Archaeologists start work to reveal Sheffield’s lost medieval castle - and to inspire urban regeneration

  • Archaeologists set to uncover remains of Sheffield Castle as part of urban regeneration project
  • City-wide collaboration is using Sheffield’s forgotten medieval heritage to inspire future regeneration
  • University of Sheffield architecture students develop designs for use of castle site to boost business, investment and tourism
  • Findings also being used to enhance a virtual reality experience which will enable people to ‘see’ the castle for first time in almost 400 years

A team of archaeologists is set to reveal the lost remains of Sheffield Castle as part of a project that could be used to help regenerate part of the city.

The dig is a central aspect of the City Council’s ‘Castlegate Kickstart’ project to help boost the city’s ancient heart.

The excavations, led by Sheffield-based Wessex Archaeology North in collaboration with students and staff from the Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, are designed to recover and assess a key element in the city’s forgotten medieval heritage.

Findings from the excavations, which get underway today (14 August 2018), are set to inform a collaboration between the University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council and the Friends of Sheffield Castle to inspire regeneration of the city’s Castlegate Quarter.

Ongoing work by the University’s Department of Archaeology has revealed the history behind the castle, and a book on their findings will be published next year, while students from the University’s School of Architecture have developed designs for the use of the site to attract business, investment and tourism to the area.

Andrew Norton, Regional Director of Wessex Archaeology North, who are conducting the excavations, said: “Wessex Archaeology is delighted to be working with the University of Sheffield on the Castlegate site. With student volunteers assisting our team, the project will be a valuable opportunity to experience commercial archaeology and working with the public first hand.

“Specialists from the University of Sheffield will provide expert input on the history of the site and the flora and faunal assemblages. Wessex Archaeology is very much looking forward to combining the best of two great organisations for the benefit of this historic site.”

Research on the origins of the castle together with findings from earlier excavations are also being used to create a virtual reality experience, which will give people the opportunity to ‘see’ how the castle looked for the first time in almost 400 years.

The VR experience is being developed by Sheffield-based creative agency Human with archaeologists, architects and computer scientists from the University, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The Principal Investigator on this project is the Head of the Department of Archaeology at the University, Professor Dawn Hadley, who said: “This is an exciting initiative that will bring the castle back to life, showing not just what the Castlegate district looked like in the Middle Ages but also inspiring ideas for the regeneration of the site”.

Professor John Moreland, who leads the Castlegate project at the University of Sheffield, said: “We’re delighted that the next phase of our research into Sheffield Castle is set to start this week. We’ve known about some of the history of the castle and its role in medieval England for quite some time now, but what we don’t know is how much more of it remains on the castle’s site.

“The Castlegate Quarter of Sheffield is due for regeneration, and we believe that the presence of the castle increases the attractiveness of the site for developers. Our work with Wessex North, Sheffield City Council and the Friends of Sheffield Castle to look for further remains will mean that the city can use the area’s heritage to plan for its future.”

An artist's impression of what the Gatehouse of Sheffield Castle may have looked like

Sheffield Castle was once one of the grandest and most powerful in the north of medieval England. It was home to some of the great families at the time – including the de Furnivals, Nevils, Shrewsburys and Howards.

Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner there for 14 years between 1570 and 1584, before she was executed in 1587. The castle was then destroyed by Parliament following the Civil War in 1646.

For more information on the history of Sheffield Castle and what has been found so far, visit: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/archaeology/news/sheffield-castle-1.666864

For more details on the Great Pier design by Sheffield architecture students, visit: http://www.liveprojects.org/2017/the-great-pier/

The virtual reality experience of Sheffield Castle is set to be unveiled to the public at Festival of the Mind in September 2018. More details about this will be published by the University in due course.

Additional information

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