Public appeal to reveal the history of Graves Park in Sheffield

The public is being asked to shed light on the history of one of Sheffield’s most popular public parks.

Monday, 19th August 2019, 9:42 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 3:02 pm
Rose Garden cafe in Graves Park, Sheffield
Rose Garden cafe in Graves Park, Sheffield

Professor Ian Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, says: We at Sheffield Hallam University and the South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group are working with the ‘Friends of Graves Park’ on their Heritage Lottery-funded project to help rediscover the ancient historic landscape of what is today called ‘Graves Park’.

major bequests of that great philanthropist Alderman JG Graves in the 1920s. Today it is perhaps our most popular open space.

Research which began way back in the 1980s with archaeologist Clive Hart, is now coming to fruition, and observations and discoveries of landscape archaeology I made about 2013 are proving very exciting indeed.

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The Friends of Graves Park around the old oak

These include possible prehistoric features such as what may be an ancient barrow (burial site), a major and ancient bank running north-south across much of the park, and ancient woods full of botanical ‘indicator flowers’ and even medieval charcoal hearths.

The latter are from the old industries of the ancient woods of times past. The present research which builds on a small project called ‘the Heart of Chantreyland’ is helping confirm what were previously ‘hunches’ and leading to a rediscovery of a very early medieval deer park that we can now date back to the 1200s.

Indeed, the landscape of ‘encapsulated countryside’ here in Norton holds clear evidence of at least three phases of ‘parks’ before the modern-day corporation public park of the 1920s until today.

However, there is a key missing link for which we need your help. Close-by the Rose Garden Café on the high point of Summerhouse Wood, was an ancient building called ‘Summerhouse’ and which survived until its demolition by Sheffield City Council in the early 1970s.

Rose Garden cafe in Graves Park, Sheffield

We believe that may even have been a possibly Tudor hunting tower for the old deer parks alongside the now Hemsworth Road.

Up until its demolition the park keepers used to toll the bell to warn park users that the park was closing. After this the gates would be locked, and you were not allowed in.

Local people who used the park may remember the tolling of the bell and, if you do, then we need to hear from you.

Even more useful would be pictures of the summerhouse building in photographs from that period.

Ancient woodland at Graves Park

Many people used the Rose Garden and the café and would have taken pictures there or thereabouts and, if so, we would like to see them. Please search your old boxes of photographs and the rest and let us know.

We understand that the house in the park was lived in until 1950 and was later used as a store room for the Parks Department before its demolition in the 1967.

During the 1930s, the park keeper lived there, Mr Carter, but during the Second World War the house was requisitioned and lived in by the officer in charge of the PoW camp at Cinder hill in Norton. We’d like to find out more and if anyone has memories of this time visiting the park or connections with the house. From the few descriptions and a postcard that we have managed to find it was a substantial stone built building.

It has been called the Tower House and the Summer House and had a separate entrance from that at Norton Hall and Park. You can contact me on [email protected] or via [email protected] or by post to Professor Ian Rotherham, Department of the Natural and Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Pond Street, Sheffield , S1 1WB. Or telephone Christine Handley on 0114 2724227.

The site of Summerhouse near Rose Garden cafe in Graves Park, Sheffield
The site of Summerhouse by the old oak tree and near Rose Garden cafe in Graves Park, Sheffield
Graves Park in Sheffield