Our archaeologists begin work next week excavating the site of Sheffield Castle. The 10-week dig is part of Sheffield City Council’s Castlegate regeneration project. The excavation, overseen by construction engineering specialists, Keltbray, will uncover and preserve the castle’s imposing medieval gatehouse. Hailed as the birthplace of the city, a section of the castle’s remains will be permanently displayed for the first time in more than four centuries as part of a new public park. 

members of the public join a site tour at Sheffield Castle in 2018

Sheffield Castle excavation events

Throughout April and May 2024, the community is invited to experience and discover the site’s archaeology first-hand, through open days and opportunities to participate in the excavation for a day.
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Over two months we will systematically excavate and record six meters of Sheffield’s rich archaeological heritage, finally reaching the remains of the 11th to 17th-century castle where Mary Queen of Scots was infamously imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, in the late 16th century.

Ashley Tuck, our archaeologist leading the dig said:“Once a commanding centre of power for more than 600 years, the castle was left as a ruin by the Parliamentarians at the end of the Civil War as a symbol of its defeat. Since then, the remains of this once-dominating structure have lain hidden from public view. As someone who lives and works in Sheffield, it is a great honour to lead the team uncovering its remains, so we can learn more about its tumultuous history and allow it to once again take centre stage in the city.

As well as uncovering the massive foundations of the circular towers of the gatehouse, moat and drawbridge pier, the dig will uncover evidence of the site’s varied and chequered past. We will explore destruction deposits from the razing of the original motte and bailey castle by John D’Eyvill in the 13th century, the remnants of sieges between the Royalists and Parliamentarians during the Civil War, and the industrial remains of the steelworks that operated there from the early 19th century and was pivotal in propelling the city’s growth.

Cllr Ben Miskell, Chair of the Transport, Regeneration and Climate Committee, said: “The start of the archaeology at the Castlegate site is another fantastic milestone in our brilliant regeneration of the most historic part of our city. Uncovering Sheffield Castle will finally allow our residents and visitors the chance to see how the city started. Learning about the story of the castle is incredible but actually seeing the remains in person will take the experience to another level.”

“I would urge anyone who is interested to sign up for the site visits so you can be one of the first to see the incredibly exciting work. Castlegate is one of a number of regeneration projects we have in the city centre and show that Sheffield really is on the up.”

Louise Pavitt, Managing Director for Highways and Local Government at Keltbray, said: “Keltbray is excited to be supporting Sheffield City Council on this historic regeneration project that will permanently reveal sections of the old castle for the first time in over four centuries.  We’re excited that local people will be able to attend and learn more about the work that our industry does around cultural heritage.”

An aerial view of trial excavations at Sheffield Castle in 2018. Archaeologists undertake excavations at site of Sheffield Castle in 2018
An aerial view of trial excavations at Sheffield Castle in 2018 and recording 19th-century remains at the Sheffield Castle site during trial excavations in 2018.

Archaeologists uncovered parts of the castle in the 1920s, then again during reconstruction works following WWII, and in 2018 Wessex Archaeology carried out trial excavation at the site which afforded glimpses of the moat and castle. The team will now go back to conduct the most extensive excavation that has ever taken place at the site. We will apply modern archaeological methods and scientific techniques to the study of the gatehouse and other castle remains, some of which have never before been excavated, to learn more about its construction and the people and historical events connected with this hugely significant site. 

Martin Gorman, Chair of the Friends of Sheffield Castle, said: “We are really excited that Wessex Archaeology is starting the excavations of the Castle and look forward with huge anticipation to what might be found. Whilst we know part of the gatehouse exists, we don’t know how extensive the Castle remains are, so it will be a great opportunity for us to learn more and for volunteers to be involved in finding out what actually lies under the surface