A Brief History of Sheffield

Updated 8/10/00

Very long - save to disk and read off-line

This is a very brief history of how Sheffield came into being. More details will follow, in time. If you have any questions/suggestions, then please let me know. Email me at



Old Stone Age

The area around modern day Sheffield has been inhabited by man for perhaps more than 40,000 years. Sadly, the passage of time, farming and industrial development have all but wiped out signs of those early dwellers, but at Cresswell in Derbyshire, about 15 miles south-east of Sheffield, remains of Old Stone Age man (Palaeolithic period) have been found.

 Discoveries made in the caves of Creswell Crags in the late 1800's, showed that early man existed at the same time as the mammoth. Thousands of flint, quartzite, bone and ivory tools were found as well as the bones and teeth of musk ox, hippopotamus and woolly rhinoceros.

In 1955, on a site around 22 miles south-west of Sheffield, Lieutenant-Colonel Gell of Hopton Hall found a prehistoric flint hand-axe, some 150,000 years old ( Lower Palaeolithic period), yet more evidence of early man's existance in our region.

New Stone Age

As the centuries passed, our region's climate and vegetation became more favourable towards habitation. Around this time, the Neolithic, or New Stone Age people appeared and it seems likely that by about 2500 BC, they had reached the outer edges of our region. They introduced a pastoral existance as opposed to the hunting economy of the earlier settlers, taking advantage of the good pasturage offered by the hills surrounding Sheffield. They also made pottery and used stone axes and leaf-shaped arrow-heads.

 In addition to their known chamber-tombs and burials on the heights near Sheffield, (Minning Low, Long Low for example), there is some 19 miles to the south-west, the striking Arbor Low, which has been called the 'Avebury of the North'. This impressive 'henge' type construction, has all its great limestone blocks lying flat, and is quite near the course of the much later Roman road running south-east from Buxton. Near Arbor Low both Neolithic and 'Beaker culture' burials have been found.

 The Beaker people, so called because of the distinctive shape of some of their pottery, arrived at the end of the Neolithic period. This was around 1600 BC. Artifacts from this period show that it is likely that the various cultures and economies in many places had gradually merged over the centuries, probably due to the slow migration into the area.

 Bronze Age

The Bronze Age followed and all the time our region - except the steep, marshy and heavily wooded river valleys - was attracting more and more tribal peoples. In about 1500 BC, the Middle Bronze Age tribes reached the area. These people (sometimes called the Urn people) were armed warriors led by fierce chiefs, who subdued the earlier pastoral dwellers. They built numerous stone circles, both large and small, (Moscar Moor, Froggat Edge for example) and used bronze tools and weapons which seem to have been brought to the area by traders over well-established trade routes. Cremation was widely practised, with the ashes (in a cinerary urn) being buried with or without the building of a cairn. Two Early Bronze Age urns have been found at Crookes and three Middle Bronze Age barrows found at Lodge Moor.

 The Beaker people spread inwards from the edges of the region. The Millstone Grit uplands, the source of the River Don tributaries in the area, were slowly being settled along with the coal measures area. Forest-clearing, which had started several centuries earlier to provide more pasture-land, continued as more Urn people arrived in the region.

 Iron Age

The next new arrivals, the Iron Age people, appear to have reached our region late in the 5th century BC, with their rather slow penetration allowing them to mingle with the native population.

 Perhaps the most outstanding feature added to the region by the Iron Age people was their hill-fort construction. Each hill-fort had its own characteristics, but each usually required a rampart and ditch together with a counterscarp bank, as well as using the contours of the land to maximise the defenses. At least sixteen hill-forts have been identified around our region, one of the most important being the fort on Wincobank Hill (separate section to be added soon about the fort) overlooking the Don's sharp bend in Sheffield. Nearer to the river bend is a hill-slope fort in Roe Wood, and there is the Canklow hill-fort some 6 miles downstream overlooking the junction of the Don with its tributary the Rother coming from the south. A hill-fort at Langsett overlooks the course of the infant Don in the north-west; at Scholes Coppice, a few miles north of Wincobank is a hill slope fort, and beyond Castleton, west of the River Derwent is the well-known Mam Tor hill-fort. All of them are remarkable features of our landscape, and it is worth noting that at both the Wincobank and Canklow hill-forts, Mesolithic (pre-Neolithic) flint tools have been found.

 It's likely that the hill-forts were the work of the Brigantes, who by the time of the Roman invasion were in control of most of Yorkshire north of our area, so the hill-forts may have been constructed along the southern borders of their territory. Another view is that certain of the Brigantian tribes used the hill-forts as bases for cattle-raiding activities. Various investigations support the suggestion that some hill-forts were being built as early as 250 BC.

From Sheffield, in an east-north-east direction there runs for some ten miles the interesting 'Roman Ridge or Rig'. This is a man-made trackway, apparently beginning in the area we know as Grimesthorpe, on Wood Hill about a mile north of the Don; and it could well have climbed from a river crossing by the Don's spectacular bend, although today there is no sign of it in that section. From Grimesthorpe the 'Ridge' continues past the lower slopes of Wincobank on the south-east, running parallel to the Don, and it is seen again to the north-east of Scholes Coppice, and yet again as it swings more to the east towards the junction of the Don with its tributary the River Dearne just beyond Mexborough. Despite its name, it has been established that 'Roman Ridge' is not Roman; it could well be an Iron Age trackway established by the Brigantes.

 The Romans

The Romans seem to have been concerned in our area for two reasons, the first being their interest in the lead mines of the carboniferous limestone region between Wirksworth and Castleton, the other being that they must get control of the warlike, troublesome Brigantes, on whose southern border the future Sheffield would grow. Cartimandua, the Queen of the Brigantes, was pro-Roman, perhaps because she was astute enough to realize that the Romans were powerful, and if she could be established in their favour they would support her against possible enemies. Her surmise proved to be correct, for many of her own people were opposed to her pro-Roman activities and would gladly have deposed her.

