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When War came to Sheffield

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We know that at least twice in the story of Sheffield war has come there in its sternest form. As has already been mentioned, the town and castle were burned in 1266 by the barons who were leagued with Simon de Montfort, and in consequence a new stone castle was built. Of this attack little is known. But, in the Great Civil War, Sheffield was a centre of warfare for about fourteen months, and many of the details of the occupancy of the castle at that time by the Cavaliers, and its capture by the Parliamentarians, are preserved in letters and descriptions, and they give us pictures by which we may judge what civil war was like in the seventeenth century.

When the lordship of Hallamshire passed from the Shrewsbury family to the Howards, by the marriage of the Lady Alethea Talbot, youngest daughter of the seventh Earl, with Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Surrey, and Norfolk, the close personal connection between the people of Sheffield and the great land-owning House of the district was broken. Arundel was so much the home of the Howards that Sheffield never could supplant it. In fact, the lord of the manor ceased to live in Sheffield at all. He employed a steward, and the Earl and his wife spent much of their time abroad. They were abroad throughout the Civil War.

Besides, a natural division of interests was taking place. Sheffield was becoming a manufacturing town, and its people, led by their vicars, were more and more of the Puritan Protestant type; whereas the controlling family was aristocratic and Catholic, though Thomas Howard ended his life as a Protestant. When, therefore, the war between the Parliament and King Charles I broke out, it is not surprising to learn that the people of Sheffield on the whole were strong supporters of the Parliament. The three leading citizens, Jessop of Broom Hall, Bright of Carbrook (who was Arundel's agent), and Spencer of Attercliffe, were all against the King, though the absent Howards were loyalists.

Before the King raised his standard at Nottingham on August 25, 1642, and the war began, orders were sent to Sheffield to collect all the arms that could be found or spared, and to send them to Doncaster for the King's service. Very little was found apparently; but four "wheel-pieces," or movable cannon, were sent to Doncaster, on the main road to the North, at a cost of 11s. each for carriage, and apparently four muskets, which, however, were sent back to Sheffield. When the war actually broke out, the castle "was not thought very tenable," its four brass cannon being gone; but it was seized by the townspeople for the Parliamentary side. When, However, the King's forces collected in the North, with the Earl of Newcastle as their commander-in-chief, a move was quickly made upon Sheffield from Wakefield, which had been chosen as the royalist headquarters.

First an attack was made on Rotherham, which after one day's fighting was taken by storm, because, according to the Puritan vicar, John Shaw, who wrote an account of the assault, "the town wanted powder." Shaw himself, who was badly wanted by the King's soldiers, as he was a strong Parliament man, had a wonderful escape, hidden in a vault in a house which the King's soldiers used as a guard room. He seems to have been three weeks and three days escaping from the town, and describes his adventures in the style of a sermon, beginning with firstly and going on to ninthly, and to lastly.

From Rotherham the Earl of Newcastle marched on Sheffield, "a market town of large extent in which was an ancient castle," and the town and castle surrendered without a blow. In coming so far to the south, however, the commander-in-chief was making a mistake in generalship, for Lord Fairfax, the Parliamentary general, pounced on the headquarters at Wakefield and captured them, and their garrison and stores. Whereupon, the Earl of Newcastle garrisoned Sheffield Castle for a siege, placed it under Sir William Savile (a great-grandson of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, who guarded Mary, Queen of Scots), and fell back on York. This was in May, 1643.

Sir William Savile was a very vigorous soldier, and much too useful to be shut up in a castle, so he rejoined Newcastle's army, and appointed as Deputy Governor of Sheffield and its castle Major Beaumont. Lady Savile and her children were left in the castle, with a troop of horse, 200 foot soldiers, eight cannon, and two mortars. A considerable amount of correspondence that passed between Sir William Savile, who was on duty in various parts of Yorkshire between Doncaster and York, and Major Beaumont, holding Sheffield and its neighbourhood, has been preserved.

