A tale of two castles

July 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Posted in Sheffield | 52 Comments

castle gate

(Image via zawtowers)

As the next stage in its pursuit of regeneration, Sheffield Council had long planned a demolition job around the maligned, woebegotten Castle Gate. The city’s indoor market would finally meet the wrecking ball, and in its place would be the same soullessly sylish offices, bars and boutiques which have been such a feature of the city’s attempts to remake itself.

What’s made the council’s plans slightly more interesting is the promise to uncover the ruins of the medieval castle near where the market now stands, emphasising an oft-forgotten part of Sheffield’s rich history. Alas, the work of town planning never runs smoothly, and some mischievous bugger has applied for English Heritage to make the market a listed building. The leader of the council is livid:

“The land it stands on holds the key to the regeneration of that part of the city centre and we believe that the remains of Sheffield Castle could become an important tourist attraction in the future.

“English Heritage needs to listen to Sheffielders, who cherish the castle remains and their potential opening up to the public, and not the brutalist and not-fit-for-purpose 1960s market that sits on top of them.”

All of which makes English Heritage the referee in a fight between two castles; one a lost ruin with a history running back to Henry III, and another which has sold fruit & veg since the 1960s.

There’s no doubt that if the decision is made purely on aesthetic or historical grounds, the council would have their demolition day. The abandonment of Sheffield Castle after the Civil War was an act of cultural vandalism; as a home to John ‘The Butcher’ Talbot, a prison to Mary Queen of Scots and a key battleground in the Civil War itself, its historic significance is considerable. In comparison, the market is now a slightly shabby, down-at-heal symbol of a style of post-war architecture which is not well loved.

castle market

(Image via das kine)

But when you consider the decision on social grounds, things get somewhat murkier. When showing friends around the city, more than one has asked whether Castle Square was the ‘rough end’ of town. With its heavy traffic, unwelcoming taverns, budget shops and a glaring mishmash of architectural styles, the surrounding area doesn’t easily support the city’s attempt to sell itself as a haven for young middle class professionals. The market itself also has a reliably working class clientele, and though the premises will be relocated to a new, spruced-up site, there’s still a sense that they’re being moved on to aid a gentrification which threatens to price those on modest means out of the city centre altogether.

All of this should really lead to some discussion about what exactly a city centre is meant to be for. Should a bustling, vibrant marketplace belong in the heart of a city or as a mere appendage, to be kept at arms length from the Gaps and the Starbucks and Stradas which are the tidier, more presentable, more affluent artifice of its population? More generally, are there negative social consequences to the yuppification of places like Sheffield, Leeds & Manchester, or should we just accept that the old ways in which we used to shop and socialise no longer suit the times?



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  1. As someone with the misfortune to work in this end of town, all I can see is *something* needs to be done. No one really cares what. But the present smelly, crowded, dangerous, crumbling, muggers paradise of uncared-for concrete needs work. Either make it suitable for modern needs, or smash it down.
    Please no half-arsed, half-funded scheme like Park Hill whereby the six labourers employed to refurbish the now-listed structure look like they’ll only be done long after I’m dead.
    The markets need a coherent plan, properly and swiftly executed.
    Listing the markets upsets everyone and pleases no one.

    • Hi.

      As someone with the misfortune to work in this end of town, all I can see is *something* needs to be done. No one really cares what.

      I would definitely agree with the first bit, but disagree with the second. I think the problem with that part of town was that not enough thought and care went into developing in the first place, so just putting something there for the sake of it won’t do much good. The crucial thing, as you later point out, is planning.

      But I’d also like whatever takes the market’s place to be affordable for most local, working class people, which can’t be said of a lot of the regeneration projects which have gone on both in Sheffield & elsewhere. There’s no point just clearing space for a few more offices and another half dozen coffee shops

  2. Thoughtful piece but not a new one, Sheffielders of a certain age and leaning-including me- look back on the Markets- and Castle House, with nostalgia. I could wax lyrical on this but may have to come back to you. For the benefit of Sheffield and not just my own dream,the Markets should come down before they fall down. The castle remains are vitally important though I have my reservations about the project.

    Be back


    • I’ll look forward to it, Ron.

