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Medieval Castle To Modern City; New Dig To Reveal Sheffield's Secrets

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Fascinating new article from The Tribune this weekend looking at the history of Sheffield’s castle site and the dig currently happening before the land becomes a new park. Here’s a snippet:


“People have been trying to ascertain the exact location of Sheffield castle (or more accurately Sheffield’s castles) since the 18th century — after the second castle was destroyed after the Civil War it was covered over by subsequent developments. While historians knew broadly where it was as street names gave them clues (Castle Street, Castle Green, etc.), the exact dimensions of the castle remained a mystery. But it was only in the early 20th century that serious archaeological investigation began. The first major dig took place in the late 1920s before the construction of the Co-op, which was subsequently destroyed in the Blitz. In 2018, four years after the Castle Market was torn down, Wessex Archaeology led a dig which finally found William de Lovetot’s motte-and-bailey castle.


“The leader of the current dig Ashley Tuck tells me this time they will be undertaking a much more comprehensive survey of the site, mindful it could well be their last chance to do so. In 2018 they dug 11 narrow trenches but this time, with the help of an army of volunteers, they will be able to look in much greater detail at the remains. 

“However, even during the first couple of weeks when they have just been monitoring the diggers, they have already turned up interesting finds. Principal among these is a previously unknown well which cuts through what they know is the motte. They don't yet know exactly when it dates from but are hopeful it could be medieval. Amazingly, the 12-metre deep well still has water in it, which they saw glinting at them through the darkness when they removed a cap which had been built over it in the 19th century. “It would have been quite dangerous for them,” says Tuck of the people who first dug the 40 foot deep well, which would have meant that the castle could still receive water even if it had been under siege. “It was a moving moment”.”


Read more at The Tribune here (and subscribe for more excellent local long-read journalism).

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Wessex Archaeology are also publishing updates throughout the dig — here’s a snippet from the latest:



Archaeologists Isobelle Sherriff and Aaron Friar record the furnace structures ©Wessex Archaeology


”As we got to work carefully removing the loose rubble infill surrounding the structures, a few bricks were left hung in the air, the remnants of a vaulted ceiling. After carefully recording these remains we dug deeper and were surprised to find that the cellar was that of a crucible furnace. Distinctive rows of brick bays were unearthed - the remains of ash or ‘rake out’ pits below the furnace. These furnaces would have been used to refine blister steel into higher quality crucible steel. Suspecting that there would be stairs somewhere we set out to dig in a likely spot and revealed four curving steps descending down to the cellar. The steps are shown on the 1850s Ordnance Survey map, but came as a surprise on the ground as the base of the steps had been bricked up. The furnace was previously unknown and does not appear on consulted maps.”



1850s OS Map showing steel works on site of Sheffield Castle ©National Library Scotland


More to read, here: https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/news/excavations-sheffield-castle-heat-19th-century-steel-working-discoveries 

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Had the castle not been dismantled by our ancestors it would most likely have been badly bombed in WW2. It is only of late that Sheffield history has come into play, Manor Lodge is a prime example of too little too late.


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