The Friends of Sheffield Castle are a voluntary group who aim to protect and promote the archaeological site of Sheffield Castle for the benefit of the people of Sheffield and surrounding areas, and for future generations.

We will acquire and disseminate information about Sheffield Castle, at both local and national levels and work with local, regional and national organisations to protect and promote the remains as a source of enjoyment, education and inspiration for All.

“Laid Siege” Eten Café, Sheffield – report

“Laid Siege” – Eten Café, Sheffield – Saturday 3 October 2015

The English Civil War is usually portrayed as Cavalier -vs- Roundhead or Charles the First -vs- Oliver Cromwell. Of course it was more complex than that.

But let’s forget the supporting cast and the likes of Prince Rupert and Black Tom Fairfax or, on a local basis, John Bright and the intriguing Kelham Homer. Let’s look at the cares and concerns of the common people of Sheffield in the August of 1644 when blood was shed in the vicinity of its castle.

This was the theme of ‘Laid Siege’, performed by a troupe of Sheffield Players in the loft of the Eten Cafe on 3rd October with two well-attended performances on behalf of the Friends of Sheffield Castle (to which generous donations were made).

Finding themselves in that most cruel and divisive of conflicts – Civil War – the townspeople had their usual everyday concerns, aspirations, hopes and fears, not only for themselves but also for the young Maria Beaumont, fallen victim to a fatal illness, daughter of the Commander of the Royalist garrison and the widowed Lady Savile.

The cheerful optimism of the young radical “Digger” and his dreams of a true Commonwealth, the vacillating Steward, the pragmatic, pipe-smoking landlady of the Old Queen’s Head with concerns about the Psalm-singing Puritan troopers, and others, all provided vignettes that are echoed today just as in the days of early August 1644.

The original folksong at the end of the performance expressed eternal optimism for better days and ways that we yearn for in present-day conflicts. An apt finale for the penultimate event in the life of what some regard as “The People’s Castle”.

Yours Truly provided an introduction, with Marie Gilman supporting the event with a small display. But the real stars of the show were the players – to whom many, many thanks for a wonderful performance!

Ron Clayton

“The Queen who never was” – report

Sheffield Cathedral – Friday 25 September 2015

Some time ago  I suggested to David Templeman of the Friends of Sheffield Manor Lodge the idea of Bess of Hardwick reflecting on her life with George Talbot the Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, by herself, in the Shrewsbury Chapel of Sheffield Cathedral. After the success of the Lady Arbella Stuart event on Friday 25 September let’s hope this is next on the agenda.

300 Sheffielders attended what was a poignant, interesting and thoroughly entertaining night, performed against the backdrop of the ancient stones of what is my favourite Sheffield building, subtly illuminated as opposed to the gloomy shadows of Wolf Hall. It was a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Arbella’s tragic death, performed with dignity, pomp and circumstance and accompanied by the authentic music of the Doncaster Waites with costumed players and a cast dressed in their Tudor best.

David’s talk – the first part of the event – climaxed with the ultimate tragedy of this victim of circumstance which her heartbroken but stoic shade later reflected upon before a solemn and dignified promenade and a laying of a floral tribute (which the Cathedral does like no other in the city). It was history and human tragedy brought to life in a manner that did credit to all those concerned.

Little wonder I was on my feet applauding with the audience and calling Bravo! Bravo!

Ron Clayton


Report: “The archaeology of Sheffield Manor”

A healthy attendance of 25 plus, with a sprinkling of archaeological types, enjoyed a fascinating talk by Peter Machan on the diggings that took place at Manor Lodge over a period spanning twenty years. Peter’s tale opened with some beautiful watercolours of the buildings in their rustic decay in the late 18th century and then illustrated them by photography in their grim and grimy condition in the late nineteenth and a rather careless ‘restoration’ by the Norfolk family.