 As they pushed northwards the Romans had a good deal of trouble with the Iron Age Brigantes, and in AD48 an uprising caused the Romans to abandon their planned expedition into North Wales, so that they could suppress the rebellion. In AD51 the Queen's surrender to the Romans of Caractacus, who had sought shelter at her Court, angered her people and caused further Brigantian risings. Cartimandua was kept on her throne only by Roman help.

 That the folk in the Wincobank hill-fort played a determined role against the Romans would seem to have been partly the reason for the building of the Roman fort at Templeborough (around AD54) near the far bank of the Don some 3 miles east of Wincobank and about 2 miles north-west of the Canklow hill-fort. It was not until AD 71-72 that the Romans crushed the Brigantes for the time being, and it is thought that after his arrival in Britain as governor in AD 77-78, Agricola, in his plans to secure the North, caused a road to be made (or improved) from Ermine Street just north of Lincoln, to ford the River Trent at Littleborough and continuing westwards to pass over the magnesian limestone ridge and down to the coal measures area, passing south of the Templeborough Fort and through the Sheffield we know crossing the Don at Bridgehouses, up to Broad lane (where I work), Western Bank, Crosspool, up over the high gritstone moors via the Long Causeway, and steeply down the 'edge' to cross the River Derwent to their Fort Anavio, by the River Noe at Brough on the carboniferous limestone. At Brough (here the road divided, the north-westerly branch climbing over the moorlands to their Fort Melandra Castle near Glossop, and the other branch, Batham Gate, running south-west to Buxton) they were near the valuable lead mines at Castleton, where they could keep an eye on the hill-fort on Mam Tor.

 To date, no signs of Roman villas or farms have been discovered in our region and this may have minimized an appreciation of the importance of our area in Roman times. One point of interest is the discovery, in 1761 on the Stannington side of the Rivelin Valley, of a broken bronze diploma, conferring Roman citizenship on a discharged soldier (whose name is missing) and his family. This diploma seems to have been issued around AD 124 and was hailed as the first discovery of its kind in Britain.

 The 360 years of Roman control of Britain, which ended in AD 410 added little to our region other than their long-forgotten road improvements. The area had little appeal to the Romans as a settlement region. They were in Britain to control it as a useful part of their empire, particularly because of the lead obtainable in Derbyshire and the Mendips, the tin obtainable in Cornwall and the wheat obtainable in the southern parts of the country. The immediate area around the Don's great bend offered none of these things, and so the Romans came and went. But their 300 plus years of control had established a sort of peace and had left the locals to pursue their own way of life with little fear of attack from invading tribes.


The Anglo-Saxons

 IN THE year A.D. 410 the Romans departed. There was still no Sheffield. The locals were existing, more or less at peace, their livelihood depending on the conditions of their environment. Little is known of their lives but it seems unlikely that the Roman way of life would have made any impact, since generally, the only Romans they saw were marching between Brough and Templeborough, or were having occasional skirmishes with troublesome tribes. Then, in the fifth century came the people who gave Sheffield and indeed England it's name; practical, resourceful people who came in search of land on which to settle. The new-comers were Angles, people to whom 'kin' was of great importance.

 Three Teutonic tribes, the Jutes, the Saxons and the Angles, came across the North Sea. The Jutes advanced into the southern areas of Britain; the Saxons gradually occupied all the rest of the southern half of the country; and the Angles, after many years, spread over the northern half. Even during the Roman occupation there had been 'hit and run' raids on Britain's east and south coasts by these tribes, and the Romans had found it necessary to appoint a 'Count of the Saxon Shore' to repel them.The early comers had first choice of sites and they settled near the coast, possibly driving away or enslaving the native Britons of that area. Later comers would need to continue inland until they found desirable sites, the rivers Humber,Trent and Don giving access to higher, well-forested sites.

 Since the 'invaders' almost certainly approached our region via the Don Valley, one of the first sites to attract attention would be Wincobank Hill. Oak trees flourished here, the land sloped south to the Don, and it was an easily defensible site. Their first task after carefully surveying the site would be to build their great aula or hall. Their skill with woodworking tools - axe, adze, auger and wedge - resulted in a large, thatch roofed timber building being 'raised' on huge oak arches or 'crucks', hence the name cruck buildings. The sturdy building raised on Wincobank would be at least 60 feet long and 16 feet wide; it was the main building of the new settlement and was built to withstand the ravages of time and weather.

 The views from the summit of Wincobank Hill extended in every direction, tree-clad hills climbing to the western moorlands with here and there a small patch of cultivated land worked by the remaining British people. Unattractive marshland bordered the lower reaches of the Don. The view due south across the Don Valley to the top of the hill beyond would seem to suggest another desirable settlement site, with land sloping away on every side and with a particularly steep ravine on the south. A visit to the site reveals that this is Sheffield Manor. On a piece of neglected land, obviously once good agricultural land, is a ruined, long, low, roofless building almost hidden by shrub growth both inside and outside the thick walls; and pointing to the sky is one cruck of what must have been a remarkably sturdy set. In 1913 there were still two complete sets of crucks remaining in this building, which was known as The Laithes, and was not then in ruins. These details were stated in a lecture by Mr. Thomas Winder.

 About a thousand years later, some 20 yards or so beyond the ancient, cruck-built, Anglian Laithes the large Manor Lodge was built. Tragically associated with Cardinal Wolsey and with Mary Queen of Scots, it was built on much of the land which showed significant signs of 'the old ploughing' , the early ridge-and-furrow ploughing which can be identified near many of our still existing early Anglian cruck buildings, indicating the use of their great wooden plough and team of plough oxen.

