and animator, Tomekah George has captured the carnage of the battle.

Tomekah specialises in bold collage and colourful illustration. She creates content for clients all over the world, from the USA to London, Manchester and more. Since graduating from an illustration degree in 2018, she’s worked on books, animations, digital illustrations and products, as well as being shortlisted in nationwide competitions and regularly taking part in exhibitions. She’s particularly interested in working on stories that promote a positive message or draw attention to sensitive topics such as inequality and representation, an interest that develops from a working-class upbringing, which influences her style and approach. Her work is emotive, colourful & warm at heart.

A day in the life of a medieval castle by Liz Kay

In the early 1480s, Richard III ordered improvement work at Sandal Castle to make it more comfortable and defensible as a permanent base in the north of England. This was a rare period of investment in the castle, which was largely left to decline from the mid 14th century. Liz Kay's illustration depicts the castle in 1485 after the improvements were completed. It offers visitors a glimpse into the bustling castle courtyard, kitchens, gatehouse and Great Hall. 

Liz Kay has been working for over ten years as an illustrator whose work has been used across children’s books, murals, maps, animation, magazines & newspapers. Liz lives and works in Wakefield, and loves to work on projects that involve aspects of her hometown. This project to show a snapshot of Sandal Castle in 1485 allowed her to explore her interest in the everyday lives of people throughout history and incorporate her passion for maps, architecture, calligraphy and period costume.  

A castle in ruins by Richard Bell

From October 1645, having been besieged three times during the English Civils Wars, Sandal Castle lay in ruins. Over the centuries, it became a place to take in spectacular panoramic views over the Calder Valley and towards Wakefield city centre. The castle has been excavated by archaeologists several times since 1893. Natural history illustrator, Richard Bell, here turns his hand to depicting the castle ruins as we can enjoy them today and gives a taste of what the different remains would have looked like in their heyday. The panel also highlights some of the key archaeological discoveries.

The Keep would once have stood four storeys high.

The discovery of ointment pots suggests that the kitchen was used as a field hospital during the English Civil Wars.

Richard Bell studied natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art. He writes a nature diary for The Dalesman magazine and his local publications include Walks in Robin Hood’s Yorkshire, All Sorts of Walks in Liquorice Country and a guide to Sandal Castle. His work features in the permanent collections of The Hepworth Wakefield and The National Coal Mining Museum for England.

See for yourself

If you live locally and would like to see the fabulous illustrations in person and tread in the footsteps of kings, you can find the latest visitor information for Sandal Castle at Experience Wakefield.

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