Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Rise of Sheffield Castle

This fortnight we’re revisiting an exhibition held at the Central Library a couple of years ago.  In it, we considered how Sheffield’s rich history had been shaped by conflict and major events in the wider world.  It is difficult to predict how our city may be changed by the current world crises of pandemic and climate emergency, but as history clearly shows, change will inevitably come…

In this series of blog posts we will pick out a selection of stories from our city’s past and hopefully whet your appetite for more.  You can delve deeper by visiting our website and view thousands of images at Picture Sheffield, the city’s depository of over 100,000 local images.  

In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy conquered England, seizing the throne from King Harold through victory at the battle of Hastings.  While in Hallamshire, the Anglo-Saxon Earl Waltheof initially retained his position as lord. This proved short-lived.  Waltheof and others were involved in a failed rebellion and he was later captured and beheaded.  

Today, Waltheof is remembered in a stained glass window in Sheffield’s Cathedral and is regarded by some as a folk hero, perhaps sharing something of the rebellious spirit associated with local legend, Robin Hood.

Pageant of local history (1931) Featuring Earl of Waltheof of Hallamshire and his wife Judith attended by Norman and Saxon ladies.  Also, stained glass window showing Waltheof top left alongside other Sheffield worthies.

With Waltheof now gone, local control passed to Norman lords and around 1100, William de Lovetot constructed a motte and bailey castle on a natural sandstone outcrop overlooking the Rivers Don and Sheaf.  However, in 1266 the castle which had been largely built of wood, and in all likelihood, much of the town around it was destroyed during the Second Baron’s War. 

With the close of war and King Henry III restored to power, in 1270 Thomas de Furnival received a royal charter to build a new castle on the same site, this time made of stone.  It was this castle that over the coming centuries would expand to become the fourth largest fortress in England and sit beside a now growing town.

In 1296 and during a time of relative stability, the third Thomas de Furnival was granted a royal charter to hold a weekly market and an annual fair.  Sheffield was on the move!

Market Charter granted by King Edward I, allowed Thomas de Furnival, Lord of Sheffield Manor to hold a market every week on a Tuesday and one fair from the Eve of Holy Trinity (dated 1296).
Oil painting by Kenneth Steel of Sheffield Castle as imagined from historical records.

Population of Sheffield in 1086 – 150 - 200

Tomorrow the story of Sheffield Castle continues with the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots.

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