 Following the arrival of the first Anglian families others soon followed on, some being members of the same 'kindred', but they would always choose a separate site to settle on. Each site would have what the searching Anglian families needed - a fairly high, defensible site with good water available, slightly heavy land (after the forest growth was cleared) for their great plough with its hard oaken ploughshare, and well above the river marshes. They would be an appreciable distance apart, for each needed to be surrounded by acres of fertile land as well as meadow and 'waste' (scrub land).

 All these sites encircling our modern Sheffield are significant hill sites, the only places where we find a cruck building in a valley is where it overlooks a river crossing, in fact the trackway running down to the river crossing actually passes alongside the cruck building. A river crossing was of great importance, and one would expect to find that there is, or has been, a cruck building on the slope down to the early river crossing of the Don, in Sheffield. There was such a building, on higher land commanding the Sheaf-Don junction and the Don crossing. Evidently during the Norman period the cruck building was burnt and the Norman castle built over the site. This fact was not known until the site of the castle was being excavated in 1927-29 for the building of new shops (Castle Markets); below the castle's foundations traces were found of a long timber building, obviously of cruck construction, which had suffered the effects of fire.

 It is impossible to be certain how many years elapsed before the sites surrounding the cruck buildings mentioned above were cleared and worked to the standards the Angles required. Locally, these settled areas can be found extending to the north, the south and for a certain distance to the west. Because it was border country between high moorland regions and the lower swampy valleys, few main routes came this way, so the inhabitants were less involved in the quarrels, raids and fighting that went on in many other places. Historians have suggested that the Anglian settlers drove out, enslaved or killed the Britons living hereabouts, but it may well be that after a number of years of fear and suspicion they gradually adapted themselves and lived in peace together. The only local reminders of the Britons are the river names Don, Sheaf, Rother and Derwent and the districts of Wales and Waleswood on the east side of Sheffield. The country then took a new name, becoming known as Angleland or England as we know it today.

 The name of the River Sheaf (derived from the Old English word meaning a frontier or divide) reminds us again that this was border country between highland and lowland. It came to be recognized, with its tributary the Meers Brook, as part of the boundary between the Anglian kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. It would appear that the Anglian settlers lived here in a more or less quiet, industrious way; but we don't know exactly when the growing village or 'township' of Escafeld (the feld or open space by the Sheaf) was so named. Sheaf was spelt Sceath then, hence SCEATH FELD which has translated over the years into SHEFFIELD.

 An important happening in AD641 had a tremendous, lasting effect on the area; this was the conversion of the heathen Angles to Christianity. This lead to the building of small wooden churches in important villages which in turn lead to the establishment and expansion of more permanent communities.

 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (started by King Alfred) gives little information about our region during this time, but an entry for the year AD829 names an event which would indicate that in the 350 or so years since Anglian settlers first arrived here, the land had been well cleared and cultivated and a number of small, well-managed townships had grown up around the original settlements. Among these would be Attercliffe, Bramley, Brightside, Brincliffe, Darnall, Fulwood, Gleadless, Handsworth, Heeley, Longley, Norton, Owlerton, Shirecliffe, Southey, Tinsley, Totley, Wadsley, Walkley and Woodseats. It's interesting to note how many of these names end in 'ley', which signifies a clearing in the forest. 'Ton' at the end of a name means 'an enclosed farmstead', as in Norton and Owlerton.

In other parts of the country, the Anglo-Saxons destroyed or left to decay, all that the Romans had built, while they themselves lived primitively in their crude huts of wattle and daub. However, in the Sheffield area, there were no Roman buildings, only the old road from Templeborough, which gradually became covered with soil and grass until it disappeared from sight.

 In AD 829, most of England was in the possession of Ecgbert, originally an under king of Kent, who had routed the Mercians and had been accepted as king by the East Saxons, the Anglians and all the kingdoms south of the Humber. This left only Northumbria outside his rule, so Ecgbert marched to the village of Dore on the outskirts of Sheffield. The borders of Mercia and Northumbria were the River Sheaf (the name of which means a boundary river), the Meers Brook, (which means brook of the boundary) and the Limb Brook. Ecgbert and his army faced the Northumbrians, but they submitted to him without a fight and admitted his claim to be 'King of all the English'. The probable reason for the Northumbrians' peaceful submission was the fact that the early ninth century saw an increase in raids of Vikings or Danes on their territory and, being in no position for a war on two fronts, they were glad to come under Ecgbert's protection.

The Vikings

The fierce Viking warriors from Scandinavia, became an increasing threat to England, plundering and pillaging small settlements, until, in AD 866, there was a large invasion. It was around this time that they formed settlements in the Sheffield area. The names of these Danish villages, mostly founded on the tops of hills, are easy to distinguish for they usually end in 'thorpe', signifying a small farm-stead. So we get Osgathorpe or 'Osga's Farmstead', Jordanthorpe or 'Jordain's Farmstead', Skinnerthorpe, Grimesthorpe, Reynaldsthorpe, Hackenthorpe and Upperthorpe. Crookes and High Storrs would also be Danish settlements.

The village of Dore again comes into our history when in AD 942, Edmund, the grandson of Alfred the Great, conquered the Danes of Mercia 'as far as where Dore divides the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria'. From that time onwards the Danes and the English began to live peaceably together, so that in the next century we find them fighting side by side against their own kinsmen under King Canute.