He then moved on to the endearing nineteen sixties ‘follies’ of the resident stone mason and the rather laid back excavations by bare chested (male) archaeology students lugging massive stone lintels across the site in the fashion of a seventeenth century siege gun. Peter made coherent the often off-putting maps of trenches with his photographs and illustrated his talk with an array of finds from flint scrapers to medieval coins, modern pottery, pipe bowls – most intriguing of all Civil War cannon balls. One felt justice has been done to this long neglected site not only in terms of archaeology but also by the speaker.

The night also saw the launch of our ‘I Love Sheffield Castle Mugs’ available at the princely sum of five pounds produced under the auspices of Clive Waddington of Archaeological Research Services Ltd. Just the thing for a cuppa and a hobnob about the eagerly awaited eventuality of similar digs on the site of Sheffield Castle.

Ron Clayton

Recent events

Here are some photos from recent events – the gazebo shots were at the “Battle of Sheffield Great Park” event at Manor Lodge on 1st August 2015. The other two are from the “Walk with Ron” event on Friday 11th September 2015 (total: 17 people inc. Ron & Marie).

Events reports

Friday 11th September 2015 “A Walk with Ron”
16 of us (14 members plus 2 Committee) spent an enjoyable 2 hours in good weather with interesting narrative from Ron, starting at Castle House and progressing at relaxed pace to Old Town Hall, Waingate, Blonk Street, Hambledon House, Exchange Street, into back yard at Ibis Hotel, then through Ponds Forge car park to look at the old archway, then across the road to look at the Sheaf (and discovered some ancient stones in the babbling water). Then some of us had a nice lunch and chat in the Old Queen’s Head. And just for those who were interested, Marie reports on the mushrooms we spotted in the middle of the grassed area in front of the Ibis (the old car park):

“Shaggy Ink Cap” (edible) or “Coprinus comatus” (also known as “Lawyer’s Wig” or “Judge’s Wig”). Apparently once they appear they are only viable for up to 24 hours before frying, as they open up and quickly go “mushy” and develop black inky edges (ink that can be used). They grow on disturbed ground. For detailed information go to: http://www.wildfooduk.com/mushroom-guides/shaggy-ink-caps-mushroom/

Saturday 12th September 2015 – “Field to Feast” at Manor Lodge
Marie arrived at 1000 hrs in a torrential rainstorm (as did the Friends of Manor Lodge) – and we all sat inside the Discovery Centre watching the rain until about 1100 hrs wondering whether to go home! Jon Bradley had kindly provided a gazebo for us with side panels, but FOSML had their own which they were reluctant to put up. However, during a gap in the rain, we all decided to be brave and “go on with the show”, but it was only a brief respite in the blustery/wet conditions so we battled on all day.

David T of FOSML had to lean against his gazebo support all day long to stop it taking off. Being located on a slope, items on our table constantly kept sliding forwards until during a massive burst of wind everything collapsed and two visitors actually helped me to replace everything and put house bricks under the front legs of the table to level it up. We were not very busy, as obviously many people had stayed at home owing to bad weather. You can only laugh about these tribulations, but the calming performances of the Doncaster Waites Tudor Music Group all day obviously reduced our blood pressure somewhat and kept us entertained.

Sunday 13th September 2015 – “A Walk with Ron”
27 of us (24 members plus 3 Committee) turned up for Ron’s second walk of the weekend (a repeat of Friday the 11th). A beautiful sunny day, with a slightly different route because Ron had planned to meet Valerie Bayliss of the Friends of the Old Town Hall, so Marie took the remainder of the party on the last leg to the Old Queen’s Head (looking down into the Sheaf again at Pond Street to look at the interesting stones). Members were extremely generous with their Group donations – way more than could ever be hoped for! Thank you all so much!

Archaeological Excavations at the Manor Lodge – illustrated talk by Peter Machan

diggingWednesday 23rd September 2015

Peter Machan – Local Author and Historian provides an illustrated talk on the Archaeological Excavations at the Manor Lodge 1969 – 2012. A unique look at work carried out at the site of Sheffield’s other major site of interest and partner dwelling to Sheffield Castle and a rarely provided talk on the research carried out on what may have originated as a medieval hunting lodge. Please don’t talk about secret tunnels!

