Archaeology in the City: cultural, educational and environmental benefits from researching post-medieval Sheffield

Submitting Institution

University of Sheffield

Unit of Assessment

Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Curatorial and Related Studies

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Summary of the impact

Our research `In the City' has uncovered new histories of post-medieval and modern Sheffield. We have worked with local charities, heritage groups, arts organisations and Sheffield City Council, to transform the historic environment, to make places safer and more accessible for people to enjoy and value, and have used our research to benefit economically and socially deprived communities and particularly young people. Our initiatives have delivered cultural, social, educational, economic and environmental impacts for the people of Sheffield.

Underpinning research

Our research `In the City' has uncovered new histories of post-medieval and modern Sheffield through a blend of large-scale field-based investigations in the industrial core of the city and smaller projects co-led with community partners. The research programme, ongoing since 1993, includes research by Crewe, Doonan, Hadley, Johnston, Merrony (with Badcock, Davies, and Symonds). The projects represent the largest programme of archaeological assessment yet carried out in Sheffield, including excavation of 20 post-medieval sites along the line of the Sheffield Inner Relief Road, an integrated cutlery works (Suffolk Works), the earliest cementation furnace at Riverside Exchange, and an area of slum housing on Tenter Street. Synthetic and interpretative assessments were carried out on the metal industry, cutlery and edged tools [R1] (which continued with Doonan's research in historical metallurgy, below), and staff played key roles in the development of brownfield and urban archaeology within the city and beyond [R2]. During this REF period, the research and associated programmes of public engagement were progressed through three core initiatives:

(1) Sheffield Manor Lodge is a Scheduled Ancient Monument located less than a mile from the city centre [R3,R4]. Since 2009, a team from the Department (led by Hadley with Crewe) have investigated the site, which sits within the remains of a medieval deer park. The location of a medieval hunting lodge and then a Tudor manor owned by the Earls of Shrewsbury, the Manor was transformed into an industrial hamlet in the 17th century. Research comprised building survey, excavation, and documentary research, and this has particularly enhanced our understanding of the site's 19th-century conversion into a working-class mining village.

(2) Research undertaken in partnership with Heeley City Farm (HCF) focussed on a street of 19th- century terraced housing, demolished in the 1970s. `Life at Number 57 Alexandra Road' involved three seasons of survey and excavation on two houses (led by Symonds, then Doonan/Merrony). The partnership with HCF developed to include the experimental construction of roundhouses at the Farm and at sites elsewhere in the region [R5].

(3) Working in partnership with Sheffield City Council (SCC), we initiated a programme of research into the impact of industrialisation on Sheffield's woodlands. This involved survey and excavation in the Rivelin Valley (uncovering changes in craft practices from 18th-20th centuries) (Johnston), a programme of heritage conservation, landscape study, and experimental metallurgy at one the City's earliest surviving industrial sites at Shepherd Wheel (Jones, Merrony, Doonan), and the discovery of an unrecorded industrial landscape at Cawthorne Woods (Doonan), where Doonan has used experimental archaeology to research the cultural and technological dimensions of post- medieval iron-working. The key research underpinning this impact relates to historical metallurgy and experimental archaeology [R5] and post-medieval landscape archaeology [R6].

References to the research

R1. Symonds, J. (ed.) 2002. The Historical Archaeology of the Sheffield Tableware and Cutlery Industries. British Archaeological Reports, British Series, no. 341, Archaeopress, Oxford.

R2. Symonds, J. 2005, 'Dirty Old Town? Recording industrial archaeology in the urban historic environment' Industrial Archaeology Review 27(1), 57-65. doi: 10.1179/030907205X44376


R3. Crewe, V. 2012. `Ancient luxury and modern filth': new insights into 19th-century life at Sheffield Manor Lodge. Post-Medieval Archaeology 46(2), 333-341.


R4. Crewe, V. and Hadley, D.M. 2013. Uncle Tom was there, in crockery': material culture and a Victorian working-class childhood. Childhood in the Past 6(2), 89-105.