  3. This is crass when over the road is this http://underclassrising.net/reports/SCC/sheffieldoldcrowncourt.html and down the road
    http://underclassrising.net/reports/Post-office.html both going to ruin i like what is going on in Sheffield the flow is right and for once the planners seem to have got things right, I have all ways been on the side of demolition opening the old Castle and creating a park.

    Moving the co/op/post office into the old BHS makes sense and then turning that building into something of use, back to The Old Sheffield Crown Court what can be done with such a place?, but The Old Post Office would make a very nice hotel, indeed there was plans so much of Sheffield’s past has been lost but i shall not miss The Old Markets.

  4. Oops,

    Already in trouble over this one- see tonight’s Star letters,




    • sorry ron, re my star letter but i feel realy strongly about this one, we lost the hole in the road, the old gaumont, the grand hotel,i could go on and on,can you imagine the hole with the tram going overhead it would have been sensational, so bugger a pile o rubble and a blue plack keep the market , with alternative use for lower ground floor;revamp the gallery, with an escalator,reroof the fish market in stages, and save millions on a damp squib that a moor project would be.regards judd.

  5. been down to market today spoke to loads of stall hoders in fish market all agree no move of market ,Judd Newton

  6. Judd,

    Good to hear from you. I have been trying to compose a hopefully objective response. I have a lot of sympathy with the stall holders and have spoke to one or two recently. Frankly I don’t see any other way to regenerate this area.Its a complex subject Judd- Sheffield usually is.


    • cheers for reply ron, i think we differ on our out look with regards architecture and i believe from from what i am seeing in the press etc that the castle market is on a class divide opinion, the problem is most people who use and stallholders are complacant and don’t write to press etc , anyway cheers, Judd

  7. for a independant view on sheffield inc marketgo to bdonline.co.uk sheffield city of skeletons. also http://www.nothingtoseehere.net/2009/07/castle market sheffield.htmI

  8. Judd,
    Certainly agree with you on old Gaumont and especially the Grand Hotel-the latter was replaced by the Fountain Precinct which is like the nearby Steel City Plaza- bloody awful.


  9. Oops Judd,

    The Hole in the Road- remember how it turned out in the end?


  10. Judd,

    Read the Market article you flagged up some time ago and re read it this morning- interesting. But ‘bugger a pile of rubble and a blue plaque’? Well Hunter flagged this ‘Hallamshire’ stance up in the 1820’s – this is Sheffield’s origins Judd we are talking about.


    • ron , i agree we need to leave origins but will future generations thank us say in one or two hundred years when they find that we have destroyed all that has been built in the last sixty years which i believe is the finest in our history especially in music ,space travel,health, etc and i include modernist concrete construction,in this as well,as far as the hole is concerned i still dream about the fish. respectfully yours judd

  11. Oohh Judd,
    You are widening the gate posts here- bit like FIFA- though England still wouldn’t score- as for dreaming about the fish- don’t eat cheese late at night. Good point about long term perspective as regards heritage- I hate that word. What I dislike about modernism is the lack-to my eyes- of any human perspective or character and the medium used- ie concrete. Didn’t the Romans invent it ? ……..

    What about using Castle House as some type of Market? the inside is interesting though I hate the facade. Sorry to veer off subject.



    • love castle house ,it would make a great market,cheers judd

  12. I’m still standing-come on -its Sheff we are talking about.

  13. Ok – here’s a thought- just supposing its not a major tourist attraction- should we not just do it anyhow?

    here’s another one- what do you think about BBC Radio Sheffield’s coverage of this issue? A 16th century castle? Where do they get that from eh?

  14. Morning,
    Judd- interesting if brief letter in the Star,



    • hi ron, bad news for us lot this week it looks as though the mad planning mob are getting there way and removeing a 700 year tradition from sheffield, im, sure youl,e agree ?.the wrong site. anyway theye have plucked seventeen million quid out ofthe air, would that pay for a new tram route up to hallamshire hospitle or a third of it perhaps to use castle house as a alternative market, ps respect your views i just see conservation in a differant my generation type way.regard. Judd- The Tower.