The Norman Conquest - 1066

It is at the time of the Norman Conquest that Sheffield and the surrounding district is named for the first time as the manor of Hallun or Hallamshire. This is found in the Domesday Book of 1086, which William the Conqueror ordered to be compiled so that the value of the townships and manors of England could be assessed. The entries in the Domesday Book are written in a kind of Latin shorthand and the extract for this area begins :

M. hi Hallvn, cu XVI bereuvitis sunt. XXIX. carucate trae
Ad gld. Ibi hb Walleff com aula. . . etc.

Translated it reads:

'In Hallam, one manor with its sixteen hamlets, there are twenty-nine carucates [about three thousand acres] to be taxed. There Earl Waltheof had an "Aula" [hall or court]. There may have been about twenty ploughs. This land Roger de Busli holds of the Countess Judith. He has himself there two carucates and thirty-three villeins hold twelve carucates and a half. There are eight acres of meadow, and a pasturable wood, four leuvae [a leuva is thought to be about a mile] in length and four in breadth. The whole manor is ten leuvae in length and eight broad. In the time of Edward the Confessor it was valued at eight marks of silver [£5.33]; now at forty shillings [£2.00].
In Ateclive and Escafeld [Attercliffe and Sheffield], two manors, Sweyn had five carucates of land [five hundred acres] to be taxed. There may have been about three ploughs. This land is said to have been inland, demesne [domain] land of the manor of Hallam.'

It will be seen that the names of Attercliffe and Sheffield, written as 'Ateclive and Escafeld', appear in this extract from the Domesday Book. These names should not be pronounced as written, it is obvious that the Norman French scribes upon asking the local illiterate inhabitants the names of their villages would write them down as they imagined they would be spelt, making many errors. We can, therefore, safely assume that Sheffield was always pronounced Sceathfeld or Sheffeld, the Anglo-Saxons pronouncing Sc as Sh. This ancient pronunciation of Sheffeld lasted up to the 1930s, it is only since that time that the second syllable has been pronounced as 'field'.


Earl Waltheof

The Domesday Book shows that at this time Earl Waltheof was the Lord of Hallam and it is known that he was one of the most powerful men in England. The hall which is mentioned, would have been the centre of life for the whole district, but unfortunately we do not know where it was situated. (Separate section to be added soon to discuss the site of the hall). Earl Waltheof was the younger son of a giant Dane, Siward the Strong, the Earl of Northumbria. It was this Siward who led the armies of Edward the Confessor against Macbeth, the usurper of the Scottish throne. Like his father, Waltheof was tall and very strong. After he submitted to William the Conqueror, they became good friends, William even allowing him to retain possession of his lands. However in 1069 there was a rising of the Northern lords in which Waltheof took part, but after much fighting the rebellion failed. William thereupon sent his Norman troops through the North, destroying and laying waste all the lands of the nobles who had risen against him. Waltheof again submitted to William, consenting to become a good subject of the King. He was then allowed to marry William's niece, the Lady Judith, and he received with her the three earldoms, Northumberland, Huntingdon and Northampton, besides being allowed to keep his former possessions.

In 1074, while King William was putting down a rebellion in Normandy, Waltheof again turned traitor and took part in a plot to divide the country between himself, the Earl of Norfolk and the Earl of Hereford. When William returned to England, he was informed that the Danes had again landed in Yorkshire and had plundered York. This, coupled with the previous rebellion, was too much for William. He put the whole blame on Waltheof, had him arrested and brought to trial. He was found guilty and on 31st May 1076, he was beheaded outside the City of Winchester. Later his body was buried in the Abbey of Crowland, in the remote Lincolnshire fens. In later years Waltheof came to be regarded by the English as a martyr and many people made pilgrimages to his tomb.

Judith, Waltheof's widow, now came into possession of all her late husband's lands, but ceasing to live in this district, she rented Hallam, Attercliffe and the Sheffield manors to a Norman knight called Roger de Busli, who then became the first Norman Lord of this area. He was a friend of William, and as with many other poor knights who had crossed the Channel with the Conqueror, he was given vast estates in England. These included over sixty estates in Yorkshire and Derbyshire and among them were Tinsley, Greasborough, Kimberworth, Ecclesfield, Wadsley, Beighton, Norton and Dore. As mentioned previously, he also held, as tenant in chief to the Countess Judith, the manors of Hallam, Attercliffe and Sheffield. As was to be expected, the English were extremely discontented with their new lords, so the Normans built strong castles to protect themselves. De Busli built his castle at Tickhill, which in those days was a place of some importance and he appears to have taken little interest in his manor of Hallam.

William de Lovetot

The lordship of Roger de Busli was comparatively brief, for early in the twelfth century he parted with many of his estates to a Norman baron from Huntingdonshire, called William de Lovetot. It is probably safe to say that William de Lovetot was the real founder of the town of Sheffield, for he built his castle here and made it his home.

De Lovetot's castle was constructed at the confluence of the rivers Sheaf and Don about 1150. It was of the 'motte and bailey' type, the motte being a large mound and the bailey being an outer wall. The building of the castle would begin with the digging of a ditch or moat, the excavated earth being used to form a mound in the centre. If there was a natural mound to begin with, the earth from the ditches would be used to raise it. Round the mound or motte a stout timber palisade would be built and in the enclosure a wooden keep or tower would be constructed. The keep was partly used as a dwelling-house and also as dining and sleeping quarters for the garrison. For de Lovetot's castle in Sheffield, it was unnecessary to dig a moat on two sides of the mound, for the rivers Sheaf and Don were good defences. However to complete the moat a ditch would be dug along the lines of what are now Waingate and Exchange Street, thereby allowing the two rivers to flow round the castle.

