From Latin docs to Pontefract cakes

This morning I popped in and wished a Happy New Year to the local Latin Group. Currently, they’re transcribing and translating one of the Court Rolls for the Manor of Kippax, located to the north of Pontefract.

We discussed several questions, but the one which set the detective hound in me questing was to do with the name of Pontefract, which is mentioned in the document concerned. I was asked what the latinised name was, as  Pons Fractus (meaning broken bridge), and what you would expect to see, isn’t what is written down. One lady thought it might be a contraction of Pomfret, i.e Pomit, a local name for Pontefract.

I asked a colleague for some advice and she found that in the Domesday Book, Pontefract is recorded as Tateshale and in records contemporary to that, also as Tanshelf, but that wasn’t the right answer here.  I then contacted the West Yorkshire Archive Service to see if they could assist as they love a mystery too!

Kippax Court Roll excerpt

Kippax court roll excerpt. words 6 and 9 on the last line are the word in question. Copyright : North Yorkshire County Record Office

Another question posed, was,  if Pons Fractus means broken bridge, when did this happen?  One answer, given on a local history site seems rather current, given the ongoing changing weather patterns. It appears the area flooded c.1200 and affected the bridge, thus the main road was diverted eastwards closer to Ferrybridge and remains there still.

Another answer is that a group of Anglo-Scandinavian rebels destroyed the bridge in 1069 thus preventing William the Conqueror crossing to put down an uprising in York.

As with most historical queries, the answer is often a composite one.  But it’s always intriguing to see which direction just one word in one document from the many in the Graham Collection, can send you.  An enjoyable morning with lots of other questions brewing…

Fancy a cuppa anyone?


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