  15. hi ron, its bad news for our mob this week the TOWN PLANNERS in there wisdom are about to move a seven hundred year tradition from sheffield’ a market on exchange st and castlegate,well perhaps they could use the 17 million to take the tram up to hallamshire hospital plus, alter castle house into a new market .or any thing else that would realy benifit us all,not more waste of resorces , fuel etc, were supposed to conserveing arn’t we. regards judd the tower

  16. hi ron, it looks like bad news for us lot this week,seventeen million quid eh,regards judd the tower

  17. its me again ron seem to be haveing a few blicks computerwise so ended up with above. cheers judd

  18. Judd,

    The day folk like you[or me]end up in the tower for contridictory views will be the day that our version of democracy is finished.

    Have you ever read the Sky Scraper City Website? Interesting stuff and the ‘young Turks’ on there give me food for thought.Park Hill is beginning to look interesting and people like the Victorian Society are interested in Castle House so your Castle Corridor is not going to be eroded.

    Best Wishes


    • cheers ron, i will look it now,ps, pepper pots still standing

  19. Judd,

    I’d like to see the frontage of the old number 12/Market Tavern and Mudfords Building preserved. A long haul yet. Is this Nick Clegg’s gesture because of Forgemasters?



  20. Judd,

    A long haul yet. Is this Nick Clegg’s gesture because of Forgemasters?



    • ron the market tavern, you must mean the Rotherham House,saw some good turns in there a bit near to knuckle and then it went upmarket ?????? there is only bottom O lane and bull and mouth left now,Brunswick is behind some kind of facade ,that end of town has took a real battering,oops nearly forgot cannon used to go in there when i needed a job early sixty,s if nowt in there it would be up to adelphi i think its under the crusible now, also there was a blacksmiths just round corner from adelphi ive forgot name of the street now. oh i,m going on im in a time warp .regards Judd

  21. been to soda fountain in market today talked to about 9 or 10 customers all in favior of keeping market in its historical place,the 17 million quid for the moor project has jumped to 63 million in just 2days,and thats not counting any demolition and reconstruction of the market area, these council people must live in cloud cuckoo land somebody please tell em, those days are gone ,regards judd,

  22. Hi Judd,
    See you are fighting your corner elsewhere on this subject. The Rotherham House indeed or latterly the Market Tavern. Used to be a Berni Inn. There’s the Big Gun and the Hen and Chickens. The busiest of them being the Norfolk Arms. Judd- sadly I think the best days of those pubs have gone- apart from the Norfolk that is. The Sheffielders who flocked to them before and after we were daft/unfortunate enough to lose the Corn Exchange/Norfolk Market Hall were the ones who grafted in the steel works or elsewhere by the sweat of their brow or their wits-many characters- most of them gone. THe whole area needs a massive boost.

  23. Ah Judd,
    The Pepperpot and Bethel Sunday School- well I’m glad they have been given a temporay reprieve. Though we do need some retail development in this area. Brown Bear -a pub for Old Sheffielders and New Ones. I never realised how pubs are dying so much- we have some good ones in Sheffield though. The future is increasingly Weatherspoons. We’ve stopped talking to each Judd- except via the Internet! Have you read Fred Pass’s stuff? You’d like it Judd.



  24. hi ron , yeh im, fighting on other fronts,one seems to be getting personal,by the way my first reply to you [the infamous prince Charles one] was heavily edited ,i am finding that some stuff does not get a print but i know the local press is very bias in favor of demolition of the market,a certain lady reporter has made some disparage remarks about the market as a whole, and i have read some insulting stuff about clientele on line, ive read fred,s stuff, and just read potty edwards book ,maybee a bit of poetic licence here and there [where all guilty of that] but enjoyable.regards judd.

  25. Hi Judd,

    What does Bogie say to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca?

    What a pity that the comments on the Sheffield Blog can’t be added to this one. Re read the intro to this which is very thought provoking. Liked the phrase about ‘cultural vandalism’ -for a later example – fabric from Sheffield Castle- including some that had been preserved from the nineteen twenties -was destroyed during the building of the market. Is that a comment on the modernist approach or a refelection that conservation is a relatively new idea- with the benefit of hindsight? Then are we forgetting about people? Town and Gown have had their points of conflict- thought I personally feel that the student poupulation has brought far more positives to Sheffield than negatives. How is the realationship between old Sheffielders and New Sheffielders? Do I think some of the old Sheffield has lost something – apart from jobs? Or is that nostalgia on my part- thinking back to the green paint of municipal socialism? Am I too busy navel gazing[polite way of putting it].

