Ashley Tuck from Wessex Archaeology joined the Friends of Sheffield Castle to deliver tours during the Heritage Open Days on the 18 and 19 September 2021.
Five of the tours were available to the public and the approximately 120 places quickly booked up. An additional tour was delivered to a group of VIPs that had assembled for the ceremonial opening of the ‘Grey to Green’ regeneration of the former road Castlegate. The dignitaries included Dan Jarvis MP, Mayor of South Yorkshire, and Paul Blomfield MP as well as a range of councillors. It was an excellent opportunity for a reminder of the role of heritage to enhance the value of development, to enhance sustainability and to inform the identity and meaning of the city of Sheffield.
Above: view from the Sheffield Castle site of the former road Castlegate, now transformed by the Grey to Green regeneration project
On Saturday the tours were delivered by Ashley, Prof John Moreland from the University of Sheffield and Dr David Clarke from Sheffield Hallam University. On Sunday the team was instead Ashley and Anna Badcock from the Peak District National Park Authority. Ruth Morgan (the secretary of the local Hunter Archaeological Society) and the indomitable Ron Clayton kept a stall as part of the Castlegate festival, which on Sunday included a new plant-oriented Pollen Market.
An overview of the results of archaeological investigations of the site between the 1920s and Wessex Archaeology’s 2018 evaluation were given as the attendees were led around the concrete wasteland that has occupied the site since the demolition of Castle Market in 2013. Public interest in the site remains strong and the level of investment of many of the attendees led to some welcome but challenging questions, with discussion inevitably reaching the issue of the site’s future. There is plenty of cause for optimism although without any definitive decision as yet.
The tours culminated with access to a below-ground chamber containing some visible remains of the castle. The Friends of Sheffield Old Town Hall also spoke briefly about this impressive empty building which can be advantageously viewed from Castle Hill. The possibility of more regular tours is being investigated.