Because of the de Lovetots and their castle, the little town of Sheffield began to grow. So much so, that de Lovetot built a town corn mill on the side of the Don, on what today is still called Millsands. In addition to the castle and the mill, de Lovetot built a hospital called St Leonard's. This was dedicated to the relief of the sick poor and was erected outside the town on fields at Spital Hill. It was St Leonard's Hospital or 'Spital' that gave the names to Spital Hill and Spital Fields.

The first bridge over the Don, to be called 'Our Lady's Bridge', because of the adjoining small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was also constructed during the lordship of William de Lovetot, and on the site where the Cathedral now stands, a parish church arose. Whether this was the first church on that spot we do not know, it is quite likely that a small timber-framed chapel had been sited there in earlier times. We do know, however, that a Saxon cross was erected in this area some time before the year AD 825. This cross was eventually removed by order of Queen Flizabeth I and is now housed in the British Museum.

Three generations of the de Lovetots were lords of Hallamshire covering about one hundred years. It was during this period that William Peveril built his castle at Castleton, the Priory of Ecclesfield was founded, Roche Abbey was endowed and Robert Fitz Ranulf, Lord of Alfreton and Norton, and wealthy landowner, built Beauchief Abbey.

In 1181, because there was no son in direct succession, the vast estates of the de Lovetots passed to an only daughter, Maud. Being only seven years old and a great heiress, Maud was then made a ward of King Henry II. According to the law at that time, the King had the right to choose her husband immediately, but King Richard I, who was now on the throne, waited until about 1190 before he gave the sixteen-year-old girl in marriage to the son of a Norman knight, Gerard de Furnival. The King probably favoured Gerard because his father had been the King's constant companion during the Crusades.

The de Furnivals

Because of the marriage of Gerard de Furnival and Maud de Lovetot, 'Good Maude' as she was usually called, Sheffield and district came into the possession of the de Furnival family and they held the lordship for one hundred and eighty years. In Sheffield the name of this Norman family is remembered today by Furnival Street, Furnival Gate and Furnival House. After her marriage, Maud's lands reverted to King John for him to make a new assignment of them and the new lord, Gerard de Furnival, then had to pay a fee or fine, this amounting to four hundred silver marks. (A mark was worth about 13s 4d.) As is usual when large estates are in question, the passing of the de Lovetot lands to the de Furnivals through Maud's marriage was not looked upon with favour by others of the de Lovetot family. In fact, a cousin of Lady Maud took the dispute to the King. John, being pleased with an excuse to extract money from anyone, settled the question by allowing Gerard de Furnival the assignment of the estates upon payment of one thousand pounds and fifteen riding horses!

While fighting in the Crusades, Gerard died in Jerusalem, leaving his wife to bring up their three sons and three daughters. When they were old enough, two of these sons followed their father's example and fought in the Crusades, the eldest, Thomas, being killed. His brother brought Thomas's body back to England for burial and he lies in Worksop Priory, where his mother Maud and his brothers are also buried.

The de Furnival lands then passed to Thomas, son of the Thomas killed in Palestine. It is quite easy to be confused by the succession of Thomases, as there were five, all lords of Hallamshire. During the lordship of the second Thomas, Simon de Montfort, who was the Earl of Leicester and Henry III's brother-in-law, led a rebellion against the bad rule of the king. Because Thomas de Furnival had sided with King Henry, a party of the barons, led by John de Eyvill, on their march from north Lincolnshire into Derbyshire, halted at Sheffield and then proceeded to destroy the town, burning down both the wooden castle and the Parish Church. However, a short time afterwards, on the 15th May 1266, the barons were confronted at Chesterfield by supporters of the King and were completely routed. Four years later, de Furnival requested permission from the King to rebuild the castle in stone and King Henry agreed. A massive castle was then constructed which lasted until the Civil War in the reign of Charles I. It was demolished in 1648 by order of Parliament, after it had stood for 378 years!

We next come to the most outstanding man of the de Furnival line, the third Thomas, son of the castle builder. Summoned to attend Parliament in 1294, he served as a lord for thirty-eight years. In 1296 Lord Furnival obtained from the King a Charter under the Great Seal of England, for a market to be held on the Tuesday of every week at his manor of Sheffield, and for a fair to be held every year during the three days of the Holy Trinity. Though the market continues to the present day, the fair or 'Sheffield Feast' as it was always known, is no longer held, a large part of the feast ground now being covered by a modern block of offices.

It was also the third Lord Furnival who, in 1297, granted to the people of Sheffield a further charter of great importance. This created the Burgery of Free Tenants, and granted the tenants the freehold of the property they occupied on the condition that they paid the lord a lump sum of £3 8s 91/4d yearly. De Furnival also gave the tenants exemption from all 'exactions and demands of toll, as they were wont to be in the time of my ancestors, for ever'. This Charter was witnessed by the lords of Thomas de Furnival's sub-manors -- Robert de Ecclesale (Ecclesall), Thomas de Mountney (of Shirecliffe), Robert de Wadisly (Wadsley), William de Darnale (Darnall) and Thomas de Schefeld (of Owlerton). What de Furnival did was to give, in a small way, certain privileges and to make the tenants a free independent body of self-governing people. The tenants elected themselves a leader whom they called the 'Town Collector' and they took over various public duties such as improving roads and mending bridges.

After holding the lordship of Hallamshire for about sixty years, Thomas died in 1332. His son, the fourth Thomas, had only been lord for seven years when he died at Sheffield Castle and was buried in Beauchief Abbey. The last Thomas de Furnival died childless and was succeeded by his brother, William. Unfortunately William and his wife, Thomasine, had only one child, a daughter whom they called Joan. At the age of sixteen she married Sir Thomas de Nevill, a younger brother of the Earl of Westmorland, and their union produced another only daughter, Maud. Before de Nevill died, Maud married John Talbot and from the will of her father, in addition to the gift to John and Maud of 'his best bed', they inherited the whole of the Furnival estates. Thus Sheffield came under the lordship of an even greater family, the Earls of Shrewsbury.