R5. Dungworth, D. and Doonan, R. (eds) 2013. Accidental and Experimental Archaeometallurgy. Historical Metallurgy Society.

R6. Badcock, A. and Johnston, R. 2009. Placemaking through protest: an archaeology of the Lees Cross and Endcliffe Protest Camp, Derbyshire, England. Archaeologies 5(2), 306-322. doi: 10.1007/s11759-009-9106-z


Evidence of research quality: The journal Post-Medieval Archaeology [R3] was placed in category `INT1' and Industrial Archaeology Review [R2] in category `INT2' by the European Reference Index for the Humanities (international publications with a strong reputation among researchers in different countries). Childhood in the Past (Maney) [R4] is the journal of the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past, and Archaeologies (Springer) [R6] is the journal of the World Archaeological Congress. Both are fully peer-reviewed and have an international readership.

Details of the impact

Our pathway to generating impact from researching Sheffield's industrial and civic development began through a Knowledge Transfer programme, incorporating media and popular publications (e.g. Time Team Special 2004, onsite interpretation at Riverside Exchange). In 2009, we initiated a new civic engagement strategy that involved working closely with key partners, and employing a Knowledge Exchange model of engagement and impact. A key aim was to reach economically and socially deprived communities in the city, particularly young people. This furthered the University's strategic aim of employing community engagement as a means to `actively contribute to the success and prosperity of the city'. Several of our partnerships, e.g. HCF, have evolved into creative and co-produced research projects; others are leading to sustainable social enterprises that will deliver innovative heritage resources for the city's future (e.g. Point Blank, SCC).

The impact of our city-wide archaeological research is demonstrated through three initiatives: Manor Lodge, Heeley City Farm, and Sheffield Woodland Heritage. Through co-created cultural events that changed how people think about the city's heritage (including excavations enjoyed by thousands of young people), these projects delivered cultural, educational and environmental benefits for the people of Sheffield and for our partner organisations.

1. Manor Lodge The research at Manor Lodge, initiated in 2009 with HEIF funding (£150K), was undertaken in partnership with the site's custodians, Green Estate, a social enterprise that seeks to transform the community through landscape, cultural and social initiatives. The excavations at Manor Lodge, an area of recognised economic and social deprivation (in the top 5% most deprived areas in the Government's 2010 Indices of Deprivation), were a vital contribution towards the regeneration of the site, leading to environmental, cultural and social impact by enabling ground works to facilitate access, especially for disabled visitors, and the creation of Tudor-style gardens in the Inner Courtyard. The gardens are acknowledged by Green Estate's CEO as `a massive gain', and together with the results of the archaeological excavations underpin a unique educational programme delivered by the organisation's education team (S1).

A key development in delivering cultural and economic impact from the Manor Lodge research has been a partnership with Point Blank theatre company, a charitable arts organisation working across South Yorkshire, which has enabled Crewe and Hadley to reach new audiences through an interpretation of their research as a play entitled `All Sorts of Wickedness'. This presents a vision of the site's `hidden' 19th-century history — usually overshadowed by the story of Mary Queen of Scots' imprisonment at the Manor in the 1570s. The production had an audience of c.290 people in a Spiegeltent in Sheffield City Centre during the University's `Festival of the Mind' (2012) - an event designed to engage the public and local communities with academic research. Professional and community actors, including two residents of Manor Lodge Estate, performed in the play. One of the community performers has used the experience to gain employment as a professional actor. Comments from the audience included: `really insightful. I immensely enjoyed it and learnt something new about the city'; `left me wanting to find out more'; `thought provoking' (S2, S3). According to Point Blank's creative director, the production was a `step change', as it was their first tangible partnership with academic researchers. The experience they gained performing in the Spiegeltent contributed to Point Blank's successful application to the Arts Council for a strategic touring programme in South Yorkshire comprising 25 performances in 10 venues, together with 15 workshops providing training in `identified needs areas'. Two productions on historical themes, devised with Crewe and Hadley, are supported by HEIF funding (£7K). Point Blank and our researchers are now working to establish a sustainable social enterprise that generates income from heritage-related theatre, street performance, and interpretation, for communities throughout South Yorkshire (S3).

