Volunteers aim to recreate history with ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to uncover Sheffield Castle ruins

Friends of Sheffield Castle volunteers hope to turn the ruins of Sheffield Castle into a city treasure
Friends of Sheffield Castle volunteers hope to turn the ruins of Sheffield Castle into a city treasure
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A group of people passionate about their city’s history hope to make the most of a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to turn Sheffield’s buried castle into a treasure.

The Friends of Sheffield Castle is made up of dedicated volunteers from a range of backgrounds, including academia, engineering and environmental science.

Friends of Sheffield Castle at the Royal Victoria Hotel

Friends of Sheffield Castle at the Royal Victoria Hotel

For the last few years they have been working on ideas to make the most of the ruins of Sheffield Castle, which are close to being uncovered after the demolition of Castle Market.

Suggestions so far involve the creation of an open space to show off the ruins, with potential for re-enactments and plays.

There is plenty of work to be done, alongside landowner Sheffield Council, to investigate the site fully and figure out how to make the most of what lies beneath. And the Friends are keen to involve the people of Sheffield as much as possible.

Chairman Martin Gorman said: “We see it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Mistakes have been made, previous councils have not taken the opportunity to do a property archaeological dig.

A painting of Sheffield Castle

A painting of Sheffield Castle

“The city council can make it an outstanding attraction if it wants to.”

Martin comes from a finance background, having worked for NatWest for 37 years. He is also a council member for Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

“Having lived in the city all my life, I always knew there was a castle,” he said. “The mystery and intrigue surround it got me involved. The fact Sheffield had a castle but you couldn’t see it created mystery around it.”

The aim now is to lift that mystery and bring Sheffield’s history to life. But it will not be a straightforward - or cheap - process. In 2014 a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £362,000, to start work on turning the ruined castle into a visitor attraction, was turned down.

Castle Market

Castle Market

But this has not deterred the Friends. Ron Clayton has long campaigned for more to be made of Sheffield’s heritage, and believes there have been ‘a lot of missed opportunities’ over the years.

“It’s a real passion for me. The pluses for Sheffield in the future are huge. We have all had cause to grumble about the council in the past but I certainly wouldn’t grumble about them at the moment.”

The council will have the final say on what happens to the site. The Friends therefore need to make sure they are heavily involved in the discussion and fundraising.

The group has deliberately brought in people with expertise in a variety of fields to work on a vision for the castle.

Demolition began on Castle Market

Demolition began on Castle Market

One, Clive Waddington, is the managing director of consultancy firm Archaeological Research Services Ltd.

He said: “One of the cornerstones of our existence is to secure this castle site and ensure it’s conserved and displayed in such a way that it’s a benefit to the archaeology and to the people of Sheffield.

“Quite what that will end up as, we don’t know.

“We are active partners in whatever happens on the site. We are here to keep a check on the council as the landowner.”

The environment is also a factor. The council plans to uncover part of the River Sheaf that runs alongside the castle site and turn it into a park, ideally with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund money.

Holly Smith, a regional manager at environmental consultancy Ecus Ltd, said: “Part of the importance of the site is Sheffield’s rivers and environmental history.”

Sheffield city centre. The old castle market.

Sheffield city centre. The old castle market.

The group is working hard to secure funding and come up with a vision for the castle site. A key part of their work is public engagement.

Marie Gilman, a retired lecturer and office manager, concentrates on public events and talks.

“It’s crucial to engage with the public,” she said. “Without the public events and talks the public would have a chance to meet us and say what they want.”

Part of this engagement will involve the site itself. It is a boarded-up building site at the moment. But those boards will soon be covered in artwork representing the city and the castle.

Anna Badcock, regional director of not-for-profit archaeological practice ArcHeritage, said: “It will help to make the site look a bit less dirty. It will make it look like there’s a bit of care and attention.

“It will bring to life some of the early and the more recent history. That’s really exciting. It has been a really interesting process.”

The Friends are always looking for support and new members. Find out more and offer your suggestions for the site at Friends of Sheffield Castle or write to FOSC Membership Secretary, 8 Thornsett Gardens, Sheffield, S17 3PP.

The Friends of Sheffield Castle committee

Martin Gorman has been chairman of the Friends for the past two years. He has lived and worked in Sheffield all his life, working for NatWest as relationship director and amassing a large network of commercial and financial contacts in the area. He is also a council member for Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

Clive Waddington is managing director of Archaeological Research Services Ltd, a national archaeological consultancy and contracting company based in Bakewell and Sheffield. Clive has helped obtain several million pounds’s worth of funding for community archaeology projects throughout the UK and has delivered many flagship projects that have appeared on national television.

Anna Badcock is regional director of ArcHeritage, a not-for-profit archaeological practice based in Sheffield. Anna is a landscape archaeologist who graduated in Sheffield and has lived and worked all her professional life in the city.

Holly Smith joined the committee in 2015 and was elected as secretary in 2016. Holly lives and works in Sheffield and is both regional manager and the environment team leader at Sheffield-based environmental consultancy Ecus Ltd. Her technical background is environmental impact assessment, with a particular focus on ecology. Her academic background is biology with a PhD focussing on botany and climate change.

Adrian Millward is a retired civil engineer and has managed major projects and regeneration programmes across the UK. He is helping the Friends with funding and strategy

Glynis Jones is treasurer for the group. She was a science teacher in the UK and Greece before joining the British School at Athens as research assistant in archaeological materials science at the Fitch Laboratory. She returned to Britain in 1978 studying at the University of Cambridge, then worked as an environmental archaeologist at the Museum of London. She came to University of Sheffield in 1984, where she is a Professor of Archaeology.

John Moreland is professor of historical archaeology at the University of Sheffield. He also chairs the University’s Castlegate Steering Group, which co-ordinates University research in the Castlegate area

John Baker is chairman of the Time Travellers, an active amateur archaeology group covering South Yorkshire and North Eeast Derbyshire, who are currently running a Heritage Lottery Fund excavation on a Roman Site at Whirlow Farm. John is membership secretary.

Marie Gilman is a retired secretary, college lecturer and office manager. She is a committee member of three historical groups, speaker finder for the Sheffield Branch of the Association of Secretaries, and runs an independent business.

Ron Clayton is a long-term campaigner for the cause of Sheffield heritage and local media commentator. Author of three books on Sheffield history and holding an honours degree in History from the University Of Sheffield, Ron hosts history walks and talks around Sheffield.

Nick Robinson maintains the website for the Friends. He has been a web designer for about 20 years. Nick has a parallel career folding paper, and has written and illustrated over 60 origami books with total world-wide sales into the millions. A former professional musician he still performs solo ambient guitar concerts. Nick has an Honours degree in Communication Studies.

Hermann Beck is managing director of the Holiday Inn Royal Victoria Hotel, Sheffield, where the Friends meet, and was president of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce in 2009.

Lloyd Powell has a masters degree in medieval military history, has been director of archaeology for the Duchy of Lancaster and supervised the restoration project at Tickhill Castle. Lloyd is a well-known local historian who has a great knowledge of the history of Sheffield Castle

David Clarke is a senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. He lived and studied in the city gaining degrees in archaeology, prehistory, medieval history and folklore. He previously worked for the Star and Yorkshire Post as crime writer and investigative journalist.