Another talk by David Templeman, a volunteer Sheffield historian and a Stumperlowe favourite, who periodically visits us to keep us informed and enthused about the unfolding great unheralded history of Sheffield. This time he took us from 1296, when we were a small market town, and when our Tuesday market charter had just been granted, along with an annual fair, and which by the 1600s had 2000 inhabitants, with only 100 being self-sufficient, and hardly any privileged. The rest were ‘begging poor’ or ‘children and servants’.
The Church and Castle were the only stone buildings, with the ordinary folk living in wooden thatched ‘hovels’. Their leisure time included Archery using crossbows (an essential skill in times of war), cock fights, a free for all form of football, quoits, a form of ten pin bowls, cards, chess, and hunting. The first mention of cutlery was in 1297, but other work activities included mining, farming strips of land in the Park, working for the Lord of the Manor, blacksmiths to tend to the vast numbers of horses and other various forms of smiths.
David showed us the earliest known map of Sheffield dated 1650, with the streets and street names of today still relating to their original purpose and location. The town was not walled, only tolled, but covered a small area roughly bounded by the Don River, Sheaf River, West Bar, and The Moor. The surrounds included Orchards, fields, fish ponds, the great Park, and the Manor Lodge with an avenue of walnut trees down to the castle.
Sheffield was unique in sanitation, as the Barkers Pool fed by springs on West Bar, on 4 occasions each year was breached to allow all the rubbish which had accumulated in the open streets to be washed away downhill into the River Don. The people also used it to wash themselves!
Life was hard! There was considerable interest from the members when we were informed that wives could be sold for as little as 2 pints of beer as long as the same rules that pertained to cattle auctions were upheld. Ducking stools were also frequently in operation. Vagabonds from elsewhere, illegal up to 1550, were, in order of offences, firstly whipped, secondly had an ear cut off, then thirdly, hung. Stocks and pillories were available too.
A round up of some of the other remaining major structures of the time included the Bishops House (1500s) in Meersbrook Park, Carbrook Hall (1600s), the Old Queens Head pub (1475) in the Bus Station, Ladys’ Bridge (1486), the Cathedral (1101) and the Shrewsbury Hospital (1616) off Norfolk St.
Poignantly, this very day, the existing castle market built in 1927 was closed and opened in a new location on The Moor. Could this be the beginning of new exciting times as money is now available for an Archaeological dig in 2014 on the old castle site.
Built initially in 1270 and demolished around 1660 after a few punch ups in the Civil War, there are funds available for the dig and depending on what is found, there are plans for a possible Heritage style layout!
Another enjoyable Monday morning with David inspiring us with his enthusiasm, to take pride in, and explore our great City and its history.