What am I talking about? Liquorice of course.
Mostly it’s grown in sunny climates but one famous North of England town and liquorice sweets go hand in hand. Pontefract, set in the midst of Yorkshire’s mining community is world famous for its Pomfret—or Pontefract—Cakes. Back in medieval times the town was known as Pomfret and that’s where the alternative name comes from.
Pomfret Cake? No, not one with filled with cream and topped with delicious icing. A Pomfret cake is a delicious disk of sweetened liquorice to you and me. If that’s too strong for you, then try Liquorice Allsorts. They come in such pretty colors that I bought this necklace at the town’s annual Liquorice festival.
So what’s the connection between a Mediterranean plant and a Yorkshire town?
Since a Yorkshire term for liquorice sweets is Spanish, one explanation is that the Dominican monks who founded Pontefract Priory came from Spain and they brought the plant with them to make their cures. An alternative explanation is that Crusader Knights returning from the Holy Land brought Liquorice plants with them.
I wonder if those knights were part of the Knight’s Defender order? The ones that turn up in my book, Knight’s Vampire?
No more promotion, I promise.
Back to Pontefract and its liquorice connection. The town thrived on growing it and using it in a powerful cure for cough and stomach complaints. One apothecary, George Dunhill, must have found it too bitter and he added sugar to the ingredients. When he rolled his mixture up like a Swiss roll and sliced it, the Pontefract cake was born.
Cigarette manufacturers sometimes used Liquorice to flavor their tobacco.
There’s more to Pontefract than liquorice. One of William the Conqueror’s knights—Ilbert de Lacy—built a castle to protect the river crossing that gives the town its name.
Unfortunately, the castle’s a ruin now. Below is a model and painting of how it once looked.
Apparently a group of rebels burned out the town bridge to stop William the Conqueror’s knights laying the town to waste in the Harrowing of the North. I don’t know what happened to the rebels, but translated into Latin, or old French, which the Normans would have used—broken bridge is Ponte Fractus. Yorkshire folk are lazy speakers and that would soon have become Pontefract.
The castle is where Henry Edward V imprisoned his defeated predecessor Edward II—and allegedly Edward’s captors starved him to death.
Those monks in the priory were renowned as healers, but they failed to save one very famous outlaw. Robin Hood reputedly died there.
Years later, the priory was dissolved on the orders of Henry Vlll. Then, in the civil war, the Roundheads destroyed Pontefract castle. Not surprising since Oliver Cromwell called it, “... one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom."
The town had endured three crippling sieges, and fearing a fourth, the people invited the Roundheads in and asked them to slight—or demolish—their castle. Later, in Victorian times, the locals dug up the castle courtyard and planted their liquorice there. It helped rebuild the town’s fortunes.
Now the town stages a regular liquorice festival, and it’s well worth a visit.
If you do want to know more about Knights Vampireyou can click in the cover at the top right and read an extract. You might recognize Scarborough Castle and Scarborough harbour in there, but because I changed the castle's history, it's become the fictitious Yorkshire town of Whitborough
Amazon US author page http://www.amazon.com/Kryssie-Fortune/e/B00J5AQOBU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kryssie-Fortune/e/B00J5AQOBU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1421613895&sr=8-1Social Media
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