A tale of two castles

A debate is rumbling about whether or not Castle Market should be listed.

Giving it listed status would mean that it would be much harder to press ahead with some elements of the Sheffield City Centre Master Plan, notably the idea to open up the ruins of the old castle, which are located under the current 1960s market building. (source)

As the next stage in its pursuit of regeneration, Sheffield Council had long planned a demolition job around the maligned, woe begotten 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.

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?


From myself, this is crass when over the road is the old Sheffield Old Crown Court and down the road The Post Office 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.


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