Letter: Do you remember the tolling of the bell?

This letter sent to the Star was written by Professor Ian Rotherham, Sheffield, S1

Monday, 12th August 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Friday, 16th August 2019, 7:04 am
Rose Garden cafe by Ian Rotherham

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’. This wonderful area and Sheffield’s largest Public Open Space was gifted to the people of Sheffield by major bequests of that great philanthropist Alderman J.G. Graves in the 1920s. Today it is perhaps our most popular open space.

Research I 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. 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. 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!

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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. 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.

Contact: You can contact Ian on i.d.rotherham@shu.ac.uk or via info@hallamec.plus.com 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