A major award of nearly £800,000 will begin revamping the Castlegate Quarter, with work on the Old Town Hall and a bid to uncover the remains of the city’s mysterious castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for more than a decade.
The £786,000 kickstart funding, from the Council’s Capital Growth Fund, will enable a number of projects to transform the area over the next 18 months and give it new life as a centre for digital businesses and hotels, whilst celebrating its history.
An archaeological dig on the site of Sheffield’s medieval castle, led by the University of Sheffield, extensions to the Grey to Green corridor, transformation of empty shops, action to protect the Old Town Hall and the establishment of a Conservation Area are part of a programme of works announced today.
Over the last two years, the Council has worked closely with members of the Castlegate Partnership, which brings together the Friends of the Castle and of the Old Town Hall, the two Universities, hoteliers, retailers and the Culture Consortium.
Together they have developed a vision of the future of Castlegate, which aims to reveal its hidden history and landscape but also to promote its new economic functions as the location for start-up tech and creative enterprise, using its rich stock of vacant or under-used buildings.
This new funding, which comes from the Council’s Capital Growth Fund, will support a number of initiatives, including:
- A major archaeological investigation of Sheffield’s medieval castle site by University of Sheffield archaeologists, which will inform designs of a new public space with opportunities to reveal and interpret the remains, alongside small-scale development plots on the site.
- Design work for the next stage of the award-winning Grey to Green corridor turning redundant road space along Exchange Street and Castlegate into colourful meadows with space for events and reconnecting it to nearby Victoria Quays.
- Urgent repairs and structural surveys of the privately-owned Old Town Hall to prevent further deterioration and encourage proposals for a new use.
- The transformation of empty shops on Exchange Street and Waingate under the established Renew Sheffield project.
- The establishment of a Conservation Area to protect the historic townscape and support bids for funding to the Heritage Lottery, Historic England and others.
- Security patrols to protect the Castle site and ruins from vandalism and facilitate controlled community access
The survey and design work for Castle Hill and Grey to Green will provide the basis of a planned bid to the Sheffield City Region for capital funding of those projects which it is hoped can commence in 2018.
The Castle Hill space will connect directly into plans for the uncovering of the River Sheaf which runs under the site, in a new ‘Sheaf Field’ pocket park, designs for which have already been developed by the City Council, funded by the Environment Agency.
The planned projects will support or complement an impressive array of activities by the other members of the Castlegate partnership. These include:
- The first professional evaluation of Museum Sheffield’s Castle Remains collection which is now under way commissioned by the University of Sheffield.
- Imaginative proposals for how the Castle site could be transformed by students from the Schools of both Architecture and of Landscape
- Studies commissioned by the Friends of the Old Town Hall to identify potential new uses for the historic building.
- Work to bring back into use the vacant shops in the former Exchange St Galleries block as cafes, arts and music production spaces.
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment, said: “This package of projects demonstrates the importance we place on the future of Castlegate as a key part of the city centre economy and in the partnership which has come together to achieve it.
“Castlegate is a major gateway into the city centre, but at the moment it doesn’t reflect the incredible regeneration happening elsewhere in the centre, such as The Moor and Sheffield Retail Quarter.”
Martin Gorman, Chair of the Friends of Sheffield Castle, said: “This is fantastic news, and we are excited that work to excavate the remains of Sheffield’s medieval castle will begin soon. We look forward to working alongside the Council, archaeologists and the two Universities, to maximise public engagement and interest in the castle, as the finds are revealed and interpreted.”
Professor John Moreland from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Archaeology, who also chairs the university group co-ordinating research on Castlegate, said: “This is great news for Sheffield and for Sheffield Castle.
“I look forward to continuing our work with the city council and with local community groups to show how the heritage of this important place can inspire its regeneration.”
Valerie Bayliss, Chair of the Friends of the Old Town Hall said: ‘’We welcome this initiative on the Old Town Hall in particular and also the wider co-ordinated approach to the whole area’’
Castlegate is the historic place of origin of Sheffield as a settlement. A castle, bridge, market and houses are known to have existed here since at least the Norman Conquest and probably before. It was at the centre of local government, law and order, trade, transport and hospitality until late in the 20th century but has been in decline for many years due to the loss of a distinctive economic role.
Yet it remains a main gateway into the city centre and forms the setting of, or route to and from, most of Sheffield’s central hotels.
There is now a large amount of vacant floorspace, some in good condition, but much of it in listed or character buildings increasingly at risk including Castle House Co-op, the former Sheffield Stock Exchange, the former Hancock and Lants stable building and Canada House as well as many shop upper floors. The success of the already established Exchange Studios in the former SYPTE offices housing more than 80 artists and makers demonstrates the demand for space and attraction of the area.