7-30 at the Central United Reformed Church – Corner of Norfolk Street/Chapel Walk-finish 9pm – Refreshments available.

Admission £2 for members of FOSC, £3 if not – you can join on the night. Click to enquire

Please note that our new FOSC T-Shirts are now available to purchase at the bargain price of £10.

Another perspective

It’s always healthy to present contrasting opinions….

The short-sightedness of people when it comes to our built environment never ceases to amaze me.  Take Sheffield’s Castle Market complex. Designed by the local authority architects, it answered a brief to fit a large new market onto a small site by going up – several floors of market stalls, with an open centre, streets in the sky, and office accommodation.  Opened in the early Sixties it thrived for two decades until the council started to cut back on funding and maintenance in the Eighties.  By the end of the twentieth century it was looking worn and neglected, and the council had already got it in the back of their mind that they wanted it down. People still refused to stop shopping here, there had after all been a market in this area for 700 years. In the end the council started to end leases, and built an awful new market building right across the city, then forced the remaining traders out of business.

The new hall is dreadful, glitzy bits of surface decoration on an otherwise empty void, with a few stalls clustered together in the centre looking lost.  And they couldn’t even fill those. Despite a campaign amongst people who know about such things, and the offer of help, advice and solutions to refurbish the original market buildings, the council – who made much of how neglected the site was (forgetting to add that this was their fault) voted to have it down.  They refuse to tell anyone how much the demolition would cost, but admitted the quotes were half a million more than they expected.  They had also done an additional half a million pounds worth of deliberate damage to the building to assess the condition of the structure – before they’d even voted on what to do with it! And it was a close run vote, just one councillor tipping the balance for bringing it down. So any idea of a thriving independent rent controlled shopping centre was out the window and the bulldozers moved in.

English Heritage?  Didn’t want to know, despite this being a totally unique example of a C20 market hall packed with loads of interesting, high quality fixtures and fitting.  Check out the hand made earthenware tiles on one facade.  The demolition contractors must be delighted with the acres of teak handrails which sell for a small fortune. What now for the site?  The council have plans for an urban park, access to some tatty remains of the former castle, and a Disney-esque recreation of the castle keep to ‘regenerate’ the area (come in Banksy).

There is a near complete Norman castle just a few miles up the country, which is mostly empty when I visit and has done nothing to regenerate the local area there. They applied for a grant for all this but were laughed out of the Heritage Lottery offices.  So there is no funding, the site will remain a wasteland, and we all know they’ll sell it off as soon as people have forgotten about it. While all this was going on some locals published a book celebrating Sheffield’s post-war modernist ambitions and surviving architecture of the 50s and 60s.  A time when councillors were willing to listen to people with vision and knowledge, and regeneration actually meant something.

Henry Rawlinson

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts!

What Savile did next…

Sir William Savile

Sir William Savile

On the 9th May 1643 Sir William Savile, a great-grandson of George the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, was appointed governor of Sheffield Castle. He did not remain long at Sheffield as he was required elsewhere for more urgent duties, and in June 1643 Thomas Beaumont Esq. of Whitley near Huddersfield , where the family had its seat since the reign of Henry III, was appointed deputy governor of the castle and town of Sheffield under Sir William Savile, who left his pregnant wife at the castle under Beaumont’s protection.

These more urgent duties took him to the Royalist Army, and in October the same year he was in command of a force of Royalist cavalry under Sir John Henderson which set out to relieve Bolingbroke Castle, which was besieged by a Parliamentarian force under the earl of Manchester

The Earl of Manchester was besieging Bolingbroke castle and at the same time the Royalists were besieging Hull.

On the morning of Wednesday 11 October 1643, Manchester drew up his whole army (minus enough men to continue the blockade of the castle) on Kirkby Hill, overlooking Bolingbroke. It must have made an impressive sight. Some time between Noon and 2pm he set the army in motion towards Horncastle, the cavalry and dragoons soon leaving the slow moving infantry and artillery behind. Meanwhile, Sir John Henderson was advancing from the other direction. In a classic “encounter” battle, the two sides blundered into each other at Winceby 3 miles up the road from Bolingbroke and just into the rolling wolds countryside. The ground was not ideal for a battle – the field falls away into sharp gullies on one side – but it would do.

