Sheffield Castle

The Story of Sheffield Castle

Sheffield is perhaps better known for its place in the Industrial Revolution as ‘Steel City’, but its roots lie in the medieval period, and are closely associated with the foundation of a castle in the late 11th or early 12th century, possibly by Roger de Busli, at the confluence of the rivers Don and Sheaf. The castle became one of the largest and most important in the north of England, and was rebuilt and developed by the de Lovetots through the 12th century and by the Furnivals in the 13th. By the 15th century, the castle had passed to the Earls of Shrewsbury. During the English Civil War, the castle was controlled by the Dukes of Norfolk, who sold the site for redevelopment through the late 17th and early 18th century. It became an area of slaughterhouses, metal work and other trades.

Associated with the castle was an extensive deer park on the eastern side of the castle which had a lasting influence on the development of Sheffield in this area. The historic core of Sheffield developed in the streets to the west of the castle towards the parish church, now the Cathedral. The story of the castle has become closely associated with the site of an Anglo-Saxon hall, the story of Mary Queen of Scots, held here between 1570-84, and its destruction following the English Civil War. The cathedral, the Manor Lodge (the site of the hunting lodge), Lady’s Bridge and the Queen’s Head pub are prominent survivors of Sheffield’s medieval and early post-medieval past.

Workmen expose the gate house of Sheffield Castle in 1958

The castle was subject to two periods of archaeological investigation between 1929-1940 and 1958-1972. The results from the initial work by A.L. Armstrong and J.B. Himsworth were published in 1930 in the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, but many of the later records by Himsworth remain unpublished. The second campaign of investigation by L.H. Butcher also remains unpublished. The Castlegate Archives Project was set up to bring the results of these earlier studies of Sheffield castle to publication. Through the work of the Castlegate Archives project our understanding of the development of Sheffield Castle, its association with the town and deer park will be transformed.

The Castlegate Archives Project – The archaeology of Sheffield Castle


Artefacts collected 1929-1930

Courtyard building exposed 1929-30 (c. Sheffield Museums)

The full archive of archaeological observations is being analysed and published by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield.

The project is led by Professors Dawn Hadley and John Moreland and Dr Gareth Dean. The work is being carried out in collaboration with Sheffield Museums, who hold the archives, Wessex Archaeology and independent specialists, Dr Chris Cumberpatch, Jane Young and Quita Mold. Reviews of the historical records was carried out by Dr Rachel Askew and Dr Alan Bryson.

The project has been funded by the University of Sheffield through The Pamela Staunton Bequest (Department of Archaeology -, Academic in Residence Scheme (Faculty of Arts & Humanities) and the PVC Research Development Fund, with additional funding from the Society of Medieval Archaeology.

Image of Pamela Staunton

Pamela Staunton

The project builds on earlier work on aspects of medieval and post medieval Sheffield. Work on the Manor site was funded by The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEFCE) and the AHRC funded the development of an app for Sheffield Lives: the birth of a city.

The main aim of the Castlegate Archive Project is to assess previous assumptions regarding the site based on the limited published evidence through a thorough reassessment of the excavation archive. Key themes the project hopes to address are;

  1. The origins of the castle and deer park
  2. Evidence for the construction and development of the castle and associated activities
  3. The relationship of the medieval town of Sheffield to the castle and the deer park.
  4. Evidence for the Civil War siege of the castle and subsequent redevelopment

The project will create a digital archive and major new publication that will review the significance of the excavations and develop the narrative of our understanding of the castle within Sheffield and its surroundings. This will provide a crucial overview of the archaeological and historical evidence from the original heart of the city of Sheffield, vital to informing both people in the present and its regeneration in the future.