2. Heeley City Farm In 2009, we initiated a collaboration with Heeley City Farm (HCF), a charity that confronts and addresses the problems of poverty, inequality, prejudice and lack of opportunity in its inner city community. We co-produced a heritage project based around the excavation of two 19th-century terraced houses — Life at 57 Alexandra Road (funded by Business Link: £14k). The collaboration aimed to engage under-represented and deprived communities and vulnerable individuals. We achieved cultural impact by creating opportunities for these groups to participate in the project during educational events or as volunteers. Approximately 2000 people, representing 29 different communities or groups, participated in the excavations of two terraced houses during 2009-11. These included young people (e.g. local schools and the Children's University), community and support organisations (e.g. Sheffield Conversation Club — for refugees and asylum seekers), Sova (a charity designed to help people build a better life, steering them away from crime), Rotherham Multicultural Centre (a charity which aims to integrate all members of the local community), Lai Yin Association (a Chinese women's support group), Autism Plus, adult learners and volunteers (e.g. York People First and Workers' Educational Association), and commercial companies (e.g. Veolia Environmental Services). Participant testimonies demonstrate both engagement and enjoyment through learning e.g. `F has loved her first go at archaeology. Muck from head to foot! And I've rediscovered how much fun it is.' (F is now a member of the Council for British Archaeology's (CBA) Young Archaeologists Club and a HCF volunteer.) (S4)

The educational impact of the activities are demonstrated by four volunteers from the project being awarded CBA community archaeology training bursaries, which provide a year's paid work- placement to develop the skills, experience and confidence to work with voluntary groups and communities. The excavations formed the catalyst for two further heritage projects led by HCF: Tools of the Trade (a collaboration with Kelham Island Museum) and Heeley Explore (funded by Museums Sheffield and the CBA). HCF also undertook organisational changes as a result of the project by establishing a Heritage Section and securing the appointment of a Heritage Project Officer. This will have a lasting impact on the development of key educational aspects of the research and enable the continuation of heritage activities for young people at HCF. `Life at Number 57' was recognised nationally through shortlisting for the CBA's Marsh Award for Community Archaeology (2009) and the National Enterprise Educator Awards (2011). (S4)

The collaboration at HCF developed further around Doonan's experimental research. Working with a variety of groups, he led the construction of a roundhouse at HCF that now serves as an outdoor classroom and a Forest Schools educational resource. This enabled HCF staff to acquire new skills in traditional and sustainable building techniques, which they have employed on other projects with community groups and schools (S4). With HCF, Doonan and students from the Department have now constructed roundhouses at a nearby primary school and a charitable residential centre for young people in Derbyshire. The roundhouse at the primary school is, according to the head teacher, `a fantastic resource which should be used not only by the children at [the] school but by the children from schools in the local area'.

3. Sheffield's Woodland Heritage Our partnership with Sheffield City Council (SCC), while researching the industrial history of the City's woodlands, has supported a diverse programme of educational activities with significant cultural, educational and environmental impacts. The collaboration began during field-based research in the woodlands of the Rivelin Valley in 2007. Johnston worked closely with SCC to develop & deliver a fresh perspective on the cultural history of the valley and led SCC to commission three new interpretation panels in 2011, one of which, based on Johnston's research, was located at the site of the Sheffield excavations. A programme of outreach and educational activities ran alongside the excavations, with organised visits from three local schools and open days that attracted over 500 visitors. These included reconstructions of historical iron-working by Doonan, based on his metallurgy and experimental research.