The Talbots

'. . Valiant Talbot above human thought
Enacted wonders with his sword and lance:
Hundreds he sent to hell, and none durst stand him:
Here, there, and everywhere enraged he flew:
The French exclaimed The Devil was in arms,
All the whole army stood agazed on him.
His soldiers spying his undaunted spirit.
"A Talbot! a Talbot!" cried out amain,
And rushed into the bowels of the battle.'


Probably the course of Sheffield's history was little affected by the first Talbot lords. John Talbot spent most of his time in the King's service, usually abroad. He proved to be a valiant fighter and throughout Europe he was known for his prowess. Shakespeare made him the hero of the first part of King Henry VI and the proof of his value is illustrated when the French, by whom he was captured in 1429, claimed such a high ransom that it took his friends in England four years to raise the money. Thirty years after his marriage to Lady Maud, John Talbot was created the first Earl of Shrewsbury. The Earl ended his life as he would have wished it, for he was killed in battle in 1453, surrounded by his bodyguard of Hallamshire men, practically all of whom died with him.

His son John, the second Earl and Knight of the Garter, followed in the footsteps of his father, fighting valiantly for the King. He held the lordship of Hallamshire for only seven years before being killed on the battlefield of Northampton, in the Wars of the Roses. The second Earl was succeeded by another John, again a fighter who was knighted on the battlefield. He died at Coventry in 1473 during the course of a journey, when only twenty-five years old. George, the son and heir of this John Talbot became the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury at the age of only five years, but he was to become one of the most prominent men in Sheffield's history.

George Talbot, broke with the tradition of his family and decided to make Sheffield his home, living in the castle built by Lord Furnival. Having a large family and being a very wealthy man, he found the castle accommodation extremely cramped. In 1516, he decided to build himself a country mansion on a hill about two miles away, in the stretch of woodland called Sheffield Park.

The Park at that time was quite large and deer roamed freely through the oak and walnut trees. Built of brick and stone, the Lodge, as George Talbot called it, was oblong in shape and had an inner and outer courtyard. The Earl spent considerable sums of money on decorating the building and from then on, lived either in the Manor Lodge or in Sheffield Castle. He was now a very powerful man, being Lord Steward of the King's Household and Lieutenant-General of the North, and he built a chapel in Sheffield Parish Church, in which he and his family could be buried. This is known as the Shrewsbury Chapel and now forms a historic part of Sheffield Cathedral.

A famous visitor to the Manor Lodge during Earl George's time was Cardinal Wolsey, who was kept at the Manor for eighteen days when he passed through Sheffield on his way to London in 1530. On the 4th November 1530, he was arrested for treason and brought south from York for his trial, arriving four days later at the Manor Lodge. He was treated kindly by the Earl and his family, who tried to make his stay as comfortable as possible. However, Wolsey became very ill before leaving Sheffield under guard. Wolsey travelled for three days, each day his condition deteriorating until when the party arrived at Leicester Abbey, the Cardinal was so weak that he whispered to the abbot as he entered the building, 'Father Abbot, I am come hither to leave my bones among you'. And this he did, for Wolsey died a few days later and was buried there in the Abbey.

Eight years later, in 1538, Earl George died while at Wingfield Manor and his body was laid to rest in the Shrewsbury Chapel, in the Sheffield Parish Church. Here he joined his first wife, Ann, the mother of eleven of his children. In his will, the fourth Earl directed 'that a tomb of marble should be set over his grave with three images thereon, namely one of himself in his mantle of the Garter, another of his deceased wife in her robes, and a third of his wife then living'. This beautiful tomb, still in near perfect condition, stands under a flat-topped arch on the left-hand side of the Shrewsbury Chapel.

The fifth Earl of Shrewsbury, Francis, the son of George, was born at Sheffield Castle in the year 1500. Being a shrewd man with many of his father's characteristics Francis was able to accommodate himself to all the changes that took place over the difficult years between 1538 and 1560, the period of his lordship. Though a Catholic, the fifth Earl made himself agreeable to all and his religion did not prevent him from receiving certain of the Beauchief Abbey lands when they were broken up and distributed during the latter years of King Henry VIII. In 1549 he was made President of the Council of the North, a post in which he proved to be an excellent administrator. Steering a careful line between the Protestantism of Edward VI, the Catholic Queen Mary and the Protestant Elizabeth I, Francis was able to prevent trouble between the North and South of England.

The Twelve Capital Burgesses

Being popular with the people of Sheffield, the fifth Earl's free tenants turned to him when, under an Act of Parliament for the Suppression of Colleges and Chantries, the Burgery of Free Tenants had to forfeit £17 9s 4d from their income of £27. The reason for this was that the Burgery had been maintaining three priests to minister to outlying villages and the Commissioners decided that this practice was contrary to the Act. The forfeiture meant that only £9 lOs 8d was left in the Burgery accounts to pay for all the public services, including repairs to roads and bridges. When Queen Mary came to the throne, the Burgery sent her a petition strongly supported by the Earl. Being a Catholic, the Queen lent a favourable ear to the petition and restored the confiscated money. However, this was not handed back to the Free Tenants, but was given to a new body she created named the 'Twelve Capital Burgesses and Commonalty of the Town and Parish of Sheffield'. The charter under which the Twelve Capital Burgesses was formed was dated 8th June 1554 and specified that their income was to be used to maintain three chaplains to help the vicar, to repair the Parish Church, the bridges and common ways and to assist the poor.