    Cheers Judd- keep us on track,


    • hi there buddy boy,good to hear a constructive though of a sometimes opposite view comment. the star tonight puts another nail in the coffin of the castle corridor Paule Licence, column, ps did you ever use the teapot pub at pitsmoor;[proper name teagarden,i was in there one night when a well known sheffield councillor who moved on to bigger things declared that he,d just found a million quid they didn’t know the council had got and it would all go to the world student games,this provoked loud cheers , all round ‘for some reason they used to get together in there.teapots shut now. judd

    • hi ron ,off to saltfleet for a few days, my favourite place , except for castlegate of course. regards judd.

  26. See more of Judd’s sentimental and anti-progressive nonsense and my responses here. His complaint seems to be the funding of the project but he seems either naively or disingenuously unable to see any cash benefit from the rejuvenation of Sheffield. My guess is the former.

  27. Judd and Neil et al

    This is going to be the most complex regeneration project Sheffield has seen I reckon,


  28. What everyone seems to be missing re the Castle Market/Sheffield castle remains is that Sheffield lacks a centralfocal point of historical interest. The castle remains, if it is done sympathetically, would provide the answer and create somewhere for tourists to come to when they are visiting Sheffield. Here we had one of the largest medieval castles in England and having lost it, it needs to be rediscovered,create a park if needs be, a visitor centre or at least somewhere to tell the story of this once famous castle and show off its artefacts. Sheffield people need to be proud of their heritage, so let us all unite and get behind this project and find the answers to our medieval past.

    • hi david, sheffild,s heritage is steel,we have still got the abbeydale industrial hamlet,and kellam ? island,our real history lies under meadowhall,and under the vast acres of leisure and shopping centres down the east end,no one cared to preserve this most important aspect of our heritage,but for some reason wax lyrical over some thing that may or may not be there,the traditional market area of castle gate and exchange st will go the same way as above if we are not careful,tourists will look round and say whatever happened to sheffield,where is their heritage,regards judd newton

  29. David,

    Well said,

  30. have been talking to stall holder at soda fountain to day, she says that there is know way she will move to moor site, she says wrong location,and after 22 years in castle market it would be like starting her business all over again.says that many stall holders would call it a day . regards judd

  31. HiJudd
    Are you back from Skyscraper City yet? They tell me they have sold the airport for a pittance- will we get some some remittance?



    • hi ron, im, off skyscraper city for a bit,my grammar is not good enough, im not a sheffielder,i go on to much; im a council tenant responsible for ruining sheffield ,have been told to go away and multiply etc, etc, yet these people seem to love plastic and glass cladding,,the type of stuff you can find on any allotment shed,they are ruining our city,s with there mad architecture,bring back J L WOMERSLEY and SIR ANDREW DERBYSHIRE, is what i say,[sorry] ron. ps good to see you in the star.[have you read the new empire book yet ?. regards Judd.

    • hi ron, stonesniffer eh, good letter today,s star, have sent in my own views on same don,t know if it will be printed though as others i have sent don,t seem to have. iv,e seen one of yours all about a sandwich shop 3 or 4 times so you must be well in.perhaps they think I’m a raging commie or summat, anyway, regards Judd

      • Hi Judd,

        Good to bump in to you down in the markets recently.

        In me lastest epistle I did acknowledge you in respect of bestowing the honorific of ‘stone sniffer’. It confused a few people as the Star edited out. The sandwich shop is another campaign !

        All the best


      • Hi Ron, How es tricks with all this bloody snow. Anyway yesterdays Yorkshire Post stated that a new market on the Moor was about to be built to take the place of the derelict Castle Market, where do they get there info up in Leeds, I’m, sure i was in Castle yesterday and it was not closed and abandoned as per derelict.

  32. hi ron, hows tricks. been down the market today lots of police presence around main entrance perhaps they are going to get their finger out and move all the tosspots who mill around outside on,i live in hope. apart from that the net curtain man you know the top stall on exchange st tells me that the courthouse across the road has been sold ,could be just a rumour though, catch you later.cheers Judd

  33. Well its all been in-vain the Market closes in a couple of weeks.
    Another nail in the coffin of Sheffields post war architecture there will soon be nothing left for future generations to see from our own era or the trading area that has been around Exchange Street for a thousand years.

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