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You are in: South Yorkshire > History > Local History > Excavations at Sheffield Manor Lodge

Excavations at Sheffield Manor Lodge

The Manor estate in Sheffield had very grand beginnings before it was a council estate. A team of archaeologists are excavating the ruins of the 15th century Manor Lodge.

Digital reconstruction of Manor Lodge by ARCUS

Digital reconstruction of Manor Lodge by ARCUS

:: June 2009

In the 1500s Sheffield's Castle and Manor Lodge were the grandest buildings in Sheffield.

Archaeology at the Manor

Archaeology at the Manor

While the Castle is long-buried underneath, you guessed it, Castle Market, the ruins of Sheffield Manor remain just off City Road at the edge of the Manor council estate.

The Grade II listed Turret House - known locally as Manor Lodge - is the only fully standing structure.

Sheffield's Manor was an important building, both from the point of view of the city's development but also from a national point of view. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned there for nearly 20 years before her execution for treason in 1587.

Mary, Queen of Scots miniature 1578-9 by Nicholas Hilliard - V&A, London

Click on the links below to read more about Mary's imprisonment under the lock and key of the Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury George Talbot.


Various parts of the site at the Manor Lodge have been excavated over the decades and it was the subject of the BBC One's Restoration series.

Howard Pressman at Sheffield Manor Lodge

Howard Pressman at Sheffield Manor Lodge

Now a joint project between ARCUS (Archaeological Research and Consultancy at the University of Sheffield) and the Sheffield social enterprise company Green Estate, will see a team of archaeologists excavating the ruins of the 15th century Manor Lodge.

It's a three-year excavation of the south of the site and the archaeologists hope that they can piece together the whole development dating from the 16th century to the present day.

ARCUS have generated an image of Sheffield Manor in its Elizabethan heyday - around the time that Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned there. You can see the computer generated drawing at the very top of the page - and more artist's impressions by ARCUS right at the bottom of the page.

Turret House, Sheffield Manor Lodge

Turret House, Sheffield Manor Lodge

Mike McCoy is the archaeologist in charge of the project. BBC Radio Sheffield's Howard Pressman visited him early in the excavation in June 2009.

"The Cross Wing and the West Range were excavated in the 1960s so there's lots of information about the site and how it was laid out," says Mike. "Nobody has excavated the South Range though so we're tackling that and the Long Gallery until 2012 to piece together the development of the Manor site through the 16th century.

"We'll also be looking at the 19th century Victorian cottages that were built into the South Range with the Norfolk Arms pub. We'll look at the cottages with allotment gardens which were built in the Long Gallery and at the Turret House (still standing) which was occupied in the 18th century.

"We're going to try to piece together the estate's history from the 15th and 16th centuries right into the early 20th century."

The Manor through history

The Manor was originally built in 1510 as a hunting lodge in the Earl of Shrewsbury's deer park - some of which still remains as Norfolk Park.

When Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the Manor in the 1580s and 1580s, it was owned by George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. He also owned Sheffield Castle.

Claimed to be the key to the Manor

Claimed to be the key to the Manor

By the 1570s the hunting lodge had been rebuilt into a large and impressive manor house and the Turret House became an elegant farmhouse.

In 1953 The Duke of Norfolk's estate granted a 999 year lease of the site to the City of Sheffield. In 2004, the 16th century 'scheduled ancient monument' which boasts three listed buildings was featured in the BBC Restoration series. It received £1.25 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the site as a visitor attraction.

Green Estate now manages the green spaces in the Manor and Castle wards of Sheffield for the benefit of local people. Three years of archaeological excavations started on the site in June 2009. A Discovery Centre was opened and the site is open and free to the public.

Many of the nobility of the time gave their name to Sheffield's geography; you may recognise Talbot (Street), Shrewsbury (Road), Norfolk (Park) and others.

Royal crest at Sheffield Manor Lodge

Royal crest at Sheffield Manor Lodge

In the years after Mary left the Manor, the Earl of Shrewsbury passed it into the hands of the Duke of Norfolk but in the early 17th century the building began to fall into disrepair.

Nevertheless, it was key to the city of Sheffield's development. It was linked with the
industrialisation of the cutlery industry, the exploitation of the open countryside for its raw materials, and the mechanisation of the mining industry which revolutionised production and put Sheffield in front of its rivals for most of the 19th century.

The Manor itself was dismantled in the early 18th century and the parkland was discarded in favour of the Norfolk family's farming and mining interests. Manor Oaks and Manor Cottage Farm were built adjacent to the Lodge, perhaps constructed from stone from its ruins.

A mine was sunk immediately behind the Lodge and a mining and farming community sprang up inside and adjacent to the ruins.

Archaeologist Mike McCoy picks up the story:

Archaeologists at Sheffield Manor Lodge

Archaeologists at Sheffield Manor Lodge

"In the early 20th century, the Duke of Norfolk removed the tenants from the site. He took the opportunity to tear off all the Victorian additions and display all the stonework which he thought was original 16th century."

The archaeologists were just starting to reveal the tops of the South Range's walls when BBC Radio Sheffield visited the dig in its early stages in June 2009.

"We can start to see the arrangement of the rooms," explains Mike McCoy. "As we get deeper we'll be able to see the different phases of building; it was subject to multiple phases of building in this part of the site."

An early digital reconstruction by ARCUS

An early digital reconstruction by ARCUS

So what sort of things are the team finding in their excavations?

"We're getting a lot of 'Manorware'. This was brown pottery which was produced in proliferation in a kiln at Wolseley's Tower in the 18th and 19th centuries. That's where all this mottled brown-ware is coming from. Three weeks from now we will have a lot more finds."

The archaeology students have also found an archway which they believe to be a cellar. One of the archaeology students, Ben, told Howard Pressman about their discoveries:

"We've found a possible spiral staircase going down into the basement and there's maybe also a collapsed arch which would be fascinating because you don't often see a collapsed arch in situ."

:: We will be revisiting the Manor regularly to find out about the archaeologist's discoveries - so keep checking back ::

last updated: 20/07/2009 at 15:23
created: 01/07/2009

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