Earl Francis died at the Manor Lodge in 1560 and was buried in the Shrewsbury Chapel. Because of his popularity, his funeral was one of the grandest ceremonies ever to be seen in Sheffield.The next Earl of Shrewsbury was George, the son of Francis, who inherited the great estates of his family in the second year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Probably George is the most remembered of the Earls of Shrewsbury for his custodianship of the famous Mary, Queen of Scots.

Bess of Hardwick

The sixth Earl first married a daughter of the Earl of Rutland and when she died he became the 'great catch' of that very ambitious woman, Elizabeth Hardwick. 'Bess of Hardwick', as she became known, had three husbands in succession before marrying George Talbot, and each marriage made her richer than before. Her first marriage was to Robert Barlow, of Barlow, near Chesterfield; then she married Sir William Cavendish, the founder of the Duke of Devonshire's family; and her third marriage was to Sir William Saint Loe, captain of Queen Elizabeth's bodyguard.

Lady Saint Loe was fifty when the marriage terms were agreed between her and the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. These were all in Bess's favour and they included the stipulation that their children should intermarry, the Earl's son, Gilbert Talbot, taking her daughter, Mary Cavendish, as his wife; and her son, Henry Cavendish, taking the Earl's daughter, Grace Talbot, as his wife. Bess of Hardwick's greatest ambition was to build splendid mansions, which she did at Hardwick, Chatsworth, Worksop, Oldcoates and Bolsover. She was also a moneylender, a merchant of coal, timber and lead and a farmer; in all, a thorough business woman. Contemporary reports also state that she was 'a woman of masculine understanding, proud, furious, selfish and unfeeling'. It is obvious that her husband suffered much from her temper and sharp tongue!

Mary, Queen of Scots

In the year 1569, Queen Elizabeth committed to the care of the sixth Earl, the infamous Mary, Queen of Scots. With her assertion that she was the rightful claimant to the English Throne, together with her continuous plotting against Queen Elizabeth, the latter decided that Mary should be kept in custody and the remoteness of the little town of Sheffield seemed ideal. Mary arrived in Sheffield on 28th November 1570, and she was immediately taken to the Castle. She was then kept for thirteen years and nine months in Sheffield and district, spending her time at the Castle, the Manor Lodge or at Chatsworth. She had with her some thirty attendants, among whom were Lord and Lady Livingstone; William Douglas, her young friend; Castel, her doctor; and Roulet, her French secretary. Before Mary and her retinue left Sheffield, Roulet died and was buried at the Parish Church.

Taking care of Mary, proved to be no easy task for Earl George. The cost of keeping the Queen and her attendants severely taxed even the wealthy Earl's finances and Bess was at this time spending a great deal of money on the building of Chatsworth House. After nearly fourteen years of the troublesome Mary, George Talbot petitioned Queen Elizabeth to release him from his duty and she granted him his request in 1584. Mary, meanwhile, had been removed to Wingfield in Derbyshire and then to Tutbury. From there she was taken to Chartley in Staffordshire and it was there that her last plot was formed. A Norton youth, Antony Babbington, who was heir to large Derbyshire estates, had joined Mary as her page, at Sheffield Castle. Like all her other followers he soon became passionately devoted to her and later he acted as a messenger between Mary and her friends on the Continent. In 1586 he helped to plan a Catholic insurrection in England, to be supported by Spanish arms, for the purpose of releasing Mary and murdering, not only Queen Elizabeth, but all her ministers. The plot was approved by Mary and King Philip II of Spain. However all these letters fell into the hands of Queen Elizabeth and the conspirators were arrested, tried and hanged. Because of this plot, Mary, was brought to trial, condemned, and on the 8th February 1587 beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

The sixth Earl of Shrewsbury presided at Mary's execution and also at the trial of the Duke of Norfolk for conspiring with Mary. After the execution of the Duke of Norfolk, the sixth Earl succeeded to the office of Earl Marshall of England. He was also Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Because of their constant quarrelling, George and Bess had now parted. Bess carried on with her building of fine houses and the Earl retired to live at Handsworth Hall. In November 1590, George died while at the Manor Lodge and after a magnificent funeral attended by an estimated twenty thousand people, his body was laid to rest in the family chapel at the Parish Church.

The seventh Earl of Shrewsbury and last to inherit the lordship of Sheffield was Gilbert, a bad-tempered person with extravagant tastes, who for most of his life lived far beyond his income. At this time there were many extremely poor people in the town and after Earl Gilbert's death in 1616, his will was found to contain a bequest for the building of a hospital for twenty of the poorest folk. Unfortunately there was no money available for this purpose and it was not until 1665 that the Earl's great-grandson was able to provide the necessary funds to build the Shrewsbury Hospital.

As Gilbert had no son, his property passed to his brother, Edward, but he died after only nine months and all the Talbot estates were then divided between Gilbert's three daughters, Alethea, Mary and Elizabeth. As these ladies were already married to men of rank and fortune who lived in other parts of the country, their interest in the little town of Sheffield was negligible.

It was through Alethea Talbot's marriage to Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, the grandson of the Duke of Norfolk who had been beheaded for plotting to place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne, that the Talbot estates eventually came to be the property of the Dukes of Norfolk. However the Dukes of Norfolk, though still holding rich estates in the Sheffield area, ceased to have feudal control over the people and from this time became Lords of Hallamshire in name only. An agent was then employed by each Duke to look after his interests in Sheffield, the Dukes themselves residing at their castle in Arundel. Now a new era in Sheffield's history opened, with the people themselves gradually taking over the direction of their own town and the means of their livelihood.

