Castle ruins may yet pay off for Sheffield

Sheffield Castle: a computer generated image by Sheffield firm Arcus and the University Of Sheffield

Sheffield Castle: a computer generated image by Sheffield firm Arcus and the University Of Sheffield

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HISTORY can blow your mind.

Or rather, thinking of alternative histories can.

Look at Sheffield.

It went from a small 13th century market town to the city it is today via knives and forks, steel and the invention of football as we now know it.

But the intriguing thing is that it could all have been so different.

If only we had kept the castle.

The original was built by William de Lovetot - a name that suggests Sid James in tights and a long feather in his cap.

Sheffield could have ended up like Windsor or Edinburgh - if the 17th Century totalitarian Parliamentary vandals hadn’t razed it to the ground and all the local scallies nicked the stone.

The castle could be a huge tourist attraction by now and, had it survived along with Manor Lodge, regal links might have been maintained and a royal presence in the city through the ages may have upped its status.

But then again...

Perhaps Royal Sheffield might not have developed the way our Sheffield has.

As Sheffield historian and colourful Sheffielder Ron Clayton said this week: “Without the castle there would have been no Sheffield.”

True enough.

But if we’d actually kept the castle there might not be the Sheffield we know and love, for the most part, today.

There might still be a deer park stretching from Pond’s Forge to Heeley but there would probably never have been a cutlery industry. The aristocracy living in the castles may not have taken to all that clatter and stink.

They certainly wouldn’t have thought much to a steel industry growing up on their manor, all that muck and noise might interfere with one’s game birds.

Had the castle stayed, Sheffield probably wouldn’t be the Sheffield we know at all.

We might be posh like Harrogate or staunch loyalists, doting on every royal stay-over in our most humble city...

Thinking about it we’re probably better off without the centuries of royal patronage.

Better off with the steel, knives and forks and silversmithing, that made the place the way it is.

There is a chance though that what’s left of the castle could yet be of good use to us.

Ron Clayton and other Sheffield history lovers would like to see its ruins excavated when they finally knock down Castle Market and move it to its posh new site on The Moor.

That way we could celebrate our Baronial past by opening up the remains to the public and make a few bob out of the tourists it might attract.

It wouldn’t make us like York or Bath but it might help put the city in its proper historical perspective for future generations of Sheffielders and the rest of the country.

And it might stop it staying as a building site or car park or prevent developers building yet another office block or student flat complex.

William De Lovetot’s lovenest might pay off for us yet.

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