From Pontefract, Savile wrote begging Beaumont to be diligent in making bullets. From Tadcaster he wrote: "As long as Sheffield Castle holdeth out, I think myself happy." He also urged Beaumont to make each of the people of Sheffield pay a sum weekly for the "entertainment" of the garrison. For provisions he promises twenty tubs of butter, and "fish that will serve one day a week for a year." "But," said he, "the garrison must be careful with their gunpowder.... If Mr. Bright, my Lord of Arundel's bailiff, has any lead, seize it, and carry it into the castle." He advised Beaumont to send to Barnsley for a surgeon. Evidently there was no doctor living in Sheffield at that time.

The sentence in these letters which tells the clearest story of how money was forced from those who did not sympathize with King Charles is in these words: "Be sure you want not any money, neither for yourself nor your friends, so long as any Roundhead hath either fingers or toes left within 10 miles of the castle."

Savile was killed, or died, near York - we do not know how - early in the year 1644, and in July of that year the battle of Marston Moor gave the Parliament the final victory in the North of England. It was after this, in August, that Major-General Crawford arrived at Sheffield with 1,200 Parliamentary foot, and a regiment of horse to take the castle. Sir William Savile had written to Major Beaumont: "If the castle chance to be besieged, keep it to the uttermost." This he wrote knowing his own wife and children were inside, and that resistance in those days often meant great slaughter.

This is how the attack was described in an account written at the time. "Our forces being come near this castle, sent them three great shot which did execution in the castle; after which they sent a summons to the castle, who shot three times at the trumpeter, two of which shots hardly missed him; and they, flourishing their swords, cried out they would have no other parley."

The besiegers then bombarded the castle, but their cannon were not sufficiently heavy to do much damage to the thick walls. So they sent to General Fairfax for larger cannon, and these "did great execution upon one side of the castle, and brought the strong walls thereof down into the trenches, and made a perfect breach."

General Crawford now prepared to storm the castle, but before doing so, he again sent a messenger with this letter to Major Beaumont.

"I am sent by the Earl of Manchester to reduce this place you hold, and therefore send you yet a summons, though my trumpeter was shot at, against the law of arms, the other day. You may easily see I desire not the shedding of blood, otherwise I should have spared myself this labour. If you think good to surrender it, you may expect all fair respects befitting a gentleman and soldiers; otherwise you must expect those extremeties which they have that refuse mercy. I desire your answer within one hour."

The result was that three of the besiegers and three of the besieged drew up a paper containing nine articles of surrender. They provided that officers should go where they pleased, retaining horse, sword, and pistol; that soldiers should go to their homes; that a week should be allowed for taking away in safety wives, children, and goods, without injury or interference; and that Lady Savile should go or stay in the castle at her pleasure.

The terms were certainly most generous to the besieged, but at this time the victorious Parliamentarians were trying to win over the remainder who continued to support the King.

The only things taken out of the castle by General Crawford were one of the mortars and a hundred muskets. He left in for the future protection of the castle what he found, namely, "three hundred arms, twelve barrels of powder, twenty tons of great iron shot, and 400 worth of corn, beef, bacon, cheese, and other provisions" - an example of the resources of an earl's stronghold.

The surrounding country was soon brought under Parliamentary rule, Staveley Hall, Wingfield Manor, Bolsover Castle, Tickhill Castle, and Welbeck House being all taken. Colonel John Bright of Carbrook, whose lead the Cavalier governor of the Castle had been ordered to steal, was made governor.

Not only was the Castle seized, but the estate was confiscated. Four years later, however, the Earl of Arundel was allowed to regain his estate by the payment of a fine of 6,000. Before this was allowed, a resolution had been passed by the House of Commons that the Castle should be demolished, and the work of destruction was carried out so thoroughly that it was never again used either as a castle or a family residence; and now every trace of it has disappeared.

The names Castle Gate, Castle Hill, and Castlefold Market alone preserve the memory of a stronghold that had been in full use for at least 550 years.

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