The Civil War

At the time when the Talbot estates passed to the Dukes of Norfolk, civil war broke out in England.Catholics, High Churchmen, most of the Lords and the old gentry were for the King, whereas most of the Puritans and the people of the industrial areas were on the side of Parliament. Sheffield was now a small manufacturing town, and the majority of its people supported the Parliamentary side, including the three leading citizens, Bright of Carbrook Hall, Spencer of Attercliffe Hall and Jessop of Broom Hall.

Before the Civil War began in 1642, the King sent out orders for all arms that could be spared to be collected and sent to Doncaster. As a result, four brass cannon were sent from Sheffield Castle. These cannon had been the castle's main protection and when war broke out, the Sheffield people were easily able to seize and hold the castle for the Parliamentary side. Sir John Gell, a Parliamentary general, was then placed in charge of the castle's defences. About this time, the younger John Bright of Carbrook, who though not quite twenty-three years old was already showing signs of great ability, commenced recruiting volunteers to fight for the Parliamentary cause.

In 1643, the King's forces, with the Earl of Newcastle as Commander-in-Chief, marched on Rotherham, took the town and then advanced on Sheffield. Unfortunately John Bright and his volunteers, the only men who could have defended the town, were fighting in another part of the country and the castle surrendered to the King's men with hardly a shot being fired.

Advancing so far south proved to be a mistake for the Earl of Newcastle. General Lord Fairfax, with Parliamentary troops, attacked the Royalist headquarters at Wakefield and captured the garrison with all it's stores. Deciding that it would be wiser to fall back on York, the Earl garrisoned Sheffield Castle for a siege and put in charge Sir William Saville, a grandson of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. He, in turn, appointed a deputy governor, Major Thomas Beaumont, placing him in full charge of the defence of the castle and left for York to assist the Earl of Newcastle. Sir William left his wife and children at the castle, under the protection of Major Beaumont. The castle defences consisted of two hundred foot-soldiers, a troop of horse, eight cannon and two mortars.

Sir William Saville was killed near York early in the year 1644, while, in the meantime, John Bright, who'd been promoted to Colonel, took part in the battle of Marston Moor in July of that year. This was the decisive battle which gave Parliament the final victory in the North of England. All that remained now was the mopping up of any pockets of resistance, including Rotherham and Sheffield. So on the 8th August 1644, the Earl of Manchester sent an army of one thousand two hundred foot-soldiers and a regiment of horse, under the command of Major-General Crawford, to take the two small towns. Taking Rotherham proved more difficult than expected, for the people had blockaded the streets, but superior forces soon won the day. Before the main body of the Parliamentary army advanced on Sheffield, a scouting party consisting of Colonel Bright and Major-General Crawford came to survey the castle and its defences. Considering the castle poorly defended, Colonel Bright wanted to attack immediately, but General Crawford was more cautious so the party returned to Rotherham to report to the Earl of Manchester. The Earl told General Crawford that he could begin an attack, but that he was not to endanger the soldiers any more than necessary. Colonel Bright, in the meanwhile, was sent to York to obtain some heavy artillery for the siege and thus the march on Sheffield began.

The Siege and Destruction of the Castle

When the Parliamentary army entered Sheffield they were welcomed by the townsfolk and they assisted the troops in setting up a large camp on the edge of Sheffield Park. To start the siege, ramparts of sods and stones were built within yards of the castle moat. The builders were fired on and one captain and a master gunner were killed. In an account written at the time, the next move was described as follows:

'Our Forces being come near this castle, sent three great shot which did execution in the castle; after which they sent a summons to the castle, who shot three times at the trumpeter, two of which shots hardly missed him; and they flourishing their swords, cried out they would have no other parley.'

General Crawford then decided to try and drain the moat, but was unsuccessful. He followed this by employing a number of local miners to dig a tunnel under the moat, but they struck solid rock and had to give up. The Parliamentary artillery barrage was having little effect, due to a shortage of cannon balls, so the Earl of Manchester set local ironworkers busy making more ammunition. The small cannons used were called 'culverines' and 'sakers', but their shot did little damage to the massive walls of the castle. More help arrived in the form of Colonel Bright, who brought with him two extra cannon. One was a demi-cannon and the other a very large piece called a 'Queen's Pocket Pistol'. Their first shots caused a large breach in the castle walls, and the contemporary account goes on to say '. . . and these did great execution upon one side of the castle, and brought the strong walls thereof down into the trenches [moat] and made a perfect breach.'

Major Beaumont, commanding the forces in the castle, then decided to seek terms , but after hearing them, he and Lady Saville were reluctant to surrender. A further bombardment was ordered and six more shots breached the castle walls, causing all resistance to collapsed. Further talks were then held to draw up terms of surrender.

The terms were quite generous to the besieged and after handing over the castle, the officers of the garrison were allowed to go where they pleased, keeping their horses, swords and pistols. The ordinary soldiers, providing they laid down their arms, could go to their homes and families and a week was allowed for the evacuation of wives, children and goods from the castle. Lady Saville, and her children, could either stay in the castle or have safe conduct to leave. By the 11th August 1644, all the soldiers had gone, except for about thirty men, who, on finding some stocks of ale, had got drunk and refused to surrender. A swift Parliamentarian attack soon made prisoners of them all. Sheffield Castle was then made a Parliamentary stronghold with Colonel John Bright as governor. However, because of his fine record as a soldier, he was soon fighting again at the Siege of Pontefract. Later, he was appointed Governor of Hull and York and Captain Edward Gill, of Norton, took command of the castle.

Though four years later the Earl of Arundel was allowed to buy back the castle and estate for six thousand pounds, a resolution was passed by the House of Commons that the castle must be destroyed. So in 1648 demolition began and various parts of the castle were sold to local people. Records of these sales still exist and some are quoted below for that year:

More to follow, soon!!