Thursday, April 16, 2020

Civil War and the Fall 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. 

The English Civil War

Beginning in 1642, the English Civil War was a series of bloody battles between supporters of Parliament and supporters of the King. War erupted after years of political tension between King Charles I and Parliament during which time both had sought to assert their authority. 

The War led to the trial and execution of King Charles I in 1649 and culminated in Parliamentary victory in 1651 when Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army defeated the Royalist forces of Charles II.  England became a republican Commonwealth until 1660 at which point the monarchy was restored with the triumphant return of Charles II from exile. 

The Civil War left a significant mark in Sheffield. The town fluctuated between Parliamentarian and Royalist control, leading to a 10-day siege of Sheffield Castle by Parliamentarian forces in August 1644. Eventually, the siege resulted in the Royalist surrender of the town and ultimate destruction of the Castle. 

Civil War Timeline

1639 - 1640
Bishops’ Wars between the Scots and English forces led by Charles I result in costly defeat for the English, provoking Parliamentary unrest and anger towards the King.

Sheffield reported as being largely sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause.

20 May 1641
Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Stafford, executed by Parliament for treason.

June 1642
The Howard Family (Earls of Arundel, Earls of Norfolk and Lords of Sheffield Manor) send artillery from Sheffield Castle to Doncaster for the use of King Charles I.

25 Aug 1642
The King’s standard erected at Nottingham, thus beginning the English Civil War.

Oct 1642
Parliamentarians commanded by Sir John Gell of Derbyshire seize control of Sheffield Castle on 11 October 1642.

The Battle of Edgehill on 23 October 1642; the first major conflict of the Civil War ends in stalemate.

April 1643
Royalists retake Sheffield Castle under the command of William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle. Sir William Savile, grandson of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, appointed governor of Sheffield, in the name of the King.

30 Jun 1643
Royalists defeat Parliamentarian troops under the command of Lord Ferdinando Fairfax at the Battle of Adwalton Moor, consolidating Royalist control of Yorkshire.

July 1644
On 2 July, Earl of Newcastle’s Royalist forces defeated by a combined Scots and Parliamentarian Army at the Battle of Marston Moor, thus ending Royalist control in the north.

Sheffield Castle summoned by the Earl of Manchester to surrender to the Parliamentarians on 27 July.

Aug 1644
10 day siege of Sheffield Castle by Parliamentarian forces, commanded by Major General Crawford.  Thomas Beaumont surrenders the castle on 10th August after the wall is breached by cannon.

Captain Edward Gill made governor of Sheffield Castle. The surrounding estates are seized by Commissioners of Parliament.

Charles I decisively defeated by the Parliamentarian army, commanded by Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645.

1646 – 1648
Charles I surrenders to the Scots in April 1646.

House of Commons resolution passed on 30 April 1646 that Sheffield Castle is to be made untenable. Subsequent resolution passed on 13 July 1647 for the castle to be demolished and on 23 August 1648 demolition work begins.

30 Jan 1649
Charles I executed by Parliament for treason.

Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (ruler of the republican Commonwealth of England from 1653) proclaimed in Sheffield.

Great rejoicing reported in Sheffield upon the proclamation and return of King Charles II.

Sheffield Under Siege

Having previously sent a summons on 27 July 1644 that Sheffield Castle surrender to the Parliamentarians, on 1st August the Earl of Manchester dispatched a force of 1200 Parliamentarian soldiers under the command of Major General Crawford and Colonel Pickering to capture the castle. Meeting resistance and finding their artillery insufficient to breach the castle wall, Crawford requested backup from Lord Fairfax. Armed with this extra artillery the Parliamentarians eventually breached the castle wall and the Royalists were forced to surrender on 10th August. 

Extracts from the journal of Major General Crawford

1st August 1644 
In the edge of the Park we planted the Culverin (having before sent a party of horse and foot into the Towne) and there did discharge three great shot with great dexterity into the Castle, one whereof shot through the Governour’s chamber….and thereafter the Major-general summoned them by a Trumpeter in the Earle of Manchester’s name, to surrender the place into his hands for King and Parliament; but they discharged three shot at the Trumpeter, who could not get audience.

3rd August 1644 
Captain Sands, captaine of the Pioniers, and the master Gunner, attended the Major generall to view the little Towre by the River, that flauncked two quarters of the Castle, and the mount before the Gate, to the end that they should finde out some convenient place to raise a battery to beat it downe, which might be very advantageous to us, to the gaining of the castle. Whereupon the Captaine and Gunner were both shot, the one through the theigh, and the other through the shoulder, whereof they both after dyed.

5th August 1644 
The Ordnance began to batter, which made the besieged more milde than they were before, and their Governour received our summons, and returned us answer that the Castle was intrusted unto him by his majestie, which trust he valued more than his life; at night the Major Generall by threates, promises and money, got together some Colliers to myne the Castle, which they found not to feasible, it being builded on a rock.

Following the successful seizure of the castle and surrounding estates, the House of Commons passed a resolution for the castle to be destroyed. After centuries as a mighty northern fortress, on 23 August 1648 demolition work began. 

Tomorrow, we look at some of Sheffield’s Civil War survivors.  Despite the destruction of Sheffield Castle, a handful of local buildings still remain that date from those turbulent times. They stand today as silent witness to the extraordinary events of the centuries before.

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