South Yorkshire and East Riding are very diverse. With the south’s architectural beauties and East Riding’s seemingly boundless countryside and small towns, the differences are remarkable. (East Riding is also referred to as Yorkshire Wolds and the Humber region.)
Sheffield dominates the southern portion of South Yorkshire, which became industrialized before the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century, through steel production, primarily. It sits in a valley at a confluence of five rivers and possesses 78 parks, 10 million trees, which has given it the reputation as Europe’s greenest city. By 1860 there were fifteen football clubs in Sheffield. Hallam F.C. still play at the world’s oldest football (soccer) ground near Gosspool.
Sheffield Castle was built to control the local settlements and the town that grew around it is the old nucleus of the modern city. This castle was heavily bombed by the Nazis during the blitzkriegs of WWII by the Nazis and nearly completely eradicated the walls and mural towers of the castle. Sheffield Markets was built above some of the remains of the castle and visits to the ruins are operated by them on Thursdays and Saturdays all year long. However, appointments are still necessary. (Update, Jan, 16, 2015: Sheffield Markets will be removed soon and extensive searches and excavating have revealed more remains than was previously understood to exist. To find out more about these developments you can check out the official web site.)
Millennium Galleries opened in 2001 on 101 Norfolk Street and is a major venue for touring exhibitions along with the city of Sheffield’s own collection. It’s open seven days a week, all year long and the modern facility also offers a café, gallery, shop, educational centre and facilities for corporate events and seminars. www.sheffieldgalleries.org.uk
South of Sheffield, a brief look can be taken of a beautifully kept sixteenth century timber-framed Tudor House. Bishop’s House in Meersfield is believed to be the oldest remaining building of its kind in Sheffield. Pre-booked groups are taken and admission is free.
T- 0114 278 2600
On your way north to Conisbrough Castle a stop to award-winning Clifton Park Museum is worth the visit. It’s an eighteenth century house and the former home of iron magnate Joshua Walker. It is now owned by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and its rooms are furnished authentically from that period. Best noted for its Rockingham porcelain collection, famous exhibits like Nelson the Lion and highlights hands-on, interactive historical displays. A play area for children called the Lion’s Den is also a great feature for families. You can e-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conisbrough as it may have looked in its prime.
Through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, concentric styling for keeps, outer and inner baileys dominated the building of castles. Other innovations such as mural towers (walls incorporating projecting towers) were also being built. Conisbrough Castle (derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Cyningesburh The defended burg of the King ) which is four and a half miles southwest of Doncaster, was constructed making use of both features, with a polygonal keep and is in well enough repair to see most of the original limestone structure. Built in the twelfth century by Hamelin, Henry IIs half brother, it is the oldest circular keep in England. Square or rectangular keeps were relatively easy to build but Hamelin opted for mural towers surrounding an inner keep , a single bailey on a natural tall mound. The seven feet thick outer curtain-wall design (thirty-five feet high with the jutting towers at strategically placed corners) was, basically, a defensive- and much improved- version of Orford Castle in Suffolk. The closest French parallel is at Mortimer, near Dieppe, another castle held by the Warenne family. (Mortimer may have also been designed by Hamelin Plantagenet.)
Conisbrough, simply put, is among the finest military structures built in England and its defenses still impress castle purists and enthusiasts alike. It’s built in an area that is an undulating concursion of valleys and hills, and the keep is attached to the curtain-wall at its strongest point, with one side exposed to the field, which made access to escape secretive and easy for the garrison. However, this also was a weakness for military strategy, by making any direct attack an easy route to the keep. It was four storeys high, with six immense buttresses supporting a steep and high wall, fifteen feet thick, which kept it intact during sieges.
The entrance leads to the second floor with basement and ceiling as stone vaults, making the bottom of the tower nearly impossible to loosen or mine and impervious to fire. Only the third and fourth floors were obviously built for comfort, being made of wood. Each has two-light windows with richly-molded rear-arches, scrolled hoods with head-stops. (These eventually became glass windows.) Moreover it featured hooded fireplaces, built-in washrooms and latrines. A chapel and sacristy on the fourth floor, was built into a buttress. Interestingly, a dovecote (created for communicating) was carved out of one of the buttresses, and an oven out of another. Two others have water-cisterns for ease of the castle dwellers who did not wish to descend to the basement to draw water from the well. Conisbrough has a fascinating web site www.conisbroughcastle.org.uk
(Aerial of Conisbrough today.)
Tickhill Castle’s excavations show that, when it was fortified by Robert Bloet (after the siege in 1102), it was given an eleven-sided tower keep on the circular base with pilaster buttresses. It was protected by a wide, wet ditch with a Norman gatehouse flanking the wall. The remains of the fifteenth century barbican are quite evident.
Located at the Tickhill Village centre, off Castle Gate Road, being seven miles southeast of Conisbrough, it was actually a private fortress as an eleventh century earthwork motte and bailey. Roger de Busli, the designated Lord by William was most likely the architect. Around the twelfth century Robert Bloet rebuilt it with stone adding the curtain wall to the massive bailey, and the gatehouse. There are also excellent remains of a fifteenth century barbican. Today it is under the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Lancaster.