At around 1200 men each the opposing forces were roughly equal in size. All were initially mounted, both forces consisting entirely of cavalry and dragoons – the Parliamentarian infantry was still struggling up from Bolingbroke by the time the action was decided and it appears that the Royalist infantry had been left to garrison Horncastle, as sources do not mention them.


Winceby was a small battle compared with Marston Moor (approximately 45,000 combatants) or Naseby (up to 25,000), and only lasted half an hour, but was very decisive. A feigned retreat by Cromwell lured the confident Royalists from a strong position down onto flat ground, ensuring the Parliamentarians would not have to charge up hill. Then the Parliamentarian “forlorn hope” (a troop of dragoons) began the action by firing at their opposite numbers on the Royalist side, who replied. Hoping to catch the enemy before they could reload, Cromwell led his cavalry in a charge, but the enemy managed to fire off a second volley at very close range that knocked down several men and horses, including Cromwell’s. It was here that the latter’s career as a soldier nearly ended before it had truly begun – unhorsed (and probably dazed) in front of his enemies he was in mortal danger. He received a glancing blow from the sword of Sir Ingram Hopton, commander of the

Royalist dragoons, but in the confusion of battle somehow managed to find a remount and carry on the fight.

Although personally unhorsed, Cromwell’s charge had shaken the dismounted Royalist dragoons and the right wing of their forces. However, the rest of the line held and under Sir William Savile sought to counter attack as Cromwell withdrew to reform. This was defeated by a perfectly timed flanking charge by Sir Thomas Fairfax, which smashed the Royalists aside.

As Fairfax charged, the Royalists were confused by the order from Sir William Savile “faces about” (to meet his attack). Some thought it was the order to retire and vital cohesion was lost just as Fairfax’s men crashed into them. The Royalists were utterly routed and fled the field….as Parliament’s True Relation says, ”they rann for it leaving all their dragooners which were now on foot behinde them”.

Worse, as the Royalists fled back towards Horncastle many became trapped against a parish boundary gate that only opened one way (against them)….as the press of men jammed it shut, the vengeful Parliamentarians closed in and a number were killed or captured (the location is still called “slash hollow” today). The pursuit lasted many miles, with the vanquished losing about 300 men (including many apparently drowned in a gravel pit), the rest gradually straggling into Newark and other Royalist garrisons (although if you believe the Parliamentarian propaganda, more prisoners were taken than there were men in the whole Royalist force!). 35 standards were taken. Sir Ingram Hopton had been killed and other officers captured.

The Parliament Scout claimed only 10 killed and a few wounded on their side in the fight, which is very low, even allowing for a rout where most of the casualties are inflicted on fleeing men. However, it appears more were killed or wounded by their own side in the vigorous pursuit through mistakes, because they forgot or muddled up the watch word of the day (“Truth and Peace” for Parliament, “Newcastle” for the Royalists), or because battle-mad troopers did not believe they were on the same side even if they remembered to call it out. Lord Manchester later said “I cannot hear that there was killed on our side above twenty and hurt about sixty”, which would seem reasonable estimate.

The relief attempt had been totally defeated. And just to rub salt into the wound, almost at the same instant the sound of booming cannon could be heard far in the distance. By a peculiar combination of atmospheric conditions, the troops were hearing the garrison of far away Hull firing their cannon in celebration – the Marquis of Newcastle had finally abandoned the siege and was retreating.

Savile next appears at York, where he was killed in fighting on the 244th of January, 1644. In accordance with his instructions in his will, he was buried at his estate at Thornhill on the 15th of February.

His widow, Anne, who left Sheffield Castle after the siege by Parliament with her child born during the siege, later married Sir Thomas Chicheley of Whimple in Cambrideshire. She died and was buried there around 1666.

Peter Bayliss