It has been a year since our excavations were underway in the centre of Sheffield and the spirit of the castle is still very much alive.
The Friends of Sheffield Castle (FOSC) organised a series of (fully booked) tours to take place on the site during the Heritage Open Days 2019. Visitors were given a guided tour of the lower site by Martin Gorman (FOSC), John Moreland (University of Sheffield), Anna Badcock (FOSC), and Glynis Jones (University of Sheffield) before being led up the castle mound to meet Ron ‘Mr Sheffield’ Clayton and hear tales of its civil war destruction and wistful poetry from 1882 – showing that Sheffield Castle has always stirred imaginations.
The tours were then split into two groups, with the first being led into the old castle market basements to see some of the only standing remains of the 1270 castle, and the second being left in our capable hands, before the two groups swapped over. We (Emily, Liz and Ashley from Wessex Archaeology) presented some of the finds assemblage from our 2018 excavations giving people the chance to handle some genuine Sheffield Castle pottery (and of course, showing off our lovely little ear scoop!), along with discussions around some of our latest findings in terms of dating the deposits, and the results of the borehole surveys.
We were asked questions about what we had been doing since the site itself came to an end and took the time to explain the post-excavation process in some detail. The Friends of Sheffield Castle were using the opportunity to spread the word about their ‘blueprint’, or vision for how their members would like to see the development of the site going forwards, and we had lots of discussions with the tour groups about the part that commercial archaeology would play in that development process.
There were approximately 24 people on each of the 16, one-hour long tours across 2 weekends, with a wide range of ages and backgrounds represented in each. The community engagement aspect of this project has always been at the forefront of the work we have done, and it is encouraging to see that local members of the public are still enthusiastic about the site and its value to the city a year on.
I cannot hail thee, tho’ thou liv’st in story,
Thy turrets and thy towers are all gone.
Little is left to indicate thy glory
But old tradition, and this little song.
Spectre of time! Where are thy relics resting?
Where are thy battlements and lordly hall?
Nor vestage here, nor stone with noble crest in,
Nor remnant of a buttress or a wall.
No effigy supreme, however broken.
No tottering gable in the sunlight glow,
No grey remembrance that would be a token
To take us back to ages long ago.
Francis Buchanan, 1882.