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.

Lady Grace Talbot reveals the Castle?


This painting is owned by the National Trust and stored at Hardwick Hall. Painted in 1591, it shows of Lady Grace Talbot (1562–after 1625) was the third daughter of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury (c.1528-90), for whom she is in mourning here, and his first wife, Gertrude  Manners, daughter of Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland. She married, in 1567, Henry Cavendish (1550-1616), eldest son of Sir William Cavendish (1505?-1557) and Elizabeth Hardwick (c.1527-1608) and died without heirs.

What is of more interest is the top left of the painting which (it can be argued) shows the Gatehouse of Sheffield Castle! Opinion is divided at whether this part of the painting is simply to show her status and connections, or whether it was set within the castle and arranged so you can see out of the window. In either case, this remarkable image gives us a unique(?) glimpse of the Castle before it was demolished.


Cricket Lovers, Cavaliers and Castles

Sadly, outside a small circle, the name of Mary Walton is now largely forgotten in the city to whose past she devoted so much time and scholarship. I never met the lady and only know her from a photograph and an obituary from the Hunter Society plus an affectionate piece by Stephen McClarence from the days when Sheffield Newspapers employed journalists and writers who knew something about the city.

The photograph shows her and her well brought up younger ‘gels’ complete with tin hats and stirrup pumps on the roof of the Central Library where they worked, as part of the fire watch team during the dark days of 1940. Ms Walton is bespectacled and obviously the head girl, as a member of the duo who wrote the book ‘Raiders Over Sheffield’ she was well versed on the subject – the so called ‘Forgotten  Blitz’ on Sheffield and the efforts of the city to get back to normal after the event.

Mary’s literary achievements were numerous – her ‘Sheffield Its Story And Its Achievements’ and the pamphlet’ The Prisons Of Mary Queen Of Scots In Sheffield In South Yorkshire And North Derbyshire’ spring to mind as being essential primers on the subject.

She wasn’t afraid to make judgements, often unflattering but honest ones   on the historic figures she featured in her narrative whether that included the early Norman Baron’s, George Talbot, Vicar and Justice Of The Peace James Wilkinson , ‘the scoundrel’ Broadhead of the Saw Grinders Union. Her assessments were fair, objective and balanced.

Of Sir William Savile  she supports ‘Hunter’s eulogy’ of him as  ‘showing much of the high toned and heroic spirit which animated the supporters of the royal cause’  but also reflects on Savile’s letter to his successor as governor of Sheffield Castle’, Major Thomas Beaumont, in which he recommends a rather drastic course of action

‘And bee sure you want not any money nether for yourself nor your friends, so long as any Roundhead hath either fingers or toas left, within tenn myles of the castle’

Well there’s a difference between saying and doing of course.

Mary was also involved with the Hunter Archaelogical Society and that treasure trove of theirs – the legacy of their transactions, which is still my first port of call regarding Sheffield Castle. In her ‘Sheffield History’ she leaves a memorable quote which illustrates the progress of time.

‘The daily business of the busy market goes on above the buried bastion which alone remains and there is nothing to remind the crowds in Waingate that Sheffield was once a unit in the medieval system of defence’

Well that remains to be seen -the site has hoarded its secrets for many a long year- soon it will be hoarded up and what better display to have on part of that hoarding than the image of a medieval castle that covered the horrible old killing ‘Shambles’ when Royalty came to Sheffield in the 19th century, produced by that remarkable Sheffield family, institution and civic developers of the city the Hadfields?

And cricket? Mary was devoted to that too-like Sheffield journalists they probably don’t make ‘em like her anymore.  These days she’d be regarded as a polymath. I wish I had met her.

Ron Clayton

“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!