RETRO: The biggest Sheffield Park of them all - Sheffield’s medieval ‘great parke’

Ron Clayton
Ron Clayton
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Growing up in Hillsborough much of my childhood centred round Hillsborough Park.

Our other stomping grounds on Wadsley’s Top Field and its heather, boulder and tree strewn Common together with the Rivelin and Loxley Valley’s meant the only other Municipal Park I gravitated to was Weston Park.

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Yet for all the pride in and the resurgence of many of Sheffield’s Parks after some underfunding in recent years and the rightful concept of them as Heritage Parks the biggest Park of them all remains largely unknown to Sheffielders. Time for this to be rectified and my contribution towards the concept of Sheffield the Outdoor City. Its also an individual plea for more research into and the protection of the remaining traces of what, together with the medieval church and castle, defined the pre industrial Sheffield for several hundred years. Its name to this very day lingers on as the name of a district in this ever changing city of ours.

Goggle Sheffield Park and as likely as not you will be referred to the National Trust Property in the Sussex Weald. Yet Sheffield’s Medieval Great Parke at its height covered some 2,462 acres and was eight miles in circumference ! Imagine walking into Sheffield through an enclosed Parke with a variety of landscape including walnut and oak trees- some of which were of such proportion that when felled men on horseback on either side could not see each other ! Herds of deer both red and fallow, warrens of conies [rabbits] and hares with fish ponds providing dietary needs.Managed areas of woodland used for a variety of purposes solly grown as winter feed for farm animals, quarries for building stone and much more.

Time to acknowledge those whose research and writings and the photographs and plans used in this article who have shown a light on the all too forgotten perspective of the pre Industrial Revolution history and heritage of Sheffield and South Yorkshire . Recognising and appreciating this would be a positive step in respect of Sheffield’s Heritage and conducive to the ever constant battle to investigate,record and conserve it.

First and foremost has to be Dr Mel Jones whose knowledge of South Yorkshire Deer Parks and Ancient Woodlands is well documented together with that of Dr Ian D Rotherham. Peter Machan who put the concept of ‘Sheffield Parke’ as a feature at Manor Lodge. In addition the work of Dr G Scurfield and his reconstruction of Sheffield in 1637. Then there’s my colleague David Templeman who has undertaken the ardous task of walking part of the circumference of the ‘Great Parke’. The list must also include the Reverend Joseph Hunter and the late Dr David Hey.

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To get any extent of the size and shape of the ‘’Great Parke’ at its zenith refer to the featured outline plan. Note it only indicates part of the ‘Parke’s’ boundary and compare it with the modern city.Its interesting to note that early maps of the Sheffield area often figuratively depict features such as the ‘Parke’ and the Castle[news of developments regarding the site of which is ever the first question on Sheffielders lips] and its indicative of the importance of these in the landscape

That importance in the landscape lingered as industrialisation led to tree felling and the disappearance of the deer as coal deposits were extensively exploited and a mining community appeared.The ‘Great Parke’ always had tenants and the occasional poacher[no Robin of Loxley utilising a getaway tunnel however].The days of the Talbots and Mary Stuart, those Lords of the private Manorial ‘Parke’ with its walls,banks and fences and Mary Stuart eventually gave way to slums and the Park Brigade and Norfolk Park. Much of its admirable Victorian legacy is hidden away behind Park Hill and its ongoing regeneration.Its views from Manor Lodge are unsurpassed and it surely has a place in the ‘Outdoor City’ of the c21st. Pack up your pananni , flask and bus timetable in your old kitbag, equip yourself with stout footwear, weatherproof clothing and a hearty constitution and stride out. Allow three hours- with stops- roughly five miles out of eight miles.

E-mail templeman3@tiscali.co.uk for details.

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