Sheffield Castle - The Civil War
The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and was fought between supporters of Parliament - the "roundheads" and those of Charles I - the "cavaliers".
Prior to the outbreak of the war, the King had ordered that any arms that could be spared were to be sent to Doncaster. Accordingly, in June or July, Lord Maltravers, the son and heir of the Earl of Arundel, ordered "four wheel pieces" (moveable brass cannons) to be sent from Sheffield Castle to Doncaster.
As the cannons had been the castle's main protection, when war broke out on 22nd August, Parliament troops, supported by Sir John Gell, the commander of a force in Derbyshire, succeeded in securing military possession of the castle and town.
The Earl of Newcastle, commanding the King's forces in the North, entered Yorkshire in the autumn of 1642 with about 8000 men. They marched from Wakefield to attack Rotherham and Sheffield in April 1643. Although Rotherham offered some resistance, the town was entered by storm and taken. A few days later, the troops marched on Sheffield. The Parliamentary forces, outnumbered and panicked by the Royalist success in Rotherham, fled "without any blows" into Derbyshire. Sheffield surrendered and a garrison was placed in the castle. Sir William Saville, grandson of the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury, was appointed Governor on 9th May 1643. The was soon required elsewhere and in June 1643 Thomas Beaumont Esq. Was appointed Deputy Governor under Saville, who left his wife at the castle under Beaumont's protection.
The county remained under Royalist control for more than a year, during which time they requisitioned the local ironworks to make ammunition.
On 2nd July 1644 the largest battle of the Civil War took place, about 6 miles west of York, on Marston Moor. The Royalist control of the north was shattered and attention turned to garrisons and resistance further south.
In August 1644 Sheffield Castle was besieged for 10 days by the Parliamentary forces of the Earl of Manchester, under the command of Major General Crawford. The army set up camp on the edge of Sheffield Park and "raised two batteries". It is clear that the Castle was well maintained and strongly fortified, with a moat 18 feet deep and walls two years tick. As a consequence the Parliamentary artillery was not very effective and the castle was able to withstand the siege for several days. Colonel John Bright arrived on the 9th August with two larger cannons ("the Queen's pocket-pistoll" and a "whole culyerin") The first shots from the heavier siege artillery caused a large breach in the castle walls. The Royalists retaliated, resulting in another bombardment of six more shots. Major General Crawford was preparing to storm the castle, but all resistance collapsed and articles of surrender were signed on 11th August 1644. The garrison matched out "with their drums and colours" and were allowed to heave. A special provision was made for the protection of Lady Saville, who was by this time heavily pregnant. She was taken to Wentworth Woodhouse but gave birth in the coach on route, the night the castle was given up.
Colonel Bright was appointed Governor.
A petition from Thomas Rawson, Master of the Free School, to Lord Fairfax, dated 20th November 1644, highlights other difficulties associated with the war. The petition had been forced to flee from the Earl of Newcastle's army on 5th May 1643 and was only able to return on 3rd August 1644 when the castle was under siege. Due to his absence he had not been paid any wages and was unable to support his family. Lord Fairfax agreed payment of the petition.
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