In 2007 Merrony (with Sheffield students) conducted a landscape study in preparation for a successful HLF bid to restore the 16th century water-powered industrial workshop at Shepherd Wheel, and our staff were involved in the subsequent restoration (opened 2012) (S5). Doonan, with Sheffield students, and in collaboration with SCC and The Friends of the Porter Valley, played a major role in the `Brook to Blade' event (2011), which turned the Porter Valley back into an industrial landscape for 3 days of exploration and organised, hands-on learning. c. 1000 people visited, and 270 young people participated in the education days. Schools provided positive evaluations of the event. The teacher of a Y7 class (12-13 years), from a Sheffield school with major behavioural and educational difficulties, wrote: "The students gained in their knowledge of the history of Sheffield, in their knowledge about industrial life in Sheffield in the last few centuries. They also got to experience workshops outside a classroom in a kinaesthetic way, which really engages them." A teacher from a local primary school commented that for her Y4 class (8-9 years): "The event fitted into our work on rivers and greatly enhanced the children's understanding of the importance of our local river." Visitors to the restored site number 30,000 per year, and the community project was recently shortlisted for the English Heritage `Angels' award for the best rescue of an industrial building or site (S6).

A second programme of craft activities took place at Wincobank, the site of an Iron Age hill fort that has long suffered from neglect and inappropriate use (e.g. fly-tipping and trials-bike erosion). The activities were organised by SCC, Sheffield (Doonan) and other partners, as part of the HLF- funded Wincobank Hill Revival Project (WHRP), which aimed to reclaim the woodland for the community and ensure preservation of the hill fort. During the `Light up the Hill' event in November 2012, over 250 children and adults from the local area celebrated the hill's 2000-year heritage with a torch-lit procession, music, theatre, and experimental iron smelting. At the end of the WHRP, the project officer for SCC wrote that working with University of Sheffield was `key in helping deliver community events, excellent education sessions, and the project has helped forge strong links with the community...which will continue to flourish once the project is complete.' The local community group also recognised the social impact of the University's contribution: `Dr Doonan's involvement has raised the self-esteem, aspiration and public standing of the [Wincobank] community.'

Building on Doonan's research (particularly the experimental metal-working), these educational activities contributed to SCC's establishment of a Heritage Crafts Skills programme at the Woodlands Discovery Centre at Ecclesall Woods, in west Sheffield. The Centre, an important educational resource, is a hub for organising woodland craft activities throughout the city, particularly in economically deprived areas, through the `Access to Nature' programme. The initiative, involving experimental craft sessions, has proved so successful that a permanent space has been created at the Centre for the Sheffield team to run heritage craft workshops. The income from these in turn subsidises free craft workshops in areas such as Woolley Woods, Shiregreen, parts of which are in the 5% most deprived areas nationally (Government 2010 Indices of Deprivation). Events at Woolley Woods in April 2012 and 2013 (SCC with Doonan) involved 764 young people and adults, the majority from economically deprived communities and many from BME backgrounds. The medium-term aim of the SCC/Sheffield partnership is to make this a sustainable programme of heritage craft activities that reaches diverse communities throughout the city.

Summary: Co-created cultural events, such as the `All Sorts of Wickedness' play and historic craft demonstrations (`Brook to Blade' and `Light up the Hill'), changed how people think about and value the city's heritage. Thousands of people participated in and gained educational benefits from archaeological research during the excavations at HCF and the workshops organised through `Access to Nature'. We worked with organisations to transform the historic environment (Manor Lodge) and make places safer and more accessible for people to enjoy and value (Wincobank Hill, roundhouses at HCF and other sites, Shepherd Wheel). Our impact pathway has evolved from creative and co-produced research projects into sustainable social enterprises that will deliver innovative heritage resources for our city's future.

Sources to corroborate the impact

S1. CEO, Green Estate can corroborate the impact of the research at Manor Lodge.

S2. Public comments held on file from the Festival of the Mind.

S3. Associate Director, Point Blank Theatre Company: the funding, research contribution to plays and social enterprise creation.

S4. Heritage Officer, Heeley City Farm: the extent and diversity of community participation, organisational change and the creation of an educational resource.

S5. Chair, Friends of the Porter Valley: contribution to funding and restoration project

S6. Access to Nature Project Officer, Sheffield City Council: Sheffield's Woodland Heritage/Brook to Blade event.