A short distance south from Maltby, English Heritage’s Roche Abbey is worth an afternoon visit. It is located in a secluded, well landscaped valley surrounded by limestone cliffs and natural flora and trees. The abbey is a Cistercian monastery, founded in 1147 and was excavated to reveal the complete layout of the abbey and some walls still retain their original height.
Moving north back to the Doncaster area, five miles northwest, Brodsworth Hall is a beautiful example of a Victorian Country Manor. Built in the 1860s it makes excellent use of classical architecture incorporating ionic columns to support a front parapet with dentils, dimension stonework and topped with lovely finials. It gives an impression of being Italianate but isn’t in strictest terms. It does contain most of its original furnishings and decorations and the old world atmosphere still remains. Tours are given in the afternoons. T- 01302 722598
Northeast of Brodsworth at Thorpe-in-Balne, a curious moated site which harbors fishponds and a medieval chapel was built upon successively through the centuries beginning with the twelfth century. It is the landmark site of an historical abduction of a commoner’s wife by Edward Lancaster in 1452. This resulted in Parliament passing an act for redress of grievances and better protection of women.
Hickleton Hall, also known as the Sue Ryder Home is a Georgian Mansion built in mid-eighteenth century from specifications laid down by Janus Paine. The grounds set in twelve acres of formal gardens were re-designed by the famous Inigo Thomas and the design of today was perfected in the early 1900s. It is a home for care of the elderly but interior and exterior visits can be made by prior arrangement. M- F 2-4 p.m. T-01709 89070
If you return to Doncaster you might want to check out The Mansion House on High Street. It’s a lovely example of eighteenth century architecture, which was originally built for the mayor as a residence. There is a ballroom which contains paintings of the local dignitaries, a Council Chamber which was once a banqueting room, and it features the Peace Window which is placed at the head of the main staircase and highlights the local coat-of-arms and history.
If you head back west toward Conisbrough you can find Cusworth Hall just north of it off the A1 from 36 or 37 junctions. It’s set in beautiful parkland with a nice view of Doncaster and was designed by Georg Platt in the eighteenth century. Later additions were made by James Paine. It is often used for holiday festivities and musical events. It importantly houses the “Museum of South Yorkshire Life” and the rooms display diverse and varied historical cross-sections involving worklife, fashions, agriculture and technology.
Up ’til fifty years ago, Cusworth Hall was the home of the Battie-Wrightson family and was converted into a living museum some years ago by the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council.
Now, for some great examples of gentille life in South Yorkshire it will be necessary to head west for the northwest corner of this section of the county. Starting with Wortley Hall, of which the current structure was most likely built to replace Wortley Manor, it is located ten kilometers south of Barnsley on the A629. Sir Richard Wortley, a descendant of the Earls of Wharncliffe probably built the current structure in 1586. He was a descendant of Alnus de Wortley who is referred to in the pipe rolls for 1165! Further repairs, corrections (one architect had forgotten to include a staircase !) and extensions were done in the Victorian era.
On the fifth of May in 1952 Wortley Hall became a public commodity at the insistence of the local Labor Movement activists and was opened as an educational and holiday centre. For the past fifty years it has been a successful co-operative venture. Contact: John Howard at 0114 2882100 www.wortleyhall.com
Further north and west of Barnsley, Wentworth Castle and Cawthorne Victoria Jubilee Museum reside in the extensive grounds of Stainsborough Park. Wentworth Castle is the building which holds the most historically diverse glory, but it is not the Gothic Folly nearby, which was erected in the eighteenth century and is known as Stainsborough Castle.
The real Wentworth Castle is a rectangular manor employing Classical vernacular, Baroque, Palladian and Victorian architecture, built by various different ancestors of the Wentworth family. The construction of this eclectic wonder spanned over two centuries. It is home of the Northern College for Residential Adult Education but will offer tours starting in the year 2007. To find out more T-01226 776040
Cawthorne Museum is a half-timbered Tudor building with a uniquely quaint collection of memorabilia. Cawthorne Village is situated four miles west of Barnsley and groups are taken by appointment. T- 01226 790545 or 790246
Very close by, Cannon Hall is an outstandingly beautiful country park (which was landscaped by Richard Woods) and a late seventeenth century house remodelled by John Carr (of York). The house contains wonderful and diverse art collections ranging from Old Masters paintings to Moordraft pottery, Glass collections, fine furniture and a Regimental Museum of 13th-18th Hussars (including Queen Mary’s regiments.) The walled garden boasts a two hundred year old vine brought back from the Continent in 1802 and wonderful pear trees in existance from the eighteenth century.
Tomorrow East Riding of Yorkshire and a grand announcement!
Don’t miss it!
Check out more Yorkshire castle photos in my Live.com albums.
Here’s a big from The Castle Lady!