Abandonment in the 17th and 18th century
The sixth Earl’s son, Gilbert Talbot, failed to reach the high offices of state that his father had held. He died in 1616 without a son. The manor passed to his daughter, Alethea, who was married to Henry Howard, the Earl of Arundel and Surrey. The new lord hardly ever visited the site. When he was told about the valuable resources on site he decided to make money from the site. The deer were cleared from the park, the coal mines leased, most of the timber felled, and the park was gradually enclosed and let out to tenant farmers.
The next Lord, Henry Howard’s son Thomas, was given the dukedom of Norfolk in 1660. The Dukes of Norfolk have owned the land ever since. Like his father, Thomas had little use for the surviving Tudor buildings, which were described as being increasingly dilapidated by 1672. In 1708, an Act of Parliament authorised the 8th Duke of Norfolk, to demolish the “ruinous and naked” buildings. Over a few weeks in 1709, hundreds of pounds worth of building materials were carted from the site and sold to locals for new building projects. Some was removed to the Duke’s house at Worksop.
Some parts of the manor house had been adapted to become cottages and farm buildings – including the Turret House, which escaped demolition and survives to this day. One of the huge brick towers survived until 1793, when it blew down in a particularly furious gale. John Fox, a local potter, rented the site from about 1715 and set up a kiln in the tower where Cardinal Wolsey had lodged in 1530, producing a wide range of brown slipware products known as “Manor Ware”. His kiln was one of the first to produce pottery on an industrial scale and probably the only one to have existed in Sheffield.
Industrial Hamlet in the 19th century
Coal had been mined in the park since Tudor times, but during the 18th century it was turned over almost entirely to that purpose. The Manor Colliery was in operation close to the ruins. It helped supply increased demand from the growing town and industry.
By the beginning of the 19th century, there was little to remind people of the former grandeur of Sheffield Manor Lodge. Local farmers, cutlers and coal miners had transformed it into a self-contained hamlet; a small rough-and-ready community clustered almost entirely around the colliery. It was largely remote from urban Sheffield and devoted to industrial tasks. In the 1840s, the former long gallery was converted into collier’s cottages. There was also shops, a school, a Methodist chapel and a public house, the Norfolk Arms, on-site, some of them built into the ruins.
The working conditions of the miners at the time were hard. “Anything more squalid, more wretched, or more dangerous than the dwellings that have been formed out of its remains would be difficult to conceive”, wrote local historian JD Leader in 1875.
During that time, the Turret House was used as the farm house for the Manor Farm, with the tenant farmers, the White family, living inside. In the 1870s, the 15th Duke of Norfolk commissioned his architect Charles Hadfield to restore it, which involved removing the surrounding farm buildings and renovating the house. The stained glass windows on the upper floors date from this Victorian restoration.
After a century of ongoing usage, the cottages in the ruins were being abandoned, and the tenants had moved out by the 1890s. The colliery closed in 1896 and shortly after 1900, all the post-16th century buildings were demolished and the site cleared.
Manor Castle Village in the 20th century
Some of the families who had lived within the ruins did not move away. They moved to cottages in the bend of Manor Lane opposite the ruins. Another self-contained community developed here and became known as the ‘Manor Castle Village’. A second chapel, known as ‘The Cowlishaw Memorial Chapel’, was built in 1904 and continued to serve as a focal point for the community. Other buildings in the new village included a police station, a post office, shops and a new pub. The “Manor Castle” is today the only remaining building of the village.
The old Tudor Turret House was also occupied at this time by a series of families who acted as caretakers until the 1960s. By this time, however, the whole Manor Castle Village had been swept away under a road widening scheme and the occupants had to move once again. The last building to be removed was the chapel, demolished in 1982.
The Site Today
In the 1970s, shortly after the last caretakers left the Turret House, Sheffield Museums opened it to visitors. Green Estate, a social enterprise, took over the site in 2002 and developed it as a visitor attraction following a grant of £1.6m of Heritage Lottery funding. The Discovery Centre with archaeological excavations and information on the history of the site was opened shortly afterwards.