The Battle of Sheffield Great Park – Ron Clayton writes

An unforeseen work commitment means that I can’t be up at the Manor Lodge on 1st August for the Battle of Sheffield Great Park so, because I can’t tell you in person about the fascinating world of Civil War Artillery, with its sakers, demi-cannons, culverins, etc, I have provided here a few online thoughts for you to ponder:

The Queens Pocket Pistol has been featured on this website before and it’s worth a look back at this truly iconic piece of Sheffield’s history which (unlike the Town Guns of the 18th Century, now in Kelham Island Industrial Museum) was fired in anger by both Royalist and Parliamentarian. Some of the myths about the QPP are easily dismissed, one being that it was powerful enough to be fired from its now permanent home (Dover Castle) to project a missile onto the French shore.

In a local context, the story that it was sited on Wincobank Hill to batter a breach in the wall of Sheffield Castle is a myth. Nor was it sited on Spital Hill (hence the demolished locality of Cromwell View). In fact, the story that the QPP and its companion demi-cannon were individually sited in the vicinities of the “Big Gun” in the Wicker and the “Cannon” in Castle Street has slightly more credibility (more especially in the case of the former). But what is undeniably true is that the arrival of these two large siege/artillery pieces spelled the death knell for the Royalist occupation of Sheffield Castle in the August of 1644.

However, many mysteries remain. When you folk explore the Turret House at Manor Lodge you will note two cannonballs of vastly different sizes in the room occupied by Manor Lodge’s excellent Sheffield Castle Display Boards. The smaller one was found in a wall of the ruins and the other in a cellar: but why, and what were they doing here? We have no record of any fighting on the site.

The Civil War was in many ways a rather amateurish affair except for the experience brought to the conflict by those officers who had fought in the Thirty Years’ War, such as David Leslie or those who displayed a flair for the military art such as Cromwell himself (the nearest the eventual Lord Protector came to Sheffield being Doncaster). We know that cannonballs were in short supply and were cast at Wortley and Wadsley Forges – and stone ones have also been found in Sheffield – so such ammunition was precious as well as being heavy! Don’t try to lift the big one. It’s capable of breaking masonry, let alone your foot!

One wouldn’t discard such valuable assets, so did they just “fall off a cart” as things tend to do in Sheffield?

Either way, this “roundshot” has left a mark on Sheffield’s history and its Castle, as will be evident when the ruins emerge and we see the actual cannon-shot damage that was first noted in the 1920s.

Ron Clayton


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