Sheffield has long been hailed ‘The Steel City’, hanging its hat on its rich industrial heritage, however an older legacy has been unearthed, showing it was once home to one of the most significant medieval castles. Believed to be built in the late 11th or early 12th century,
Sheffield Castle took its stance on what is now known as Castle Market. It was a royalist stronghold during the English Civil War and most notably held Mary Queen of Scots as prisoner from 1570-1584. A pinnacle of strength, the castle became seen as a threat and parliament ordered its demolition in 1646.
Jump ahead to the industrial revolution, where this land was then covered with a mixture of steelworks and pubs, hence The Steel City name being coined. Fast forward to the 1920’s-1950’s, where the market complexes were built and remained as a bustling part of the city, until closing in 2013.
Iconic streets such as Castle Green and King Street, were the only visible nods to our medieval history, but not for long. In 2018, Wessex Archaeology began excavating the original castle grounds. Working with Sheffield University. South Yorkshire archaeological services and the City Council, they used archives to determine the best digging spots.
A total of 11 trenches were made and Project Manager Mili Rajic described it as a time capsule, seeing the geological layers of medieval cobbles and cemented structures over the years. Three previous excavations have also contributed to a treasure trove of relics such as belt buckles, knives and even cannon balls.
Archaeologists are hoping to work with the council and use this new found heritage, to redefine Sheffield’s image. Not only as the Steel City, but as a rich medieval culture with buildings that reflect its history and enable people to connect with the past.
If you’d like to learn more, a free book titled Sheffield Castle, is available to read online here.