Today’s columnist, Ron Clayton: Do you dig Sheffield Castle?

Drawing of the old Sheffield Castle
Drawing of the old Sheffield Castle
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Some things in life I have done with gusto – others I wish I had done.

One thing that’s usually performed with gusto is writing about the Sheffield Castle site, an issue which appears to be on the back burner at the moment.

Something struck me several months ago, something which is becoming more apparent as the markets are reduced to rubble.

For the first time in several hundred years an idea and visual illustration of the approximate known extent of our lost castle is emerging.

If you walk down Waingate, the near side of Castlegate and back up Exchange Street and compare that with an aerial photograph of the late 1920s you can still pick out surviving landmarks and get an idea of the site in relation to modern day Sheffield. As the council have said ‘we are not digging up Camelot’ – when we are going to start digging is not clear – indeed it is going to ‘hoard’ its secrets for a while longer.

The nature of the hoardings that are going to go up around the site are up for discussion.

My favourite –for part of the site at least – is the reproduction of a medieval castle – erected to cover up the dreadful killing shambles that occupied the riverside of Castle Hill – on the occasion of a royal visit in the 19th century.

The image was produced by what is now the Sheffield architectural and engineering practice of Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson – whose footprint extends across Sheffield – ancient and modern – and far wider.

The site is of course still much of an enigma – the castle being over four acres in size – but the vast amount of research carried out by professional archaelogists, the University of Sheffield and the council and the fact that small displays and artefacts are on show across the city show how much has been achieved in recent years.

This is despite the fact there are no experts on Sheffield Castle – indeed how can there be in the circumstances?

A painstaking demolition of the old Castle Market is due to end in November with the removal of the rubble.

In the meantime all that individuals and groups who ‘dig Sheffield Castle’ can do is lobby for just that – if only trial trenches – and also point out that any building there negates its potential as a tourist attraction.

In a city with a professional archaelogical community and a university archaelogical department is that too much to hope for the wider community of Sheffield?

* Ron Clayton, Sheffield Historian